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Brown v. Corrections Corp. of America

United States District Court, D. Alaska

February 4, 2016

CARL E. BROWN, as Next Friend of JAMES E. CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Defendant.

ORDER RE MOTION TO DISMISS

SHARON L. GLEASON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court is a renewed Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”) at Docket 37. Plaintiff Carl E. Brown filed a response at Docket 41. CCA filed a reply at Docket 42. Mr. Brown submitted a supplement to his response to the motion at Docket 43.[1] Oral argument was not requested and was not necessary to the Court’s determination of the motion. For the reasons explained below, CCA’s motion to dismiss will be granted, but Mr. Brown will be granted leave to amend.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

CCA operated prison facilities by contract for the State of Alaska. Mr. Brown has brought this wrongful death action as “Next Friend” of James E. Carter, who was a prisoner of the State of Alaska.[2] Mr. Brown asserts that he met Mr. Carter when they were both incarcerated at the Central Arizona Detention Center in September 1999.

Mr. Brown asserts that CCA provided inadequate medical care to Mr. Carter while he was incarcerated in Arizona that “led to [Mr. Carter’s] eventual death.”[3] The facts, as alleged in the Complaint and accepted as true for purposes of this motion, are as follows:

In 2007 and 2008, Mr. Carter was incarcerated at Red Rock Correctional Center, a CCA-operated prison facility for Alaska prisoners in Eloy, Arizona.[4] In April 2007, Mr. Carter reported to the prison medical staff with painful and frequent urination. Mr. Carter was treated for a urinary tract infection for several months but was eventually determined to be suffering from bladder carcinoma. On March 13, 2008, medical personnel “remov[ed] the carcinomatous lesions, ” but did not remove Mr. Carter’s bladder.[5] Mr. Carter continued to receive medical treatment for his bladder carcinoma after this procedure.[6]

CCA’s supplement to its first Motion to Dismiss at Docket 8 includes a copy of Mr. Carter’s death certificate, of which this Court has previously taken judicial notice.[7] The certificate indicates that Mr. Carter died on October 7, 2010 in Colorado, and identifies “sepsis” and “urothelial cell carcinoma of the bladder” as the immediate causes of death.[8]

Mr. Brown alleges that “[t]he preliminary report dated [March 13, 2008] made no mention of any offer of alternative treatment to fulguration or even if there was an alternative.” He alleges that Mr. Carter had previously “decided that . . . complete bladder removal was the only sensible option” and that had Mr. Carter been provided a choice as to the method of treatment to be administered in March 2008, he would have chosen “complete bladder removal . . . .” Mr. Brown alleges that this choice “would not have resulted in a chain of events that led to [Mr. Carter’s] eventual death.”[9]

Mr. Brown filed the Complaint that initiated this action, together with a petition to proceed as Next Friend for Mr. Carter, in Alaska superior court.[10] It appears that Mr. Brown initially submitted the Complaint to the state court on September 26, 2012, because it bears his signature dated September 20, 2012 and an unsigned, crossed-out date stamp from the state court dated September 26, 2012. There is another date stamp on the Complaint that is initialed by a deputy clerk at the state court; its date is not legibly reproduced, but the concurrently-filed documents are dated October 29, 2012.[11] On November 27, 2012, the state court issued an order appointing Mr. Brown as a “special administrator” of Mr. Carter’s estate.[12] With that order, the state court granted Mr. Brown “limited authority to file a complaint on behalf of the Estate, alleging the negligence and medical malpractice and related claims concerning the treatment of Mr. Carter in the period before his death.” The order also accepted the Complaint that Mr. Brown had previously lodged as that Complaint.[13] Perhaps this explains why there is also in the record a copy of the Complaint that it appears was filed in the state court on December 13, 2012.[14] The Complaint asserted negligence, wrongful death, and breach of contract claims and sought compensatory and punitive damages.

CCA removed this action to federal court on January 3, 2013.[15] CCA then moved for dismissal based on two separate arguments: (1) that the applicable statutes of limitations barred Mr. Brown’s actions; and (2) that Mr. Brown lacked standing to assert claims on behalf of Mr. Carter.[16] CCA asserted in the motion that “Plaintiff did not file this lawsuit until approximately December 13, 2012.”[17] In his response, Mr. Brown conceded that “it would appear that the statute of limitations has indeed expired” on the negligence and breach of contracts claims, but appeared to maintain that the statute of limitations had not run on the wrongful death claim. He also asserted that the breach of contract and negligence claims should not be barred because they are “inextricably intertwined with the primary claim of Wrongful Death.”[18]

The district court granted CCA’s Motion to Dismiss on April 29, 2013, finding that the applicable statutes of limitations had run on all of Mr. Brown’s claims, and declining to reach CCA’s standing argument.[19] Mr. Brown appealed the dismissal to the Ninth Circuit.[20] The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Mr. Brown’s breach of contract and negligence claims based on the statutes of limitations, expressly rejecting his “inextricably intertwined” argument. But the Court of Appeals vacated the dismissal of Mr. Brown’s wrongful death claim because “Brown filed the complaint on September 26, 2012.”[21] The Ninth Circuit panel remanded the case “for the district court to consider the standing issue in the first instance.”[22]

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction

This Court has diversity jurisdiction over this action pursuant to ...


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