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Pineda v. GEO Group/Correct Care Recovery Solutions

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

November 13, 2017




         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Geo Group, Inc.'s (Defendant Geo Group's) motion to dismiss (Doc. 35, filed June 15, 2017). Plaintiff, an involuntarily civilly committed resident of the Florida Civil Commitment Center (“FCCC”) in Arcadia, Florida, [1] initiated this action by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Geo Group/Correct Care Recovery Solutions, Kristen Kanner, Mike Carroll, Donald Sawyer, Rebecca Jackson, and Christopher Catron (Doc. 1). Plaintiff's original complaint is the operative complaint before the Court.

         For the reasons given in this Order, Defendant Geo Group's motion is denied without prejudice to this defendant raising the claim in a motion for summary judgment.

         I. Pleadings

         In his complaint, Plaintiff asserts that, on November 28, 2015, he was assaulted by another resident of the FCCC, and during the attack, the resident bit off a portion of his right earlobe (Doc. 1 at 4). Plaintiff claims that there were no security officers present to prevent the assault. Id. Plaintiff asserts the following regarding Defendant Geo Group's liability:

Defendant Geo Group/Correct Care Recovery Solutions (CCS) was at all times relevant to this action the private prison corporation under contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families to operate the Florida Civil Commitment Center and was acting under color of State law. By failed [sic] to protect the safety of Plaintiff who is under its legal custody, GEO Group/CCS has violated Plaintiff's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. GEO Group/CCS is sued for monetary damages.

(Doc. 1 at 4-5).

         Defendants Correct Care Recovery Solutions, Christopher Catron, Rebecca Jackson, and Donald Sawyer filed Answers and Affirmative Defenses to the complaint (Doc. 34; Doc. 24). However, Defendant Geo Group filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it on the grounds that it was not operating the FCCC on November 28, 2015-the date of the alleged attack-and that it has no affiliation with Defendant Correct Care Recovery Solutions (Doc. 35, filed June 15, 2017). Defendant Geo Group notes that similarly named Geo Care, LLC operated the facility until Defendant Correct Care took over in September of 2014 and that Geo Group is “a separate entity from CORRECT CARE.” Id. at 2.

         In response, Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant [Geo Group] has failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that there is no business connection between Geo Group, Inc. . . . and Correct Care Recovery Solutions[.]” (Doc. 36). Plaintiff asserts that Geo Group and Correct Care “merged together in a contractual scheme with the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to take care for the full operations of the Florida Civil Commitment Center; as a merger, both corporations shared the same responsibilities and liabilities under the contractual obligations during the incident in which Nelson was injured, and therefore they are ‘joinder parties' to this action.” Id. at 1-2.

         II. Standard of Review

         When considering a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262-63 (11th Cir. 2004). Further, this Court favors the plaintiff with all reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint. Stephens v. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 901 F.2d 1571, 1573 (11th Cir. 1990) (“On a motion to dismiss, the facts stated in [the] complaint and all reasonable inferences therefrom are taken as true.”). However, the Supreme Court explains that:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need 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. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Further, courts are not “bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).

         In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court, referring to its earlier decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, illustrated a two-pronged approach to motions to dismiss. First, a reviewing court must determine whether a Plaintiff's allegation is merely an unsupported legal conclusion that is not entitled to an assumption of truth. Next, the court must determine whether the ...

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