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Tomashek v. Raleigh County Emergency Operating Center

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

January 22, 2018




         I. Introduction

         Pending before the court is Motion of West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority, David A. Farmer, Southern Regional Jail, Michael Francis, and John Doe Correctional Officers to Dismiss [ECF No. 15]. The plaintiff filed a response [ECF No. 24], and the defendants filed a reply [ECF No. 31]. This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         II. Factual Background

         During the early morning of November 22, 2014, the plaintiff's wife called 911 and requested that the dispatcher send an ambulance to transport the plaintiff, Philip J. Thomashek, II, to the hospital because he “was exhibiting unusual behavioral and mood changes and she feared he suffered an injury to his head or inadvertent poisoning from the use of volatile automotive paint and cleaners in his garage.” Not. Removal Ex. A Part 1, at ¶ 17 (“Am. Compl.”) [ECF No. 1-1]. A short time later, the plaintiff's wife called 911 again and canceled the request for medical assistance, advising the dispatcher she was taking the plaintiff to the hospital herself. Id. ¶ 18.

         Despite the wife's second call, the dispatcher dispatched two detectives, A.S. Meadows and J.D. Johnson, to the plaintiff's home. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. When they arrived, the plaintiff was closing the driveway gate, and his wife and their daughters were in the vehicle, already en route to take the plaintiff to the hospital. Id. ¶ 20. One of the officers asked the plaintiff to get into his vehicle, and when he refused, the officer grabbed him, “twisted his arm behind his back and painfully bent his fingers back.” Id. ¶¶ 22-24. The other officer then tased and pepper sprayed him. Id. ¶ 25.

         The plaintiff was arrested on two counts of assault of an officer and obstructing. Id. ¶ 28. The plaintiff was later taken to the Southern Regional Jail (“SRJ”) where he was accepted into custody by one or more correctional officers. Id. ¶ 31. During his detention at SRJ, “he experienced severe chest pains, a racing heart, and excruciating muscle pains.” Id. ¶¶ 31-32.“On one or more occasion[s] while detained, he was unnecessarily restrained in a manner causing extreme pain, discomfort, emotional distress, and fear.” Id. ¶ 31.

         The plaintiff made multiple requests for medical care to the correctional officers as well as other officials. Id. ¶ 32. The plaintiff's wife also “called SRJ on numerous occasions to stress her concern for his health and his need for immediate medical care.” Id. The evening after he was arrested, the plaintiff was transported to the hospital. Id. ¶ 37. He was admitted there for ten days and diagnosed with encephalopathy, acute liver injury, and acute rhabdomyolysis. Id. ¶ 38.

         The assault and obstruction charges brought against the plaintiff were eventually dropped. Id. ¶ 41. Thereafter, the plaintiff brought this civil action against several parties. The defendants that are relevant to this motion include: the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority (“WVRJCFA”), SRJ, David A. Farmer, Michael Francis, and John Doe Correctional Officers, who are all sued in both their individual and official capacities.

         III. Legal Standard

         The defendants move for dismissal with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Mot. WVRJCFRA, Farmer, SRJ, Francis, & John Doe Corr. Officers Dismiss 1 (“Defs.' Mot.”) [ECF No. 15].

         The defendants attached one exhibit to their motion. Id. Ex A [ECF No. 15-1]. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(d), “[i]f, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” The mere submission or service of extraneous materials, however, does not by itself convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Finley Lines Joint Protective Bd. Unit 200 v. Norfolk S. Corp., 109 F.3d 993, 995-96 (4th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, a 12(b)(6) motion supported by extraneous materials is only regarded as one for summary judgment if the district court converts “the motion by indicating that it will not exclude from its consideration of the motion the supporting extraneous materials.” Id. at 997. Thus, it is within the court's discretion to consider the matters outside of the pleadings, or “wholly ignore[] such attachments and rel[y] exclusively on the complaint.” Covey v. Assessor of Ohio Cnty., 777 F.3d 186, 193 n.7 (4th Cir. 2015). Here, the court declines to consider the exhibit attached to the defendants' motion. Therefore, the defendants' motion will be regarded as one to dismiss.

         A motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint or pleading. Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). When “faced with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss . . . courts must . . . accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). To achieve facial plausibility, the plaintiff must plead facts allowing the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable, moving the claim beyond the realm of mere possibility. Id. Mere “labels and conclusions” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         IV. Discussion

         a. Unnamed Correctional Officers

         The defendants argue that the plaintiff's claims against unnamed John Doe correctional officers must be dismissed because “[p]leading a claim against such unnamed parties is in direct contravention to pleading standards.” Mem. Law Supp. 9 (“Defs.' Mem.”) [ECF No. 16]. The defendants rely mainly on Price v. Marsh, No. 2:12-cv-05442, 2013 WL 5409811 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 25, 2013). In Price, the plaintiff asked the court for leave to amend his complaint in order to add the identity of defendants who were previously unidentified. 2013 WL 5409811, at *2. The court denied the plaintiff's motion, finding that the plaintiff was not diligent in seeking leave to amend. Id. at *3. The court went on to dismiss the counts against the unnamed defendants, holding that judgment cannot be entered against an unnamed party. Id. at *4-6.

         As Judge Chambers explained in Sweat v. West Virginia, No. 3:16-5252, 2016 WL 7422678, at *3 (S.D. W.Va. Dec. 22, 2016), the holding in Price is not applicable in cases that are “still in the beginning stages with time for [p]laintiffs to discover” who the unnamed defendants are. “This Court allows John Doe defendants if the names can be found in discovery and complaints are timely amended.” Id.

         Here, the plaintiff has explained that he has “had little way of discovering exactly what correctional officers were responsible for” the actions at issue in his complaint. Philip J. Tomashek II's Omnibus Resp. Opp'n to Defs.' Mots. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Resp.”) 8 [ECF No. 24]. The plaintiff is entitled to the opportunity to discover who these defendants are. If after adequate time the plaintiff fails to amend his complaint, then dismissal may be proper. For now, however, dismissal is not warranted based on the plaintiff's failure to name specific correctional officers in his complaint.

         b. ...

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