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Estate of Dasaro v. County of Monmouth

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 21, 2018

ESTATE OF ANTHONY DASARO, DECEASED by and through Rosetta Dasaro, Administratrix, et al. Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF MONMOUTH, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         Presently before the Court are four motions: Defendant Correct Care Solution, LLC's (hereinafter, "CCS") motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 59); Plaintiff Rosetta Dasaro's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 60); Defendants Monmouth County Correctional Institution's (hereinafter, "MCCI") and County of Monmouth's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 61); and Defendants MCCI and County of Monmouth's motion to alter judgment, motion to strike, and motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 69). For the reasons discussed herein, Defendants CCS's, and MCCI and County of Monmouth's motions for summary judgment are granted.

         Background

         This matter arises out of the death of Decedent Anthony Dasaro (hereinafter, "Decedent") on May 3, 2014 at MCCI. His wife, Rosetta Dasaro, on her own behalf and as the administrator of Decedent's estate, is the named plaintiff in this action.

         On April 28, 2014, Manalapan Township Police arrested Decedent for simple assault, which stemmed from an altercation with his wife. (MCCI Statement of Material Facts [SOMF] at ¶ 6). A New Jersey Superior Court judge set Decedent's bail at $2, 500 and ordered he be held in custody at MCCI until his next scheduled court date. (Id. at ¶ 7). MCCI contracts with CCS to provide medical and mental health care services for inmates at MCCI. (Id. at ¶ 3). Prior to this incident, Decedent had never been held in custody at MCCI. (Id. at ¶ 9). As such, upon arriving at MCCI, Decedent was medically screened by a CCS booking nurse, Defendant Ashley LaBarbera. (Id. at ¶ 24). During this screening, Decedent conceded that he had taken non-prescribed Valium; as such, LaBarbera recommended that Decedent be placed in "detox housing." (Plaintiffs SOMF at ¶ 15). Unlike protective custody, detox housing is an open dormitory setting, where inmates are under twenty-four hour supervision. (Id. at ¶ 19). In addition, detox housing does not have individual cells or bunk beds, which Plaintiff contends is significant.

         Nevertheless, after LaBarbera's initial screening, Decedent underwent an Initial Mental Health Evaluation by Defendant Dr. Alicia Caputo-Smith, a clinical psychologist and CCS's Director of Mental Health. (MCCI at ¶ 24). According to a Psychiatric Screening form prepared by Caputo-Smith and LaBarbera, Decedent reportedly suffered from acute Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD") and took non-prescribed Valium. (ECF No. 59-12, "Exhibit G"). After completing these evaluations, Dr. Caputo-Smith concluded that Decedent did not pose a risk for suicide. (MCCI SOMF at ¶ 25). Over the next five days, Decedent underwent twelve more psychiatric evaluations, where he was evaluated for alcohol or sedative withdrawals and suicidal tendencies. (ECF No. 59-14, "Exhibit I"). In none of these evaluations was it reported that Decedent expressed thoughts of suicide, had a "suicide plan, " or "[e]xpresse[d] feelings there is nothing to look forward to in the future." (Id).

         At deposition, LaBarbera testified that Decedent initially appeared upset and stressed; but shortly thereafter collected himself and became cooperative. (ECF No. 60-7, "Exhibit A" at 13- 14, 20-21). LaBarbera claimed, "[h]e had a total[ly] different tune to his attitude, and he was able to do the intake. He was actually very talkative with me. ... at that point he was not crying anymore. He was not upset." (Id. at 21). However, because of his claimed use of valium, LaBarbera recommended that Decedent be placed in "detox housing." (Id. at 25; Plaintiffs SOMF at ¶ 15). Dr. Caputo-Smith provided essentially the same testimony, explaining that Decedent was initially upset, which is common during intake, and that he regained control of his emotions. (ECF No. 60-10, "Exhibit D" at 27-30). Dr. Caputo-Smith also acknowledged that Decedent exhibited several risk factors for committing suicide, such as his being reincarcerated and estranged from his family, but that he also demonstrated "protective factors, " such as his Catholic belief against committing suicide and his desire to re-connect with his family. (Id. at 26-27). Although Decedent was going to be placed in detox housing, Dr. Caputo-Smith explained that Decedent signed himself into protective custody, given his background in law enforcement. (Id. at 27).

         As part of MCCI's booking process, Sergeant Rick Lombardo also conducted a classification interview with Decedent, to identify any special medical needs and to determine Decedent's custody status. (Id. at ¶ 26). According to Lombardo, Decedent denied having any mental or medical health needs, drug or alcohol problems, or thoughts of suicide; nor did he show any signs of the same. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-32). At Decedent's own request, MCCI placed him in protective custody, since he was a retired police officer and was concerned with his own safety. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-35). Although he was placed in protective custody, neither party disputes that Decedent was placed in a cell without a bunkbed.

         At 1:02 p.m. on May 3, 2014, Decedent was found unresponsive in his jail cell, with a bed sheet tied around his neck. (Id. at ¶ 12). In the hours prior, video surveillance depicts MCCI Corrections Officers making visual observations of Decedent in his cell at least every thirty minutes. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11). An autopsy report the next day identifies hanging as the cause of Decedents death, which was ruled a suicide. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15).

         In her Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), Plaintiff alleges claims of medical negligence and deliberate indifference pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff names CCS and its employees, Martin Marino, Pauline Tyas, Kabeeruddin Hashini, Ashley LaBarbera, and Alicia Caputo-Smith as Defendants (hereinafter, "CCS Employees"). According to the SAC, CCS Employees:

Failed to take a proper history from the decedent, Anthony Dasaro; failed to perform a proper evaluation of the decedent, Anthony Dasaro; failed to properly assess the risk of suicide; failed to properly recommend proper housing for preventing suicide; failed to administer the decedent, Anthony Dasaro's, antidepressant medication, resulting in Mr. Dasaro's death.

(SAC at ¶ 29). Plaintiff makes similar allegations against MCCI and County of Monmouth (hereinafter, "County Defendants"). Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that County Defendants were negligent in their hiring of employees, failed to adequately train and supervise its employees, and were deliberately indifferent to Decedent's medical needs.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) when the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the evidence establishes the moving party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

         Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the party opposing the motion must establish that a genuine issue as to a material fact exists. Jersey Cent. Power & Light Co. v. Lacey Twp., 772 F.2d 1103, 1109 (3d Cir. 1985). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot rest on mere allegations and instead must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1130-31 (3d Cir. 1995). "[Unsupported allegations... and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment." Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorp., 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (requiring nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial").

         Moreover, only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law will preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. If a court determines, "after drawing all inferences in favor of [the non-moving party], and making all credibility determinations in his favor...that no reasonable jury could find for him, summary judgment is appropriate." Alevras v. Tacopina, 226 Fed.Appx. 222, 227 (3d Cir. 2007).

         Analysis

         I. ...


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