United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS'
MOTION TO DISMISS
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion
to Dismiss [Doc. 8], filed July 15, 2019. Defendants seek to
end this case at its beginning, requesting the Court dismiss
Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim in
accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
is a former Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center
employee. She alleges that on May 13, 2016, the center's
control room failed to open a door for her and respond to her
attempts to communicate with them. To get their attention,
she started walking toward the control room. In the hallway,
she noticed an unsupervised inmate going through a door that
was not supposed to be open. As she approached, the inmate
turned around and knocked her to the floor injuring her. She
alleges Defendants' negligence in failing to exercise
reasonable care and diligence in the control room, supervise
the inmate, secure the hallway, and provide adequate training
and staff to supervise and manage the inmate population
caused her injuries. Doc. 1-1.
3, 2019, Plaintiff filed her complaint against Defendants in
the Thirteenth Judicial District Court of Cibola County, New
Mexico. Doc. 1-1. Two months later, Defendants removed the
case on diversity grounds to this Court. Doc. 1. Defendants
then filed the subject motion requesting the Court dismiss
Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. Doc.
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)). “A claim has facial plausibility 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. “The
plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability
requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
first argue that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for
negligence. Doc. 8 at 4-8. Under New Mexico law, a
“negligence claim requires that the plaintiff establish
four elements: (1) defendant's duty to the plaintiff, (2)
breach of that duty, typically based on a reasonable standard
of care, (3) injury to the plaintiff, and (4) the breach of
duty as cause of the injury.” Zamora v. St. Vincent
Hosp., 335 P.3d 1243, 1249 (N.M. 2014).
argument focuses on foreseeability. They argue that their
negligence did not cause Plaintiff's injuries; that, at
most, their negligence put Plaintiff and the inmate in the
same hallway at the same time. Questions of foreseeability,
however, are normally reserved for the jury. Rodriguez,
et. al. v. Del Sol Shopping Ctr. Assocs., L.P., 326 P.3d
465, 468 (N.M. 2014) (“Foreseeability and breach are
questions that a jury considers.”). A court may
“decide whether a defendant did or did not breach the
duty of ordinary care as a matter of law, or that the breach
of duty did not legally cause the damages alleged in the
case”; however, when doing so, the court “must
determine that no reasonable jury would find that the
defendant breached the duty of ordinary care or that the
breach legally caused the plaintiff's damages.”
Id. at 474. Defendants have not made a sufficient
showing for the Court to make such a determination.
next argue that Plaintiff failed to state claims for failure
to supervise, failure to provide adequate staff, and failure
to properly train. Doc. 8 at 8-9. They argue that Plaintiff
must allege more than a single incident in support of her
claims, and they cite Linkewitz v. Robert Heath Trucking,
Inc., No. CV 13-0420 WPL/RHS, 2013 WL 12138884 (D.N.M.
Aug. 13, 2013), as their authority. Defendants misread that
case. The claims were dismissed not because the plaintiff did
not allege more than a single incident, but because the facts
alleged made “it no more than possible, rather than
plausible” that the defendant's negligence could be
attributed to improper training or supervision.
Linkewitz, 2013 WL 12138884, at *6. That same
analysis controls here.
facts Plaintiff alleged in her complaint are described above
in the introduction. The Court finds that the alleged facts
allow the Court to draw a reasonable inference that
Defendants failed to properly supervise an inmate, provide
adequate staff to supervise and manage the inmate population,
and properly train employees and staff to support and manage
the inmate population. Doc. 1-1 at 4. Plaintiffs claims,
therefore, are plausible.
final argument is that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for
punitive damages. Doc. 8 at 10-12. They argue that Plaintiff
has not alleged facts that demonstrate a sufficiently
culpable state of mind to support an award of punitive
damages. The Court, however, finds that Plaintiff has alleged
facts that allow the Court to draw a reasonable inference
that Defendants had a sufficiently culpable state of mind to
warrant punitive damages. See NMRA, Civ. UJI 13-1827
(Punitive Damages Jury Instruction). Plaintiff s claim for
punitive damages, therefore, is plausible.
have not shown that Plaintiff failed to state a claim.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants'