United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS'
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
Nancy G. Edmunds, United States District Judge
Sidney Gurley ("Gurley") was a detainee at the Gus
Harrison Correctional Facility when he began to experience
abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody urine, and loss of appetite.
Shortly after reporting his symptoms to prison officials, he
was sent to the infirmary and seen by Defendant Beth Fritz,
R.N. ("Fritz" or "Nurse Fritz"). While it
is unclear exactly how Gurley presented to Fritz, she
ultimately concluded that he was suffering from a urinary
tract infection, and requested the attending physician to
prescribe antibiotics. Unfortunately, Gurley was never
examined by the physician, and Fritz's diagnosis was
inaccurate. The following morning, Gurley passed away after
suffering from acute peritonitis caused by a ruptured
appendix. This civil rights action was initiated against the
officers and medical personnel that interacted with Gurley in
the hours leading up to his death.
before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.
(Dkt. 86). Plaintiff's complaint is premised on the
Eighth Amendment, with two closely related state law claims.
In the end, the Court finds that there are factual questions
bearing on the reasonableness of the Officer Defendants'
response to Gurley's serious medical condition.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated more fully below, the
Court GRANTS IN PART Defendants' motion.
facts giving rise to this dispute revolve principally around
a period of 24 hours beginning on August 5, 2011. That
morning, Gurley approached Officer Aaron Jones
("Jones" or "Officer Jones") holding his
stomach and complaining that "he had blood in his 
bowel movements" and "severe abdominal pain."
(Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 5, Jones Dep. Tr. 12:24-25; 20:24-25).
Consistent with Michigan Department of Corrections
("MDOC") policy, Jones called the prison
infirmary-possibly for the second time concerning this issue,
the record is unclear-and requested approval to send Gurley
down for treatment. (Jones Dep. Tr. 20:3-7). At approximately
8:47 a.m., Gurley arrived at the healthcare unit and was met
by Defendant Nurse Fritz. According to the "nurse
protocol" completed by Fritz, Gurley complained of
nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, and noted that he
"was trickling urine, orange and red, . . . didn't
poop for 3 days . . . then diarrhea for 3 days, then pooped
formed yesterday[;] after eating last two days I had to go
right to the bathroom." (Defs' Mot. Ex. A, August 4,
Gurley Med. Record 007.).
considering Gurley's initial comments, Fritz maintains
palpated (or touched) all four quadrants of Mr. Gurley's
abdomen and then listened with a stethoscope . . . .
Initially, when I listened, bowl sounds were not present,
indicating constipation . . . Mr. Gurley had been given a
laxative during this appointment and left the examination to
use the restroom. When he returned, Mr. Gurley stated that he
"pooped", that it was formed, and that he felt
better. I again checked for bowl sounds, which were present
in all four quadrants. When I palpated Mr. Gurley's left
upper quadrant . . . he did not appear to be in any distress.
Mr. Gurley declined any pain medications . . . and indicated
that he had not taken any pain medication previously for his
(Id. at Ex. A, Fritz Aff. ¶ 5). Notably, this
portion of Fritz's account does not appear in the nurse
protocol completed during Gurley's appointment. Rather,
it was incorporated as an "addendum" days after
Gurley died. See (Id. at Ex. A, Gurley Med.
Record 006). According to Fritz, Gurley's records were
"updated [after the fact] due to computer failure. . .
." (Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 14). In any event, Fritz's
clinical observations led her to believe that "Mr.
Gurley was experiencing a urinary tract infection
['UTI']." (Ex. A, Fritz Aff. ¶ 6). A test
of Gurley's urine "revealed that there were white
blood cells present . . . indicating possible
with Gurley's test results, Fritz approached Savithri
Kakani-the attending Physician's Assistant-for a
diagnosis. Kakani testified that Fritz never disclosed that
Gurley originally presented with "zero bowl
sounds", and seemingly left out his complaints of
vomiting and abdominal pain. (Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 12, Kakani
Dep. Tr. 180:1-7; 171:4-5) (Q. "And are you positive
that you were told only about the UTI? A. Yes."). This
is significant, Kakani maintained, "because it could
potentially be life-threatening." (Id. at
181:9-11). Instead, Fritz opted to focus on Gurley's
positive urinalysis, explaining that, "I think this
patient has UTI, he has leukocytes in his urine."
(Id. at 88:12-19). When asked whether Gurely had any
abdominal pain or "other symptoms", Fritz
purportedly responded "no". (Id.). In the
end, Kakani never personally examined Gurley, and agreed,
based on Fritz's observations, that he was likely
suffering from a UTI. Gurley was prescribed a round of
antibiotics and given a medical lay in; "meaning that he
was excused from participating in work or school assignments
for the next two days following the visit." (Defs, '
Mot. Ex. A, Fritz Aff. ¶ 6).
condition upon leaving the infirmary is the subject of
considerable debate. According to Fritz, Gurley "voiced
understanding of the given instructions and ambulated without
difficulty out of the healthcare clinic."
(Id.). He was not "guarding his stomach"
or "bent over." (Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 13, Fritz
Dep. Tr. 71:13-21). Gurley's fellow inmates, on other
hand, have a very different memory. Joseph Hamilton recalled
seeing Gurley after "he came out of [h]ealth [c]are that
morning, . . . [looking] even worse. He could barely stand
up. He was bent over." (Id. at Ex. 10, Hamilton
Aff. ¶ 6). Donald Rocker likewise testified that Gurley
"was walking very, very slowly, bent over, holding his
stomach. He told me the pain was killing him and he told that
to the nurse, but she did nothing for him, just saying it was
a UTI." (Id. at Ex. 10, Rocker Aff. ¶ 3).
returning to his cell, Gurley encountered Officer Jones and
explained that he was diagnosed with a UTI. (Id. at
Ex. 5, Jones Dep. Tr. 16:12-14). Jones did not indicate
whether Gurley appeared to be in pain at that moment. Around
2 p.m., Jones was replaced by Defendant Officer Thomas Blair
("Blair" or "Officer Blair"). Gurley knew
Blair well; he worked as a second shift porter so he would
frequently communicate with Blair "in order to get his
supplies and stuff he needed to complete his job."
(Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 19, Blair Dep. Tr. 11:7-8). Prior to
August 5, Blair maintains that Gurley never raised any
medical concerns. (Id. at Tr. 11:17-24). That
evening, however, Blair was approached by inmate Rodney
Stevenson ("Stevenson") who indicated that
"Gurley should be taken to healthcare because he did not
look good and because he appeared to be in pain."
(Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 8, Stevenson Aff. ¶ 5). Blair then
questioned Gurley, who reported that "he was having
stomach issues and blood in his stool." (Id. at
Ex. 19, Blair Dep. Tr. 12:17-18). Moments later, Blair
testified that he contacted healthcare, relayed Gurley's
symptoms, and was granted clearance to send him back down for
treatment. (Id. at Tr. 13:13-19); (Tr. 14:23-25)
("when I relayed the information, they . . . stated
afterwards that [Gurley] had been to [healthcare] earlier in
the day and they'd be willing to talk to him . . .
."). Hamilton likewise testified that Gurley
was sent back to the infirmary during Blair's shift. (Ex.
D, Hamilton Dep. Tr. 39:11-14).
account is contradicted by inmates Robert Jones ("R.
Jones") and Stevenson. According to R. Jones, "I
was with [Gurley] when officer Blair had contact with him . .
. we begged Blair to please call Health Care and send [him]
over there. Blair just refused. He said he wouldn't send
[him] over there because [he] had already been over to Health
Care once earlier that day." (Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 18,
Jones. Aff. ¶¶ 7-11). Similarly, Stevenson
maintains that "Blair told me that Mr. Gurley had
already been to healthcare that day." (Id. Ex.
8, Stevenson Aff. ¶ 5). In either case, Blair testified
that he "made numerous rounds throughout the day and
evening, and [Gurley] was laying his bed, you know,
[resting]." (Id. He even worked out that
day." (Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 8, Pruitt Aff. ¶ 6);
see also (Ex. 8, McPharlin Aff. ¶ 5) ("I
instructed Mr. Gurley that I thought he should be go to
health care, [but] he resisted at first because I do not
think he wanted to pay the co-pay required . . . and did not
report the problem to a staff member until about 2-3 days
before his death). Tr. 15:12-14). Shortly before the end of
his shift, Blair followed-up with Gurley on his way to the
restroom. Gurley reportedly indicated that "he felt a
little better, . . . was going to follow [h]ealth
[c]are's instructions and rest. And they said that they
were going to call him out [to the clinic] in the
morning." (Id. at Tr. 15:16-19).
Officer Sandra Frey-Latta ("Latta" or "Officer
Latta") relieved Officer Blair, working the overnight
shift in Gurley's unit. Latta approached Gurley that
evening to inquire about his medical lay-in status. According
to Latta, their conversation went something like this:
I basically asked him if he had gone to the doctor's and
he said yes. And I asked him did you find out what was wrong
. . . [a]nd he said yes, he did, and he found out he had a
[UTI]. [I told him] if you need to see Health Care let us
know. And the yard officer stated 'I'm not doing
anything. So if you need to go just let me know and I'll
walk you up. And [Gurley] stated something about he was
working in the weight pit earlier that day . . . and also
that he had a doctor's appointment the next morning so he
didn't need to see Health Care.
(Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 23, Latta Dep. Tr. 13:4-14). Latta
further remarked that Gurley "appeared fine" was
"walking normally" and did not appear to be in
distress. (Id. at Tr. 24:1-11). Officer Michael
Curtis, working alongside Latta, confirmed much of her
testimony, and further noted that Gurley "indicated he
did not need to go [to the clinic] as he was already
scheduled for a call-out appointment . . . the following
morning." (Defs.' Mot. Ex. G, Curtis Aff. ¶ 3).
Street ("Street"), an inmate housed in Gurley's
unit, has a very different recollection of the events taking
place during Latta's shift. According to Street, around
10:30 p.m. he "followed Gurley down the hall on the way
to the restroom. [Latta] saw Gurley bent over walking slowly,
groaning in pain holding his stomach clearly in severe
discomfort. [Latta] said nothing . . . . The [vomiting]
sounds Gurley made [in the restroom] were loud enough where
[Latta] would have been in a position to hear them."
(Plf.'s Resp. Ex. 22, Street Aff. ¶ 2). Despite his
concern about Gurley's well-being, Street testified that
he "never told . . . Latta [or any other staff member]
that Mr. Gurley was having trouble and that he was throwing
up or anything like that . . . ." (Defs.' Mot. Ex.
I, Street Dep. Tr. 24:5-14). Nor did he observe Gurley stop
at the officers' station after the incident in the
restroom. (Id. at Tr. 22-23). This is the last
communication on record concerning Gurley's status that
following morning, August 6, 2011, Gurley was found
unresponsive by his bunk mate, Warren Hamilton. (Plf.'s
Resp. Ex. 22, Hamilton Aff. ¶ 3). At approximately 7:30
a.m., Gurley was pronounced dead. (Id. at Ex. 14,
Gurley Medical Records). An autopsy later revealed that
Gurley "died of acute peritonitis caused by perforated
acute appendicitis", commonly referred to as a ruptured
appendix. (Id. at Ex. 4, Autopsy).
November 2012, Gurley's Estate (the "Estate")
filed suit. The complaint named a number of Michigan
Department of Corrections officers and medical personnel who
interacted with Gurley in the hours leading up to his
death. For reasons that are largely irrelevant,
many of the original Defendants were dismissed and the Estate
was granted leave to file an amended complaint. See Ruth
v. Michigan Dep't of Corr., No. 12-15251, 2014 WL
1319685 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 1, 2014). In lieu of filing an
amended complaint, the Estate instituted a new action on July
22, 2014. That case, like it's predecessor, was assigned
to the Honorable Patrick J. Duggan. Shortly after Judge
Duggan resolved Defendants' procedural challenges, the
matter was transferred to the undersigned.See
Merritt-Ruth v. Latta, No. ...