United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
JOYCE SUE BAKER, as next of friend to R. Staley and B. Staley, minors, b Plaintiff,
BECKY MORGAN, et al., Defendants.
A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
civil action is before the Court on the Motion for Summary
Judgment on Behalf of Donald Van Buren and Becky Morgan, in
Their Individual Capacities [Doc. 18], defendant Morgan's
Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Sur-Reply or Response to
Sur-Reply [Doc. 33], the Motion for Summary Judgment on
Behalf of Grainger County, Tennessee [Doc. 35], and
plaintiff's Motion to Strike [Doc. 43].
Van Buren, Morgan, and Grainger County move the Court to
dismiss the claims against them because there are no genuine
issues of material fact in dispute and, as a matter of law,
defendants are entitled to summary judgment [Docs. 18, 35].
Plaintiff filed responses in opposition [Docs. 27, 39], and
defendants replied [Docs. 30, 42]. Plaintiff also filed a
Supplemental Reply Brief with regard to defendants Morgan and
Van Buren's motion [Doc. 32], and defendant Morgan filed
a motion to strike the supplemental sur-reply [Doc. 33].
Plaintiff also filed a motion to strike [Doc. 43] the
affidavit of Kenneth Matthews, Jr., M.D. (“Doctor
Matthews”) [Doc. 42-1], which was filed by Grainger
County in support of its reply [Doc. 42].
careful examination of the record and relevant law, the Court
finds summary judgment appropriate on plaintiff's claims
made pursuant to § 1983, and it will decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law
claims. The court will, therefore, dismiss this case in its
entirety. Additionally, the Court will deny defendant Morgan
and plaintiff's motions to strike as moot.
Keith Staley (“the decedent”) was arrested for
violation of probation and sent to the Grainger County
Detention Center on March 25, 2014 [Doc. 1 ¶ 9; Doc. 12
¶ 1]. The following day, on March 28, 2014, the decedent
met with defendant Becky Morgan (“Nurse Morgan”),
based on his representation to her that he was
“detoxing off of morphine” [Doc. 18-2 ¶
Nurse Morgan knew that the decedent was a drug addict because
he had been imprisoned at the Grainger County jail before,
and she had previously treated him for detox symptoms
[Id. ¶ 4]. On this occasion, Nurse Morgan
provided the decedent with Librium and Phenergan, for his
anxiety and nausea, respectively [Id. ¶ 3].
March 29, 2014, at 1:15 p.m., inmates in the decedent's
cell reported that he “wasn't doing so good”
[Doc. 18-1 ¶ 5]. Defendant Van Buren, as the on-duty
supervising correctional officer, immediately responded
[Id. ¶¶ 3, 5]. He found the decedent lying
on his bunk, pale, breathing heavily, and in a dizzy and
confused state [Id. ¶ 5]. Van Buren took the
decedent's vital signs [Id.], and he contacted
Nurse Morgan at around 1:18 p.m. to obtain her advice and
instruction [Id. ¶ 6; Doc. 18-4 ¶ 6]. Van
Buren relayed to Nurse Morgan that the decedent was
“about to pass out” and reported his vital signs
[Doc. 18-2 ¶ 5]. Nurse Morgan deduced that the decedent
was experiencing morphine withdrawals, due to her knowledge
of the decedent's substance abuse issues, her previous
conversations with the decedent with regard to his addiction
and withdrawals, and the decedent's current symptoms
[Id.]. Consequently, consistent with protocols
established by the jail physician, Nurse Morgan instructed
Van Buren to administer the decedent a detox pack, consisting
of three Dilantin-to prevent seizures- and one Librium
[Id.; Doc. 18-1 ¶ 6]. Van Buren immediately
gave the decedent a detox pack, according to Nurse
Morgan's instructions, and suggested that the decedent
lie down on his bunk [Id. ¶ 7; Doc. 18-2 ¶
p.m., the decedent could not walk to the restroom without
assistance, and he had trouble answering Van Buren's
questions [Doc. 18-1 ¶ 8]. Van Buren believed that the
decedent was under the influence of drugs, and at no time did
Van Buren believe that the decedent was experiencing a
medical emergency [Id. ¶¶ 8, 14]. He
thereafter called his supervisor at 5:48 p.m., who told Van
Buren to place the decedent on medical watch [Id.
¶ 9; Doc. 18-4 ¶ 7]. Van Buren called Nurse Morgan a
few minutes later to update her on the decedent's
condition [Doc. 18-4 ¶ 8]. He advised Nurse Morgan that
the decedent had been placed on medical watch and
“appeared to be stoned and not detoxing” [Doc.
18-1 ¶ 10; Doc. 18-2 ¶ 6]. Van Buren told Nurse
Morgan that the decedent had denied having taken drugs since
arriving at the jail [Doc. 18-2 ¶ 6]. At approximately
6:00 p.m., Van Buren took the decedent to the intake area so
that he could be more closely monitored [Doc. 18-1 ¶
11]. Van Buren's shift ended at 7:00 p.m., and he updated
the incoming officer, Sergeant Nichols, on the decedent's
condition [Id. ¶¶ 12-13].
p.m., Sergeant Nichols called Nurse Morgan and requested that
she come to the jail [Doc. 18-2 ¶ 7; Doc. 18-4 ¶
10]. He told Nurse Morgan that the decedent had admitted to
taking some drugs earlier that day [Doc. 18-2 ¶ 7].
Sergeant Nichols told Nurse Morgan that the decedent was now
in “rough shape” and that he believed the
decedent would aspirate if given more liquids in an attempt
to obtain a urine sample [Id.]. Nurse Morgan
responded that the decedent needed to go to the hospital, and
the officer expressed his desire for Nurse Morgan to evaluate
the decedent first, “to see if he was putting on or if
he really had a problem that needed to be addressed”
[Id.]. Nurse Morgan told Sergeant Nichols that she
would be at the jail in twenty minutes [Id.].
minutes later, at approximately 7:55 p.m., Nurse Morgan
arrived at the jail and immediately went to check on the
decedent [Id. ¶ 8]. She took his vital signs
and observed that the decedent was confused but oriented to
location and staff members' names [Id. ¶
9]. Based upon her assessment, Nurse Morgan believed that the
decedent was intoxicated [Id.]. He admitted to
having taken Opana and two other pain pills [Id.].
Nurse Morgan determined that the decedent should be
transported to the hospital but that emergency transportation
would not be necessary [Id.]. Around this time, the
decedent voided six times [Id.]. Arrangements were
made to transport the decedent by county vehicle
[Id. ¶ 9]. Nurse Morgan took his vital signs
repeatedly while waiting for transportation [Id.
¶ 10]. The decedent was taken to the Jefferson Memorial
Hospital (“Jefferson”) at approximately 9:13
p.m., at which time he was stable and was able to walk to the
cruiser [Id. ¶ 11].
decedent arrived at Jefferson around 9:50 p.m. [Doc. 18-3 p.
4]. A computed tomography (“CT”) scan was
performed, and it showed no evidence of acute intracranial
hemorrhage [Id. at 12]. The decedent was declared
“clinically intoxicated” by medical
professionals, and records indicate that the decedent
admitted to taking Suboxone [Id. at
3-5]. A “stash” of drugs was found
in his underwear [Id. at 3]. A neurological
evaluation noted that the decedent was oriented as to person,
place, and situation, but not to time [Id.]. His
memory and cranial nerves were normal [Id.].
Physicians at Jefferson diagnosed the decedent in the
following manner: “Encephalopathy, Cerebrovascular
Accident (CVA)-possible, Drug Overdose-Substance Abuse,
Endocarditis-possible, Fever, positive troponin”
[Id. at 4]. Medical professionals ordered a transfer
of the decedent to Physician Regional Medical Center in
Knoxville on March 30, 2014 [Id.]. He died one month
later, on April 30, 2014 [Doc. 1 p. 1; Doc. 19 ¶ 26].
certified physician assistant commissioned by plaintiff,
Logan Hyatt, states that “[a] number of clinical
entities may bring about a change in mental status, therefore
these patients should be evaluated as soon as possible”
[Doc. 29-4 p. 1]. Mr. Hyatt goes on to assert that
“[a] past history of substance abuse although
considered in one's initial assessment should not become
an assumption that leads to the excusion [sic] of a more
thorough differential diagnosis” [Id.].
According to Mr. Hyatt, “[t]he standard practice/goal
of present day stroke treatment is that they receive
evaluation and initiation of antithrombotic therapy within 3
hours of a change in mental status” [Id.]. He
admits, however, that the decedent “would go on to
receive reasonable and appropriate care” prior to his
death on April 30, 2014 [Id. at 1-2]. Importantly,
Mr. Hyatt notes that the decedent's death resulted from
an “ongoing process that occurred over time despite
appropriate and aggressive treatment” [Id. at
2]. Thus, “the although seemingly unreasonable delay
(of about 10 hours) in [the decedent's] professional
evaluation at a hospital facility . . . cannot objectively in
[Mr. Hyatt's] opinion be linked ultimately to his
current suit was filed by the decedent's mother, Joyce
Sue Baker, on March 29, 2015, as next friend of the
decedent's two minor children [Doc. 1]. Plaintiff asserts
that the decedent “suffered a stroke or aneurysm which
went undiagnosed and untreated” [Id.]. She
consequently brings the following claims against Grainger
County, Nurse Morgan, Van Buren, and other unidentified
individuals: (1) deliberate indifference under the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2)
failure to provide adequate medical care, under the Eighth
and Fourteenth Amendments, pursuant to § 1983; (3)
negligence under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability
Act (“TGTLA”); and (4) wrongful death under
Tennessee state law [Id. at 4-12].
Motions for Summary Judgment
named defendants now move the Court for summary judgment on
plaintiff's claims. Defendants Morgan and Van Buren argue
that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to
plaintiff's § 1983 claims because they were not
deliberately indifferent to any serious medical need of the
decedent [Doc. 18 p. 1]. Plaintiff responded in opposition to
defendants Morgan and Van Buren's motion for summary
judgment [Doc. 27], in which she asserts that defendant
Morgan is not entitled to qualified immunity because she
“arguably was deliberately indifferent to a serious
medical need of the decedent” [Id. ¶ 1].
Plaintiff concedes, however, that her claims against
defendant Van Buren should be dismissed because plaintiff
“is without sufficient information to deny that Mr. Van
Buren is entitled to qualified immunity” [Id.
¶ 3]. In its later-filed motion for summary judgment
[Doc. 35], Grainger County argues that it is also entitled to
summary dismissal, primarily because there was no underlying
constitutional violation by Nurse Morgan [Id. at
Court, after setting forth the relevant standard of review,
will proceed by evaluating plaintiff's § 1983 claims
against Nurse Morgan and Grainger County, and it will then
address plaintiff's state law claims.
Standard of Review
judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure is proper “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 moving party bears the burden of establishing that
no genuine issues of material fact exist. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986); Moore v.
Philip Morris Cos., 8 F.3d 335, 339 (6th Cir. 1993). All
facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed
in the light most favorable to the ...