United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. MEHTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Cynthia Hayes was brutally beaten by a fellow inmate while
detained at the Correctional Treatment Facility
("CTF") in Washington, D.C. Plaintiff now seeks to
hold the operator of that facility, Defendant Corrections
Corporation of America, liable for her injuries under two
theories: (1) negligence and (2) violation of her civil
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.Before the court is
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. After evaluating
Plaintiff's Complaint under the standards set forth in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), for the
reasons explained below, Defendant's Motion is granted in
part and denied in part.
August 2014, Plaintiff was incarcerated at CTF in Washington,
D.C., and placed in the general population. Am. Compl., ECF
No. 4, ¶ 13. Also placed in the general population was
inmate Kalutte Barnes. Id. Barnes suffered from a
mental illness that, according to Plaintiff, made her so
unstable that she presented a threat of violence and serious
bodily injury to other inmates. Id. ¶¶
13-14. Barnes previously had been hospitalized at St.
Elizabeth's Hospital-a psychiatric facility-because of
her mental health condition. Id. ¶ 19(e).
about August 1, 2014, Barnes viciously attacked Plaintiff and
other general population inmates. Id. ¶¶
15-16. The beating, among other things, caused Plaintiff to
suffer traumatic glaucoma in her left eye and to undergo two
weeks of treatment in the infirmary. Id. ¶ 16.
Additionally, Plaintiff has had to undergo prophylactic
treatment for HIV prevention and frequent HIV testing.
Id. She continues to receive medical and mental
health treatment and has incurred medical expenses because of
the attack. Id.
has moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss brought under Rule
12(b)(6), a complaint must contain "sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when
"the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The factual allegations
in the complaint need not be "detailed"; however,
the Federal Rules demand more than "an unadorned,
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). If the facts as alleged fail to establish that
a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be
granted, a court must grant defendant's Rule 12(b)(6)
motion. See Am. Chemistry Council, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't
of Health & Human Servs., 922 F.Supp.2d 56, 61 (D.D.C.
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
must accept a plaintiff's "factual allegations . . .
as true, " Harris v. D.C. Water & Sewer Auth.,
791 F.3d 65, 68 (D.C. Cir. 2015), and "construe the
complaint ‘in favor of the plaintiff, who must be
granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived
from the facts alleged.'" Hettinga v. United
States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting
Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C.
Cir. 1979)). The court need not accept as true, however,
"a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation,
" Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986),
or "inferences . . . unsupported by the facts set out in
the complaint, " Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns
Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
asserts that Plaintiff's negligence claim must be
dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege facts that
would give rise to the plausible inference that Defendant was
aware, before the attack, that Barnes was mentally unstable
and prone to violence. Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 6, at 4.
Defendant's argument, however, is premised on an
incorrect reading of the law. Citing Board of Trustees of
the University of District of Columbia v. DiSalvo, 974
A.2d 868, 870-71 (D.C. 2009), Defendant asserts that a
heightened showing of foreseeability is required when, as
here, an injury results from an intervening criminal act.
See Def.'s Mot. at 4. However, as explained in
Wilkins v. District of Columbia, 879 F.Supp.2d 35,
40 (D.D.C. 2012), District of Columbia law "does not
employ the heightened foreseeability standard when analyzing
the government's duty to protect inmates from assault.
Instead, [it] applies ‘an ordinary negligence standard,
' under which an assaulted prisoner must establish an
applicable standard of care, deviation from that standard,
and injury proximately caused by the deviation."
Id. (quoting Hughes v. District of
Columbia, 425 A.2d 1299, 1302 (D.C. 1981)).
Complaint alleges sufficient facts to support each of those
three elements. First, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant owed
her a duty of care to protect her from "potentially
mentally unstable and violent inmates." Am. Compl.
¶ 22. Such a duty is recognized under District of
Columbia law. See Wilkins, 879 F.Supp.2d at 41
(observing that District of Columbia law imposes a duty to
exercise reasonable care in the protection and safekeeping of
prisoners). Second, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant deviated
from that standard of care by classifying and placing Barnes
in the general population, even though it knew or,
importantly, should have known, that she was mentally
unstable and prone to violence. Plaintiff also alleges that
Defendant deviated from the standard of care by failing to
remove her from the general population. Am. Compl. ¶
24(b). Although Defendant contends that Barnes' mental
health assessment and placement in the general population
were the responsibility of the facility's medical care
contractor, Unity Healthcare, see Def.'s Reply,
ECF No. 14, at 2-3, at the motion to dismiss stage, the court
must treat as true Plaintiff's allegation that such
responsibility fell on Defendant.
reading the Complaint favorably to Plaintiff, it is plausible
to infer that Defendant's failure to fully grasp
Barnes' dangerousness and its placement of her in the
general population were the proximate cause of
Plaintiff's injuries. To be sure, even under an ordinary
negligence standard, foreseeability of the injury must be
considered. See Wilkins, 879 F.Supp.2d at 42.
However, so long as "the danger of an intervening
negligent or criminal act should have been reasonably
anticipated and protected against, " a defendant shall
be held responsible for a breach of the duty of care.
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Here, Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant, at a minimum,
"should have known" that Barnes was mentally
unstable and prone to violence. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. It is
plausible to infer from the Complaint that Defendant, which
ran and operated CTF, would have had access to information
about the reason for Barnes' present incarceration; her
past criminal history; and her mental health history. It is
reasonable to infer that, with the benefit of discovery,
Plaintiff may be able to show ...