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Estate of Franklin v. State of Michigan Department of Corrections-Duane Waters Health Center

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

June 14, 2017

THE ESTATE OF KEITH FRANKLIN, by its personal representative, KAREN FRANKLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS-DUANE WATERS HEALTH CENTER, DANIEL H. HEYNS, individually and in his official capacity as the former Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, CORIZON HEALTH, INC., a subsidiary of Valitas Health Services, Inc., JANAK R. BHAVSAR, M.D., individually and in his official capacity, DANIEL T. CARREL, D.O., individually and in his official capacity, SCOTT L. HOLMES, M.D., individually and in his official capacity, jointly and severally, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO CHANGE VENUE [40]

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Keith Franklin died of cancer while in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections. The personal representative of his estate, his mother Karen Franklin, initiated this prisoner civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Some of the events giving rise to the case happened in this district, while others happened in the Western District of Michigan. Defendants moved to transfer venue to the Western District of Michigan under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (R. 40.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Defendants' motion.

         I.

         A.

         What follows is a brief summary of the complaint's allegations and how those allegations relate to the Eastern or Western Districts of Michigan.

         On August 6, 2012, Plaintiff's Decedent Keith Franklin was incarcerated at MDOC's Reception and Guidance Center (“RGC”) in Jackson, Michigan (R.1, PID 11), which is in Jackson County and within the Eastern District of Michigan, 28 U.S.C. § 102(a)(1). While Decedent was at RGC, Defendant Dr. Janak Bhavsar conducted a medical screening and assessment to determine Decedent's medical needs and to ensure a medically safe transfer from RGC to another facility. (R. 1, PID 9, 11.) Dr. Bhavsar's report noted a “[p]alpable lymphnode” near Decedent's jaw. (R. 1, PID 12.) Plaintiff claims that Dr. Bhavsar, MDOC, and Corizon, which provides medical services for MDOC, failed to provide a constitutional level of care by not alerting Decedent to the palpable lymph node, not treating the mass, not creating a plan of care, and not doing any follow up testing. (R. 1, PID 54-55.)

         A few weeks after the initial assessment, on August 24, 2012, MDOC transferred Decedent to the Carson City Correction Facility (“CCCF”) (R. 1, PID 17), which is in Montcalm County in the Western District of Michigan, 28 U.S.C. § 102(b)(1). Shortly thereafter, Decedent underwent an intake medical assessment, which did not address the lymph node. (R. 1, PID 17.) Decedent allegedly spent more than a year in CCCF and had various medical examinations by individuals including Defendant Dr. Daniel Carrel before anyone inspected or reported on the lymph node again. (R. 1, PID 18-21.) An October 9, 2013 report noted the lymph node, indicating that Decedent had stated it was “5-6 times larger” than it had been a year ago. (R. 1, PID 21.) Defendant Dr. Scott Holmes examined Decedent on October 23 and created an assessment plan. (R. 1, PID 22-23.) Finally, a neck x-ray was taken on October 30, 2013 to evaluate the mass on Decedent's neck. (R. 1, PID 23.) This x-ray was followed by a CT scan on November 22, 2013. (R. 1, PID 25.) Based on the results, an ENT consultation was requested but allegedly delayed. (R. 1, PID 25-28.) Decedent finally visited the ENT and had a biopsy on March 19, 2014, and within days it resulted in a diagnosis of tonsil and neck cancer. (R. 1, PID 30-31.) The complaint goes on to describe further medical records from subsequent treatment, including issues surrounding obtaining a PET scan, which allegedly delayed Decedent's receipt of chemotherapy. (See, e.g., R. 1, PID 39-40.) Based on the alleged delay in diagnosing Decedent's cancer and providing Decedent chemotherapy, Plaintiff claims that MDOC, Corizon, Dr. Carrel, and Dr. Holmes failed to provide a constitutional level of care. (R. 1, PID 55.)

         From June 19, 2014 to June 23, 2014, Decedent was hospitalized at McLaren Hospital for chemotherapy treatments. (R. 1, PID 41.) McLaren Hospital is located in Ingham County, which, like CCCF, is within the Western District of Michigan. 28 U.S.C. § 102(b)(1). The complaint alleges that while there, Decedent's lab results were abnormal, but Dr. Cheryl Kovalski (no longer a defendant) failed to repeat the lab work. (R. 1, PID 42.) The complaint further alleges that McLaren discharged Decedent even though “he was in a medically unstable condition.” (R. 1, PID 43.) Upon discharge from McLaren on June 23, 2014, Decedent was nauseous and vomiting. (R. 1, PID 42.) But the complaint alleges that MDOC, Corizon, and McLaren failed to take any special medical precautions when Decedent returned to CCCF. (R. 1, PID 43.)

         After several days of vomiting, nausea, and throat pain-the combination of which was allegedly severe enough to prevent Decedent from orally taking medication-Decedent was transferred to a hospital within RGC for hydration on June 27, 2014. (R. 1, PID 4, 44-47.) Upon Decedent's arrival at RGC-back within the Eastern District of Michigan-his condition worsened, and the medical staff from RGC contacted Emergency Medical Services for an ambulance the next morning. (R. 1, PID 47-48.) One day after arriving at the Allegiance Emergency Room, (still in the Eastern District of Michigan), Decedent passed away. (R. 1, PID 51.) The subsequent autopsy revealed that the cause of death was the neck cancer that had been diagnosed three months prior. (R. 1, PID 51.) Plaintiff claims that in Decedent's final days, MDOC, Corizon, Carrel, and Holmes failed to respond to his deteriorating condition. (R. 1, PID 56-57.)

         B.

         Franklin, as the personal representative of Decedent's estate, filed a complaint in this Court on October 6, 2016. (R. 1.) The complaint asserts two counts under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count I asserts that Defendants MDOC, Corizon, and Daniel Heyns (MDOC's former director) engaged in an unconstitutional custom, policy, or practice in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Count II asserts that Defendants Dr. Bhavsar, Dr. Daniel Carrel (who treated Decedent at CCCF), Dr. Holmes, Dr. Kovalski, and McLaren Health Care Corporation were all deliberately indifferent to Decedent's serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         On February 7, 2017, Defendants McLaren Health Care Corporation and Kovalski filed a motion to change venue to the Western District of Michigan. (R. 40.) Following the filing, McLaren and Kovalski reached agreements with the Plaintiff and were dismissed from the case. (R. 50, 59.) But the remaining defendants have either joined the motion or indicated they do not oppose it. (R. 46, 49.) After careful consideration of the briefs and thorough review of the record, the Court finds that oral argument will not aid in resolving the pending motion. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2).

         II.

         “For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). There is no dispute that this case could have been brought initially in the Western District of Michigan. (R. 48, PID 529.) Thus, the focus will be on the convenience and interest of justice factors, and district courts have “broad discretion to determine when party convenience or the interests of justice make a transfer appropriate.” Reese v. CNH Am., 574 F.3d 315, 320 (6th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The party seeking transfer must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that “fairness and practicality ...


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