Riddick v. Watson

Decision Date25 November 2020
Docket NumberCivil No. 2:19cv363
Citation503 F.Supp.3d 399
Parties Ameka RIDDICK, Administrator of the Estate of Pamela Renee Riddick, the Decedent, deceased, Plaintiff, v. William WATSON, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia

Don Leonard Scott, Jr., Law Office of Don Scott PLLC, Portsmouth, VA, Jon M. Babineau, Riddick Babineau PC, Katherine Marguerite Lennon, Edward Anthony Fiorella, Jr., Fraim & Fiorella PC, Norfolk, VA, for Plaintiff.

Jeff Wayne Rosen, Jeffrey A. Hunn, Pender & Coward PC, Virginia Beach, VA, for Defendants William Watson, P. Deaver, LT. R. Coardes, Sgt. C.L. Kelly, J.A. Cashwell, C.M. Shaw.

Mark Richard Colombell, William Woodul Tunner, Thompson McMullan PC, Richmond, VA, for Defendant K.S. Leazer.

Alexander Francuzenko, Andrew Jules Tureaud, Michael David Arena, Cook Craig & Francuzenko PLLC, Fairfax, VA, Jeff Wayne Rosen, Pender & Coward PC, Virginia Beach, VA, for Defendant E. Wilson.

Angela Boice Axselle, Wimbish Gentile McCray & Roeber PLLC, Richmond, VA, for Defendants Correct Care Solutions, Clifford Rose, Michelle Murray, K. Mayfield.

OPINION AND ORDER

Mark S. Davis, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This case arises from the death of Pamela Renee Riddick (the "Decedent") on August 23, 2017, while in the custody of the Portsmouth City Jail ("PCJ"). The Decedent's daughter and administrator of her estate, Ameka Riddick ("Plaintiff"), initiated this action against multiple jail officials and affiliated medical staff, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Virginia Wrongful Death Act. In three separate motions, all but one of the defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(f). ECF Nos. 34, 42, 49. After reviewing the parties’ briefs, the Court finds that a hearing on the motions is unnecessary. Therefore, Defendants’ requests for such hearing is DENIED . ECF Nos. 36, 57, 58. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART each of the pending motions to dismiss.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a district court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Plaintiff alleges the following facts. At approximately 4:30 p.m. on August 21, 2017, Deputy J.A. Cashwell booked the Decedent into PCJ. ECF No. 2 ¶ 12. During intake, the Decedent advised Deputy Cashwell that she "snorted heroin and used 3-4 caps every day" and had a history of severe withdrawal symptoms, including cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. Id. Although the Decedent presented with such symptoms and requested medical attention at that time, Deputy Cashwell "failed to either observe and notify the medical staff or other deputies, or properly document [the] decedent's symptoms and health concerns in the first instance." Id. ¶¶ 12-14. The Complaint alleges that Lieutenant R. Coardes and K. Mayfield—a licensed practical nurse employed by Defendant Correct Care Solutions ("CCS")1 —were also present during intake but likewise took no action in response to the Decedent's statements or condition. Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 18. After processing, PCJ officials placed the Decedent in the general jail population without "close observation." Id. ¶¶ 12, 14, 16.

The following day, August 22, 2017, Michelle Murray, a licensed practical nurse employed by CCS, "examined and/or evaluated" the Decedent. Id. ¶¶ 5, 15. The Decedent again reported that she used heroin daily and was suffering from symptoms of withdrawal, but Murray noted that "no current medical treatment [was] needed" and returned the Decedent to the general jail population. Id. ¶¶ 15-16.

In the early hours of August 23, 2017, video surveillance of the hallway outside the Decedent's cell reveals that a white female deputy, believed to be Deputy K.S. Leazer, passed by the Decedent's cell at 3:18 a.m. Id. ¶ 21. At 3:34 a.m., another white female guard, who is not named, patrolled the hallway and "barely glanc[ed] into the decedent's cell." Id. Although the Portsmouth Sheriff's Office maintains a written policy requiring deputies to "walk the post two times per hour," the footage does not show any person walking past the Decedent's cell again until 4:58 a.m. Id. ¶ 22.

According to the Complaint, during this one-hour-and-twenty-four-minute-long period in which no deputy traversed the hallway, "the decedent writhed and agonized in pain in her cell" due to symptoms of heroin withdrawal. Id. ¶ 23. At 4:54 a.m., the Decedent can be seen waving her arms through the cell bars to secure medical assistance, but none came. Id. ¶ 23. Another unidentified white female passed by the Decedent's cell at 5:03 a.m., but she "pa[id] no real attention" to the Decedent. Id. ¶ 24. The Decedent placed her hands on the cell bars at 5:14 a.m., again "pleading for help to no avail." Id. ¶ 25.

At 5:16 a.m., a white female brought food trays to the cells. Id. ¶ 26. But the Decedent did not eat. Id. She again placed her hands on the cell bars at 5:23 a.m. and 5:25 a.m. Id. ¶ 27. When she repeated this at 5:31 a.m. and 5:32 a.m., the placement of her hands near the bottom of the bars indicate that "she was on the floor and unable to stand." Id. Minutes later, a white female deputy removed the Decedent's food tray from her cell, but the deputy did not enter the cell or otherwise inspect the Decedent's condition. Id. ¶ 28. The same deputy passed by the Decedent's cell at 5:36 a.m. but "pa[id] no attention" to the Decedent. Id.

The footage then shows that at 5:44 a.m. a white male deputy, identified in the Complaint as Sergeant C.L. Kelly, looks into the Decedent's cell without entering. Id. ¶ 29. Sergeant Kelly can then be seen using his radio before opening the adjacent cell to escort another female inmate from her cell. Id. Two minutes later, a white female deputy, believed to be Deputy Wilson, enters the Decedent's cell and realizes that the Decedent is non-responsive. Id. ¶ 30. Shortly thereafter, Lieutenant Coardes, Deputy Quinn, Deputy P. Deaver, Deputy T. Weathers, and CCS-employed licensed practical nurse Clifford Rose arrived at the Decedent's cell.2 Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 32. Nurse Rose began rendering medical treatment, but efforts to revive the Decedent were unsuccessful. Id. ¶¶ 37, 41. An autopsy identified the cause of death as fentanyl toxicity. Id. ¶ 41. According to the Complaint, fentanyl is a known ingredient of heroin. Id. In addition, the Decedent's blood revealed the presence of opioids, cocaine, and benzoylecgonine. Id.

Sometime after the Decedent's death, Stephen Goff, a Board of Corrections investigator, conducted a review of PCJ inmate deaths, including the Decedent's. Id. ¶ 40. Goff's report concluded that PCJ officials falsified jail logs "to make it appear as though Portsmouth sheriff's deputies were making their proper checks and rounds on the decedent, as required by Sheriff's Office policy." Id.

On July 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed suit against PCJ officials Cashwell, Coardes, Deaver, Kelly, Leazer, Shaw, and Wilson (the "on-duty guards")3 ; then-Sheriff William Watson; CCS Nurses Mayfield, Murray, and Rose (the "CCS nurses"); and CCS. ECF No. 2. The Complaint, which names "all defendants in both their individual and their official capacities," id. ¶ 10, alleges twelve counts. Counts I, IV, VII, and X4 allege simple negligence against the on-duty guards, Sheriff Watson, the CCS nurses, and CCS. Id. ¶¶ 42-49, 64-71, 90-97, 108-14. Counts II, V, VIII, and XI allege gross negligence against the on-duty guards; Sheriff Watson; the CCS nurses; and CCS. Id. ¶¶ 50-57, 72-78, 98-102, 115-20. Counts III, VI, and IX allege various claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the on-duty guards, Sheriff Watson, and the CCS nurses, each in their official and individual capacities. Id. ¶¶ 58-63, 79-89, 103-07. Finally, Count XII asserts that Defendants’ conduct amounted to willful and wanton negligence, giving rise to punitive damages under Virginia law.5 Id. ¶¶ 121-26. Plaintiff demands $5,000,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000,000 in punitive damages. Id. at 27.

On December 5, 2019, Defendants Cashwell, Coardes, Deaver, Kelly, Shaw, and Watson (collectively, the "Cashwell Defendants") filed a joint motion to dismiss. ECF No. 34. In their motion (the "Cashwell Motion") and accompanying memorandum, ECF No. 35, the Cashwell Defendants argue that: (1) Plaintiff's § 1983 official capacity claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution; (2) Plaintiff's individual capacity § 1983 deliberate indifference claims are insufficient under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 ; (3) Plaintiff's simple negligence claims are barred by state sovereign immunity; (4) Plaintiff's gross negligence and willful and wanton negligence claims are inadequate under Rule 8 ; and (5) Plaintiff's damages requests exceed the amounts permitted by Virginia law. On December 16, 2019, Defendant Wilson individually filed a motion to dismiss (the "Wilson Motion") and supporting memorandum, asserting arguments that largely mirror those asserted by the Cashwell Defendants. ECF Nos. 49, 50. Given this similarity, the Court will consider the Cashwell Motion and the Wilson Motion together.6

On December 16, 2019, Defendants CCS, Mayfield, Murray, and Rose (collectively, the "CCS Defendants") filed a joint motion to dismiss. ECF No. 42. Their motion (the "CCS Motion") and supporting memorandum, ECF No. 43, likewise argues that the Complaint fails to state sufficient facts to establish claims for § 1983 deliberate indifference, simple negligence, gross negligence, and willful and wanton negligence. Additionally, the CCS Defendants have submitted affidavits sworn by the CCS nurses and Paul Bell, a CCS registered nurse and the Health Services Administrator at PCJ. ECF No. 43-1 to -4. These affidavits attach the Decedent's "Booking Report" and "Inmate Medical...

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