Spainhour v. Jones

Decision Date18 March 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 4:19-cv-00202 KGB
PartiesFRED SPAINHOUR, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Brian Allen Spainhour, deceased, and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries of Brian Allen Spainhour PLAINTIFF v. SHANE JONES, et al. DEFENDANTS
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Arkansas

Pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by separate defendants Shane Jones, Boone Sumners, and Rowdy Sweet, in their individual and official capacities, and Pope County, Arkansas (Dkt. No. 2). Plaintiff Fred Spainhour, special administrator of the estate of Brian Spainhour, deceased, and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries of Brian Spainhour, opposes this motion (Dkt. No. 4). Also pending before the Court is separate defendant Andrew W. Ballinger's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 26).1 For the following reasons, the Court grants both motions to dismiss Fred Spainhour's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim alleging an Eighth Amendment violation and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Fred Spainhour's remaining state law tort claims.

I. Background

On March 25, 2019, Fred Spainhour filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Arkansas Survival of Actions Statute, Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-62-101 ("ASAS"), and the Arkansas Wrongful Death Act, Arkansas Code Annotated § 16-62-102 ("AWDA") (Dkt. No. 1).Fred Spainhour is the father of Brian Allen Spainhour (Id., at 1). Fred Spainhour states that Brian Spainhour was booked into the Pope County Detention Center ("the detention center") by Deputy Sheriff Boone Sumners on or about March 15, 2016 (Id., ¶ 18). At the time of his arrest, Brian Spainhour informed Deputy Sumners that he was prescribed various life sustaining medications for high blood pressure, Hepatitis C, heart valve infection, and other medical issues (Id., ¶ 20). Brian Spainhour was held at this facility until he was released due to a medical emergency "on his own recognizance" on March 18, 2016 (Id., ¶ 19). Fred Spainhour claims that Sheriff Shane Jones and the Pope County Sheriff's Office failed to verify Brian Spainhour's medications after he disclosed them during his screening (Id., ¶ 21). On or about March 16, 2016, Angela Porrelo attempted to provide the detention center with the medication that Brian Spainhour required, but she was turned away; the detention center did not accept the medication (Id., ¶¶ 22-23).

Fred Spainhour claims that on March 16, 2016, Brian Spainhour informed the detention center that he believed he had suffered a stroke (Id., ¶ 24). In a letter possibly to Ms. Porrelo, Brian Spainhour wrote that he was sick, it was hard to move, he had blood clots in his fingers, and he was seeing a doctor or nurse (Id., at 17). Brian Spainhour wrote that he was "gonna end up with another stroke and maybe die," and that he was "worried [he was] gonna have another stroke" (Id.). Fred Spainhour claims that, despite numerous requests for medical assistance, the detention center made no attempt to examine Brian Spainhour after he complained of a possible stroke (Id., ¶ 25). Fred Spainhour states that, on March 18, 2016, Brian Spainhour suffered a stroke and fell into a coma while being detained at the detention center (Id., ¶ 26). Deputy Sheriff Rowdy Sweet was the jail administrator on March 18, 2016, and Fred Spainhour alleges that Deputy Sweet and Deputy Sheriff Andrew Ballinger did not call an emergency response team to examine Brian Spainhour or release him from custody until he was found unconscious in his cell (Id., ¶¶ 27-28).Fred Spainhour claims that Brian Spainhour suffered a brain aneurism as a result of not receiving proper medication while detained at the detention center and passed away on March 25, 2016 (Id., ¶ 29).

Fred Spainhour alleges that the Pope County Sheriff's Office has a custom, policy, or practice where failure to supervise, train, evaluate, and discipline its officers concerning policies and procedures as they pertain to the laws on providing adequate medical care, which has resulted in an environment that condones the unreasonable withholding of medical care on citizens being detained at the detention center (Id., ¶ 30). Fred Spainhour further alleges that all individual defendants were, at all relevant times, acting under color of state law (Id., ¶ 31).

Additionally, Fred Spainhour alleges the involvement of three John Doe defendants (Id., ¶¶ 32-35). Fred Spainhour alleges that the first John Doe is an individual who oversaw the medical care provided to the detention center from March 15, 2016, to March 18, 2016, and caused damages to plaintiff (Id., ¶ 32). Fred Spainhour alleges that the second John Doe is any company that assisted in medical care for the inmates at the detention center from March 15, 2016, to March 18, 2016, and caused damages to plaintiff (Id., ¶ 33). Fred Spainhour alleges that the third John Doe is any officer who refused to provide medical treatment to Brian Spainhour and caused damages to plaintiff (Id., ¶ 34).

Fred Spainhour alleges four counts against all defendants in their individual and official capacities: (1) cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (2) Arkansas civil rights violations; (3) tort of outrage; and (4) failure to supervise (Id., ¶¶ 36-68). Fred Spainhour demands a jury trial and seeks attorney's fees (Id., ¶7 69-80). As relief, Fred Spainhour requests damages in an amount adequate to compensate him for the wrongful death of Brian Spainhour, all general and special damages caused by the alleged conduct of defendants, punitivedamages to punish defendants for their egregious and malicious misconduct in reckless disregard and conscious indifference to the consequences to Brian Spainhour, and all other relief to which he is entitled (Id., at 14).

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss this action pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) on June 12, 2019 (Dkt. No. 2). Defendants assert that Fred Spainhour's complaint is time-barred and should be dismissed with prejudice (Id., ¶ 2). Defendants assert that Fred Spainhour concedes that Brian Spainhour was transferred from the detention center to the local hospital on March 18, 2016, three years and one week prior to Fred Spainhour filing his complaint (Dkt. No. 3, at 2). Defendants state that the complaint does not allege any actions, wrongful or otherwise, against any of the defendants after March 18, 2016 (Id.). Defendants claim that Fred Spainhour's cause of action accrued, therefore, on March 18, 2016, since that is the latest date at which any wrongful act or omission committed by defendants could have occurred (Id., at 2-3). Defendants note that § 1983 claims are governed by the personal injury statute of limitations of the state where the claim arose, and defendants claim that under Arkansas law that means either a three-year statute of limitations or a two-year statute of limitations, depending on the circumstances (Id., at 2). Under either scenario, defendants claim that Fred Spainhour is time-barred from bringing this action since the alleged wrongful acts occurred on March 18, 2016, over three years before he filed suit (Id., at 3).

Fred Spainhour filed a response in opposition and supporting brief (Dkt. Nos. 4, 5). In response, Fred Spainhour asserts that he filed this action within the applicable statutory period (Dkt. No. 5, at 2). Fred Spainhour first contends that the three-year statute of limitations period is appropriate in wrongful death actions such as this one (Id., at 3). Fred Spainhour also contends that the statute of limitations begins to run when the wrongful acts or omissions result in damages,not necessarily when they first occur (Id., at 4). Fred Spainhour states that the determination of when the injury has occurred is normally a question of fact to be answered by the jury (Id.). In wrongful death actions brought under § 1983, Fred Spainhour asserts that the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of plaintiff's death which resulted from defendant's acts or omissions (Id., at 5). Accordingly, Fred Spainhour claims that the statute of limitations began to run on March 25, 2016, the date of Brian Spainhour's death, rendering this action timely filed within the three-year limitation period on March 25, 2019 (Id.).

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 566 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 588 F.3d at 678. In making this determination, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Crooks v. Lynch, 557 F.3d 846, 848 (8th Cir. 2009). "When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the district court must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and all reasonable inferences from the complaint must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party." Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Hafley v. Lohman, 90 F.2d 264, 266 (8th Cir. 1996)).

When the running of the statute of limitations is raised as a defense, the defendant has the burden of affirmatively pleading and proving this defense, while "'[t]he party who is claiming thebenefit of an exception to the operation of a statute of limitations bears the burden of showing that he is entitled to it.'" Motley v. United States, 295 F.3d 820, 824 (8th Cir. 2002) (quoting Wollman v. Gross, 637 F.2d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 1980)).


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