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Kitchin v. Liberty

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 19, 2019

DANIELLE KITCHIN, Co-Personal Representative and Heir of the Estate of Dana A. Kitchin, et al., Plaintiffs,
RANDALL LIBERTY, in His Individual and Official Capacity as Sheriff of Kennebec County, et al., Defendants.



         The Plaintiffs, Danielle Kitchin and Dana B. Kitchin (collectively, “the Kitchins”), bring this suit on behalf of the estate of their father, Dana A. Kitchin, for claims arising out of his death while he was in pretrial custody at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility. Two of the Defendants, Correctional Health Partners, LLC, and Jennifer Mix (collectively, “the CHP Defendants”), move to dismiss eight of the claims asserted against them in the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 24).[1] For the reasons discussed below, I grant in part and deny in part the motion to dismiss.


         The First Amended Complaint alleges the following facts, which I treat as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss.

         Correctional Health Partners, LLC is a for-profit company and a private independent contractor that “provides medical services” to inmates at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility (“KCCF”). ECF No. 4 ¶¶ 29-30. Correctional Health Partners “is responsible for healthcare at KCCF” and “makes medical decisions for inmates” at KCCF “as to whether they are allowed access to certain medical procedures.” Id. ¶¶ 31, 33. Jennifer Mix, D.O., (“Mix”) is the Chief Medical Officer of Correctional Health Partners. As Chief Medical Officer, Mix leads Correctional Health Partners' team of correctional medical directors, nurses, and physicians and has overall responsibility for its clinical programs. Id. ¶ 36.

         On December 10, 2014, Dana A. Kitchin (“Kitchin”) was detained at KCCF on misdemeanor charges. He was 64 years old at the time. Kitchin was held in a cell located in the intake area of KCCF, where inmates are subject to constant supervision, including checks every fifteen minutes. Staff members at KCCF were familiar with Kitchin because he had been frequently incarcerated for minor violations. When inmates are admitted to KCCF, they are screened for mental and physical health conditions; therefore, KCCF was aware that Kitchin had physical and mental health issues.

         On December 11, the day after he arrived at KCCF, Kitchin began banging on his cell door and calling out for help from corrections and medical staff. Another inmate, who was being held in a cell in the intake area two doors down from Kitchin's, heard Kitchin banging and knocking on his cell door, for about seven or eight hours, and asking to be seen by a nurse and to go to the hospital. He also heard Kitchin shouting that his chest hurt. The corrections officers told the inmate that Kitchin “always acts like this and that's why they ignore him.” ECF No. 4 ¶ 61. During this time, the inmate did not see any KCCF staff members perform the mandatory fifteen-minute checks on Kitchin. A second inmate who was being held in the intake area also heard Kitchin banging on his cell door and screaming for help. He did see a nurse go to the door of Kitchin's cell and heard Kitchin ask her for medical attention and to be taken to the hospital, but the nurse never entered Kitchin's cell and Kitchin was not taken to the hospital.

         On December 12, Kitchin was found dead in his cell. An autopsy performed two days later determined that Kitchin had suffered from a “[m]assive hemoperitoneum due to [a] ruptured spleen.” Id. ¶ 80. The First Amended Complaint alleges that the staff at KCCF knew that Kitchin suffered from mental illness, that they ignored his cries for help because they found him to be a nuisance, and that, as a result of their alleged inaction, Kitchin bled to death internally over a period of many hours.


         “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.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A two-pronged approach is employed to resolve a motion to dismiss. Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). I first “isolate and ignore statements in the complaint that simply offer legal labels and conclusions, ” and second, take the remaining well-pled facts as true, “drawing all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor, and see if they plausibly narrate a claim for relief.” Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012). In other words, the question is whether the well-pled facts “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         The CHP Defendants argue that eight of the counts in the complaint-Counts Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve-should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6). In their response, the Kitchins agree to dismiss several of the claims challenged by the CHP Defendants. First, the Kitchins agree to dismiss the substantive due process claim in Count Nine, which the CHP Defendants argue is subsumed by the more specific constitutional claims in Counts One, Two, and Three. ECF No. 24 at 12-13; ECF No. 35 at 3 n.3. Second, the Kitchins also agree to dismiss Count Twelve, for punitive damages, as a stand-alone cause of action, explaining that they will pursue punitive damages as set out in the Prayer for Relief in the First Amended Complaint. ECF No. 35 at 13. Finally, the Kitchins agree to dismiss the Americans with Disabilities Act claims in Counts Ten and Eleven as against Mix only, but not as against Correctional Health Partners. Id. at 14 n.7.

         Therefore, my analysis will focus on the remaining counts. I first turn to the CHP Defendants' argument that the state common law claims in the First Amended Complaint-Counts Five, Six, Seven, and Eight-are barred under the Maine Health Security Act's three-year statute of limitations. Because I conclude that the state common law claims are not subject to the Maine Health Security Act, I then address the CHP Defendants' argument that Counts Six and Seven are barred under the Maine Wrongful Death Act's two-year statute of limitations. Finally, I turn to the CHP Defendants' argument that Counts Ten and Eleven of the First Amended Complaint fail to state a claim against Correctional Health Partners under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

         A. The Maine Health Security Act

         The CHP Defendants first argue that the Kitchins' state common law claims for negligent supervision, retention, and training (Count Five); intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count Six); “Survivor Claims” (Count Seven); and respondeat superior (Count Eight) are subject to the Maine Health Security Act (“MHSA”), 24 M.R.S.A. § 2501 et seq. (Westlaw through Ch. 112, and 114 to 169 of 2019 1st Reg. Sess. of 129th Leg.), because they arise out of an alleged failure to provide medical services. As a result, the CHP Defendants contend that: (1) the Kitchins were required to exhaust the MHSA's prelitigation screening panel process, which they failed to do; and (2) even if they had done so, the claims are barred by the MHSA's three-year statute of limitations. See 24 M.R.S.A. ยงยง 2902, 2903. The Kitchins respond that their claims are not subject to the MHSA because they are not ...

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