United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division
MARIA GUADALUPE MARTINEZ, Individually, as a Legal Representative of the Estate of DELFINO GARCIA, and Next Friend of GEMMA GARCIA, a Minor, GRETCHELL GARCIA, a Minor, DELFINO GARCIA, JR., a Minor, and DELIA MACEDO, Next Friend of EMELY PARTICIA GARCIA, Plaintiffs,
DONNIE FOSTER, COMMUNITY EDUCATION CENTERS, INC., JAGDISH A. SHAH, and JOHN DOES #1 THROUGH #35, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
RICHARD A. SCHELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
for consideration the Report and Recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge (the “Report”) in this action
(Dkt. 140), this matter having been heretofore referred to
the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636, containing proposed findings of fact and
recommendations that Defendant Community Education Centers,
Inc.'s (“CEC”) Amended Motion to Dismiss
(Dkt. 126) be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
March 24, 2017, Defendant CEC filed objections to the Report
(see Dkt. 145). The court has made a de
novo review of the objections raised by Defendant CEC
and is of the opinion that the findings and conclusions of
the Magistrate Judge are correct, and the objections are
without merit as to the ultimate findings of the Magistrate
Judge. The court hereby adopts the findings and conclusions
of the Magistrate Judge as the findings and conclusions of
brought this civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, asserting the rights of Delfino Garcia
(“Garcia”), deceased, a former pretrial detainee
at the Fannin County Jail (“Fannin County”).
Plaintiffs' claims against CEC rest on allegations that
in 2008, CEC contracted with Fannin County to operate the
Fannin County Jail for three (3) years, including providing
necessary medical care to detainees during that period.
Plaintiffs allege that CEC failed to fulfill its duties under
the agreement with Fannin County. Specifically, Plaintiffs
contend CEC and its agents had a “widespread practice
and pattern of its employees refusing to treat its
inmate/detainees' serious medical conditions.” Dkt.
88 at 13. Plaintiffs further allege CEC provided inadequate
training and supervision to its employees related to
providing medical care to inmates and detainees.
PLAINTIFFS' 14TH AMENDMENT CLAIMS
objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that
Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claims should proceed.
See Dkt. 140. First, CEC contends it is not subject
to suit in this action because CEC was a private entity
acting under color of federal law when it detained Garcia, a
federal prisoner. See Dkt. 145 at 12. However,
Garcia's status as a federal prisoner is neither disputed
nor dispositive of the issue. The relevant inquiry is whether
Garcia was solely a federal prisoner during his
detention at Fannin County Jail. The Magistrate Judge
considered this argument and properly concluded that, viewing
Plaintiffs allegations in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff, dismissal of the lawsuit for failure to name a
state actor was not appropriate at this stage of the
litigation. See Dkt. 140 at 10.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009), CEC
invites the court to “draw on its judicial experience
and common sense” in making this determination.
See Dkt. 140 at 10. In the court's experience,
however, inmates and detainees are frequently held
simultaneously on both federal and state charges, pursuant to
federal and state law. CEC also contends its contracts and
agreements to house federal detainees at the Fannin County
Jail, which are matters of public record, somehow prove that
Garcia was solely in federal custody at the time of
the allegations in this case. See Dkt. 145 at 14-15.
However, CEC concedes that both federal and state prisoners
were housed at the Fannin County Jail during Garcia's
detention. See Dkt. 145 at 24.Thus, the existence of
these contracts and agreements fail to support CEC's
Magistrate Judge noted, “Plaintiffs plead simply that
Garcia ‘was arrested at his house on charges that were
later dismissed' and, thereafter, “was admitted to
the [Fannin County Jail].'” Dkt. 140 at 10 (quoting
Dkt. 88 ¶¶ 14, 17). While the court's dockets
and the parties' admissions definitively establish
Garcia's status as a federal prisoner during his
detention at Fannin County Jail, they do not address whether
he was simultaneously held on state charges. Accordingly, the
court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that
Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claims should not be
subject to Rule 12 dismissal for failure to name a state
actor. Accordingly, this objection is overruled.
also renews its argument that Plaintiffs' Fourteenth
Amendment claims fail to comport with federal pleading
requirements and, accordingly, should be dismissed pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6). See Dkt. 145 at 16-28. CEC argues
Plaintiffs' claims do not warrant relief insofar as they
are based on a theory of vicarious liability and objects to
the Magistrate Judge's purported failure to address the
issue of vicarious liability in the Report. See Dkt.
145 at 16. However, CEC's basis for this objection is
unclear as the Magistrate Judge expressly noted CEC cannot be
found liable on the basis of vicarious liability.
See Dkt. 140 at 11. Moreover, it is implicit from
the Report that the Magistrate Judge found only that
Plaintiffs' direct liability Fourteenth Amendment claims
against CEC should proceed.
also objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
that Plaintiffs direct liability claims should proceed based
on the finding that Plaintiffs' allegations establish an
actionable corporate policy. See Dkt. 145 at 17. As
explained in the Report, “a corporation performing a
government function, such as managing a jail, is liable under
§ 1983 if the claimant demonstrates three elements: (1)
a policymaker who can be held responsible; (2) an official
policy or custom; and (3) a violation of constitutional
rights whose ‘moving force' is the policy or
custom.” Dkt.140 at 11 (citing Olivas v. Corr.
Corp. of Am., 408 F.Supp.2d 251, 255 (N.D. Tex. 2006),
affd, 215 F.App'x 332 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal citations
omitted). Furthermore, a § 1983 claimant must plead the
description of a policy or custom and its relationship to the
underlying constitutional violation with specificity;
conclusory allegations are not enough to withstand a motion
to dismiss. See Piotrowski v. City of Houston, 237
F.3d 567, 579-80 (5th Cir. 2001).
challenges the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that
Plaintiffs described CEC's alleged policies with
sufficient factual specificity to satisfy the pleading
requirements. See Dkt. 145 at 17-22. However, the
Report specifically takes note of Plaintiffs' allegations
that “CEC and/or CEC's Medical Supervisor
promulgated twelve (12) ‘formal written explicit
policies' aimed at denying or delaying medical treatment
to detainees.” Dkt. 140 at 11 (quoting Dkt. 88 at 27).
Far from stating merely conclusory allegations, Plaintiffs
allege their policy-related allegations with substantial
specificity. See Dkt. 88 at 27-29. In pleading these
allegations, Plaintiffs also cite several exhibits that
provide evidentiary support for their factual assertions.
Taken as true, these allegations of specific policies adopted
by CEC establish the existence of corporate policies, for
which CEC can be held liable in this § 1983 action.
also contends that, even if Plaintiffs successfully pled the
existence of actionable policies, they failed to plead
allegations that any such a policy caused or was the
“moving force behind” the alleged violations of
Garcia's Fourteenth Amendment rights. This argument lacks
merit. Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint plainly
alleges that the policy or custom was adopted or maintained
by CEC's policymakers with deliberate indifference as to
its known or obvious consequences. See Dkt. 88 at
27-29. Plaintiffs have asserted specific allegations that:
(1) CEC adopted policies related to delaying and denying
medical care to inmates and detainees; (2) CEC disregarded a
known or obvious risk to inmate health and safety when they
adopted these policies; and (3) Garcia's injuries were
the direct and proximate result of CEC's policies.
See id. These allegations comport with federal
pleading requirements and are, therefore, sufficient to
withstand CEC's motion to dismiss for failure to state a
also objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that
Plaintiffs' allegations regarding a corporate custom
satisfies Fifth Circuit pleading requirements. See
Dkt. 145 at 22-25. When the actions of employees are used to
prove a custom for which a municipality or other corporation
is liable, random acts and incidents are not enough; the
“actions must have occurred for so long or so
frequently that the course of conduct warrants the
attribution to the governing body of knowledge that the
objectionable conduct is the expected, accepted practice of [
] employees.” Holland v. City of Houston, 41
F.Supp.2d 678, 698 (S.D. Tex. 1999) (quoting Webster v.
City of Houston, 735 F.2d 838, 842 (5th Cir. 1984)). In
other words, the corporation must have, at a minimum,
constructive knowledge of the custom. To establish
constructive knowledge, plaintiffs must demonstrate a true
pattern of abuses. Piotrowski, 237 F.3d at 582. A
pattern requires sufficiently numerous prior incidents, not
just isolated instances. McConney v. City of
Houston, 863 F.2d 1180, 1184 (5th Cir. 1989).
the Magistrate Judge evaluated Plaintiffs' corporate
custom allegations and noted Plaintiffs' allegations that
“four (4) prior lawsuits against CEC and its
subsidiaries evince a widespread custom of denying or
delaying medical care to detainees.” Dkt. 140 at 11.
CEC contends the lawsuits are inapposite because,
“[t]his suit addresses operations in Fannin County and
is limited to policies concerning treatment of
diabetics.” Dkt. 145 at 22. The court finds this
argument disingenuous. As discussed previously, Plaintiffs
have alleged CEC adopted corporate policies and/or customs of
delaying or denying adequate medical care in general.
See Dkt. 88 at 27-29. On the face of the Third
Amended Complaint, these alleged policies and/or customs
included, but were by no means exclusive to, diabetes-related
care. See, e.g., Dkt. 88 at 27-29. Furthermore,
Plaintiffs do not assert such policies or customs existed
only within the Fannin County Jail. To the contrary, they
contend the policies and customs existed outside the Fannin
County Jail in at least those facilities involved in the four
(4) extraneous lawsuits. To the extent that CEC argues the
four (4) lawsuits cited by ...