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Hanlin-Cooney v. Frederick County

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

February 10, 2014



WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Annette Hanlin-Cooney[1] sued Frederick County (the "County") and others[2] for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims. ECF No. 1. Various defendants have filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim or to bifurcate claims for discovery and trial and two motions to dismiss or for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 7, 12, 14. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the following reasons, the defendants' motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background[3]

Hanlin-Cooney's son, Hanlin, was born on July 15, 1988. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 58, 61. "[D]uring the last years of his life, " Hanlin abused prescription drugs-oxycodone and Alprazolam-and eventually became addicted. Id. ¶¶ 58-59. In March 2010, when Hanlin was hospitalized for injuries sustained during a fight, he was diagnosed with polysubstance abuse. Id. ¶ 60.

From May 2 to May 6, 2010, Hanlin was detained[4] at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center in Frederick County, Maryland (the "Detention Center").[5] Id. ¶ 49. The reports of his initial medical screening stated that he had no history of drug or alcohol abuse, and he required no mental health referral. Id. However, Detention Center notes from May 4, 2010 indicate that Hanlin was vomiting, a symptom of drug addiction withdrawal, and he was provided with "a list of mental health and substance abuse resources" upon his release. Id.

On July 2, 2010, after Hanlin-Cooney called for emergency assistance for Hanlin, a Sheriff's Deputy "determined that John Hanlin was suffering from a mental disorder that rendered him a present danger to his own life or safety or that of others." Id. ¶ 65. Hanlin-Cooney also told the Deputy that Hanlin had been abusing drugs and was "extremely depressed." Id. The Deputy took Hanlin to the hospital for an emergency evaluation, during which his blood and urine tested positive for "Cannabinoid, Benzodiazepine ( i.e., Xanax) and opiates." Id. ¶ 67. While at the hospital, Hanlin also threatened to kill himself.[6] Id. ¶ 68.

On July 7, 2010, a State Trooper stopped the car which Hanlin was driving erratically and saw Hanlin ingest Percocet. Id. ¶ 70. The Trooper arrested Hanlin "for drug possession and use of a false prescription." Id. Hanlin was taken to the Detention Center. Id. ¶ 2. At the Detention Center, the booking officer "wrote into the alerts section that Mr. Hanlin was a drug user, was familiar with CDS (controlled dangerous substances), [and] was a mental subject.'" Id. ¶ 72. The officer classified Hanlin "as a medium security risk." Id. Hanlin was then medically screened, and "it was... noted that [he] appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic." Id. ¶ 73.

On July 7, 2010, another officer completed a medical screening report of Hanlin, which stated that Hanlin "did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, said he did not use drugs, and did not have, or show, signs of weight loss."[7] Id. ¶ 74. The report also stated, however, that Hanlin "appears to be under the influence of something.'" Id.

The Detention Center contracted with Conmed and CMHS to provide healthcare services, including mental health services, to the prison. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Two of Conmed's and CMHS's employees, Moore, a nurse, and Kissane, worked at the Detention Center. Id. ¶¶ 30-31, 75. Moore reviewed and approved the officer's medical screening report of Hanlin. Id. ¶ 75. Some time after, Moore completed two additional medical screening forms which identified Hanlin as a drug abuser with "a history of treatment for substance abuse" and stated that Hanlin appeared to be under the influence of narcotics and was slurring his words. Id. ¶¶ 75, 77. One of the forms she completed "cautions to notify [a] medical provider'" when an inmate "appears to be withdrawing from drugs or alcohol.'" Id. ¶ 77. Moore approved Hanlin's placement into the general inmate population and did not notify a medical provider of Hanlin's symptoms. See id. ¶¶ 76, 78.

On July 8, 2010, Kissane reviewed Moore's assessment of Hanlin and concluded "that no further evaluation was necessary and no mental health referral was required." Id. ¶ 80. However, that same day, "Hanlin was heard by staff and inmates... crying hysterically that his child had just died... and he needed help getting bail money." Id. ¶ 81. Kissane reevaluated Hanlin and concluded that he was a suicide risk and that he was under the influence of drugs and experiencing symptoms of drug addiction withdrawal. Id. ¶¶ 82-83. Hanlin was placed in the Medical Unit on "0523 checks, " which are "thirty-minute interval checks conducted on inmates who are believed to be at risk of self-harm, including substance abusers."[8] Id. ¶¶ 83, 86.

At the Detention Center, after a series of thefts of prescription pharmaceuticals normally used to treat drug withdrawal, Jenkins "instituted a policy or allowed such a policy to be instituted, " under which imprisoned persons suffering from withdrawal symptoms were treated with over-the-counter medications only. See id. ¶ 5. These medications were less effective, but also less costly to obtain and monitor, than the prescription drugs. Id. This policy, which was enforced by DeLauter, allegedly contributed, in part, to the Detention Center's "failure of care" of Hanlin, because Hanlin was not given any prescription-strength drugs to manage his withdrawal symptoms. Id. ¶¶ 5, 55, 85.

"Through" Jenkins, "the Detention Center also made a deliberate decision" not to take detainees and inmates needing medical care to the hospital, allegedly because these costs would be borne by the Detention Center. Id. ¶ 56. Jenkins also told the Detention Center to avoid requiring his Deputy Sheriffs to take arrestees to the hospital, because the Deputies would need to wait at the hospital while the arrestees obtained treatment. Id. Instead, arrestees, inmates, and detainees would all be treated at the Detention Center.[9] Id.

The Detention Center's Medical Unit is "part of a wing that at all relevant times typically housed in excess of 130 inmates and detainees monitored by two, sometimes only by one, " correctional officers. Id. ¶ 33. The inmates in the Medical Unit "were frequently and deliberately kept in cold, barren cells under conditions amounting to solitary confinement[, ]... served lower quality food, " and had few recreational opportunities."[10] Id. ¶ 43.

The cell in which Hanlin was housed in the Medical Unit was "unmonitored, solitary... not readily observable, not even within earshot of guards, " and not "suicide-proof." See id. ¶¶ 4, 41. The cell had "metal bunk bed frames that could be used, " and had been used previously, "to support makeshift hanging nooses, and bed sheets or other materials from which such nooses easily could be fashioned." Id. ¶ 4.

On July 9, 2010, Hanlin-Cooney called the Detention Center at least twice to inform it "that Mr. Hanlin was an active substance abuser who had recently threatened to take his own life." Id. ¶ 89. "[H]er information was not provided to the correctional officers, " Swailes and DeGrange, assigned that day to monitor Hanlin and perform 0523 checks on inmates. Id. ¶¶ 89-90. Swailes and DeGrange logged medical checks on Hanlin every 30 minutes from 8:29 am until 11:21 am, but these records were "deliberately falsified, " as Hanlin was not checked on until 11:34 am. Id. ¶¶ 91-93. According to Swailes and DeGrange, it was part of the "policies, customs, and/or practices of the Detention Center... to [inaccurately] log uncompleted checks... to avoid criticism from surveyors/auditors, during facility certification reviews." Id. ¶ 94. This "routine[]... cut[ting of] corners by" correctional officers assigned to perform "scheduled inmate checks" also resulted from policies that led to under-staffing of the Detention Center.[11] Id. ¶ 44.

On the morning of July 9, 2010, Hanlin "asked for assistance, expressing his fear that something bad was about to happen to him." Id. ¶ 15. He also said he intended to hang himself. Id. ¶ 96. Another inmate informed "the correctional officers assigned to monitor" Hanlin about those statements, but the officers "ignored" the warnings and told the inmate "that Mr. Hanlin had been crying out and making" suicide threats all morning. Id.

Later that morning, Hanlin committed suicide by hanging himself from a bed sheet tied to the frame of his bunk bed. Id. ¶ 16. His body was discovered at about 11:55 am by a food server. See id. ¶¶ 16, 101. His suicide was allegedly the "direct and proximate result of the Defendants['] deliberate indifference to the imminent medical needs of Mr. Hanlin and similarly-situated inmates and detainees" and their "purposeful [ choice] not to provide Mr. Hanlin with the... level of care necessary to avoid the foreseeable consequence of his unaddressed mental health issues and drug abuse withdrawal concerns." Id. ¶¶ 3, 16.

After Hanlin's suicide, the Detention Center investigated the circumstances of his death. Id. ¶ 12. The investigation concluded that Detention Center officials had failed to follow the Detention Center's suicide prevention policy of checking on at-risk inmates twice per hour and accurately logging those checks, [12] and that Swailes and DeGrange had made false statements and acted incompetently in failing to properly monitor Hanlin. Id. ¶¶ 12, 97. However, the Detention Center's Health Care Administrator, Linda Tritsch, who had been the first medical professional on the scene when Hanlin died, believed that Hanlin's death occurred ten minutes before CPR was initiated on him.[13] Id. ¶¶ 12, 101, 106. Thus, the investigation found that, even if the policy had been followed, Hanlin still would have been able to commit suicide between the periodic checks. Id. ¶¶ 12, 98. The Detention Center did not revise its suicide prevention policy after Hanlin's death, [14] but it later fired DeGrange.[15] Id. ¶¶ 13, 43.

On August 9, 2010, Hanlin-Cooney was appointed the personal representative of Hanlin's estate. See ECF No. 1-1 at 3. On September 13, 2010, C. Christopher Brown, Esquire, sent a letter to the Detention Center on Hanlin-Cooney's behalf, "to notify [it] of a potential claim and to request that [it] take prompt steps to preserve any documents or tangible evidence relating to... Hanlin's arrest, detention and death, and any investigations into Mr. Hanlin's death." ECF No. 1-2 at 2. On April 6, 2011, Peter C. Grenier, Esquire, on Hanlin-Cooney's behalf, sent a letter to the Board of County Commissioners for Frederick County to notify it of "potential claims" arising out of the death of Hanlin at the Detention Center. Id. at 3. The letter demanded that the County "take all necessary steps to preserve potentially discoverable material" related to Hanlin's death.[16] Id. at 4.

On June 14, 2013, Hanlin-Cooney filed a nine-count complaint against the defendants. ECF No. 1. Counts One, Two, and Three assert that the prison defendants, in their individual capacities ("individual capacity defendants"), the medical defendants, and the Does[17] deprived Hanlin of his 14th Amendment rights to "personal security, physical integrity, and privacy, " in violation of § 1983. ECF No. 1 at 37-44. Count Four asserts that Jenkins, in his official capacity, and the County have Monell liability under § 1983 for violations of Hanlin's Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. at 45-48. Count Five asserts that DeGrange, DeLauter, Swailes, the medical defendants, and the Does violated Hanlin's rights under Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights ("Article 24"). Id. at 49-51. The remaining counts assert: (1) negligence per se against the medical defendants, DeGrange, DeLauter, Swailes, the Does, and the County (Count Six); (2) gross negligence against the individual capacity defendants, the Does, and the County (Count Seven); (3) negligent training and supervision against DeLauter, Conmed, CMHS, the Does, and the County (Count Eight); and (4) negligence against DeGrange, DeLauter, Swailes, the Does, and the County (Count Nine). Id. at 51-58. The complaint seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, and attorneys' fees and costs and demands a jury trial. See, e.g., id. at 40, 58.

On July 15, 2013 and August 5, 2013, [18] the medical defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim or for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 7, 14. On July 29, 2013, the prison defendants and the County moved to dismiss or to bifurcate Counts Four and Five against the County and Count Four against Jenkins, in his official capacity. ECF No. 12. On August 22, 2013, Hanlin-Cooney opposed the medical defendants' motions. ECF No. 19. On September 20, 2013, the prison defendants filed a supplement to their motion to dismiss. ECF No. 22. On September 30, 2013, Hanlin-Cooney opposed the motion to dismiss. ECF No. 23. On October 7, 2013, Hanlin-Cooney opposed the supplement. ECF No. 24. On October 18, 2013, the prison defendants and the County replied to Hanlin-Cooney's opposition to their motion to dismiss. ECF No. 25.

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standard for Motion to Dismiss

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), an action may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint, but does not "resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of ...

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