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Knouse v. Primecare Medical of West Virginia, Inc.

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

January 17, 2019

HANNAH KNOUSE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PRIMECARE MEDICAL OF WEST VIRGINIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH R. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the court is Defendant James Chandler's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 91] and the plaintiff's Motion to Seal [ECF No. 107]. For the following reasons, Defendant Chandler's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, the plaintiff's Motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         While awaiting trial, Dr. Charles Knouse was detained at South Central Regional Jail (“SCRJ”) in Kanawha County, West Virginia, for various violations of the Controlled Substances Act. At his detention hearing, Dr. Knouse explained to Magistrate Judge Omar J. Aboulhosn his belief that the jail authorities at SCRJ were not meeting his serious medical needs. Dr. Knouse was apparently concerned that his heart would become arrhythmic if he did not receive his heart medication. He also explained that withdrawal from a second medication would render the first medication unable to control his heart rhythm, and he detailed the great pain he was in because the jail authorities did not allow him to self-catheterize the first few days of his detainment.

         Perceiving a potential life-threatening situation, and choosing to err on the side of caution until Dr. Knouse's medical conditions could be verified, Magistrate Judge Aboulhosn ordered the authorities at SCRJ “to immediately place and hold [Dr. Knouse] in the medical unit . . . and to immediately resume [Dr. Knouse] on all of his prescribed medications.” Order 2, United States v. Knouse, No. 1:17-mj-00046 (Aug. 4, 2017), [ECF No. 6]. A few days later, however, Dr. Knouse died while in custody. Hannah Knouse, administrator of his estate, filed this lawsuit.

         The plaintiff's initial Complaint alleged, inter alia, that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to Dr. Knouse's serious medical needs. On a Motion [ECF No. 32], the court dismissed most of the Complaint but allowed the plaintiff's § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to move forward. The court noted the plaintiff's lack of factual matter stating claims to relief, conclusory statements, and inapposite legal theories. On October 23, 2018, with leave of court, the plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint [ECF No. 71], largely ignoring the court's guidance on pleading. The Amended Complaint continues to include irrelevant state constitutional claims with no factual basis, contains even more conclusory statements, and entails 275 pages of appended exhibits.

         The Amended Complaint sounds in negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, state and federal constitutional claims, and fraud. Specifically, it alleges that Defendant Chandler was the officer on duty tasked with supervising Dr. Knouse the night of his death and that, despite warnings and pleas from Dr. Knouse, he and others were deliberately indifferent to Dr. Knouse's serious medical needs. On November 6, 2018, Defendant Chandler moved to dismiss the claims against him [ECF No. 91]. On November 20, 2018, the plaintiff responded [ECF No. 108] and filed a Motion to Seal [ECF No. 107] requesting that the court seal the plaintiff's response. On November 27, 2018, the defendant replied [ECF No. 112]. The Motions are ripe for review.

         II. Legal Standard

         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). Rule 8 requires that pleadings contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While that standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' . . . 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)). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of [her] ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A court cannot accept as true legal conclusions in a complaint that merely recites the elements of a cause of action supported by conclusory statements. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78.

         “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.'” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). To achieve facial plausibility, the plaintiff must plead facts that allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable, and those facts must be more than merely consistent with the defendant's liability to raise the claim from possible to plausible. Id.

         III. Discussion

         1. Motion to Seal

         As a threshold matter, in response to the defendant's Motion, the plaintiff attached the defendant's termination letter from the Jail Authority, which is purportedly subject to a confidentiality agreement between the parties. The plaintiff moved the court to seal its response and the attached letter.

         Local Rule 26.4(c)(2) requires that

a motion to seal shall be . . . accompanied by a memorandum of law which contains:
(A) the reasons why sealing is necessary, including the reasons why alternatives to sealing, such as redaction, are inadequate;
(B) the requested duration of the proposed seal; and
(C) a discussion of the propriety of sealing, giving due regard to the parameter of the common law and First Amendment rights of access as interpreted by the Supreme Court and our Court of Appeals.

LR Civ. P. 26.4(c). Counsel failed to address these concerns or file a memorandum. The plaintiff's Motion to Seal is DENIED.

         2. Section 1983 ...


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