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Estate of Ostby v. Yellowstone County

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

January 24, 2019

ESTATE OF MICHAEL OSTBY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
YELLOWSTONE COUNTY, Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          TIMOTHY J. CAVAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs, the Estate of Michael Ostby by and through the court appointed personal representatives, and Nicole Hale, Joe Ostby, and Cassandra Ostby, individually, (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), bring this action against Yellowstone County for negligence and civil rights violations after the decedent, Michael Ostby, committed suicide while being held as a pretrial detainee at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility (“YCDF”). (Doc. 51.)

         Presently before the Court is the County's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Doc. 56.) The motion has been referred to the undersigned under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), and is fully briefed and ripe for the Court's review.

         Having considered the parties' submissions, the Court RECOMMENDS the County's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 7, 2015, Michael Ostby (“Ostby”) was arrested and detained at YCDF. (Doc. 51 at ¶¶ 16-17.) On July 1, 2015, Ostby died by suicide by hanging while incarcerated. (Id. at ¶ 2.)

         On June 30, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in state court against Yellowstone County, Billings Clinic, a former employee of Billings Clinic, and RiverStone Health. (Doc. 1-2.) The case was removed to this Court on September 21, 2017. (Doc. 1.) Thereafter, the County filed cross-claims and third-party complaints against Billings Clinic and RiverStone. (Docs. 3, 4, 7.)

         Eventually, Plaintiffs settled with RiverStone, Billings Clinic and its employee Terry Jesse, and the Court dismissed the County's third-party complaints against RiverStone and Billings Clinic. (Docs. 5-1 at 7, 10, 69.)

         On July 5, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 51.) Plaintiffs allege the County was negligent in failing to provide adequate medical and psychiatric care for Ostby at YCDF. (Id.) Plaintiffs also allege the County violated Ostby's right to adequate medical care under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Id.)

         The County now moves for partial judgement on the pleadings as to Plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, and the individual claims of Nicole Hale, Joe Ostby and Cassandra Ostby. (Doc. 56.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule 12(c) motion is “functionally identical” to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Cafasso, United States ex rel. v. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011). Thus, the same legal standard “applies to motions brought under either rule.” Id.

         “Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper only when the complaint either (1) lacks a cognizable legal theory or (2) fails to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory.” Zixiang Li v. Kerry, 710 F.3d 995, 999 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008)). The Court's standard of review under Rule 12(b)(6) is informed by Rule 8(a)(2), which requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-678 (2009) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P 8(a)).

         To survive a motion to dismiss 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.'” Id. at 678. “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. A plausibility determination is context specific, and courts ...


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