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Baker-Schneider v. Napoleon

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

March 15, 2018

ANITA PATRICIA BAKER-SCHNEIDER, Personal Representative of the Estate of Michael Edward Schneider, Plaintiff,



         This lawsuit arises from Michael Edward Schneider’s suicide while a pretrial detainee in the Wayne County Jail’s William Dickerson Detention Facility. Schneider’s wife and the personal representative of his estate, Anita Patricia Baker-Schneider (“Plaintiff”), brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Schneider’s serious medical needs and claims under Michigan law asserting that Defendants were grossly negligent in connection with Schneider’s care.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on July 31, 2017. The parties have fully briefed the motion. Finding the facts and legal arguments sufficiently presented in those briefs, the Court is dispensing with oral argument pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f). For the reasons that follow, the Court is granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ motion.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is appropriate “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). The central inquiry 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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). After adequate time for discovery and upon motion, Rule 56 mandates summary judgment against a party who fails to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case and on which that party bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The movant has the initial burden of showing “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the movant meets this burden, the “nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To demonstrate a genuine issue, the nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence upon which a jury could reasonably find for that party; a “scintilla of evidence” is insufficient. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252. The court must accept as true the non-movant’s evidence and draw “all justifiable inferences” in the non-movant’s favor. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         At 9:35 a.m. on Friday, November 7, 2014, Schneider was booked into the Wayne County Jail’s William Dickerson Detention Facility (“Dickerson Facility”) on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 1, ECF No. 32-2.) Police officers from the City of Ecorse transported Schneider to the Dickerson Facility after his arraignment in state district court, where the judge ordered him held without bond pending his pretrial on November 18, 2014. (Id., Ex. 2, ECF No. 32-3.) Where there are mental health or suicidal concerns regarding a prisoner, judges often make note of it in their orders. (Id., Ex. 3 at 40, ECF No. 32-4 at Pg ID 246.) However, the only condition noted in the judge’s order was that Schneider should have no contact with the victim, Plaintiff. (Id., Ex. 2, ECF No. 32-3.) Plaintiff indicates that after Schneider was arrested on October 13, 2014, he was held in the Ecorse Police Department jail where he verbalized suicidal ideations and placed a cloth tightly around his neck.[1] (Pl.’s Resp. at 15, ECF No. 34 at Pg ID 391.) In response, the Ecorse police transported Schneider to Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital with a complaint of “Altered Mental Status.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff further indicates that on October 26, 2014, Schneider attempted suicide by cutting himself on exposed metal on his bed in the Ecorse jail because he was in so much pain from heroin withdrawal. (Id.) Plaintiff was rushed to the hospital.

         At 12:00 p.m. on November 7, 2014, after Schneider was booked at Wayne County’s Dickerson Facility, Medical Assistant Carolyn Storey conducted his intake medical screening using the online intake questionnaire recommended by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 5 at ¶ 0263-66, ECF No. 32-6 at Pg ID 254-57.) Storey has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and, during the relevant time, was a Wayne County employee.[2] (Defs.’ Reply, Ex. 2.2 at 5, 6, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 832.)

         During Schneider’s intake screening, he reported a recent hospitalization related to a rib fracture and chest pains; admitted to daily alcohol (beer) and heroin use; admitted experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and hearing voices; and indicated that he had or previously had hepatitis C and diabetes. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 5 at ¶ 0264-66, ECF No. 32-6 at Pg ID 255-57.) Schneider described his present state of health as “poor.” (Id. at WC 0264, Pg ID 255.) When Storey asked Schneider if he had ever attempted to harm himself or commit suicide, Schneider answered “Yes”; however, he denied current suicidal thoughts. (Id. at ¶ 0265, Pg ID 256.) Based on her observations, Storey did not think Schneider was actively suicidal. (Defs.’ Reply, Ex. 2.2 at 40, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 840.) Schneider indicated that he had a history of psychiatric illness or treatment for being bipolar and a self-cutter. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 5 at ¶ 0265, ECF No. 32-6 at Pg ID 256.)

         Storey observed that Schneider was not acting or talking in a strange or unusual manner, did not show signs of depression, did not appear overly anxious, afraid, angry, or unusually shy or ashamed. (Id.) Storey did not observe any visible signs or scars from previous suicide attempts. (Id.) Storey first noticed cuts on Schneider’s arms when she went to take his blood pressure. (Defs.’ Reply Br., Ex. 2.2 at 37, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 840.) When she asked him what they were from, he said he was a self-cutter. (Id. at 39.) Schneider had multiple linear scars (1 1/2 inches to 6 inches) on his posterior right forearm and multiple small abrasions (less than 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch) on the dorsum of his right and left hands and the dorsa of three fingers on his right hand. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 8, ECF No. 32-9.) Schneider provided that the cuts were from hitting walls and self-cutting. (Id., Ex. 5 at ¶ 0264, ECF No. 32-6 at Pg ID 255.)

         During her deposition in this matter, Storey answered “Yes” when asked whether she understood that people engage in self-cutting for reasons other than suicide. (Defs.’ Reply, Ex. 2.2 at 39-40, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 840.) She explained that some individuals experiencing heroin withdrawal feel like there is something in their skin and they are trying to dig it out. (Id.) Storey learned that people with anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder also cut themselves. (Id.)

         After completing her intake screening of Schneider, Storey referred him for follow-up medical and psychiatric evaluations. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 5 at ¶ 0266, ECF No. 32-6 at Pg ID 257.) Less than twenty minutes after Storey began her intake medical screening of Schneider, he was seen by Registered Nurse Mildred Neal in the jail’s medical clinic. (Id. at ¶ 0269, Pg ID 260.) Neal noted that Schneider had a history of hypertension for the past twenty years, diabetes for the past five years, rib fracture, hepatitis C, and heroin abuse. (Id.) Schneider told Neal that he was taking Hydrocodone for back pain, but he did not remember the names of his other medications or the name of his pharmacy. (Id.) Neal wrote that Schneider was currently complaining of heroin withdrawal. (Id.) She took his resting blood sugar and sent him to see the medical doctor on duty in the clinic, Defendant Rubab Huq, M.D. (Id.)

         At 1:32 p.m. on November 7, 2014, Huq began to exam Schneider in the clinic. (Id. at ¶ 0267, ECF No. 32-6 at Pg ID 258.) Huq documented that Schneider had a rib fracture diagnosed two weeks earlier, although he experienced no pain when she palpitated his ribs. (Id. at ¶ 0267-68, Pg ID 258-59.) Huq also documented that Schneider was an intravenous (“IV”) drug abuser with complaints of diarrhea and skin crawling. (Id. at ¶ 0267, Pg ID 258.) She noted his history of hypertension, hepatitis C, and possible diabetes, and took his vitals, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. (Id. at ¶ 0267-68, Pg ID 258-59.) Huq noted that Schneider was crying on and off during the exam. (Id. at ¶ 0268, Pg ID 259.)

         Huq ordered Schneider to be started on an opiate protocol (i.e., for withdrawal of IV drug use) and prescribed Loperamide for his diarrhea, Humulin, and insulin. (Id. at ¶ 0268-69, Pg ID 259-60.) Huq also indicated that Schneider’s urine ketones and blood sugar levels should be routinely checked. (Id.; Defs.’ Reply Ex. 2.1 at 39, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 810.) She ordered an x-ray of his ribs and a follow-up appointment with her the next week. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 5 at ¶ 0168-69, ECF No. 32-6 at Pg ID 259-60.) According to Huq’s instructions, Schneider received the opiate protocol starter pack of Catapres, Benadryl and Imodium prior to leaving the clinic. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 9, ECF No. 32-10 at Pg ID 282.)

         Huq testified during her deposition in this matter that when she saw Schneider in the clinic, she had Neal’s assessment of him but not Storey’s completed intake form. (Defs.’ Reply, Ex. 2.1 at 23, 41, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 806, 810.) According to Huq, she normally would have an inmate’s intake form when she performs an examination. (Id.) Huq testified that she did not have Schneider’s form in front of her, because she saw him so shortly after the intake was conducted and it was being put into the record while she was examining him. (Id.) She acknowledged, however, that she could have accessed the information online. (Id. at 73, Pg ID 818.)

         Neal informed Huq that Schneider needed treatment for heroin withdrawal. (Id. at 22, Pg ID 806.) Having not seen the intake form, Huq was unaware of any previous history of suicide attempts by Schneider or past psychological hospitalizations and Schneider did not share that information with her. (Id. at 22-23, 25-27, Pg ID 806-07.) Schneider did not tell Huq that he was taking some psychological or psychotropic medication. (Id. at 26, Pg ID 807.) She knew that Neal asked him about his medications and pharmacy and that he gave no information about either. (Id.)

         Huq testified that she found nothing in Neal’s report indicating that Schneider was depressed or having mental health issues. (Id.) Huq further testified that she always asks inmates about their psychological health (id. at 32-33, Pg ID 808), and that she did not observe or hear anything during her examination of Schneider that led her to believe he was depressed or had issues with mental health. (Id. at 27, 34, Pg ID 807, 809.)

         Huq further testified that information on the intake form, including Schneider’s psychological history and report of hearing voices as a symptom of heroin withdrawal, would not have caused her to refer him for an immediate psychological evaluation. (Id. at 74-75, Pg ID 819.) According to Huq, almost all of the jail’s inmates are on some type of psychotropic medication and such use or past use does not correlate “at all” with someone being suicidal, nor does the fact that an inmate cries in her presence. (Id. at 59, 64, Pg ID 815-816.) Huq also testified that, because of Storey’s referral, a mental health provider would have evaluated Schneider the following day, Saturday, November 8. (Id. at 43-44, Pg ID 811.)

         At 5:20 a.m. that morning, jail nurse Brenda Williams, LPN, did see Schneider in the medical clinic to test his blood sugars. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 12, ECF No. 32-13.) Schneider’s levels were in the normal range, so Williams did not give him insulin. (Id.) According to Williams, had Schneider mentioned suicide or expressed any suicidal ideations during her interaction with him, she would have documented it in his record and immediately contacted the charge nurse for a mental health referral. (Id.) No such documentation appears. (Defs.’ Mot. Ex. 5, ECF No. 32-6.)

         At 7:00 a.m., Defendant Wayne County Corporal Gerald Thomas came on duty as the housing officer for the jail’s general population intake unit where Schneider was housed. (Defs.’ Reply, Ex. 2.5 at 8, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 933.) No one told Thomas to pay special attention to Schneider and he was unaware of Schneider’s past suicide attempts. (Id. at 9, 12-13, 16, Pg ID 933, 934, 935.) Thomas also did not know that a psychological referral had been made for Schneider during his intake interview. (Id. at 13, Pg ID 934.) Thomas did not interact with Schneider when he made his rounds of the unit that morning and he did not notice anything amiss or wrong with Schneider. (Id. at 46, 48-49, Pg ID 943.)

         Thomas testified that he had received training for detecting if an inmate is depressed or suicidal. (Id. at 86-87, Pg Id. 953.) Thomas also was trained to contact medical staff if an inmate needs medical help. (Id. at 66, Pg ID 948.) Thomas then could send the inmate up to the medical unit or, if needed, an officer would escort the inmate there. (Id. at 67, Pg ID 948.) Inmates are allowed to leave the housing unit unaccompanied as the Dickerson Facility is a low security jail. (Id.) However, if Thomas learned that an inmate was suicidal, Thomas would immediately contact the medical unit and the inmate would be escorted there. (Id. at 72-73, Pg ID 949.) Wayne County does not incarcerate inmates at its Dickerson Facility who are suicidal or who have other psychological issues requiring special observation; rather, they are transported to another Wayne County jail location. (Defs.’ Reply, Ex. 2.3 at 43-44, 62-65, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 865-66, 870-71.)

         Shortly after noon on Saturday, November 8, another Wayne County officer, Corporal Templeton, relieved Thomas for his lunch break and Thomas left the housing unit. (Id. at 8, 18-19, Pg ID 933, 936.) At around 1:00 p.m., another inmate, Victor Long, saw Schneider on some steps and Schneider asked Long if he had any coffee. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 15, ECF No. 32-16 at Pg ID 369.) Around the same time, inmate Raymond Anderson spoke with Schneider. (Id., Pg ID 368.) Schneider told Anderson he was upset about not getting medical attention and that he needed his pills “for bi-polar depression.” (Id.) Schneider also told Anderson that he was contemplating suicide. (Id. There is no evidence, however, that Anderson reported this information to anyone until after Schneider in fact attempted suicide. (Id.)

         At around 1:00 p.m., Templeton began doing his rounds of the housing unit. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 16 at 3, ECF No. 32-17 at Pg ID 373.) When he got to the showers, Templeton observed what appeared to be someone sitting behind the door of a shower stall. (Id.) Not hearing any water running, Templeton opened the door and found Schneider hanging from a sheet tied around his neck, which Schneider had wedged into the wall gap between two shower stalls. (Id.) Templeton immediately called a lock down and asked two nearby inmates to help him get Schneider down. (Id.) Templeton began CPR and a “Code Blue” was called. (Id.) At that point, Thomas ran to the housing unit where he observed Schneider laying on the floor.[3] (Defs.’ Reply, Ex. 2.5 at 49-50, ECF No. 40-4 at Pg ID 943-44.) Jail medical staff continued lifesaving measures until an ambulance arrived and transported Schneider to Detroit Receiving Hospital. (Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 16, ECF No. 32-17 at Pg ID 373.) Schneider died at the hospital three days later from his injuries.

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court on August 5, 2015, naming the following as defendants: Benny N. Napoleon, Wayne County Sheriff; Jeriel Heard, Director of Jails; David Praedel, Commander of the Dickerson Facility; Wayne County; and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department. (Compl., ECF No. 1- 1.) Defendants removed Plaintiff’s Complaint to federal court on August 14, 2015. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on April 25, 2016, adding Thomas as a defendant. (First Am. Compl., ECF No. 16.) On September 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint adding Huq and Dr. Keith Dlugokinski, Director of Jail Health Services for Wayne County, as defendants. (Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 21.) Plaintiff states in her pleading that she is suing all of the individual defendants in their individual capacities. (Id. at 1, Pg ID 142.)

         Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint contains the following counts:

I. 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against Napolean, Heard, Praedel, ...

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