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Kelly v. Anderson

April 15, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Ronnie Greer United States District Judge


I. Introduction

William E. Kelly, an inmate in a West Tennessee prison, brings this pro se civil rights action for injunctive and monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when he was denied mental health care while confined in the Sullivan County Detention Center (SCDC). The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment and each party has responded in opposition to the other's motion. [Docs. 36, 38, 46, 49].

Defendants have supported their motion with the affidavits of defendant Penny Tester, SCDC Medical Administrator, and Lorri Fennell, an employee with Frontier Health, Inc., who serves as SCDC's Criminal Justice Mental Health Liaison; excerpts and exhibits from plaintiff's deposition; and a brief. [Docs. 36, 37]. In the motion, defendants argue that plaintiff has not established that they acted with the requisite deliberate indifference;*fn1 that he has failed to state a claim against them in their official capacities; and, by amendment to their motion, that they enjoy qualified immunity if, indeed, plaintiff has named them in their individual capacities.

In support of his motion, plaintiff offers a brief, [Docs. 38, 39], arguing that he has established that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his need for adequate psychiatric care and that, moreover, they are liable to him under the theory of respondeat superior; in their official capacities [ because his injury was caused by their policy, i.e., Frontier Health Services Liaison Policy]; and lastly, citing to Moore v. City of Harriman, 272 F.3d 769, 772 (6th Cir. 2001), in their individual capacities as well, since they had fair notice that they were being sued in that capacity by virtue of his request for punitive damages. For the reasons below, defendants' summary judgment motion will be GRANTED, plaintiff's motion will be DENIED, and the case will be DISMISSED.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court is obliged to view the facts and all inferences to be drawn from them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). However, once a motion for summary judgment is made and supported with affidavit testimony, the non-moving party cannot rest upon the mere allegations or denials in its pleadings, but must present specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Indeed, that party "must present significant probative evidence in support of its complaint to defeat the motion for summary judgment." Expert Masonry, Inc. v. Boone County, Ky., 440 F.3d 336, 341 (6th Cir. 2006).

III. Background

The allegations in the complaint are limned in the following two paragraphs. Plaintiff has been diagnosed and treated for severe depression, paranoia, a sleep disorder, and post-traumatic stress. At the time the complaint was filed, he slept no more than 2 - 4 hours at a time and suffered from the stress of a victim's death, divorce court, and the loss of a job and of family, etc. On June 26, 2006, while confined in SCDC, he asked for psychological assistance, but was informed by defendant Penny Tester that she would not provide him any mental health care or medications. Plaintiff filed a grievance concerning this matter. The response to his grievance indicated that mental health services were unavailable at SCDC. He spoke with defendants Sheriff Wayne Anderson and Jail Administrator Brenda Hensley and also sent them notarized letters concerning his problem, but they too (impliedly) denied him mental health care.

As a result of not being provided such care, plaintiff has lost weight, is weak from not eating properly, sits and cries for hours at a time, and cannot distinguish one day from another. Plaintiff asserts that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his need for mental health care in violation of his right to such care under the Eighth Amendment.

Defendants give a somewhat different version of these events. From their submissions, including the affidavit of defendant Penny Tester, SCDC's Health Administrator [Doc. 36, Attachs. 1 - 4], the Court has gleaned the facts which follow. SCDC has a licensed medical doctor on duty once a week and on call at all times, as well as a staff of nurses-each of whom has completed a course in psychology-on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As part of SCDC's overall health care plan, mental health services are available to inmates with psychological problems who request mental health assistance or who are referred for such assistance by officers or nurses. After such a request or referral, the inmate is screened and his mental health care is facilitated by the Criminal Justice Mental Health Liaison, who is employed by a medical services provider, Frontier Health, Inc. During an eight-month period [August 2006 to March 2007], this system resulted in some 179 inside mental health referrals, 79 outside mental health referrals, and 6 admissions to a mental hospital.

Plaintiff was incarcerated in SCDC from August 31, 2005 to August 29, 2006. When plaintiff was being processed into the SCDC, he was asked questions concerning his medical history and his answers were recorded on an intake sheet. The intake sheet reflected that plaintiff had not received treatment or been hospitalized for any mental disturbances or suicidal behavior and that the only health problem for which he was being treated was his back.

Even so, nine days later, while undergoing a physical examination, plaintiff stated that he had suffered from suicidal ideas/attempts and sometimes a depressed mood in the past, but had no such ideation or mood currently. He also indicated that he had never received psychiatric or psychological treatment and was not then suffering and had never suffered from agitation, paranoia, loose associations, hallucinations, delusions, bizarre thoughts/behavior, or emotional/social withdrawal. Finally, he represented that he was not currently taking any psychotropic medications and that there were no other medical or psychological issues of which SCDC needed to be aware. His weight was entered on his chart as 158.5 pounds.

On October 10, 2005, plaintiff submitted a medical care request, complaining of depression. That request resulted in a same-day referral to the Criminal Justice Mental Health Liaison. On November 9, 2005, Lorrie Fennell, who occupied that position, met with plaintiff. Ms. Fennell offered him alcohol and drug counseling, then recommended "Bridges" group counseling and, finally, advised him to see the jail physician. Plaintiff refused each option. Ms. Fennell indicated on the Mental Health Referral form that she would monitor him as needed. [The form also ...

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