On February 20, 2002, a group of prisoners with mental illness and/or intellectual disabilities incarcerated at Phillips State Prison filed a 42 U.S.C. §1983 class action lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Corrections and Phillips State Prison in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta Division). Plaintiffs alleged that they were subject to physical, mental, and sexual abuse, excessive use of force, improper and prolonged placement in administrative and disciplinary segregation, and an on-going risk of suicide, self-injury, and death, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq.
Plaintiffs sought to represent a class of "all individuals whose abilities to cope with the demands of life within the correctional environment are impaired or in need of monitoring due to mental illness and/or mental retardation, who are now or will be in the future incarcerated in Phillips State Prison." On March 21, 2003, the District Court (Judge Julie E. Carnes) denied, without prejudice, Plaintiffs' motion for class certification on grounds that the definition of the proposed class was too vague and indefinite to be workable and that Plaintiffs failed to meet the prerequisites of numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. The court thereby severed the claims of each individual plaintiff, directing them to file individual complaints within thirty days of the court's Order.
The court specified that the individual claim of Plaintiff Lacoya Fluellen would continue to be maintained in the current action (styled Fluellen, et al. v. Wetherington, et al., 1:02-CV-479-JEC) but that Fluellen, like the other individual plaintiffs, would have to file an amended complaint within thirty days. The court further emphasized the its refusal to certify the class was without prejudice and that, if the plaintiffs could, in the future, more adequately define the proposed class, the court would again consider a motion for class certification.
Fluellen, however, feared for his safety at Phillips State Prison and wished to transfer out of the facility. (See Ralph v. Adams, Order [Denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss], located in database at PC-GA-0013-0001.) Because he could not accept such transfer while the lawsuit was pending, Fluellen, on April 9, 2003, dismissed his claim without prejudice. The case was terminated on the same day.
The District Court stated that, given the procedural posture, the voluntary dismissal by Fluellen meant that there was no longer any case. (See Ralph v. Adams, Order [Denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss], located in database at PC-GA-0013-0001.) An amended class action complaint would thus have to be filed in the name of a different plaintiff. Consequently, Plaintiff's counsel chose Richard Ralph to be the named plaintiff in the purported class action and, on January 29, 2004, filed an amended class action complaint in the related case of Ralph v. Adams. Ralph v. Adams appears in our database as PC-GA-0013.Vidhya Reddy - 03/04/2008