United States District Court, D. New Jersey
J. Benedetto, Esq. Melissa Yvette Hoffman, Esq. LAW OFFICES
OF CONRAD J. BENEDETTO and Danielle Marie Key, Esq. John E.
Kusturiss, Jr., Esq. LAW OFFICES OF CONRAD J. BENEDETTO
Attorneys for the Plaintiffs.
Edward Rybeck, Esq. John C. Eastlack, Jr., Esq. Lilia Londar,
Esq. WEIR & PARTNERS, LLP and Stephen D. Holtzman, Esq.
Jeffrey S. McClain, Esq. HOLTZMAN & MCCLAIN, PC Attorneys
for Defendant A. Garcia, RN and non-party CFG Health Systems.
Michael Barker, Esq. Vanessa Elaine James, Esq. BARKER,
GELFAND, JAMES & SARVAS Attorneys for Defendant
Corrections Officer Melanie Loatman.
B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on four separate motions: (1)
Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended
Complaint [Docket Item 61]; (2) Defendant Corrections Officer
Melanie Loatman's responsive Cross-Motion to Dismiss
[Docket Item 66]; (3) Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to
File a Third Amended Complaint [Docket Item 81] to add CFG
Health Systems as an additional defendant; and (4) Defendant
Amber Garcia, RN's responsive Motion for Sanctions
[Docket Item 89].
August 18, 2015, Plaintiff Christine Allen, both as the
administrator of the estate of Alissa Marie Allen and in her
own right, filed a complaint in this Court against several
defendants, alleging a variety of claims arising from the
unfortunate death of Alissa Allen on March 22, 2015 in the
Cumberland County Jail. [Docket Item 1.] The First Amended
Complaint was filed with leave of the Court on February 8,
2016. [Docket Item 14.]
seeks to file the Second Amended Complaint to state a claim
against Defendant Loatman (“Loatman”) with
additional factual allegations so as to state a plausible
claim that Loatman bears liability in this case. [Docket Item
61.] In response, Loatman opposes the motion on the grounds
that amendment would be futile as the Second Amended
Complaint does not state a claim against Loatman [Docket Item
65]. Loatman also cross-moves for dismissal of the First
Amended Complaint [Docket Item 66] on the same grounds and
relying on the same brief [Docket Item 65]. Plaintiff filed a
Response in Opposition to the Cross-Motion to Dismiss [Docket
Item 72]; Loatman filed a Reply [Docket Item 73].
Plaintiff seeks to file the Third Amended Complaint
(incorporating the additional allegations against Loatman),
which adds allegations and claims against CFG Health Systems,
Inc. (“CFG”), the healthcare company that
allegedly contracted with Cumberland County to provide
medical services at the Cumberland County Jail and employed
Defendant Amber Garcia, RN (“Garcia”). [Docket
Item 81.] Defendant Garcia and non-party CFG filed a Response
in Opposition [Docket Item 82]; Plaintiffs did not submit a
further response to Plaintiff's Motion to File the Third
Amended Complaint, Defendant Garcia filed a Motion for
Sanctions. [Docket Item 89.] Plaintiff filed a Response in
Opposition [Docket Item 98], and Garcia filed a Reply [Docket
Court will first address the proposed Second Amended
Complaint with regard to Loatman, and then the proposed Third
Amended Complaint alongside the Motion for Sanctions.
reasons discussed below, the Court will deny without
prejudice the Motion for Leave to File the Second Amended
Complaint; grant the Cross-Motion to Dismiss the First
Amended Complaint; deny the Motion to File the Third Amended
Complaint; and deny the Motion for Sanctions.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
instant action arises out of the death of Alissa Marie Allen
on March 22, 2015 in the Cumberland County Jail. Her mother,
as administrator of Ms. Allen's estate and in her own
right, is the named plaintiff in this action. Plaintiff
claims that “Defendants violated the rights of Alissa
Marie Allen by failing to keep her in a safe and secure
environment where she could be kept free from injury, harm,
and death, and by failing to provide her with adequate
medical care and attention, in violation of the Eighth
Amendment to the United States Constitution.” [Docket
Item 62, Proposed Second Amended Complaint
(“SAC”), ¶ 2.]
Factual Background and Allegations
March 20, 2015, Ms. Allen was arrested by Millville, New
Jersey police officers who transported her to and booked her
into the Cumberland County Jail in the early morning hours of
March 21, 2015. [Docket Item 14 at ¶¶ 14-15.]
Plaintiff alleges that Garcia and Loatman, among other jail
personnel, “were required to screen Ms. Allen not only
for any physical problems, but also to determine if Ms. Allen
presented a risk for any psychological problems, including
suicide[, ]” and “had a legal duty to maintain a
safe and suitable environment where Alissa Marie Allen could
be kept free from injury, harm and death.” [SAC
alleges that Loatman “was the only correction officer
assigned to A-Pod where the decedent was housed at the
Cumberland County Jail during the overnight period on March
22, 2015.” Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff alleges
that Loatman began her shift at approximately 12:35 AM on
March 22, 2015; performed an initial check of the inmates on
A-Pod (including the decedent) at approximately 12:40 AM,
which took about five minutes. Although the policy and
procedures of the Cumberland County Jail required that
Loatman check the inmates every thirty minutes, Loatman
failed to perform any checks (or rounds) of the inmates in
A-Pod for approximately five hours in the early morning of
March 22. Id. ¶¶ 18-21.
approximately 5:00 AM, “Loatman assembled the diabetic
inmates and hydration inmates, those inmates who were brought
into the jail under the influence of drugs or alcohol, housed
in A-Pod and brought those inmates to the jail's medical
unit.” Id. ¶ 22. Although Ms. Allen was
placed “on hydration upon her initial intake” at
the jail on March 20, 2015 (and had previously been placed on
hydration during a previous incarceration at the jail
“several days to a week before March 22, 2015”),
Loatman failed to check whether Ms. Allen was on hydration
and did not bring her with the other hydration inmates.
Id. ¶¶ 23-25.
Loatman arrived at the medical unit, she was informed that
Ms. Allen “was on hydration and needed to be brought to
the medical unit”; accordingly, at approximately 5:15
AM, Loatman “went to retrieve Ms. Allen” from her
cell to take her to the medical unit for hydration and there
observed her “hanging in her jail cell.”
Id. ¶¶ 26-28. An on-duty nurse pulled Ms.
Allen out of her cell at approximately 5:35 AM and tried to
revive her with CPR. Id. ¶ 29. Tragically, Ms.
Allen was unable to be revived. Id.
further notes that emergency medical personnel responding to
a report of “cardiac arrest” reported Ms. Allen
“‘to have cool and mottled skin. Bruising
consistent with Lividity, noted in the legs, however BLS was
unaware if Lividity was in fact, present.'”
Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Ms. Allen was pronounced
dead at the scene; her death certificate identified the
“immediate cause” of her death as
“Hanging.” Id. ¶¶ 32-33.
also alleges that, as “a result of the events of March
22, 2015, Defendant Loatman was suspended for 20 days on
charges of violating CCDOC Policy 3.02A, negligence in
performing duty; resulting in injury to persons or damage to
property”.” Id. ¶ 34. An incident
report relating to the suspension addressed to Loatman
stated, “‘On March 22, 2015 you failed to make
physical checks every 30 minutes stated in the General Post
Orders. An inmate was found hanging and unresponsive in her
cell, resulting in her death. You had not physically and
visually checked on her in four hours and 50
minutes.'” Id. ¶ 35.
claims that Loatman (among others) “failed to properly
screen Alissa Marie Allen for any suicidal tendencies, or any
other psychological problems, and also failed to properly
monitor Alissa Marie Allen” thereby “breach[ing]
their legal duty to maintain a safe and suitable
environment[, ]” acting to deprive Ms. Allen of
“her rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments[.]” Id.
claims that Loatman is liable for federal constitutional
violations (Second Claim for Relief, id.
¶¶ 45-51); violation of the New Jersey Civil Rights
Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-1 et seq. (Fourth Claim for
Relief, SAC ¶¶ 58-61); wrongful death (Fifth Claim
for Relief, id. ¶¶ 62-67); and survival
action (Sixth Claim for Relief, id. ¶¶
filed the initial complaint in this action on August 18,
2015, against Cumberland County, Warden Robert Balicki, and
John Doe Corrections Officers 1-50. [Docket Item 1.]
November 15, 2015, the Cumberland County Defendants served
their initial disclosures on Plaintiff, including, inter
alia, medical and intake records signed by Garcia, some
of which included the name and/or logo of CFG. [Docket Item
82 at 4.]
January 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file
an amended complaint [Docket Item 12], which was granted on
February 3, 2016 [Docket Item 13]. The First Amended
Complaint was filed on February 8, 2016; in addition to
Cumberland County and Warden Balicki, it named Garcia, eight
corrections officers, and John Doe Corrections Officers 9-50
as defendants. [Docket Item 14.]
initial disclosures, including a certificate of insurance
coverage naming CFG as the insured and the Cumberland County
Jail as the certificate holder, were served on Plaintiff on
May 11, 2016. [Docket Items 82 at 5, 82-5 at 4.] No medical
defendants beside Garcia were ever impleaded as defendants;
nor were any medical defendants or employees or agents of CFG
ever impleaded as John Does.
December 9, 2016, this case was consolidated for discovery
purposes only with three additional cases involving suicides
in the Cumberland County Jail: Estate of Hennis v.
Cumberland County, 16-cv-4216
(“Hennis”); Estate of Lewis v.
Cumberland County, 16-cv-3503
(“Lewis”); and Estate of Watson v.
Cumberland County, 16-cv-6578
(“Watson”). [Docket ...