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Estate of Henry v. Schwab

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division

October 3, 2019

ESTATE OF DUSTYN HENRY, through Administrator Laura Barrett, BRENDA HENRY, RANDY HENRY, and B.H., through Next Friend Laura Barrett, Plaintiffs,
MIKE SCHWAB, individually and in his official capacity, and STAE OF IOWA, Defendants.


          C.J. Williams United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on defendants Mike Schwab and the State of Iowa's (“defendants”) Partial Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 27). On July 12, 2019, the Estate of Dustyn Henry, along with Brenda Henry, Randy Henry, and B.H. (“plaintiffs”) filed their Second Amended Complaint and Jury Demand (“complaint”) against defendants. (Doc. 25). Defendants timely moved to dismiss Counts II-IV of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure12(b)(1), or in the alternative, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 27). Plaintiffs timely resisted the motion (Doc. 28), and defendants timely filed a reply (Doc. 29). For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court, under Rule 12(b), accepts plaintiffs' factual allegations in the complaint as true for purposes of this motion. The plaintiffs in this case are the Estate of Dustyn Henry (“decedent”), decedent's mother and father, Brenda Henry and Randy Henry, and B.H., decedent's minor child. (Doc. 25, at 1-2). Defendant Mike Schwab was decedent's supervising probation or parole officer while plaintiff resided at the Waterloo Residential Facility (“facility”) by order of the Iowa District Court for Buchanan County. (Id., at 2, 6). The State of Iowa (“State”) runs the facility through the First Judicial District Department of Correctional Services. (Id., at 2).

         Decedent had a history of mental health and substance abuse issues in the years leading up to his death. (Id., at 2-3). Defendants knew about, or had access to information regarding, decedent's history of substance abuse and mental health issues while he resided at the facility. (Id., at 6). While at the facility decedent was terminated from his job, which caused decedent to lose his health insurance. (Id., at 6-7). As a result of decedent's loss of insurance, decedent's prescriptions for anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication stopped being filled. (Id.). Defendants took no action to ensure that decedent got his medications after decedent lost his insurance. (Id., at 7). Defendants knew decedent was using controlled substances while residing at the treatment facility, and defendants failed to follow their normal policy of taking residents who were intoxicated to the nearby jail to detox. (Id.).

         On December 15, 2016, Mr. Schwab filed a Report of Violation of the terms of decedent's probation due to decedent's loss of employment and use of controlled substances. (Id., at 8). The Report of Violation sought to revoke decedent's probation and have decedent sent to prison. (Id.). Decedent was “despondent” when he learned of the Report of Violation. (Id.). Despite knowledge of decedent's mental health issues and lack of prescribed medication, defendants took “no steps to keep [decedent] from committing self-harm after informing him of the Report of Violation.” (Id.). On December 16, 2016, decedent committed suicide by hanging himself from the clothes hanger rack in his room. (Id., at 8-9). Defendants knew that the clothes hanger racks in the facility were capable of supporting a person's weight without collapsing due to prior suicides by hanging in the facility. (Id., at 9). Defendants failed to utilize widely available clothes hanging equipment designed to prevent suicide by hanging. (Id.). Plaintiffs assert various claims for money damages resulting from decedent's death. (Id., at 9-15).

         Plaintiffs brought a four-count complaint alleging: 1) civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; 2) wrongful death - negligence; 3) parental loss of child consortium; and 4) child loss of parental consortium. (Id., at 9-14). In response, defendants moved to dismiss Counts II-IV based on lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and in the alternative, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 27, at 1).


         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) Standard

         “Questions of sovereign immunity fall squarely within the province of a 12(b)(1) motion because, if immunity is present for a claim, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over that claim.” Mills v. Iowa Bd. of Regents, 770 F.Supp.2d 986, 990 (S.D. Iowa 2011) (citing Mumford v. Godfried, 52 F.3d 756, 758 (8th Cir. 1995); Feltes v. State, 385 N.W.2d 544, 546-47 (Iowa 1986)). Thus, the Court will analyze defendants' motion as one to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), not as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a party may assert the defense of lack of subject-matter jurisdiction by motion and that motion “must be made before pleading if a responsive pleading is allowed.” The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that:

A court deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(1) must distinguish between a “facial attack” and a “factual attack.” In the first instance, the court restricts itself to the face of the pleadings . . . and the non-moving party receives the same protections as it would defending against a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6). The general rule is that a complaint should not be dismissed “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” In a factual attack, the court considers matters outside the pleadings . . . and the non-moving party does not have the benefit of 12(b)(6) safeguards.

Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). “[A] facial attack [is] one ‘based on the complaint alone, or on the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record.'” Younie v. City of Hartley, 97 F.Supp.3d 1058, 1060 (N.D. Iowa 2015) (quoting Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730). Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss presents a facial attack on Counts II-IV.

         When evaluating a facial attack on jurisdiction, the court must “consider[] only the materials that are ‘necessarily embraced by the pleadings and exhibits attached to the complaint.'” Carlsen v. GameStop, Inc., 833 F.3d 903, 908 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Cox v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc.685 F.3d 663, 668 (8th Cir. 2012). The 12(b)(6) protections applicable to facial attacks under Rule 12(b)(1) include “accepting all the factual allegations of the ...

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