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Hannah v. Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

June 28, 2019

PATRICIA HANNAH, as Plenary Legal Guardian of Darryl Vaughn Hanna, Jr., Plaintiff,



         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon four separate motions to dismiss:

         Defendant Rick Wells' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 43), Defendant Ronald Laughlin's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 44), Armor Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 45), and Defendant Manatee County's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 48). The Court has carefully reviewed these motions and Plaintiff's responses in opposition (Dkts. 46, 47, 53, and 54). The Court has also reviewed in great detail the lengthy amended complaint (Dkt. 40). As explained further below, the Court concludes that Defendant Rick Wells' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 43) is granted in part and denied in part, Defendant Ronald Laughlin's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 44) is denied, Armor Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss (Dkt.

         45) is granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant Manatee County's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 48) is denied. Specifically, all legal claims will remain except for the following: Counts VI, IX, XVIII, XIX, and XX.


         The allegations of the amended complaint (Dkt. 40) are undeniably tragic. Plaintiff Patricia Hanna is the plenary guardian for Darryl Vaughn Hanna, Jr. (“Hanna”), who is in a persistent vegetative state after suffering four syncopal episodes while he was detained at the Manatee County Jail. The amended complaint alleges the following facts that led to Hanna's condition. The Court must assume the truth of these allegations.

         The Manatee County Jail is a correctional facility intended to detain people who are accused of violating Florida's criminal laws within Manatee County, Florida. On or about August 9, 2017, Hanna was arrested by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office (“MCSO”) and detained as a pretrial detainee in the Manatee County Jail (hereinafter referred to as the “Jail”).

         Defendant Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. contracted with Manatee County and MCSO to provide medical and mental health care to those detained and/or incarcerated at the Jail. Armor's services included performing intake, medical screening, assessing detainees for medical issues, and providing medical treatment, medical intervention, and referral services to those detained at the Jail.

         During intake, on or about August 10, 2017, Hanna answered “No” to the question, “Do you have any mental, physical, or developmental disabilities or limitations that we need to know about during your incarceration?” (Dkt. 40 at ¶84). On his Intake Health Screening, his appearance was noted as unremarkable; he did not have any visible signs of injuries and his behavior was alert and oriented. Hanna indicated that he was not currently ill or injured, he had not experienced a head injury in the last seventy-two hours, and he had not been to a hospital within the past three months. Hanna indicated that he had active asthma and used his inhaler in 2016. From the time of his booking, through August 22, 2017, Hanna presented and appeared to be a well-nourished, healthy, 29-year-old male.

         On or about August 23, 2017, at approximately 11:58 a.m., Deputy Thomas McGuire, who was assigned to the Jail, received a phone call informing him that Hanna had passed out on the exercise yard. McGuire went to the exercise yard and asked Hanna what happened. Hanna said he was playing basketball, blacked out, and his head hurt. Hanna appeared disoriented at that time. Medical staff were called and Defendant Leila Polanco, a nurse and Armor employee, responded. When Polanco arrived, Hanna was seated in a chair. She was told by other residents of the Jail that Hanna had a seizure, it was too hot outside, and another resident may have hit Hanna on the head. She took Hanna's vital signs: his pulse was 90 and his blood pressure was 98/80.

         Hanna was conscious and able to verbally communicate. He told Polanco that he had a right-sided headache and his pain was 7 on a scale of 1-10. Polanco concluded that the warm temperature outside caused Hanna to faint and that he may have hit his head during the fall and sustained a concussion. On the Urgent Care Assessment form she did not select the box associated with “Acute Medical Condition (e.g. loss of consciousness, seizure, etc.).” Instead, she selected the category “Unintentional (e.g. sports, fall, etc.).”

         Polanco requested to view any available video surveillance of Hanna's incident in the exercise yard. Deputy McGuire notified Defendant Sergeant Ronald Laughlin and informed him of Hanna's incident, Polanco's observations and evaluations, and her desire to view any available video. Sgt. Laughlin permitted Polanco to view a color video recording of the incident on a computer. There was no audio. Sgt. Laughlin watched it too. The video showed Hanna and other residents playing basketball outside in the exercise yard when, all of a sudden, Hanna collapsed and hit his head on the ground. Sgt. Laughlin's notes from viewing the video indicated that at 11:55:19 Hanna collapsed and he remained on the ground until 11:56:00-a duration of 41 seconds.

         At no point on August 23, 2017, did Nurse Polanco or Sgt. Laughlin request, contact, initiate, or recommend emergency medical services or fire rescue to respond to the Jail to evaluate Hanna. They also did not request that Hanna be evaluated by a licensed physician or medical doctor employed by Armor within the Jail. They never requested or recommended that Hanna be transported to an outside medical facility, like a hospital or emergency room.

         Hanna was not seen by any physician, physician's assistant, or medical doctor on August 23, 2017. He was ordered to return to housing, where he resided in a cell alone.

         On or about September 8, 2017, Deputy Randy Geis of MCSO observed Hanna on the floor of his cell. Deputy Geis asked if he was okay and Hanna stood up and told Deputy Geis that he felt light headed. Then, Hanna fainted. When Hanna fell, he hit his head on a wall within the cell. Deputy Geis called a “med stat” over the radio and Defendant Nurse Carma Ogline and Defendant Nurse Bernard Montayre, both Armor employees, responded, along with a number of MCSO Deputies and Sergeants. Nurse Montayre attempted to take Hanna's blood pressure, but could not get a reading. Nurse Ogline took it using a manual cuff and stethoscope. No. other vital signs were obtained or attempted to be obtained by them.

         Nurse Ogline questioned Hanna to determine what happened. Hanna complained of left finger pain and told her he “passed out, I think.” Id. at ¶113. Hanna was transported to the infirmary unit within the Jail where he was ordered to be monitored for two hours and then returned to his cell if he became stable. During those two hours in the infirmary unit, Hanna was never seen or evaluated by a doctor, physician, or physician's assistant.

         At no point on September 8, 2017, did Nurse Montayre or Nurse Ogline request, contact, initiate, or recommend emergency medical services or request fire rescue to respond to the Jail to evaluate Hanna. They also did not recommend or request that Hanna be transported to an outside medical facility. Further, they did not request that an Armor physician or doctor see Hanna.

         At no time on September 8, 2017, did any Armor employee perform any diagnostic, radiological, or other study of Hanna's heart, pulmonary, or neurological systems. Later that same day, Hanna was permitted to return to his cell without any required follow-up or observation of his medical condition.

         The next day, Deputy Michael Braune of MCSO was assigned to the area of the Jail where Hanna was housed. At approximately 5:28 a.m., Deputy Braune passed Hanna's cell and observed Hanna lying face up on the floor underneath the toilet. He entered the cell to check on Hanna, who was breathing, but unresponsive to verbal or tactile stimulation. Deputy Braune called a “med stat” and Nurse Ogline and Nurse Grether responded. Nurse Ogline recorded a blood pressure of 80/62 and an unreadable oxygen level. She observed that Hanna moaned at times, his hands were cold, his respirations were deep and course (almost snore-like), and his pupils were fixed.

         Sgt. Carr of MCSO had master control activate emergency medical services, which arrived at approximately 5:58 a.m., and North River Fire Rescue arrived at approximately 6:10 a.m. In the meantime, Deputies from the MCSO attempted to perform CPR on Hanna. Hanna, EMS, and North River Fire Rescue exited the Jail at approximately 6:28 a.m. and Hanna was transported to a nearby hospital. Hanna has not regained consciousness and remains in a persistent vegetative state.

         The amended complaint avers that at some time after September 9, 2017, Hanna returned to the Jail, where he was cared for at the Jail's infirmary, despite his persistent vegetative state. The allegations state that Hanna should have been transferred to an outside facility, such as a nursing facility, for total care and housing, but never was because the County, MCSO, and Armor wanted to save money.

         The 134-page amended complaint delineates in great detail Armor's policies. It also avers in great detail prior Armor “incidents” involving poor medical care due to Armor focusing on cost savings, rather than the administration of proper medical care. For example, paragraphs 192-209 outline a parade of terribles-example after example of prior incidents-most of which resulted in the death of the prisoner/detainee because the medical care they received was grossly inadequate. The amended complaint includes that the County and MCSO knew or should have known of the described incidents, especially in light of their contractual relationship with Armor, which began in 2012. The amended complaint describes in painstaking detail (see paragraphs 16-29) factual allegations related to the Jail's overpopulation, failure to employ adequate staffing, and deficiencies related to adequate medical care. Related to these allegations, there are facts imputing the County, MCSO, and Armor with knowledge of these problems.

         The crux of the amended complaint is that Defendants were medically negligent and deliberately indifferent to Hanna's medical needs. Related to this, there are a number of negligent hiring and supervision claims against certain Defendants, and negligence claims related to the overcrowding of the Jail.

         In sum, the amended complaint names nine Defendants-Rick Wells, in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Manatee County, Sgt. Laughlin, Armor, several Armor nurses and one Armor physician, and Manatee County-includes twenty-three legal claims (Counts I-XXIII), and contains 792 paragraphs. Rather than list each count, the Court will discuss the legal claim during its analysis of Defendants' motions to dismiss.

         Because it is clear on the face of the amended complaint that most of the claims are properly pled and provide Defendants with ample notice of the facts supporting each claim, the Court will begin with an analysis of the federal claims and then will briefly discuss why the majority of the state law claims survive at this juncture.

         STANDARD ...

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