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Grafton v. Bailey

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

May 22, 2018

JOANNE GRAFTON, ET AL.
v.
KEN BAILEY, ET AL.

          HORNSBY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants Claiborne Sheriff Ken Bailey (“Sheriff Bailey”) and Deputy Lashenda Tate's (“Deputy Tate”) (collectively the “Defendants”) “Motion for Summary Judgment” (Record Document 35) pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure seeking to dismiss Plaintiffs Joanne and Billy Grafton's (“Plaintiffs”) Eighth Amendment and Louisiana state law claims. For the reasons discussed herein, Defendants' motion is hereby GRANTED.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are the parents of Shelly Grafton (“Grafton”), a convicted felon, who was first jailed in Ruston, La., at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center. See Record Document 35-4. While there, Dr. Pamela Hearn (“Dr. Hearn”) examined Grafton and prescribed several medications for her. See Record Document 35-10. Dr. Hearn is a physician who works for the La. Dept. of Corrections and LaSalle Management Co. at several detention centers in various parishes. Dr. Hearn provides medical treatment for inmates in Claiborne Parish at David Wade Correctional Center, Claiborne Parish Detention Center, and the Claiborne Parish Women's Jail (the “Jail”). See Record Document 35-11.

         On February 21, 2012, Grafton was transferred from Lincoln Parish to the Jail. See Record Document 35-12. She was given an initial Medical Screening during booking. See id. The next day, Grafton was taken to see Dr. Hearn and her nurse at the Claiborne Parish Detention Center for a thorough Medical Intake Screening by a physician. See Record Document 35-13. Dr. Hearn continued the medications which she had recently prescribed for Grafton while in Lincoln Parish. See id.

         On July 1, 2012, Grafton showed a jailer a boil that she had under her arm. See Record Document 35-14. On July 3, Grafton was taken to see Dr. Hearn at the Detention Center. See Record Document 35-15 at 2. Dr. Hearn prescribed antibiotics and an ointment. See Record Document 35-16 at 4. The boil under Grafton's arm healed without any complications. See id. at 10. On November 12, 2012, Grafton submitted a Request for Medical Treatment. See Record Document 35-17. She complained of diarrhea, chronic back and knee pain, and wanted to see Dr. Hearn about her prescription medications. See id. On November 19, Grafton was taken to see Dr. Hearn. See Record Document 35-18 at 2. Dr. Hearn noted Grafton's medical history and problems, and (re)prescribed several medications. See Record Document 35-19 at 4.

         On December 11, 2012, Grafton submitted a Request for Medical Treatment. She complained about a boil on her stomach. See Record Document 35-20. Although Plaintiffs state Grafton was not treated for this infection, Nurse Edwards was notified of her condition on December 14, 2012, and did not think her condition warranted a trip to the hospital. See Record Document 35-21 at 7. Instead, Nurse Edwards prescribed Grafton an antibiotic and warm compresses per Dr. Hearn's orders. See id. at 2. In the following week, Grafton's health deteriorated. On Saturday evening, December 15, 2012, Grafton was reportedly found unconscious on the floor of her jail cell. See Record Document 35-22. Emergency medical personnel were called, and Grafton was transported to the Homer Hospital Emergency Room by ambulance. See Record Document 35-23 at 9. At the hospital, medical personnel examined Grafton, ran tests, and diagnosed her with an abscess or boil (possibly due to staph) on her stomach. See Record Document 35-24 at 2. Grafton was treated with intravenous antibiotics, prescribed oral antibiotics, and instructed on how to care for the boil. See id. Later that night, the Hospital discharged Grafton and sent her back to the Jail, with instructions for her follow-up care. See id. at 5. Grafton's cellmate, Christina Bowen (“Bowen”), claims the hospital told Grafton she was septic, although there is no evidence in the record to support such a claim. See Record Document 38-3 at 21-22. The discharge instructions and Hospital records were provided or available to Nurse Edwards and Dr. Hearn, who provided Grafton's follow-up treatment. See Record Document 35-24; Record Document 35-35 at 4; Record Document 35-30 at 10.

         On Monday through Friday, December 17-21, 2012, Nurse Edwards came to the jail on a daily basis to treat Grafton's boil according to the Hospital's discharge instructions. See Record Document 35-26 at 2-5; Record Document 35-27. Although Grafton's prescription medications were made available to her, it appears she stopped taking them. After Grafton's death, Bowen found a number of pills in Grafton's things. The pills found were the following:

• Nine (9) Citalopram. This is an antidepressant. Grafton had a prescription for three (3) per day.
• Two (2) Meloxicam. This is an anti-inflammatory/muscle relaxant for arthritic pain. Grafton's prescription was for one (1) per day.
• Two (2) Mapap, or Tylenol. Grafton's prescription: two (2) per day.
• Two (2) Amlodipine/Benazepri. This is for blood pressure. Her prescription: two (2) per day.
• One (1) Omeprazole. This is for acid reflux. Her prescription: two (2) per day.
• Two (2) Clindamycin. This is an antibiotic. Her prescription: three (3) per day.
• One (1) package of Cholestyramine for diarrhea. Her prescription: one (1) per day.

         Record Document 35-33 at 5.

         On Friday morning, December 21, Nurse Edwards came to the jail at 9:47 a.m. to treat Grafton. See Record Document 35-28 at 2. The boil had improved and appeared to be healing. See Record Document 35-26 at 14. Nurse Edwards left the jail at 10:40 a.m. See Record Document 35-28 at 2. At 11:10 a.m., Grafton refused to get out of bed to eat lunch or to get her prescription medications. See id. Deputy Tate called Nurse Edwards and told her about Grafton. See id. at 7. That afternoon at 1:40 p.m., Deputy Tate entered Grafton's cell block and found Grafton lying on the floor beside the bed in her cell. See id. at 5. Grafton was conscious and responsive, but said she was not feeling well. See Record Document 38-6 at 8. Bowen, who was lying on the top bunk, did not know that Grafton was on the floor or how she got there. See id. at 8. Deputy Tate called Nurse Edwards and told her about Grafton and her various complaints. See Record Document 35-29 at 2. Nurse Edwards did not see a need to call an ambulance and instructed Deputy Tate to watch Grafton until she could return. See id. Grafton was moved to a holding cell and placed in a bed where she could be constantly monitored by video. See Record Document 38-6 at 8-9.

         In addition to monitoring Grafton on the video, Deputy Tate went to the holding cell several times, checked on Grafton, talked to her, and made sure she was comfortable. See id. at 9. When Deputy Tate went to the holding cell at 2:06 p.m., Grafton was conscious, responsive, and coherent. See Record Document 35-29 at 2. Deputy Tate told Grafton that Nurse Edwards should be there shortly. See id. At about 2:23 p.m., Deputy Tate called Nurse Edwards again. Deputy Tate told Nurse Edwards that she was concerned about Grafton who was complaining about her breathing. See id. Nurse Edwards did not see any need to send Grafton to the emergency room. See id. Nurse Edwards told Deputy Tate that in order to put her mind at ease, she would call Dr. Hearn and then call her (Deputy Tate) back. See id.

         At 2:30 to 2:35 p.m., Nurse Edwards called Dr. Hearn. Dr. Hearn told Nurse Edwards to wait until she finished her business at the Detention Center, then go see Grafton, and to call her back if there were any changes. See Record Document 35-30 at 2. Nurse Edwards called Deputy Tate back and told her what Dr. Hearn had ordered, notably that Grafton had already been to the hospital before, that she was taking her antibiotic, and “we just didn't take them to the doctor just because they requested it.” Record Document 38-6 at 13. Nurse Edwards had just seen Grafton that morning at the Jail, and Grafton was fine. See Record Document 35-26 at 5. Nurse Edwards was involved in a medical situation at the Detention Center and planned to come to see Grafton again as soon as she finished there. See Record Document 35-29 at 11-12.

         At approximately 2:46 p.m., Grafton did not respond when Deputy Tate entered the holding cell and called her name. See Record Document 35-29 at 2. Deputy Tate checked Grafton's pulse and breathing and tried an ammonia pack under her nose. See id. at 21. Deputy Tate called Nurse Edwards again and called for an ambulance at approximately 2:50 p.m. See Record Document 35-33 at 7. Deputy Tate, who was certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“CPR”), did not perform CPR on Grafton. See Record Document 38-6 at 17-20. Deputy Tate has stated that she looked for something to cover Grafton's mouth in order to perform CPR, but could not find anything. See id. At approximately 2:52 p.m., six minutes after Deputy Tate originally discovered Grafton unresponsive, the ambulance arrived. See Record Document 35-33 at 7. During these six minutes, Deputy Tate was “trying to call people … checking for the ambulance, running in and out of the room trying to see is the ambulance here yet.” Record Document 38-6 at 22. Nurse Edwards arrived a few minutes later at 2:56 p.m. See Record Document 35-33 at 7. The ambulance transported Grafton to Homer Memorial at 3:12 p.m. where she was pronounced dead at 3:52 p.m. See id.

         Subsequently, an autopsy was performed by Dr. Frank Peretti (“Dr. Peretti”), who found the cause of death to be “Sepsis due to Abdominal Wall Abscess and Cellulitis” and listed “Fracture of Thoracic Spine” as a contributing factor. See Record Document 35-31 at 3. There was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing or physical abuse to Grafton. See Record Document 35-32 at 15. Capt. Kenny Sanders, an expert retained by Defendants, found the officers' conduct was reasonable under the circumstances and found no evidence of deliberate indifference. See Record Document 35-34 at 6. A Medical Review Panel, consisting of three doctors, found that Homer Memorial Hospital, its staff, and Dr. Pamela Hearn failed to comply with the appropriate medical standards of care in their treatment of Shelly Grafton. See Record Document 35-35 at 2-3. The substandard care of Homer Hospital, its staff, and Dr. Hearn were factors in Grafton's death. See id. Dr. John Giroir (“Dr. Giroir”), an Emergency Medicine physician and member of the Medical Review Panel, provided an expert report for the Plaintiffs, stating “Grafton … might have survived her infection if more aggressive treatment would have offered [sic] in a timely fashion.” Record Document 35-36 at 3.

         On October 25, 2013, Plaintiffs filed the instant civil rights lawsuit for violation of Grafton's Eighth Amendment rights as well as Louisiana state law claims for her wrongful death and survival action, and for her pain and suffering. See Record Document 1. Defendants moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims, under both federal and state law, on February 2, 2017. See Record Document 35. Defendants argue there is no evidence of deliberate indifference and they are entitled to qualified immunity. See id. Plaintiffs opposed the motion for summary judgment on February 21, 2017, arguing there is sufficient evidence to show Defendants acted with deliberate indifference. See Record Document 38. Defendants filed their reply on February 28, 2017. See Record Document 39. Thus, this matter is fully briefed and ripe for decision.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs summary judgment. This rule provides that 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Also, “a party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the motion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record.” Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). “If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may ... grant summary judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3).

         In a summary judgment motion, “a party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings ... [and] affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (internal quotations and citations omitted). If the movant meets this initial burden, then the non-movant has the burden of going beyond the pleadings and designating specific facts that prove that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See id. at 325, 106 S.Ct. at 2554; see Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). A non-movant, however, cannot meet the burden of proving that a genuine issue of material fact exists by providing only “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. Additionally, in deciding a summary judgment motion, courts “resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, but only when there is an actual controversy, that is when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Id. Courts “do not, however, in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” Id.

         Rule 56 states that “a party asserting that a fact ... is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to particular materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, ... admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Once the party seeking to establish that there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact has cited to such materials, the opposing party “may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. “At the summary judgment stage, materials cited to support or dispute a fact need only be capable of being presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.” LSR Consulting, LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 835 F.3d 530, 534 (5th Cir. 2016). However, once a party has challenged the admissibility of the evidence relied upon to demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact, the proponent of that evidence must show that the evidence is capable of being presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence. See id. at 534.

         B. Section 1983 Suits: Individual Capacity vs. Official Capacity Claims

         Section 1983 authorizes the assertion of a claim for relief against a person who, acting under the color of state law, allegedly violated the claimant's rights under federal law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Section 1983 suits, government officials may be sued in either their individual or official capacities. A claim against a state or municipal official in his official capacity "generally represent[s] only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent." Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). Individual or ...


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