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Baszler v. County of Scotts Bluff

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

July 14, 2015

JULIE BASZLER, Personal Representative of the Estate of Amanda Baker, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF SCOTTS BLUFF, a Nebraska political subdivision, RON JOHNS, in his official and individual capacity, VERONICA CAMARILLO, in her official and individual capacity, MARK BOTZKI, in his official and individual capacity, and DOES 1 - 10, in their official and individual capacities, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss (Filing No. 12) submitted by Defendants County of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska (the “County”), Ron Johns (“Johns”), Veronica Camarillo (“Camarillo”), and Mark Botzki (“Botzki”). For the reasons discussed below, the Motion will be granted in part; this action will be dismissed as to Johns and Camarillo; and Botzki and the County will be required to respond to the Complaint.

FACTS

At this stage of the proceedings, the Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations in the Complaint (Filing No. 1), though the Court need not accept the Plaintiff’s conclusions of law. The following is a summary of the factual allegations.

Plaintiff Julie Baszler (“Baszler”) is the personal representative of the estate of Amanda Baker (“Baker”). At all relevant times, the County operated a Detention Center, housing adult and juvenile offenders, and Baker worked as a correctional officer at the Detention Center.

On the night of February 14, 2014, Baker was working in the area of the Detention Center that housed juvenile offenders. Botzki was her on-duty supervisor. Dylan Cardeilhac (“Cardeilhac”), a 15-year-old offender awaiting trial on charges of armed robbery and use of a firearm to commit a felony, was housed in a cell by himself due to violent misconduct. Through an intercom in his cell, Cardeilhac asked Baker and Botzki to come to his cell to help him. Botzki directed Baker to go to Cardeilhac’s cell alone, although Botzki knew Cardeilhac was segregated from other inmates and was facing serious charges for violent felony offenses. Once Baker was inside Cardeilhac’s cell, Cardeilhac strangled her for approximately 90 seconds, took her key ring, and attempted to escape. When Botzki found Baker unconscious, he delayed calling emergency medical support, and Baker was unconscious for over fifteen minutes before emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene.

An unidentified officer, Defendant John Doe #1, was approached by Cardeilhac days before Baker’s death; Cardeilhac asked the officer for information about how to strangle someone; the officer answered Cardeilhac’s questions; and the officer withheld from Baker the fact that Cardeilhac was seeking information about how to kill someone. A second unidentified officer, Defendant John Doe #2, was assigned the duty of monitoring video cameras on the night of February 14, 2014, but did not pay attention to the monitor in Cardeilhac’s cell.

Johns and Camarillo were policymakers and final decision-makers for the County Detention Center. Baszler alleges that the County, Johns, and Camarillo intentionally withheld information from Baker and intentionally made misrepresentations to Baker, leading her to believe that the Detention Center was safe and well-managed when it was not, and leading her to believe that she was adequately trained and qualified to perform the duties of a correctional officer, when she was not.

Baszler seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees, presenting three causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. First, Baszler alleges that the Defendants deprived Baker of due process, equal protection, bodily integrity, and privileges and immunities secured by the United States Constitution by creating dangers and by intentionally concealing and misrepresenting dangers. Second, Baszler alleges that the Defendants had customs, policies or practices of withholding information from prospective and current correctional employees, including Baker, and were deliberately indifferent to known risks of dangers the Defendants themselves created, thereby depriving Baker of constitutionally protected liberty interests. Third, Baszler alleges that the County, Johns, and Camarillo conducted an inadequate investigation into the circumstances of Baker’s death, and rejected Baszler’s efforts to engage in good-faith settlement negotiations, thereby ratifying the state-created dangers that led to Baker’s death.

The named Defendants have moved to dismiss Baszler’s claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. They also assert that the individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from suit in their personal capacities.

STANDARDS OF REVIEW

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)

A complaint 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). “[A]lthough a complaint need not include detailed factual allegations, ‘a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’” C.N. v. Willmar Pub. Sch., Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 347, 591 F.3d 624, 629-30 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “Instead, the complaint must set forth ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id. at 630 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

“'A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Ritchie v. St. Louis Jewish Light, 630 F.3d 713, 716 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009)). “'Courts must accept . . . specific factual allegations as true but are not required to accept . . . legal conclusions.” Outdoor Cent., Inc. v. GreatLodge.com, Inc., 643 F.3d 1115, 1120 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Brown v. Medtronic, Inc., 628 F.3d 451, 459 (8th Cir. 2010)). “A pleading that merely pleads ‘labels and conclusions, ’ or a ‘formulaic recitation’ of the elements of a cause of action, or ‘naked assertions’ devoid of factual enhancement will not suffice.” Hamilton v. Palm, 621 F.3d 816, 817-18 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The ...


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