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Hollie v. City of Bryan

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

May 7, 2019

CLAUDIA HOLLIE, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF BRYAN, ET AL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND RECOMMENDATION

          FRANCES H. STACY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending is Defendants City of Bryan, Texas and Officer Dustin Seelig's Re-instated Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Stay Discovery (Document No. 41). Having considered that motion as a motion for summary judgment, which the parties were advised of in an Order entered on April 3, 2019 (Document No. 40), the claims and allegations in this case as against Defendants City of Bryan, Texas and Officer Dustin Seelig, the additional briefing (Document No. 42), the summary judgment evidence, and the applicable law, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS, for the reasons set forth below, that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 41) be GRANTED and Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants City of Bryan, Texas and Officer Dustin Seelig be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. Background

         This is acivil rights case brought pursuantto42 U.S.C. § 1983 by family members of Johnny Hall, who died of a cocaine overdose after being taken by Defendant Officer Dustin Seelig ("Seelig") to the Brazos County Detention Center. According to the allegations in Plaintiffs' Original Complaint, [1] Seelig

saw Johnny Hall throw a baggie out his car window. The baggie had trace amounts of cocaine in it. Johnny had swallowed the cocaine - a very common suspect tactic, well known to all police. Also, well known to all police is that cocaine ingestion can be fatal. Officer Seelig arrested Johnny Hall for tampering with evidence and cocaine possession and took Johnny into custody. In the back seat of the squad car Johnny was sweating profusely, his eyes were dilated, and he was barely able to speak. Officer Seelig did not call an ambulance or take Johnny to an emergency room, he took Johnny to the Brazos County jail.
While in jail booking Johnny repeatedly asked for medical attention over the intercom system. It was clear that he was suffering from extreme physical pain related to his cocaine overdose - Johnny was dying. In response to his cries for help and medical aid, Johnny was continually told by Brazos County jail employees to "stay off the button" which refers to the button on the intercom system.
Johnny Hall died of a cocaine overdose.

Complaint (Document No. 1) at 1-2.

         Plaintiffs have asserted a § 1983 claim against Defendant Seelig in his individual and official capacities, alleging that Seelig "under color of law as an agent and employee of Defendant, Bryan Police Department and the City of Bryan," "had reason to believe that Mr. Hall had ingested cocaine and was suffering from a cocaine overdose," but did not afford or provide him with imedical treatment. Complaint (Document No. I)at6. As for Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim against Defendant City of Bryan, Bryan Police Department, Plaintiffs allege that it is "liable for the constitutional torts of Officer Seelig" and that it

sanctioned the following customs, practices and policies:
a. Denying medical treatment to dying persons;
b. Failing to discipline Officers found to have been denied medical treatment to persons in need of medical attention;
c. Failing to adequately supervise and/or train its officers;
d. Ignoring the serious need for training and supervision of its officers in regards to ensuring persons under their care receive necessary medical treatment.

Complaint (Document No. 1) at 7.

         With their Motion to Dismiss, or alternative Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants City of Bryan and Officer Seelig argue that Plaintiffs have not stated a viable claim under the Eighth Amendment given that the decedent, Johnny Hall, was a pre-trial detainee, [2] that there are no allegations and no evidence of a custom, policy or practice upon which liability of Defendant City of Bryan could be based, and that there are no allegations, and no evidence that could overcome Defendant Seelig's claim of qualified immunity.[3] Following the filing of Defendants' motion, Plaintiffs were given an opportunity to file an Amended Complaint. They did not do;so, and, consequently, Defendants' motion was re-instated and all parties were provided notice that themotion could be considered as a motion for summary judgment. See Order of April 3, 2019 (Document No. 40). Plaintiff was subsequently given additional time to file a response to Defendants' motion, and Plaintiffs response was filed on May 6, 2019. Two things are important about that response. First, Plaintiffs state that they will "file for leave to amend their 'Original Complaint within seven (7) days of their filing of [their] response." Response (Document ...


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