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Estate of Phillips v. Roane County

March 14, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Phillips


The matter before the Court involves a § 1983 claim of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, as well as state claims including negligence and medical malpractice. Defendant Roane County jailers/correctional officers, Roane County E.M.T.s, governmental supervisors, and government employers, have collectively filed a motion for summary judgment [Doc. 153]. Additionally, Thomas Boduch, M.D. moves the Court for summary judgment [Doc.s 149 and 176]. Plaintiffs have responded, and the defendants have replied. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motions [Doc.s 153, 149, and 176] are GRANTED in part with respect to plaintiffs' claims alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment, and DENIED in part with respect to the remaining claims.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

As the law requires, all disputed facts and inferences are resolved most favorably for the plaintiffs, and the Court merely provides an abridged summary of facts for the purposes of this opinion.

On December 9, 1999, Sonya Denise Phillips ("Phillips") arrived at Roane County Jail hyperventilating and was treated by Dr. Thomas Boduch ("Dr. Boduch").*fn1 As ordered by Dr. Boduch, Phillips was transported to Roane County Medical Center for treatment. Thereafter, she was transferred to Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, returned to Roane County Medical Center, was sent back to Lakeshore, and was then released on January 10, 2000 with medications including Zoloft, Klonopin, and Zyrprexa. Shortly thereafter, Phillips began receiving treatment as an inpatient.

On February 23, 2000, Phillips was charged with the first degree murder of her infant child and incarcerated in the Loudon County Jail. On October 3, 2000, Phillips was transferred to the Roane County Jail, located in Kingston, Tennessee. She was under the care of the Helen Ross McNabb Center. In early March, she began treatment at Ridgeview. On March 10, 2000, March 29, 2000, April 3, 2000, May 11, 2000, and May 24, 2000, she met with Ridgeview doctors for scheduled appointments. She was seen again on June 20, 2000 with an elevated serum glucose level of 130 (normal range is 65 to 109). While she continued to be seen at Ridgeview, she was also seen by P.A. Joann Gardner who was employed by the Roane County Sheriff's Department.

On November 24, 2000, Phillips was found unresponsive with no pulse or respiration by jail personnel. An E.M.T. from Roane County Ambulance Service provided treatment at the jail, but Phillips was not transported to the emergency room. Plaintiffs assert that Phillips should have been transported to a medical facility in accordance with emergency protocol for a serious medical condition. It appears that Captain Faye Hall ("Hall") told the E.M.T. to leave Phillips at the jail if it appeared that Phillips was not in distress. The E.M.T. instructed the jailors to watch Phillips and call back if needed. Phillips was then placed in a holding cell for medical observation. A fellow inmate indicated that, after Phillips' episode, her skin color appeared almost purplish; that Phillips could not open her eyes; and that Phillips appeared very swollen.*fn2 Dr. Boduch was not present on the 24th, but he was advised of the situation shortly thereafter.

Phillips continued to be severely ill for the next several days. The daily log indicates that on November 26, 2000, Phillips complained of chest pains, and on November 27, 2000, Phillips filled out a medical request complaining of chest pains, numbness (left side, arms, and legs), dizziness, jaw aching, and constant headaches. The log records indicate that she complained to the jailors of dizziness on the 27th of November as well. During this time, other inmates observed the ailing health of Phillips and assisted Phillips with caring for herself. On November 29, 2000, she was seen by Dr. Boduch for 6 minutes.*fn3 This was the only time that Dr. Boduch was in direct contact with Phillips. At that time, defendants state that Phillips reported that all prior symptoms had disappeared, and she was prescribed Ibuprofen for knee pain. According to a fellow inmate, Dr. Boduch "did not run any test, and failed to even touch her." The inmate observed that Phillips returned emotional and in tears. Further, an inmate overheard Captain Hall state that Phillips was more trouble than she was worth. On November 30, 2000, Phillips was seen by Ridgeview and prescribed Depakote - 500 grams, 3 times daily; Zoloft - 100 milligrams, 2 time daily; Zyprexa - 15 milligrams, 2 times daily; Klonopin - .5 milligrams, once daily; and B.I.D. once daily.

Phillips' condition continued to worsen, including worsening symptoms of chest pains and nausea. She began vomiting more often and passing out. At some point, Phillips began vomiting what appeared to be blood. One inmate indicated that she believed Phillips to be vomiting feces. Inmates would advise the jailors of the situation and that Phillips needed to be transported to a medical facility, but no direct action would be taken.

On December 4, 2000, Phillips filled out another medical request stating that she was experiencing nausea, constipation, and a possible kidney infection. In response, Dr. Boduch came to the jail on December 6, 2000, consistent with his regular Wednesday visit to the jail; however, Phillips had been transported to a previously scheduled appointment at Ridgeview. In Phillips' absence, Dr. Boduch prescribed antibiotics and ordered a urinalysis. Plaintiffs claim that Dr. Boduch did not follow up with the urinalysis, which would have disclosed Phillips' medical condition. Dr. Boduch did not have any further contact with Phillips. Also, while at Ridgeview, Phillips was scheduled for another appointment on the 12th of December, 2000.

On December 6, 2000, Phillips was placed in a holding cell for closer observation. Phillips continued to vomit, experience nausea, as well as feel an increasing pain in her chest. To verify these symptoms, the jailers turned off the water in the holding cell so that she could not flush the toilet.

On the morning of December 8, 2000, Phillips began calling for help and was found lying on the cell floor with blood coming from her mouth. It appears that Phillips had fallen and injured her lip. Two jailors were needed to assist Phillips to her seat. Later that day at approximately 3:00 p.m., Captain Hall contacted Ridgeview to inquire into whether Phillips was overly medicated, since Phillips had recently appeared to be dizzy, lethargic with slurred speech, and nauseous. In response, Ridgeview directed a low dosage of Zyprexa to be given to Phillips. At approximately 5:20 p.m., Phillips was found again unresponsive; however, the corrections officers were unable to revive her. She was transported to Roane County Medical Center and pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. The cause of death was determined to be diabetes-ketoacidosis, or untreated diabetes.*fn4

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs' original complaint was filed on December 20, 2000, against Roane County, David Haggard (Sheriff of Roane County), and Captain Hall (head jailer in Roane County). Plaintiffs alleged violations of § 1983 for deliberate indifference to Phillips' medical needs, wrongful death under Tenn. Code Ann. § 20-5-113, negligence, negligent supervision and training, and loss of consortium. The complaint was amended to add Ken Yager (Roane County Executive); Linda Mayes, John Mayes, Kelly Jackson, Cathy Gross, Thomas Pio, Sandra Miller, Stacey (Stacee) French, Lynda Carter, Stephen Halcomb, Deborah Gibson, Josh Rumer (Rymer),*fn5 Jesse (Matthew) Rittenhouse, Thomas Melton, Corrections Officer Belcher (all jailers in Roane County); Ambulance Service of Roane County (ASRC), Gloria Wright, Howie Rose, Duranda Tipton (employees of ASRC); and Dr. Boduch (Roane County medical doctor). The amended complaint added a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" and a medical malpractice claim against Dr. Boduch. Dr. Robert Dukes was also added as a defendant to the action as the medical director of ASRC, but he has since been dismissed on an unopposed motion for summary judgment.

Following Dr. Boduch's answer in which he alleged comparative fault and named Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital, plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint naming Ridgeview and asserting negligence in their treatment and diagnosis of Phillips, failure to warn, and negligent hiring. Dr. Boduch also filed a second amended answer naming Dr. Kathleen Sales (doctor at Ridgeview) to be at fault for negligent conduct. Dr. Sales answered and alleged comparative fault against Eli Lilly & ...

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