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Carter v. Frith

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

April 2, 2018

SHALENA CARTER
v.
KIRK FRITH, ET AL.

          WHITEHURST MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          DONALD E. WALTER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court in this civil rights action is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by the following Defendants: Lee Harrell, former Sheriff of Richland Parish; Joel Weatherly, Warden of Richland Parish Detention Center; and Roy Cox, Temporary Warden/Supervisor of Richland Parish Detention Center. [Doc. 47]. Pursuant to the motion, Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff Shalena Carter's claims, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging she was denied access to medical treatment while incarcerated at the Richland Parish Detention Center ("RPDC") in violation of her rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On or about September 14, 2014, Carter was arrested for driving while intoxicated ("DWI") and was incarcerated at the Vermilion Parish Correctional Center ("VPCC") pending trial. On May 4, 2015, Carter pleaded guilty to third offense DWI and was sentenced to one year of imprisonment. On May 5, 2015, Carter was transferred to the Richland Parish Detention Center ("RPDC"), where she remained until her release on September 26, 2015.

         At the time of Carter's arrest, she was under the care of several physicians for gastrointestinal issues, COPD, high blood pressure and cervical disc disease.[1] Carter additionally "was diagnosed with a bad gallbladder and was scheduled for gallbladder removal." [Doc. 1 at ¶ 6], At the time of her arrest, Carter was prescribed inhalers, oxygen on an as needed basis, and multiple prescription medications. According to Carter, she advised VPCC that her physician had previously indicated that some of her symptoms were a result of her gallbladder and that removal of her gallbladder had been recommended. Carter provided VPCC with a list of her medications, but VPCC refused to provide Carter with her prescribed medications. Carter contends VPCC denied her "medical treatment for COPD, blood pressure and for what was ultimately determined to be a chronically diseased gallbladder." [Doc. 43-11 at 1], At the time of her transfer to RPDC, VPCC was treating Carter with Omeprazole for GERD and Colace, which is a stool softener. Carter contends these medications failed to provide any relief of her symptoms.

         According to Carter, during intake at RPDC she immediately provided prison officials with a list of her prescribed medications, advised officials she had not been receiving same at VPCC, and further advised she was experiencing pain and discomfort due to the lack of treatment at VPCC. Carter alleges at intake her stomach was distended, her face was swollen and she was unable to keep down solid food. Carter states she was introduced to Koby O'Neal, the paramedic assigned to her dormitory, almost immediately upon entry into RPDC. Due to the unavailability of a bed, she was initially placed in solitary confinement. O'Neal was the only official who made contact with Carter during the initial period of isolation. Throughout her detention at RPDC, Carter's primary contact with health care professionals employed by the institution was through O'Neal. She interacted with O'Neal almost daily, as he provided her medications and addressed her numerous medical complaints. Carter contends O'Neal remained unsympathetic to her medical needs during her entire term of incarceration, refused to assist her in obtaining medical treatment, and ignored her health complaints.

         Upon Carter's release from RPDC, she immediately set up an appointment with Dr. Claude Meeks, her primary care physician, and was subsequently examined by him on October 8, 2015. In light of her symptoms, Dr. Meeks immediately referred Carter for additional testing and an ultrasound. On October 21, 2015, Carter was seen by Dr. Weston Miller (a general surgeon), who diagnosed her with Acute and Chronic Cholecystitis. Two days later, Dr. Miller performed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, thereby removing Carter's gallbladder. Carter asserts during surgery she contracted pneumonia and was placed on life support. On October 29, 2015, Carter had a second surgery to remove additional infection from her gallbladder. After the second surgery, Carter's lung collapsed, which she attributes to "the neglected state of [her] lungs after not having received any medication for the one year that [she] was incarcerated." [Doc. 43-11 at 3]. Thereafter, Carter went into a coma and remained on a ventilator and life support for several weeks. Carter remained in the intensive care unit until November 25, 2015. She was released from the hospital on December 5, 2015.

         On May 4, 2016, Carter brought this suit against multiple defendants employed by VPCC, alleging violations of her Constitutional rights, as well as claims of negligence under Louisiana state law. Carter additionally brought claims against the Vermilion Parish Police Jury and its President, Ronald Menard, for violations of her rights under the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. [Doc. 1 at % 29]; on March 30, 2017, the Court dismissed Carter's claims against Ronald Menard and the Vermilion Parish Police Jury [Doc. 24]. Finally, Carter brought claims against Harrell, Weatherly, Cox and O'Neal (i.e., the RPDC defendants) for violations of her Eighth Amendment rights and for state law negligence.

         On November 14, 2017, O'Neal filed a motion for partial summary judgment seeking dismissal of Carter's section 1983 claim. [Doc. 41]. On February 1, 2018, the Court denied O'Neal's motion, finding in pertinent part as follows:

[T]he Court finds Carter has demonstrated by competent summary judgment proof that there is a genuine issue of material fact with regard to whether O'Neal was deliberately indifferent to Carter's serious medical needs. Carter has pointed to evidence in the record showing O'Neal was aware of the risk of serious harm to Carter by way of her intake health screening, numerous complaints, and objective symptoms. She has further pointed to evidence in the record showing O'Neal refused to assist her in obtaining medical treatment and ignored her complaints. Accordingly, the motion for summaiy judgment is DENIED.

         [Doc. 54 at 13-14 (internal citation omitted); see also Doc. 55], The Court now addresses the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment filed by O'Neal's supervisors - Defendants Harrell, Weatherly, and Cox. [Doc. 47]. Pursuant to their motion, Defendants seek dismissal of Carter's section 1983 claim, asserted against Defendants in their individual and official capacities, alleging Defendant's violated Carter's rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution by denying Carter proper medical care while incarcerated at RPDC.[2]

         II. Standard of Review

         "A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id. "A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the ...


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