United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
JOY OWEN WRIGHT, Administratrix of the Estate of Odell Oliver Owen, Plaintiff,
SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, INC., et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OSTEEN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE.
Joy Owen Wright filed this action as administratrix of the
estate of Odell Oliver Owen (“Owen”), a former
inmate at the Randolph County Jail. Plaintiff alleges that
Owen was not provided proper medical care and that, as a
result, Owen passed away following his release. (Complaint
(“Compl.”) (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 145-54.)
Defendants North Carolina Department of Health and Human
Services (“DHHS”) and Mandy Cohen, in her
official capacity as Secretary of DHHS, have moved to dismiss
the claims in Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(6). (Doc. 34.)
Plaintiff has filed a response and the matter is now ripe.
For the reasons described herein, this court finds
Defendants' motion to dismiss should be granted.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
summary of the key facts is set forth below, and additional
facts will be addressed as necessary within this opinion.
Complaint alleges generally that Owen was convicted of
driving with his license revoked in April 2013 and received a
suspended sentence. (Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶ 71.) On February
6, 2015, Owen appeared in Randolph County District Court to
respond to allegations that he had violated the conditions of
his probation. (Id. ¶¶ 73, 75.) According
to the Complaint, Owen's attorney presented a letter from
Owen's doctor stating that Owen suffered from medical
conditions and was not able to tolerate imprisonment.
(Id. ¶¶ 76-78.) Nevertheless, according to
Plaintiff, the presiding judge ignored that letter, revoked
Owen's probation, and imposed a sentence of thirty
days' confinement. (Id. ¶ 79.) Owen was
taken into custody and sent to the Randolph County Jail
where, according to Plaintiff, he was placed in solitary
confinement. (Id. ¶ 80.)
alleges that Owen received inadequate medical treatment for
diabetes and other issues at the jail and suffered a stroke.
(See generally Id. ¶¶ 83-143.)
Upon his release from the Randolph County Jail and within a
“medically significant period, ” Owen collapsed,
fell, and “suffered massive head injury” which
resulted in Owen's death. (Id. ¶¶
brings a number of claims against DHHS and Cohen. The first
claim for relief requests an injunction or prohibitory order:
[t]o eliminate systematic and structural defects in the
system of delivery of medical care to prisoners and detainees
in North Carolina's local confinement facilities . . .;
[t]o provide for clear channels of responsibility . . .
consistent with the mandates of the United States
Constitution . . .; [t]o provide clear and direct avenues for
recovery . . .; and [t]o eliminate, punish and discourage
profiteering at the expense of prisoners' and
detainees' constitutional rights.
(Id. ¶ 161.) Plaintiff's second claim for
relief is entitled “Official Capacity Claims against
State of North Carolina” and requests damages in excess
of $75, 000.00 for “[t]he failure and refusal of the
North Carolina State defendants to perform their oversight
and policy-making duties . . . .” (Id.
¶¶ 165, 168.) Plaintiff's eighth claim for
relief is entitled “Negligent Supervision” and
alleges that DHHS and Cohen knew the system of providing
medical care to prisoners at the Randolph County Jail was
inept and that DHHS and Cohen “failed to take timely
action to eliminate the perils and risks to confinees,
” causing damage to Plaintiff. (Id.
¶¶ 196-206.) The eleventh and twelfth claims for
relief allege false imprisonment and torture and intentional
infliction of emotional distress, respectively. (Id.
¶¶ 218-30.) The thirteenth claim for relief sets
out a claim against DHHS and Cohen pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (Id. ¶¶ 231-34.) Plaintiff
further alleges claims for medical malpractice (sixteenth
claim for relief), cruel and unusual punishment in violation
of the Eighth Amendment (seventeenth claim for relief), and
wrongful death (eighteenth claim for relief). (Id.
DHHS and Cohen moved to dismiss the claims against them and
filed a brief in support of their motion. (Mem. of Law in
Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”)
(Doc. 35).) Plaintiff responded opposing the motion.
(See Docs. 43, 44.)
Defendants DHHS and Cohen raise several possible grounds for
dismissal, most of their briefing relates to two main
arguments. First, Defendants contend that “the Eleventh
Amendment to the United States Constitution and the doctrine
of sovereign immunity bar each of Plaintiff's claims
against DHHS and Cohen.” (Defs.' Mem. (Doc. 35) at
6.) Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's statutory
claim “under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 153A-216, et seq.,
is based upon a flawed and untenable interpretation of the
statute, ” (id. at 9), because Defendants did
not owe a duty of care to Owen and because the claims are
barred by the public duty doctrine. (Id. at 10-12,
filed an opposition to the motion to dismiss and a supporting
memorandum. (See Docs. 43, 44.) Plaintiff, contrary
to the allegations in the Complaint, now “disclaims
prayers for monetary and retrospective injunctive relief
against Movants.” (Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Mot. to
Dismiss (“Pl.'s Resp. Br.”) (Doc. 44) at 9.)
As a result, this court finds that Plaintiff has conceded
that all claims for monetary relief are subject to dismissal.
fails to respond on the merits to the bulk of Defendants'
arguments, instead relying upon inapplicable authority such
as the United Nations General Assembly's Standard Minimum
Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners to suggest the presence
of some international norm against placing prisoners in
solitary confinement. (See Id. at 4-8.) Plaintiff fails
to explain how those rules are relevant to this case or to
any claims in this court. Plaintiff also cites to two
inapplicable cases relating to judicial review. (See
Id. at 9.) As a result, this court finds that Plaintiff
has generally failed to address the ...