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J.F. v. Correct Care Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 2, 2017

J.F. and D.F. ex rel. CRAIC and DEBORAH ANN BENTON, Plaintiffs,
v.
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, LLC et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George J. Hazel United States District Judge.

         This case arises out of the death of Melissa Mae Benton ("Ms. Benton"), a 36-year-old woman, while she was in the custody of the St. Mary's County Detention Center (the "Detention Center"). Ms. Benton's minor children. J.F. and D.F.. by their guardians and next friends Craig and Deborah Ann Benton, and Ms. Benton's adult daughter. Brittany Fleshman. bring suit against Correct Care Solutions. LLC ("CCS"). Conmed Health Care Management. Inc. ("Conmed"). and individual health care staff[1] (collectively. ''Health Care Provider Defendants"). as well as individual correctional staff"[2] (collectively. "Correctional Defendants") at the Detention Center, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Maryland state law. Presently pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss by Individual Defendants P. King. Hosselrode. I. King. Randolph. Beaumont, and Winkler. ECF No. 14. and a separate Motion to Dismiss by Individual Defendant Cawley. ECF No. 21. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons. Defendants" Motions to Dismiss are granted, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Melissa Mae Benton entered the St. Mary's Detention Center on October 8. 2013 to await transfer to the Maryland Department of Corrections to begin serving a seven year sentence. ECF No. 4 ¶ 46. At the time. Ms. Benton was 36 years old and suffered from various drug addictions, bipolar disorder, unexplained weight loss, and a host of health issues. Id. ¶ 45. When Ms. Benton arrived at the Detention Center. Certified Nursing Assistant ("CNA") Penny King conducted an intake examination.[3] ECF No. 4 ¶ 48. Ms. King noted that Ms. Benton suffered from high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, unexplained weight loss, an enlarged colon, and drug addiction. Id. Ms. King further noted that Ms. Benton was supposed to receive follow-up medical care for her enlarged colon, Id. Ms. King also reported that Ms. Benton was an intravenous drug user and had taken unprescribed Oxycodone the previous day. Id. Ms. King's report stated that Ms. Benton "will be placed on Benzo protocol[4] per Conmed." Id.

         On or about October 9. 2013. Ms. Benton underwent a second health assessment by members of the medical staff, a Suicide Prevention Screening by Defendant Licensed Clinical Social Worker ("LCSW") Winkler, and an interview by the inmate services coordinator. ECF No. 4 at 16. The health assessment noted that Ms. Benton had a long history of addiction to heroin. Xanax, and Oxycodone and was currently experiencing opioid withdrawal. Id. ¶¶ 49. 51. Physician's Orders signed at the time stated that staff were to "notify clinician if possible deterioration occurs such as unstable blood pressure . . . persistent vomiting, or dehydration." Id. ¶ 51. Following the Suicide Prevention Screening, LCSW Winkler did not recommend immediate action for Ms. Benton, but scheduled her for a further mental health assessment for the week of October 14. 2013.

         As part of Ms. Benton's detox protocol, she was prescribed Librium. Phenergan, Clonidine, vitamins, and Imodium.[5] ECF No. 4 ¶ 53. Despite these instructions, however, the Amended Complaint identifies a number of instances in which Ms. Benton received sporadic doses of these medications, or none at all. Id. ¶ 54. 55. 57. 67. For example. Ms. Benton was to receive 4 mg of Imodium three times a day for her abdominal cramps, yet no Imodium was administered. Id. ¶ 55. Phenergan was allegedly withheld for two days. Id. ¶ 57. Clonidine was administered only once. Id. ¶ 54. Ms. Benton informed medical staff of her stomach pains, but her complaints were dismissed without examination. Id. ¶¶ 55. 58.

         By October 11, 2013. Ms. Benton began experiencing severe symptoms, including repeat vomiting and tremors. ECF No. 4 ¶ 56. Her blood pressure had elevated to 153/106. Id. ¶ 57. Although Ms. Benton was supposed to receive 0.1 mg of Clonidine to treat the high blood pressure, that order was not carried out. Id. ¶ 57. Ms. Benton refused all of her meals on October 12 and 13. 2013. Id. ¶ 58. She also complained of chest pain and suffered from diarrhea. Id. ¶ 59. Her pulse was 48 beats per minute and her oxygen saturation was 90%. indicating an abnormally low level. Id. Despite Ms. Benton's condition, the health and correctional staff simply told her "to relax." and gave her some "Gatorade to hydrate." Id. Under the Physician's Order from October 9th. if Ms. Benton's oxygen saturation level fell below 92%. care providers were instructed to call 911. Id. ¶ 51. But no one did.

         A number of Detention Center health care providers and correctional officers conducted numerous cell checks on Ms. Benton over the course of two days, and witnessed her "vomiting profusely, having abdominal cramps, complaining of chest pains, and refusing all meals." See ECF No. 4 ¶¶ 60-62. 64-69. However, none of them took any measures to ensure that Ms. Benton received additional medical care or intervention. Id. On October 12. 2013. Defendant CNA Beaumont checked Ms. Benton"s vital signs and noted that Ms. Benton's pulse was a "dangerously low" 36 beats per minute. Id. ¶ 62; ECF No. 4-4 at 13. 17.''[6] Ms. Benton asked if she could go to the hospital, hut her request was denied as "not indicated." Id. ¶ 63. On October 12. CNA/CMT Cawley and CNA Hosselrode both administered medication to Ms. Benton "at least twice" and witnessed her "vomiting profusely, having abdominal cramps, and refusing all meals." but failed to call for medical help. Id. ¶¶ 65-66.

         On the morning of October 13. 2013. Defendant Cawley entered Ms. Benton's cell to deliver her medication. ECF No. 4 ¶ 71. Mr. Cawley stated that Ms. Benton "did not seem to see him" and was in "an altered mental status." Id. She reached out and crushed the cups he was attempting to hand her. Id. Ms. Benton finally took the medication, then grabbed her mattress and began rocking back and forth. Id. Mr. Cawley allegedly made no efforts to obtain medical attention for Ms. Benton, but rather, issued a memorandum "that Ms. Benton not be allowed out of her cell, except for her shower, because she was unsteady on her feet." Id. By October 13. Ms. Benton's blood pressure had reached 163/109 and her heart rate was 106 beats per minute. Id. ¶ 73.

         On October 13. 2013 at approximately 5:55PM. Ms. Benton was found non-responsive in her cell. ECF No. 4 ¶ 79. She was not breathing and had no pulse. Id. Ms. Benton was transported to St. Mary's Hospital a half hour later, where she was pronounced dead. Id. The autopsy report concluded that Ms. Benton "died of cardiac arrhythmia due to myocardial fibrosis and hypertensive heart disease. Chronic drug and alcohol abuse were contributing causes of death." ECF No. 4-4 at 16.

         Melissa Mae Benton's minor children, J.F. and D.F., bring this action by their guardians and next friends, Craig and Deborah Benton. Melissa's parents. Also named as a Plaintiff is Brittany Fleshman. Melissa's adult daughter. The Plaintiffs assert claims for: I) negligence. II) Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendment violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. and III) wrongful death against the Health Care Provider Defendants, as well as IV) Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendment violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. V) gross negligence, and VI) wrongful death against the Correctional Defendants. ECF No. 4. Accompanying Plaintiffs' Complaint is Plaintiffs" waiver of arbitration before the Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, ECF No. 4-3. an Order of Transfer from the Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office to this Court, ECF No. 4-5. and a Certificate of Qualified Expert and Report from Dr. Robert L. Cohen. ECF No. 4-4.

         Individual Defendants P. King. Hosselrode. T. King. Randolph, Beaumont, and Winkler filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs" Amended Complaint. ECF No. 14. Individual Defendant James Cawley filed a separate Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. ECF No. 21. All other Defendants have tiled an Answer to the Amended Complaint. ECF Nos. 15. 16, and 32. Plaintiffs filed a Consolidated Response in Opposition on August 26. 2016. ECF No. 22. Defendants filed their Reply on September 12. 2016. ECF No. 23. Defendants request that the Court dismiss Counts II and III against P. King. Hosselrode. T. King. Randolph. Cawley. and Beaumont, [7] and dismiss all counts against Lisa Winkler. The Motions to Dismiss are now ready for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendants may "test the adequacy of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)." Prelich v. Med Res., foe, 813 F.Supp.2d 654. 660 (D. Md. 2011 > (citing German v. Fox. 267 F.App'x 23 1. 233 (4th Cir. 2008)). Motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim do "not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Prelich. 813 F.Supp.2d at 660 (citing Edwards v. City of Goldsboro,178 F.3d 231. 243 (4th Cir. 1999). To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcrofi v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when "the ...


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