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James v. Bartow County

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

February 27, 2017

DONALD JAMES, Individually and as administrator of the estate of Jennifer James, Plaintiff,
v.
BARTOW COUNTY, GEORGIA, CLARK MILLSAP, in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Bartow County, Georgia, GARY DOVER, DEREK COCHRAN, LT. TINA PALLONE, DALLAS WATSON, CAUSEY, JOY STANLEY, ANDREA CRUTCHFIELD, ARIEL HENDRICKS, JEREMY GAZERRO, NICOLE AGEE, and CORRECT HEATH L.L.C., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DIJFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Bartow County, Clark Millsap, Gary Dover, Derek Cochran, Tina Pallone, Dallas Watson, Causey, Joy Stanley, Andrea Crutchfield, Ariel Hendricks, and Jeremy Gazerro's (collectively, the “County Defendants”)[1] Motion to Dismiss [20] and Defendants Nicole Agee and Correcthealth Bartow, LLC's (collectively, the “Medical Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss [23]. Also before the Court is Plaintiff Donald James's Second Motion to Amend Complaint [24] (“Motion to Amend”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         Plaintiff is the surviving spouse of Jennifer James (“James”) and the appointed administrator of her estate. (Second Am. Compl. [24.1] ¶¶ 4-5). Plaintiff brings this action both individually and as the administrator of James's estate.

         James was a longtime resident of Cartersville, Georgia and had been incarcerated in the Bartow County Jail many times. (Id. ¶ 20). She had a longtime addiction problem and was being held on a probation revocation for failure to pass a drug test. (Id.). Prior to the incident that gave rise to her death, James had been an inmate at Bartow County Jail for approximately 215 days. (Id. ¶ 19).

         On April 20, 2014, an inmate at Bartow County Jail smuggled various illegal substances into the county jail, including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and bath salts. (Id. ¶ 23). The illegal drugs, once in the jail, were mixed with water and shared, by the smuggling inmate, with other inmates, including James. (Id.). James became ill after she ingested the mixture. (Id. ¶ 24). She lost color in her face and began throwing up and having seizure-like activity. (Id.).

         James's fellow inmates, at first, were too intimidated to push the “panic” or intercom button for fear of possible repercussions from the jailers.[2] (Id.). When James's fellow inmates eventually pressed the button to ask for help, another fifteen to twenty minutes past before the first jailer, Defendant Hendricks, arrived. (Id. ¶ 25). During this 15-minute period, an inmate performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on James while waiting for help to arrive. (Id.). When Defendant Hendricks arrived at the pod, she called for Defendant Nicole Agee (“Nurse Agee”), the only medical personnel staffed at that time, for help. (Id.). Because Nurse Agee was alone in the medical department, she did not come immediately to James's pod. (Id.).

         When the other jailers and Nurse Agee arrived at the pod, James was in her cell lying slightly on her right side awake but gurgling with a clear liquid oozing out of her mouth. (Id.). The inmates were yelling for help and directing help to James's cell. (Id.). Nurse Agee performed the Heimlich maneuver on James, (id.), while jailers questioned the inmates about contraband, (id. ¶ 26). James was placed on a gurney in the hall where she remained for the next 45 minutes. (Id.). By that time, James was unresponsive with only shallow respiration. (Id.).

         Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that Defendants did not immediately call emergency medical services. (Id.). When James was eventually taken to the hospital, she was put on life support and remained in the intensive care unit. (Id. ¶ 28).

         On April 22, 2014, James was discharged from custody by the Bartow County Sheriff's Office.[3] (Id.).

         On April 28, 2014, James died. (Id.).

         B. Procedural History

         On April 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed his original Complaint [1]. On May 2, 2016, the Court ordered [2] Plaintiff to file an amended complaint to allege a proper basis for this Court's venue under Local Rule 3.1. On May 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint [5]. The Amended Complaint alleges, against all Defendants, three violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for failure to protect (Count I), deprivation of the right of due process (Count II), and inadequate medical care (Count III). The Amended Complaint also alleges two state claims for inadequate medical care under O.C.G.A. § 42-5-2 (Count IV) and breach of official bond against Defendant Millsap (Count V). (See [5]). Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and other such relief as appropriate. (Id.).

         On August 29, 2016, the County Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ([20]). On September 19, 2016, the Medical Defendants also moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). ([23]). On September 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Motion to Amend Complaint [24].[4] As part of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (“Complaint”), Plaintiff moved for permission to dismiss his federal claims against the individual County Defendants in their official capacities, and he moved for permission to dismiss his state law claim against Defendant Bartow County (“Bartow County”). ([24.1] at 1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a plaintiff to file one amended complaint as a matter of course, if the amended complaint is filed either within twenty-one (21) days of service of the original complaint or within twenty-one (21) days of the defendant's filing of a responsive pleading or Rule 12 motion to dismiss. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Amended complaints outside of these time limits may be filed only “with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).

         “The decision whether to grant leave to amend a complaint is within the sole discretion of the district court.” Laurie v. Ala Ct. of Criminal Appeals, 256 F.3d 1266, 1274 (11th Cir. 2001). Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “There must be a substantial reason to deny a motion to amend.” Laurie, 256 F.3d at 1274. “Substantial reasons justifying a denial include ‘undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive on the part of the movant, . . . undue ...


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