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Bays v. County of Montmorency

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

November 16, 2016

BARBARA BAYS, et al., Plaintiffs,
MONTMORENCY, COUNTY of, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs, as co-personal representatives of their late son's estate, have filed this action for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. (Dkt. ## 44, 49.) The motions are fully briefed and the court conducted a hearing on October 19, 2016. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant Defendants' motion in part. However, the court will find that facts material to the liability of Defendant Donna Sigler remain in dispute and must be resolved by the jury. Accordingly, the court will deny Defendants' motion with respect to Defendant Sigler and will deny Plaintiffs' motion in its entirety.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On March 28, 2013, officers of the Montmorency County Sheriff's Department arrested and charged 28-year-old Shane Bays with “Operating - License Suspended, Revoked, Denied/Allowing a Suspended Person to Operate” and “Motor Vehicle-Operation Without Security.” (Dkt. # 36, Pg. ID 362, 364.) Bays was remanded to the Montmorency County Jail and placed in the general population. (Id.; Dkt. # 49, Pg. ID 1013.)

         Bays was arraigned via video arraignment on April 5, 2013. (Dkt. # 44-4.) Defendant Braun and Corrections Officer Charlie High were on duty at the time, but Defendant Braun does not recall who accompanied Bays to his arraignment. (Id.) During the arraignment, Bays stated to the court on the record that he was “in the middle of a real severe breakdown” and asked if he could go to the “hospital for a few days and get on some medications.” (Id.) The presiding judge, the Honorable Theodore O. Johnson, asked if the jail had “any mental health people out there, ” to which an unidentifiable representative of the Sheriff's Department responded that they would “get someone over here to see him or take him over for it.” (Id.) Judge Johnson then told Bays “I'll get somebody over there to see you if you're going to be - if you can't post bond.” (Id.) Bays also asked to be brought to Pointe East, an inpatient mental health treatment center attached to Alpena Regional Medical Center, a hospital near the jail. (Id.) An unidentified speaker later states that the officers will “[m]ake sure he's not going to do something stupid.” (Id.)

         On April 9, 2013, Defendant Donna Sigler, the jail nurse, completed a “Health Screen and Health Appraisal” form. (Dkt. # 49-5.) Defendant Sigler circled “no” for “under treatment for mental illness or suicide” but noted that Bays “needs to be seen by mental health and evaluate[d] for being Bipolar.” (Id.) Sigler also noted that Bays stated he “hears voices” and described him as needing “medication for paranoid thoughts [and] anxiety.” (Id.) She circled “yes” to indicate that Bays should be placed in the “general population with prompt referral to appropriate health care service” and circled “mental health” for “referral[] to appropriate health care service for emergency treatment” and wrote in “on discharge.” (Id.) Sigler later testified that, at the time, Bays was “neatly groomed; looked well rested, well-nourished and healthy; was cooperative, answered questions and did not seem confused at all; and was oriented to person and place.” (Dkt. # 49-6, Pg. ID 1155.)

         Later that same day, Bays submitted a Jail Inmate Request Form asking to be seen by the nurse. (Dkt. # 49-7.) On the request form, Bays wrote, “ I need to see the nurse today please. I'm becoming a personal disaster. I'm not able for relief. [sic]” (Dkt. # 44-7.) Defendant Sigler's notes from that second meeting on April 9 state:

Unable to sleep at night, anxiety causing stomach nausea, able to eat, no vomiting, anxiety causing tension, causing pain in back of neck & shoulders, even if sleeps does not feel rested, was on Zanax, Visteral, feels he is always “explaining things, ” “severe” rage when in jail, paranoid [sic], wants to go to Point's [sic] East, inmate very distraught, wants out of jail, inmate needs counseling and mental health therapy and medication, question bi polar [sic], very difficult to focus on conversation, states everything chronic, does not change.[2]

(Dkt. # 49-7.) Sigler later clarified that her notes reflect what she was told by Bays, not necessarily her own observations. (Dkt. # 44-8, Pg. ID 632, 634.)

         Defendant Sigler was the only medically-trained professional in the jail throughout Bays's incarceration, but she had no specialized training in psychology, mental health, or suicide prevention and was not qualified to diagnose or treat mental disorders, including bipolar disorder. (Id. at Pg. ID 623-24.) The Thunder Bay Clinic is less than a mile from the jail, and inmates with medical needs that cannot be addressed on site are sent to clinic or taken by ambulance to the Alpena Regional Medical Center, to which Pointe East is attached. (Id.)

         That same day, Defendant Sigler contacted Amy Pilarski at Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Authority (“CMH”), which operates through Alpena Regional Medical Center. (Dkt. # 49, Pg. ID 1018; Dkt. # 49-6, Pg. ID 1151.) Pilarski is a registered nurse who has been employed by CMH since 2008 as the hospital/jail nurse liason and a member of CMH's crisis response team. (Id.) Although neither nurse remembers the details of the phone conversation, Pilarski's “phone note” states:

This clinician spoke with [Defendant Sigler]. She reports that Shane has been having some issues with anxiety and was wondering if Benadryl could be given to aide [sic] in calming him down. It was discussed that Shane could have 25 mg to 50 mg two to three times daily as needed. A Medication Review will be scheduled and clerical will contact jail staff with the date and time of upcoming appointment.

(Id. at Pg. ID 1018-19.) Pilarski later testified that she was only told that Bays was experiencing anxiety and that if she had known about his other symptoms, she would not have thought it was appropriate to simply give him Benadryl. (Dkt. # 49-9, Pg. ID 1212-13.) Rather, Pilarski would have told Defendant Sigler that Pilarski needed to assess him immediately, to have him brought to CMH, or to get him to an emergency room. (Id.) Pilarski stated she would have come that day or, if she could not make it that day, then the next day. (Id. at Pg. ID 1214.) Instead, on April 11, 2013, Sigler and Pilarski scheduled a May 2, 2013 appointment for Bays. (Dkt. # 49 Pg. ID 1020.) A phone note regarding the April 11 call indicates that Defendant Sigler declined an earlier appointment stating that “one of the deputies was on vacation so transporting would be difficult.” (Dkt. # 44-10.)

         Bays made a second request to see the jail nurse, and met with Defendant Sigler for the third time on April 17, 2009. (Dkt. # 44-9, Pg. ID 653.) During this evaluation, Defendant Sigler noted that Bays appeared more relaxed and less anxious than he had in the prior visit. (Dkt. # 49, Pg. ID 1021.)

         Bays was evaluated by Sigler a fourth time, in a follow-up initiated by Sigler, on April 19, 2013. (Dkt. # 44-9, Pg. ID 653.) Sigler's notes state that Bays was “tense, feeling agitated, thinks other inmates are bothering him, feels tired, not getting rest he needs, unable to get certain thoughts out of his mind, repeat thoughts over and over, paranoid thoughts, afraid of hurting others, concerned about thoughts that trouble him . . . client has been punching wall with fist . . . .” (Dkt. # 49-8.) Sigler called Pilarksi twice and left one message asking for an earlier appointment if there were any cancellations before May 2nd, but did not receive a call back. (Id.) She also noted that “inmate denies suicide at this time.” (Id.) Sigler decided not to call an ambulance, which she now acknowledges she should have done, and went home for the weekend. (Dkt. # 44-8, Pg. ID 640-41.)

         At some point during his incarceration, Bays made a request to speak with mental health to Defendant Officer Taurianen. (Id. at Pg. ID 1023.) Defendant Taurianen communicated his request to her superior, Defendant Lt. Braun. (Id.) Apparently, neither communicated Bays's request to the jail nurse. (Id.)

         Sometime between 11:07 p.m. and 1:25 a.m. April 22-23, 2013, Bays hanged himself in the shower area of his cell block with a brown sheet. (Dkt. # 49, Pg. ID 1024.)

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper “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). “In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Sagan v. United States, 342 F.3d 493, 497 (6th Cir. 2003). The movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “[T]hat burden may be discharged by showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Bennett v. City of Eastpointe, 410 F.3d 810, 817 (6th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The burden then shifts to the nonmovant, who must put forth enough evidence to show that there exists “a genuine issue for trial.” Horton v. Potter, 369 F.3d 906, 909 (6th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). Summary judgment is not appropriate when “the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 243 (1986). In evaluating a summary judgment motion, “the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial . . . credibility judgments and weighing of the evidence are prohibited.” Moran v. Al Basit LLC, 788 F.3d 201, 204 (6th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).


         Defendants argue that the individual officers are entitled to qualified immunity. The doctrine of qualified immunity shields government officials “from liability for civil damages if their actions did not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Webb v. U.S., 789 F.3d 647, 659 (6th Cir. 2015) (quoting Meals v. City of Memphis, 493 F.3d 720, 729 (6th Cir. 2007)). The analysis involves a two step inquiry: (1) whether, viewing the record in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, a constitutional right has been violated; and (2) whether the right at issue was “clearly established” at the time. Id. Courts may address either prong first. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009). Moreover, Plaintiff must show “that each [Defendant] officer, through his or her own actions, personally violated [P]laintiff's rights under clearly established law. Johnson v. Moseley, 790 F.3d 649, 653 (6th Cir. 2015) (emphasis in original) (citations omitted)).

         A. ...

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