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Miller v. The Summit Health and Rehab Services, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

June 16, 2017

EVA MILLER
v.
THE SUMMIT HEALTH AND REHAB SERVICES, INC. AND WEST MONROE GUEST HOUSE, INC.

          KAREN L. HAYES MAG. JUDGE

          RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant The Summit Health and Rehab Services, Inc. (“Summit”) [Doc. No. 23] and Defendant West Monroe Guest House, Inc. (“Guest House”) [Doc. No. 27]. Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims asserted by Plaintiff Eva Miller (“Miller”).

         For the following reasons, the Motions for Summary Judgment are GRANTED.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Summit supplies personnel to nursing homes and health care facilities for the purposes of providing physical, speech, daily living skills, and other types of rehabilitation services. The Guest House is one of Summit's clients. It is a long-term healthcare facility or nursing home in West Monroe, Louisiana. Both of these entities are private businesses which had a contractual relationship.

         Summit hired Miller as a Rehab Technician in November 2009. The offer letter informed her that her “[a]cceptance of employment . . . does NOT create a fixed term of employment and the relationship may be terminated by either the employer or the employee at any time . . . .” [Doc. No. 23, Miller Depo., Exh. 1]. Miller admits that this offer letter was the only purported "employment contract" she had.

         As a Rehab Technician, Miller assisted licensed therapists with patients, including transporting patients from their rooms to the therapy room, either by walking them or by wheelchair. A Rehab Technician is not a licensed position, nor does it require any sort of specialized training or education. Miller did not provide treatment, but assisted patients with exercises under the instructions of and in the presence of a licensed therapist.

         On June 23, 2015, Miller agreed to help Sheila Eddins (“Eddins”), a certified nursing assistant employed by the Guest House, with a female resident, P.[1] P was a Guest House long-term care resident who had both physical and mental disabilities and was unable to walk. P had soiled her herself and the bed, and Eddins was having trouble with P and needed help. Although it was not part of P's therapeutic services, Miller had built a rapport with P and believed she could help with P, even if she were being uncooperative. As Miller was trying to change P, P resisted and told Miller to stop by saying “no.” According to Miller, P was fussing and crying and told Miller to leave her alone. P also hit out at Miller and tried to scratch Miller with her fingernails. Before Miller was able to remove P's shirt, P put her hands over her face. Miller grabbed P's hands and pulled them down as P resisted.

         At some point, Eddins left to get fresh sheets while Miller finished cleaning and changing P. Once P was changed and put back in her bed, Miller told Eddins that they needed to document some fingernail scratches they found on P's bottom and legs, which Miller believed were self-inflicted. Miller did not see any bruises on or near P's hands.

         At approximately 5:25 p.m. on June 23, 2015, a Guest House nurse, Debra McDowell, told Maradye Rinehart (“Rinehart”), the Guest House Administrator, that P had sustained visible and fresh bruises to her right hand and arm. Rinehart went to see P, and she believed that P's bruises had been caused by pressure from someone's fingers. A color photograph was taken of the bruising.

         In accordance with state law, Rinehart began an investigation into the cause of P's bruises. When Rinehart learned that Eddins and Miller changed P earlier that day, Rinehart suspended Eddins and requested that Summit suspend Miller from her Guest House assignment pending further investigation.

         At approximately 9:08 p.m. that same evening, Miller met in person with Rinehart and Marta Mathis (“Mathis”), Guest House Assistant Administrator, to discuss the incident. Miller told Rinehart and Mathis that she had been assisting Eddins in changing P's bedding and clothes, and P had resisted and told Miller to stop what she was doing, but Miller continued. Miller also told Rinehart and Mathis that P brought up her hands to her face and that Miller pulled P's hands and arms down. Miller physically demonstrated on Mathis how she grabbed P and how hard she pulled P's hands and arms down.

         The Guest House's security camera recorded video of the interview. During Miller's demonstration, the video shows Miller grabbing Mathis' hands and arms in the same areas where the bruises actually appeared on P's hands and arms. The force used by Miller during the demonstration was enough to cause Mathis' upper body to rock forward from where she was seated.

         The next day, June 24, 2015, Rinehart and Patches Carr, a Guest House nurse, visited P in her room. Rinehart showed P a picture of Miller and of Eddins and asked P if either of these persons had hurt her. P identified Miller as the person who hurt her.

         Based on the investigation, Rinehart concluded that Miller caused P's bruising by pulling P's arms and hands down after P had expressly informed Miller to stop, but she did not believe Miller intended to hurt P. Miller admits she did not follow protocol and respect P's wishes when P said “no” and to leave her alone.

         At approximately 4:00 p.m. on June 24, 2015, Ryan McDonald (“McDonald”), Summit Louisiana Area Manager, met with Miller and Rinehart at the Guest House. McDonald informed Miller that her employment with Summit was terminated because of this incident.

         The only people Rinehart spoke to regarding the incident and/or investigation were McDonald; Dena LaBorde (“LaBorde”), Rinehart's direct supervisor at the Guest House; and Dianne Anders (“Anders”), the Guest House's Director of Nursing. Miller admits she has no facts or other credible evidence that Rinehart or any other employee from the Guest House said anything to anyone about Miller's termination or the reasons for the termination. Although others were purportedly aware of her termination or the purported reasons for the same, Miller admits she told various co-workers (among others) about the reasons she was terminated.

         Rinehart also prepared a summary of the investigation which she sent to the State of Louisiana.

         Miller never saw Eddins or anyone else touch P in the same areas where the bruises actually appeared on P's hands and arms on June 23, 2015. Miller admits she has no facts or evidence to contradict Rinehart's belief that Miller's actions inadvertently caused P's ...


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