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Aguirre v. Correction Corporation of America

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 18, 2018

CHRISTOPHER AGUIRRE, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTION CORPORATION OF AMERICA, also known as CORECIVIC, CORVEL CORPORATION, TRANSCOR AMERICA WARDEN CHAD MILLER, CORRECTIONAL OFFICE ISSACS, and CORRECTIONAL OFFICER FUENTES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         Before the Court are the Motions to Dismiss filed by corporate Defendants CoreCivic, Transcor America, and CorVel Corporation (Docs. 2 and 19). Having reviewed the Complaint, the Motions, and applicable law, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against the corporate Defendants and dismiss CorVel from this lawsuit.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         This case arises from a transport van accident involving inmate Christopher Aguirre (Plaintiff) and two correctional officers. Officers Issacs and Fuentas were transporting Plaintiff from Estancia to Las Cruces on July 18, 2016. Plaintiff was sitting on a bench without a seatbelt. He was fully restrained by belly chains, wrist restraints, and leg shackles. At some point Officer Issacs saw an animal near the side road and stated: “Don't do it. Don't you do it.” The animal crossed, causing a collision. Plaintiff was thrown from his seat and sustained a large laceration to his head. Plaintiff asked Officers Issacs and Fuentes to free his hands so he could stop the bleeding, but they refused and instead retrieved the antlers from the van's grill. Plaintiff continued to lie on the floor bleeding until another officer could respond. He remembers feeling like he was going to die.

         The officers transported Plaintiff to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, where doctors sutured the laceration and treated him for neck pain, dizziness, vomiting, and loosened front teeth. Plaintiff scheduled a follow-up visit for July 21, 2016 and returned to the Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF) in Estancia. On July 20, 2016, prison officials again attempted to transport Plaintiff from Estancia to Las Cruces. However, he refused to board the van because it did not have seatbelts. Captain Arbagast urged Plaintiff to “get over it” because “it was just an accident.” (Doc. 1-1 at 6). Plaintiff again refused, and Warden Miller placed him in segregation.

         Thereafter, Plaintiff complained of dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and anxiety. He requested a mental health assessment and was seen by Nurse Lombardi on July 22, 2016. Nurse Lombardi indicated she would refer Plaintiff to a psychologist due to the accident's “lasting effects [on] his mental state.” (Doc. 1-1 at 6). Prison officials did not take Plaintiff to his follow-up appointment at Presbyterian Hospital, and it is unclear whether he ever saw a psychologist.

         Plaintiff filed the Complaint, through counsel, on November 3, 2017 in New Mexico's Second Judicial District Court. He asserts a claim for negligence under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA) (Count I) and an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to medical needs (Count II) against:

Officer Issacs, who drove the transport van;
Officer Fuentes, who sat in the passenger seat of the van;
Warden Miller, who placed Plaintiff in segregation;
CoreCivic and Transcor America (Transcor), the private prison administrators that employ Miller, Fuentes, and Issacs; and
CorVel Corporation, the third-party claims administrator for CoreCivic's automobile insurer.

         In January 2018, CoreCivic and Transcor removed the case to federal court and moved for dismissal of the Complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). They argue private entities are not liable under Bivens, and, in any event, the alleged constitutional violations do not stem from an official policy or custom under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. They further contend the NMTCA only imposes liability on public employers, rather than private entities providing public services. CorVel filed a separate motion to dismiss in March 2018, arguing it is not a proper party to this case.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move for dismissal of a case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Rule 8(a)(2), in turn, requires a complaint to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Thus, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Although a court must accept all factual allegations as true, the same is not true of legal conclusions. Id. Mere “labels and conclusions” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The Court will therefore disregard all ...


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