United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
WENDY SNEAD and EDWARD MOREDOCK, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CORECIVIC OF TENNESSEE, LLC f/k/a CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Defendant.
A. TRAUGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is the plaintiffs' Motion for Class
Certification. (Doc. No. 19.) The motion has been fully
briefed and is ripe for review. For the reasons set forth
herein, the motion will be granted in part and denied in
Factual and Procedural Background
original Class Action Complaint (Doc. No. 1) initiating this
lawsuit was filed by plaintiff Wendy Snead on June 16, 2017.
Named plaintiffs Wendy Snead and Edward Moredock filed the
First Amended Class Action Complaint (“Amended
Complaint”) (Doc. No. 15) on October 27, 2017. The
Amended Complaint asserts claims against defendant CoreCivic
of Tennessee, LLC, formerly known as Corrections Corporation
of America (“CoreCivic”), under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, based on the defendant's alleged deliberate
indifference to the serious medical needs of current and
former inmates while they were incarcerated at the
Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility
(“MDCDF”) in Davidson County, Tennessee, a
facility operated by CoreCivic, in violation of the
inmates' rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution.
plaintiffs seek to certify three subclasses, defined in their
Motion for Class Certification as follows:
The Scabies Class: All current and
former inmates who had a skin rash consistent with a scabies
infestation who were denied treatment, or whose delayed
treatment by the Defendant caused the inmate's condition
to worsen, since October 1, 2016.
The Denied Prescriptions Class: All
current and former inmates who were prescribed medication
that was not administered as prescribed, or whose prescribed
plan of treatment was interrupted or delayed by the
Defendant, since October 1, 2016.
The Denied Medical Attention Class:
All current and former inmates who requested, but were denied
medical attention or treatment since October 1, 2016.
(Doc. No. 19, at 1.)
to the allegations in the Amended Complaint, CoreCivic is a
for-profit prison company that operates MDCDF, a 1, 300-bed
facility that houses male and female pretrial detainees and
convicted prisoners serving sentences. There is no
distinction between the detainees' and prisoners'
conditions of confinement. Both Snead and Moredock are former
prisoners of MDCDF, having already served their sentences
prior to filing this lawsuit.
Amended Complaint asserts that CoreCivic has repeatedly and
intentionally failed and refused to provide healthcare to
inmates, including by denying them access to doctors and
necessary medication. The pleading contains numerous
allegations regarding CoreCivic's specific failures,
including that, despite a contractual obligation to respond
to sick call requests within twenty-four hours,
CoreCivic's medical staff typically takes two to four
weeks to respond to a sick-call request by allowing an inmate
to see a nurse. “Referrals to doctors take
months.” (Doc. No. 15 ¶ 13(a).) Despite a
contractual obligation to employ staff to oversee infection
control, CoreCivic has not employed anyone in those positions
for at least one and possibly four years, and it does not use
any procedure for screening inmates for scabies or other
parasitic infections during intake. And, despite a
contractual obligation to do so, it does not procure or
review the medical records of inmates transferred to the
facility who have special health care needs. It routinely
runs out of mental health medications and fails to refill
prescriptions for weeks, which poses a serious risk to
inmates due to the abrupt cessation of necessary medication.
It falsifies medical charts to cover the failure to provide
prescribed medication to inmates as prescribed and
systemically and intentionally fails to provide necessary
medical treatment and medication to inmates. It is
chronically understaffed and retaliates against inmates for
complaining about their lack of access to adequate care.
condition called scabies is caused by an infestation by a
parasitic mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites easily hop from
one person to another by skin-to-skin contact but can also
live from two to five days away from a host on clothing,
bedding, carpets, and furniture. The mites burrow under the
outer layer of a person's skin, ingesting tissue as they
burrow. (Am. Compl. ¶ 19.) Female mites lay eggs at the
end of the burrowed tunnels, and the larvae hatch in two to
three days. The newly hatched larvae soon crawl away to
excavate their own tunnels, crawling at a rate of up to an
inch per minute. Any person who has direct skin contact with
someone who has scabies, however brief, is at risk of an
scabies mites cause a skin rash that is readily identifiable
as a result of the “track-like burrows in the
skin” (id. ¶ 21) and is accompanied by
intense, nearly unbearable itching, especially at night. The
itching may make sleep impossible, giving rise to a whole
host of other problems, particularly for persons with
preexisting mental health conditions. The associated
scratching facilitates re-infestation and skin eruptions that
then make it easier for the mites to transfer to a new host.
It also typically results in scales, blisters, bleeding, open
sores, and a resulting risk of secondary infections, such as
life-threatening Staph infections. A scabies infestation can
only effectively be treated with prescription medications,
including often multiple rounds of ivermectin pills and
permethrin cream applied to the entire body. (Id.
plaintiffs allege that CoreCivic knew that scabies outbreaks
are common in crowded jail facilities and that implementation
of an infection-control policy was necessary in such a
setting, but it failed and refused to implement and follow an
effective infection-control policy prior to, during, or after
the scabies outbreak at the facility.
scabies infestation began spreading among the male inmate
population of MDCDF in July 2016. Moredock was sent to MDCDF
beginning in August 2016 to serve a sentence for a DUI
conviction. He was placed in a living area for older inmates
and those with physical and mental disabilities. His pod
housed approximately 140 inmates in cramped quarters. Despite
attempts to avoid contact with other inmates with an obvious
rash, Moredock contracted scabies in October 2016,
accompanied by intense and painful itching.
Moredock did not receive a health screening or tuberculosis
test upon entry, when he was appointed to a prison job as a
“trustee” a few months after his arrival, he was
required to have a health screening. He was screened for the
first time ninety days after his arrival, at which time he
complained about the rash that had spread over his body. He
was falsely informed that he had “contact
dermatitis” or a reaction to “something in the
laundry.” (Doc. No. 15, ¶ 29.)
infestation spread to the female inmate population by October
2016. Meanwhile, male inmates continued to submit sick call
requests for treatment, which were ignored. Some inmates were
placed in solitary confinement solely in retaliation for
filing grievances related to the lack of medical treatment
for the condition.
November 2016, the scabies infestation at MDCDF was
widespread. The defendant was allegedly aware that the rash
symptoms exhibited by a large number of inmates were
consistent with scabies but continued to falsely inform the
inmates that they did not have scabies.
initial request for treatment was ignored, so he submitted a
second sick-call request in November 2016, describing
symptoms that were obviously consistent with scabies. Because
the defendant refused to adequately address his medical
needs, Moredock submitted a printed copy of the
“WebMD” internet page discussing scabies to the
defendant, which continued to ignore his complaints.
began working as a trustee in December 2016, which meant that
he was responsible for assisting with the maintenance and
repairs at MDCDF. In the course of his work, he traveled
among housing units (“pods”) for both male and
female inmates and personally saw that inmates in every pod
were suffering with a rash consistent with scabies and were
openly complaining about it.
filed another sick-call request on December 4, 2016, stating
affirmatively that he had scabies. At that point, at least
forty other inmates in his pod also had scabies. Many of
these were disabled inmates who were particularly vulnerable
to infestation and also not capable of voicing their own
needs or seeking medical attention. CoreCivic refused to
provide treatment for these inmates' scabies
numerous complaints, the assistant warden came and spoke with
the inmates, affirming that he would “get with
medical” to address the situation, but he never did.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 35.) Moredock and other inmates feared
retaliation for requesting medical assistance related to
end of December 2016, Moredock had been suffering from
scabies for over three months and had not received treatment.
Finally, he pointed out that he was doing maintenance work in
the warden's office and risked spreading scabies to the
warden. At that point, in January 2017, Moredock received
January 2017, an employee of the state of Tennessee tested
the water at the facility. Despite no finding of
contamination, the defendant continued to falsely claim that
the inmates' rashes were caused by the water rather than
by scabies. However, around the same time, the defendant
finally admitted that some of the male prisoners had scabies.
Some were provided oral medication but none were quarantined.
The defendant refused to acknowledge obvious scabies symptoms
in other inmates and retaliated against some for requesting
treatment for scabies by placing them in solitary
confinement. Inmates who spoke on the phone to outsiders
complaining about scabies lost their phone privileges.
Amended Complaint mentions several specific inmates, by their
initials, who suffered scabies and did not receive proper
treatment. Even those inmates who did receive treatment were
subject to re-infestation, because the defendant made no
effort to quarantine affected inmates or to properly treat
their clothing and bedding to insure that the mites were not
spread to others.
class member Jennifer King was sent to MDCDF as a pretrial
detainee in December 2016. After one month in “D Pod,
” she began exhibiting symptoms of scabies and was
transferred to E Pod. By the end of March 2017, the majority
of inmates housed in E Pod had developed a rash consistent
with a scabies infestation.
February 2017, a pregnant female inmate was transferred to
MDCDF. She specifically informed the staff that she had been
diagnosed with scabies, but the defendant made no effort to
obtain her medical records, follow up with her treatment, or
quarantine her from the general population to insure that her
scabies had cleared up prior to her transfer.
March 10, 2017, Moredock submitted another sick-call request,
inquiring why he had not received the treatment prescribed
for his scabies re-infestation, which had been ordered
several days previously. A member of the medical staff wrote
on his chart, “Ivermectin reordered. Had more but given
last dose.” (Doc. No. 15 ¶ 52.) A few days later,
someone crossed out that notation and wrote in,
“Benadryl & refer to MD.” (Id.)
2017, Moredock was released from incarceration still
suffering from scabies. He was required to seek treatment
outside at his own expense. He was unable to return to work
until it cleared up, in order to avoid infecting others, thus
suffering lost wages.
April 2017, the defendant provided a few inmates with
medication to treat scabies but denied medication to others.
The selective treatment, lack of quarantine, and other
ineffective measures facilitated the continued spread of
scabies throughout the facility.
1, 2017, after the defendant's repeated failure to treat
or quarantine those affected by the scabies infestation,
approximately fifty female members of E Pod drafted a letter
to the Metro Health Department, describing the spread of the
rash and the defendant's failure to treat inmates
suffering from it. The letter was confiscated by facility
officials and the inmates were not allowed to send it.
8, 2017, forty-nine female inmates housed in “Echo
Pod” drafted another letter to the Metro Health
Department, requesting assistance with the infestation from
which they were suffering and detailing the history of the
problem and their unsuccessful attempts to have it addressed.
Other inmates sent letters on their own, specifically
referencing two pregnant inmates who were taken to Meharry
Hospital for checkups, where they were diagnosed with
scabies. The Amended Complaint does not specify whether this
letter was confiscated, but a declaration attached to the
pleading indicates that it was transmitted to the friend of
an inmate, who then mailed it to the Health Department. (B.
Blanchard Decl., Doc. No. 28-4 ¶ 19.)
2017, King was transferred from E Pod to A Pod, where
plaintiff Snead was housed. When she was transferred, King
was covered with a visible rash but had been falsely told by
the defendant that her condition was not contagious. Up until
that time, no one in A Pod had contracted symptoms of
scabies. King had repeatedly requested medical services and
filed numerous grievances related to the lack of medical
care, all of which were ignored.
King arrived in A Pod, one of the inmates there who had
received some medical training recognized that King had
scabies. She informed the defendant of the problem but was
ignored. King was placed in an eight-person cell, in close
proximity with Snead and other inmates. The other inmates
soon began developing their own rashes, and the defendant
continued to take no action in the face of the inmates'
mounting complaints. The inmates were threatened with
disciplinary action and solitary confinement if they
complained about their condition or mentioned the word
“scabies.” If they complained to their families
and others outside the prison, their phone privileges were
revoked in retaliation.
developed a rash beginning just days after King's
transfer. She requested sick call and was seen by a nurse,
who told her to change the type of soap she was using. Snead
requested sick call a second time but was ignored.
Thereafter, she began filing grievances due to the
defendant's refusal to provide her access to medical
treatment. Being unable to sleep, she became physically ill,
developing fever and chills, but was still refused medical
treatment. From May 9, 2017 until her departure in June,
Snead filed seven grievances, none of which was ever
addressed by the defendant. Other inmates began filing daily
grievances, all of which the defendant ignored.
Warden Hayes visited E Pod on May 15, 2017. She indicated she
had heard that the inmates were complaining about a rash and
asked how many were having problems. Approximately 100 women
raised their hands. The plaintiffs allege that Assistant
Warden Hayes scoffed. One inmate protested loudly that the
inmates were being “eaten alive” and that
something needed to be done. That inmate was handcuffed on
the spot and placed in solitary for two weeks. On the same
day, the facility was placed on lockdown for forty-eight
hours. On May 17, 2017, Snead was able to communicate with
her family, and her family reported the situation to the
Metro Health Department and requested that it intervene.
was transported to a dermatology clinic on May 19 after her
family had made numerous complaints to the Health Department.
She was diagnosed with scabies and prescribed a treatment
regimen that included ivermectin tablets and two topical
creams. In addition, the defendant was specifically informed
that every inmate in Snead's pod required treatment. Upon
her return to MDCDF, the defendant told her that her
prescriptions would not be filled. She was sent to solitary
confinement, where she was deprived of a shower for five
days, denied clean bedding and clothes, and was not allowed
to contact her family.
was released from custody a few weeks later. She immediately
went to the ER to obtain medical treatment. She incurred
hundreds of dollars in medical and other expenses in dealing
with the scabies infestation upon her release.
plaintiffs allege that, in May and June 2017, the defendant
falsified, or had inmates falsify, sick-call requests and
grievance forms to remove reference to the term
“scabies” or to indicate that the inmates had
received treatment when they had not. The defendant's
pharmacy nurse was absent for two weeks at the end of May and
beginning of June 2017, during which time medications were
not ordered or re-ordered. Throughout June 2017, the
defendant continued to ignore sick-call requests from inmates
requesting treatment for the rash caused by scabies and
continued to threaten them if they mentioned
“scabies.” In early July 2017, the
defendant's Health Administrator falsely informed the
inmates that no one at MDCDF had been diagnosed with scabies.
on or around July 17, 2017, the Health Department visited the
facility. Twelve inmates who had filed grievances about lack
of medical treatment were placed in solitary before the
Health Department's arrival and were unable to speak with
Health Department representatives while they were there.
plaintiffs allege permanent scarring from their scabies
infestation and that they are still recovering. Some putative
class members have been unable to return to work after
release due to the risk of spreading infection to others and
have lost wages as a result.
plaintiffs allege that the defendant, despite actual
knowledge of the infestation among the prison population and
of the extremely contagious nature of the infestation, failed
to take reasonable steps to mitigate the problem, to
quarantine those affected to prevent the spread to others, or
to effectively treat those affected. The spread of the
contagion was reasonably foreseeable, and the defendant
failed to take reasonable steps to prevent or mitigate it.
They allege that, as a direct and proximate result of the
defendant's actions and inactions, the plaintiffs and
putative class members became infested and suffered the
consequences of terrible itching, pain, sleeplessness, and,
after their release, quarantine, loss of wages, the costs of
medical treatment, and the costs of remediating scabies
infestations within their own homes and among family members.
on the factual allegations set forth in the Amended
Complaint, the plaintiffs assert three causes of action under
42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) a claim based on the
defendant's deliberate indifference to the
plaintiffs' and putative class members' serious
medical needs, in violation of the Eighth and/or Fourteenth
Amendment (depending upon the inmates' status as pretrial
detainees or prisoners); (2) a claim based on the
inmates' exposure to, and the defendant's failure to
protect them from, a state-created danger, in violation of
their rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment; (3) a deliberate indifference claim under the
Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendment, based on the
defendant's failure to train medical staff to address
inmates' obvious need to access adequate medical care and
medication or to recognize outbreaks of contagious conditions
including scabies, among other matters.
support of their bid to bring a class action, the plaintiffs
assert that the defendant has acted or refused to act in a
manner that applies generally to the class, such that the
claims for damages and injunctive relief on behalf of a class
as a whole are appropriate; that questions of law and fact
are common to all class members; that the number of persons
whose rights have been violated is too numerous to join in
the action; that the putative class members are readily
identifiable using records maintained by the defendant during
its regular course of business; that the plaintiffs have been
injured by the defendant's actions in the same way as the
other members of the proposed class; and that the plaintiffs
will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class
as a whole.
relief, the plaintiffs seek monetary, compensatory, and
punitive damages, as well as equitable relief in the form of
“a permanent injunction enjoining the Defendant, its
agents, [and] employees . . . from continuing to violate the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and
to immediately cease intimidating, threatening, and
retaliating against inmates for demanding medical care for
their serious medical needs and to immediately provide
adequate oral and topical medication sufficient to fully
treat all those diagnosed with scabies” and that the
defendant be required to “provide a full medical staff
adequate to meet the needs of those infested with scabies and
capable of dispensing medication and monitoring their
treatment until completion.” (Doc. No. 15 ¶¶
September 25, 2017, this case was consolidated for all
purposes with John Doe v. CoreCivic of Tennessee,
LLC, No. 3:17-cv-00958, also pending in this court, in
which the plaintiff purported to bring suit asserting claims
on behalf of a putative class defined as inmates and former
inmates at MDCDF who contracted scabies and were denied
adequate medical attention by the defendant. John Doe, like
Snead and Moredock, had already been released from
incarceration by the time he filed his class action. A ...