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Newberry v. Melton

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division

January 31, 2017

JACK NEWBERRY, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF W.B. MELTON, et al., Defendants.

          Sharp, Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JEFFERY S. FRENSLEY, United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction and Background

         This matter is before the Court upon a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Debbie Deck and Ashley Deck (“Deck Defendants”). Docket No. 44. In support of their Motion, the Deck Defendants have filed the Declaration of Debbie Deck (Docket No. 44-1), Deposition of Debbie Deck (Docket No. 44-2), Deposition of Ashley Deck (Docket No. 44-3), Declaration of Janet Stephens (Docket No. 44-4), Plaintiff's Jail medical records (Docket No. 74-1), and excerpts from the Deposition of Nicholas Franklin (Docket No. 74-2).

         Plaintiff, who is represented by counsel, has filed a Response in Opposition to the Deck Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 65) that is supported by a Memorandum of Law (Docket No. 66), a Response to the Deck Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts (Docket No. 67), Plaintiff's own Statement of Material Facts (Docket No. 69), the Declaration of Jack Newberry (“Plaintiff's Dec.”) (Docket No. 66-1, p. 138-39), and numerous other exhibits, including excerpts from the Depositions of Debbie Deck (Docket No. 66-1, p. 15-23), Ashley Deck (Docket No. 66-1, p. 24-30), W.B. Melton (Docket No. 66-1, p. 35- 43), Patricia Hensley (Docket No. 66-1, p. 44-50), Ethan Bean (Docket No. 66-1, p. 51-57), Nicholas Franklin (Docket No. 66-1, p. 59-69), Travis Melton (Docket No. 66-1, p. 70-80), Thurman Bolinger (Docket No. 66-1, p. 81-88), Justin Due (Docket No. 66-1, p. 89-94), Donnie Allred (Docket No. 66-1, p. 95-103), Lisa Copeland (Docket No. 66-1, p. 104-09), Christy Beed (Docket No. 66-1, p. 110-15), and Jack Newberry (Docket No. 66-1, p. 127-35).

         The Deck Defendants have filed a Reply (Docket No. 76) and a Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts (Docket No. 75).

         Plaintiff, who is epileptic, filed his Amended Complaint in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by, inter alia, (1) not providing him with his anti-seizure medication for the first month of his incarceration; (2) not providing him with his oral potassium supplement pills; (3) not providing any assistance or stabilization for him during his seizures; (4) not providing first aid or other medical attention to Plaintiff's gashes, scrapes, bruising, black eyes, concussion, strained ligaments, and other injuries incurred during his seizures; and (5) and not sending Plaintiff for examination by a physician who could ascertain why his seizures were increasing in frequency, intensity, and duration, in violation of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Docket No. 26. Plaintiff sues Overton County, Tennessee as the entity responsible for the remaining named Defendants' actions in their official capacities, and he sues the remaining named Defendants in their individual capacities as well. Id.[1] Plaintiff contends that his seizures continued until he transitioned to the Bledsoe County Correctional Facility, where he was immediately permitted to see a physician who changed his medication. Id. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, as well as “an order compelling Overton County to comply with Tennessee Corrections Institute and American Correctional Association standards regarding medical treatment of inmates and to properly train personnel and revamp its policies with regard to medical care for inmates, ” reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and other further relief as the Court deems just and proper. Id.

         The Deck Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting materials arguing that the undisputed evidence shows that “they provided extensive and ongoing care” to Plaintiff, “under a doctor's supervision and in accordance with the doctor's orders.” Docket No. 45. Specifically, the Deck Defendants maintain that they, as “licensed practical nurses, administered anti-seizure medications as ordered by the doctor, obtained blood samples for testing, monitored [Plaintiff's] condition, and provided basic nursing care.” Id. They further argue that a prisoner has a right to medical care, but not necessarily the type or scope of medical care that he wants, and therefore that Plaintiff's “disagreement over the adequacy of the care is not a valid basis for a deliberate indifference claim.” Id. They add that Plaintiff's contention that they should have provided him more or better care was a contention to be made in a state law medical malpractice claim, not a deliberate indifference claim. Id. The Deck Defendants also argue that it is “significant that they acted under the direction of a medical doctor who served as Medical Director at the jail, ” because “a person who knows that a prisoner is under the care of a professional with superior medical training is generally entitled to defer to that treatment, ” such that nurses are generally “broadly shielded from liability for deliberate indifference where the nurse deferred to a doctor's course of treatment.” Id.

         Plaintiff responds that he is an epileptic under a physician's care. Docket No. 66. He contends that the Deck Defendants knew that he had this serious medical condition and were under an obligation to offer him medical care. Id. Plaintiff argues that, although the Deck Defendants cite to the parts of the record where they responded to one of Plaintiff's seizures, three of Plaintiff's former cellmates testified that the Deck Defendants either did not come to the aid of Plaintiff during many of his seizure episodes or did not treat Plaintiff for many of his seizure episodes. Id., citing Franklin Dep., p. 8; Melton Dep., p. 9; Bollinger Dep., p. 8. Plaintiff argues that the Deck Defendants cannot rely upon the fact that they were acting under the direction of a medical doctor or relying on that doctor's orders, because several witnesses testified that the Deck Defendants failed to respond when called. Id. Plaintiff maintains that nurses cannot be said to reasonably rely on a doctor's orders where they fail to attend to an inmate experiencing a medical emergency such as a seizure. Id. Plaintiff clarifies that his “contention is not that he should have received better care or different care, only that he should have received some care during the times he experienced seizures and the nurses failed to do anything in response to the seizures.” Id. (emphasis original).

         The Deck Defendants, in their Reply, argue that the cellmates' testimony “does nothing” to satisfy Plaintiff's burden of proof. Docket No. 76. They contend:

[E]ven evidence indicating gross medical negligence cannot satisfy the subjective component of a deliberate indifference claim. In this case, the undisputed evidence shows that the plaintiff had the ability to see a doctor upon request, that he visited with a doctor several times during his incarceration, and that the doctor prescribed him medications, including anti-seizure medication. The undisputed evidence shows that Debbie Deck and Ashley Deck, as licensed practical nurses, followed the doctor's orders. They administered anti-seizure medications as ordered by the doctor, monitored [Plaintiff's] condition, and provided basic nursing care. As a matter of law, [Plaintiff's] disagreement with the quality of care they provided is not a valid basis for a deliberate indifference claim.

Id.

         For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned finds that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether Plaintiff received any medical treatment during or for some of his seizures and/or resulting injuries. The undersigned therefore recommends that the Deck Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 44) be DENIED.

         II. ...


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