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Estate of Goode v. County of Genesee

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

May 21, 2015

THE ESTATE OF JESSE GOODE, by and through the Personal Representative, KELLEY COLLETT, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF GENESEE, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 88)

PAUL D. BORMAN, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 88.) Plaintiff filed a Response (ECF No. 92) and Defendants filed a Reply (ECF No. 94). The Court held a hearing on January 8, 2015 and subsequently permitted the individual Defendants to file supplemental briefing on the issue of qualified immunity. (ECF No. 98, January 30, 2015 Order Permitting the Individual Defendants Remaining in the Case, i.e. Deputy Berlanga, Deputy Van Woert and Sergeant Nuckolls, to File Supplemental Briefing.)[1] In response to the Court's January 30, 2015 Order, Defendants filed a supplemental brief (ECF No. 99), Plaintiff filed a supplemental response (ECF No. 100), and Defendants filed a supplemental reply (ECF No. 101).[2] The Court, having heard oral argument and considered the parties' briefing, GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

INTRODUCTION

This case is about the in-custody death of an inmate at the Genesee County Jail. Plaintiff's decedent, Jesse Goode, was incarcerated at the Genesee County Jail on a 180-day sentence for a repeat drinking and driving offense. On April 16, 2011, Goode became ill in his cell and died at a hospital late that day from an apparent heroin overdose. Plaintiff's estate now brings this suit seeking to recover money damages from Genesee County for failure to have in place appropriate policies that they allege could have prevented Goode's death, and/or for failing to adequately train jail personnel on those policies, and seeking damages from the individual jail personnel for deliberate indifference to Goode's medical needs and for demonstrating gross negligence in response to Goode's medical distress.

I. BACKGROUND

Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the following events occurred at the Genesee County Jail on the afternoon of April 16, 2011. At around 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, Goode informed fellow inmate Eric Loften that he was not feeling well. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 3, Loften Affidavit.) At around 2:40 or 2:45, Goode asked the deputy on shift, Peter Alfarno, if he could take a shower because he was not feeling very well. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 2, Alfarno Dep. 17-18.) Deputy Alfarno testified that he asked Goode if he was "not feeling very well" meaning anything serious or just as in he needed to take a shower. Id. at 18. Goode responded that he just wanted to jump in the shower. Id. Maybe ten minutes later, Goode exited the shower and Alfarno observed him walking from the shower with a towel draped around his shoulders and "looked him straight in the eye" and asked "how are you feeling" and "do you want me to call a nurse." Id. at 18-19. Goode replied, "pfft, no, I'm feeling fine. I'm just going to go lie down in my cell." Id. at 19. Alfarno guessed that he last spoke with Goode at about 2:50, just before the end of his shift. Id. at 20. Alfarno testified that he did not inform Deputies Berlanga and Van Woert, who came on in the next shift, that anything was wrong with Goode because he had declined medical attention and never stated to Alfarno that he would be unable to perform his work duties the remainder of the day. Id. at 22.

Deputy Kimberly Van Woert came on the shift following Alfarno's shift, along with Deputy Berlanga. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 4, Van Woert Dep. 13.) She was not informed of Goode's condition by departing deputy Alfarno but, shortly after she came on shift at 3:00 p.m., Goode's cell mate, Deshawn Howard, came to Van Woert and Berlanga to inform them that Goode was not feeling well and was going to lie down and was not going to be able to perform his housing worker duties that afternoon/evening. Id. at 18. Van Woert testified that she had seen Goode walk out of the shower and back to his cell but did not have a conversation with him. Id. at 21, 25-26. Van Woert then went down to booking and did not return to Goode's pod until the Code Blue on Goode was called later that afternoon. Id. at 27.

When Deputy Berlanga arrived on the floor, Goode was in the shower and Berlanga watched Goode walk out of the shower, with a towel over his shoulder and drying his hair. (Defs.' Mot. Ex. 5, Berlanga Dep. 27.) Berlanga testified, as did Van Woert, that shortly after coming on shift, right around 3:00 p.m., Deshawn Howard approached them and told them that Goode was not feeling well and was "hot and burning up, " which Berlanga took to mean that Goode had a fever. Id. at 27. Berlanga testified that Howard stated that Goode could not perform his housing work duties. Id. at 29. At 4:15 p.m. Berlanga completed a routine cell check of the entire pod, including Goode's cell and observed Goode lying on his back "sleeping just like everyone else." Id. at 40-41.

Berlanga testified that around that same time, shortly after the cell check, Goode's cell mate, Deshawn Howard, came up to Berlanga and said "Jesse's not looking good. He's making some type of gurgling sounds. Type of heavy snoring or gurgling, you know. And there is some white foam coming out the side of his mouth." Id. at 47-48. Berlanga testified that in response to this information from Howard, he got up and went down to the cell and found Goode lying on his top bunk, breathing and pale looking, and was unable to rouse him. Id. at 48-49. Berlanga then called the Code Blue by radio while standing in Goode's cell. Id. at 50. Berlanga said it was only about "25 seconds" after he reached the cell and before he called the code. Id. at 52.

Berlanga's testimony as to the timing of these events is contradicted by the Affidavits of Goode's fellow inmates Eric Loften and Richard Short, both of whom testified that it took repeated requests, and between 5 and 7 minutes, before Berlanga even responded down to Goode's cell after being informed that Goode's color was not looking good, that he was making gurgling sounds and, according to Berlanga, that white foam was coming out of his mouth. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 3, Affidavit of Eric Loften ¶¶ 7-9; Ex. 19, Sworn Affidavit of Richard Short ¶¶ 10-11.) Loften testified that he approached Berlanga along with Deshawn Howard the first time and told Berlanga at that time that Goode's "color was bad and he was making gurgling noises." Loften Aff. ¶¶ 8-9. Loften testified that it was 5-7 minutes before Berlanga actually responded after having been asked "repeatedly" to check on Goode's condition. Id. ¶ 10. Short testified that he both heard and observed Deshawn Howard approach Berlanga at approximately 4:00 p.m. to ask him to check on Jesse and observed and heard Howard go back Berlanga five minutes later and ask, "Aren't you going to go check on Jesse?" (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 19, Short Aff. ¶¶ 10-11, 13.) Short testified that he kept a timeline to document the delays in getting medical help to Goode and that the jail twice confiscated his timeline. (Short Aff. ¶¶ 16-18.) The County denied possession of such documents in discovery. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 20.)

Nurse Thomas and several other deputies, later joined by Sergeant Nuckolls, responded to the Code Blue at approximately 4:30 p.m. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 9, Thomas Affidavit ¶ 2.) Nursing services records show that the Code Blue was called at 4:25 p.m. and that at that time, Sgt. Nuckolls called dispatch for an ambulance. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 7.) Nuckolls called for 911 to be dispatched a second time after arriving at Goode's cell. (ECF No. 88-7, Nuckolls's Answers to Interrogatories, No. 12, pp. 4-5; ECF No. 88-8, Nuckolls Dep. 9-10.) Goode was taken down from his bunk, CPR was begun and Nurse Thomas asked the deputies "in a forceful voice more than six times for 911 to be called before 911 was finally called." Id. ¶ 5. Thomas testified that it was more than seven minutes between the time that jail personnel responded to the Code Blue and the call was finally placed to 911. Id. ¶ 7. The call sheet from the Flint Fire Department shows they dispatched a unit at 4:36, arrived on the scene at 4:40 and were tending to Goode at 4:42. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 8.) Nurse Thomas testified that Goode was still breathing during this time. Id. ¶ 7. After several minutes of CPR, Nurse Thomas called for the defibrillator cart which was brought in but was not in working condition and was unable to be used. Id. ¶ 8-10. Following the incident, Nurse Thomas was disciplined for yelling at the deputies more than six times to call 911 to Jesse Goode's aid. Id. ¶ 11.

EMS gave further CPR along with NARCAN at 4:48 and Epinephrine at 4:52, once the diagnosis of a drug overdose had been made. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 8, Flint Fire Department Prehospital Care Report.) Goode was transported by ambulance to Hurley Hospital and pronounced dead at 5:07 p.m. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 11, Genesee County Medical Examiner's Report.) The cause of death was heroin intoxication.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a party against whom a claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim is asserted may file a motion for summary judgment "at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery, " unless a different time is set by local rule or court order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(b). Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "Of course, [the moving party] always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. See also Gutierrez v. Lynch, 826 F.2d 1534, 1536 (6th Cir. 1987).

A fact is "material" for purposes of a motion for summary judgment where proof of that fact "would have [the] effect of establishing or refuting one of the essential elements of a cause of action or defense asserted by the parties." Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 881 (6th ed. 1979)) (citations omitted). A dispute over a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). Conversely, where a reasonable jury could not find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial. Feliciano v. City of Cleveland, 988 F.2d 649, 654 (6th Cir. 1993). In making this evaluation, the court must examine the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Bender v. Southland Corp., 749 F.2d 1205, 1210-11 (6th Cir. 1984). "The central issue is whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'" Binay v. Bettendorf, 601 F.3d 640, 646 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting In re Calumet Farm, Inc., 398 F.3d 555, 558 (6th Cir. 2005)).

If this burden is met by the moving party, the non-moving party's failure to make a showing that is "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, " will mandate the entry of summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 324. "The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of the evidence. To support his or her position, he or she must present evidence on which the trier of fact could find for the plaintiff." Davis v. McCourt, 226 F.3d 506, 511 (6th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In doing so, the non-moving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, but the response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, must set forth specific facts which demonstrate that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The rule requires the non-moving party to introduce "evidence of evidentiary quality" demonstrating the existence of a material fact. Bailey v. Floyd County Bd. of Educ., 106 F.3d 135, 145 (6th Cir. 1997); see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252 (holding that the non-moving party must produce more than a scintilla of evidence to survive summary judgment). "A party asserting that a fact... is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by... citing to particular parts of materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).

"Rule 56(e)(2) leaves no doubt about the obligation of a summary judgment opponent to make [his] case with a showing of facts that can be established by evidence that will be admissible at trial.... In fact, [t]he failure to present any evidence to counter a well-supported motion for summary judgment alone is grounds for granting the motion.' Rule 56(e) identifies affidavits, depositions, and answers to interrogatories as appropriate items that may be used to support or oppose summary judgment." Alexander v. CareSource, 576 F.3d 551, 558 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 496 (6th Cir. 2009)). "One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses, and we think it should be interpreted in a way that allows it to accomplish this purpose." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-34.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Plaintiff's Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Against the Individual Defendants

"To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, "government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). "In determining whether the government officials in this case are entitled to qualified immunity, we ask two questions: First, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, has the plaintiff has shown that a constitutional violation has occurred? Second, was the right clearly established at the time of the violation?" Phillips v. Roane County, Tenn., 534 F.3d 531, 538-39 (6th Cir. 2008). All facts and factual inferences are drawn in favor of the ...


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