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Wilson v. Carroll County

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

March 6, 2014

JACK A. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CARROLL COUNTY, CARROLL COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, MICHAEL HUMPHREY, Individually, and in his Official Capacity as Carroll County Jailer, JENNIFER JOHNSON, Individually, and UNNAMED CARROLL COUNTY DETENTION CENTER MEDICAL DIRECTOR, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Carroll County, Carroll County Detention Center, and Carroll County Jailer Michael Humphrey. Because these defendants filed this motion for summary judgment separately from Defendant Johnson, the Court has chosen to address it separately. For the reasons explained below, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED as to these defendants.

I

A

This litigation is the result of an arrest and detention that occurred in Trimble County, Kentucky on October 7, 2011.[1] Plaintiff Jack Wilson apparently suffered a stroke at some point on October 7, 2011. [R. 29; R. 37-5.] According to Wilson, he remembers picking up fallen tree limbs that morning in Campbellsburg, Kentucky, and loading them into his pickup truck. [R. 37-8 (Wilson Depo. I, at 95-96.] At about 4:00 p.m. that same day, Trooper Jennifer Johnson responded to a call that came into the Trimble County Sheriff's Office, reporting that a driver who was possibly intoxicated had gone off the road, crashed into a ditch, and hit a fence. [R. 29-1 (October 7, 2011 Uniform Citation).] According to Johnson, when she encountered this driver, who turned out to be Jack Wilson, he was driving erratically on the wrong side of the road with a "dry blank stare" and "never looked up or moved, " which caused Johnson to drive off the road into the grass to avoid a head-on collision. [ Id. ]

When Johnson stopped Wilson, she noted that he was "dazed, " confused as to what day and time it was, "could not focus or complete thoughts or actions, " was having "facial tremors" and appeared drowsy, had constricted pupils and droopy eyelids, and stated that he was hot and had a dry mouth. [ Id. ] Johnson administered the field sobriety tests, and noted that Wilson failed all of them. [ Id. ] Johnson also noted that Wilson admitted he was taking about ten medications but did not know what they were, and that he exhibited a "lack of cooperation." [ Id. ] Wilson claims that he told Johnson that he was experiencing loss of the use of the left side of his body, but Johnson's report contains no record of that communication. [R. 37-8 at 102, 111.] Johnson arrested Wilson on charges of reckless driving, driving on a license that had been suspended for a previous DUI violation, failure to maintain insurance, speeding, failure to register transfer of a motor vehicle, failure to wear a seat belt, license to be in possession, leaving the scene of an accident, and failure to give an oncoming vehicle the right of way.[2] [R. 29-1 (Uniform Citation).]

Johnson then took Wilson to the Carroll County Memorial Hospital to obtain blood and urine samples, both of which eventually came back negative for illegal drugs or alcohol. [R. 29-1 (Uniform Citation) at 1; R. 37-2 (Rep. of Laboratory Exam).] Consequently, Wilson was not charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Wilson states that his whole left side felt "dead, " but he did not mention this problem to hospital personnel, nor did he ask for any medical attention because he said it "didn't concern me at the time, " and because he "didn't really feel like [he] needed medical attention." [R. 37-8 at 121-22, 130.]

After the tests were completed, Johnson took Wilson to the Carroll County Detention Center where he was held until his release on October 13, 2011. Upon arriving at the Center, Johnson filled out the arresting officer questionnaire, in which she advised the booking officer that Wilson took heart medications that made him lethargic, that he could stand on his own, and that she was not aware of any acute medical condition or recently sustained injury that required immediate medical attention. [R. 29-3.] A jail employee then took Wilson's fingerprints, and, according to Wilson, had some trouble doing so because Wilson could not use his left arm or hold it on the table. [R. 37-8 at 128.] Wilson claims that when the employee noticed his inability to lift his arm, he asked Wilson what happened, saying "did you have a stroke or something?" [ Id. at 127.] Wilson, however, still did not ask for medical attention at that point, nor does he claim that he told the officer taking his fingerprints about his inability to use or feel his left side because he "was not concerned" or alarmed about it. [ See id. at 128-30.]

After being fingerprinted, Wilson met with the Detention Center's nurse, Tanya Abney. [R. 37-8 at 130.] Abney completed the Inmate Medical Questions Form for Wilson, which contained a series of questions about Wilson's health. [R. 29-4.] The form indicates that Wilson told Abney he had heart problems and high blood pressure, and that he was taking prescription medication on a daily basis. [ Id. ] In answer to the question of whether he had a serious medical condition that might require attention while he was detained, Wilson answered "yes" and indicated that condition involved "heart meds" but nothing else. [ Id. ] The form also included questions about whether the inmate needed "immediate medical attention, " to which Wilson answered "NO, " and whether he had provided the Center with all the information he wanted them to be aware of while he was there, to which Wilson answered "Yes." [ Id. ] Nurse Abney attempted to contact the Veterans Administration Hospital to try to find out what medications Wilson needed because he could not remember what they were, but because it was Columbus Day she could not reach anyone. [R. 29-5; R. 37-9 at 136.] The next day Abney was able to find out what Wilson's medications were and immediately began to administer them. [R. 29-5; R. 29-6; R. 37-9 at 150.] Wilson apparently[3] told Abney about the deadness in his left side, left arm, and left leg, and that his "arm had quit working, " but she was more concerned about finding out what medications he was taking. [R. 37-9 at 137-38.] Wilson contends that after he met with Abney, he was given a uniform, but could not dress himself because of his inability to use his left side. According to Wilson, Abney was aware that he could not dress himself, and that a staff member had to assist him. [R. 37 at 3; R. 37-9 at 142-44.]

During the remainder of Wilson's detention, deputy jailers conducted regular cell checks, but the records do not indicate that any employees at the Center observed anything that would have suggested to them that Wilson required medical attention. [R. 29-7.] The cell check records also do not indicate that Wilson asked for medical attention. [ Id. ] Wilson, however, testified in his deposition that on several occasions he told various staff members that his left arm and leg were not working properly. [R. 37-9 at 154-55.] A deputy apparently escorted Wilson to Nurse Abney's office on a regular basis to receive his medications, and on at least one such occasion, the deputy observed that Wilson could not put his shoe on his left foot, and that his left shoe frequently fell off while he was walking down the hall because his foot was numb. [R. 37-9 at 147-48, 154-56.] Wilson claims that he told the deputy that his left arm and leg were not working, and that the deputy made fun of him instead of recognizing his stroke symptoms and obtaining medical assistance. [ Id. ] Wilson admits that he did not tell anyone else, including Nurse Abney, about the numbness in his left side, and that he never asked to go to a hospital or to receive medical attention for the problems he was experiencing with the left side of his body. [ Id. at 152-58.] Wilson was released on October 13, 2011, and did not receive any treatment for his stroke while at the Center. Three days after his release, Wilson was admitted to the VA hospital for treatment of the weakness in his left side, and the doctors there informed him that he had recently had a stroke. [R. 37-5.]

B

Wilson filed suit in this Court on October 9, 2012. [R. 1.] The defendants initially named in the Complaint were Carroll County, Carroll County Detention Center, Carroll County Jailer Michael Humphrey in his individual and official capacity, Tanya Abney, an unnamed Carroll County Detention Center Medical Director, the Kentucky State Police, and Trooper Johnson. The Complaint contained five counts. Count One alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 in general, and references the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution in particular. Count Two is a state law claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). Count Three alleges a failure to train on the part of the Carroll County Defendants, which is connected to the alleged constitutional violations. Counts Four and Five allege state law claims for gross negligence and negligence respectively, alleging that the Defendants violated their duties to keep Wilson safe while in their custody, to provide him with basic medical care, and to properly supervise, monitor and evaluate him. Wilson alleges that these violations constitute a reckless disregard for his rights and are worthy of punitive damages. Except for Count Three, the Complaint refers generally to "the Defendants" and does not specify which defendants were implicated in each count. Defendants Carroll County, Carroll County Detention Center, and Carroll County Jailer Michael Humphrey (collectively "Carroll County Defendants") have filed the instant motion, requesting summary judgment on all counts against them.[4]

II

A

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). "A genuine dispute exists on a material fact, and thus summary judgment is improper, if the evidence shows that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Olinger v. Corporation of the President of the Church, 521 F.Supp.2d 577, 582 (E.D. Ky. 2007) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Stated otherwise, "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Chao v. Hall Holding Co., Inc., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). The movant may satisfy its burden by showing "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. Once the movant has satisfied this burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with specific facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Moreover, "the nonmoving party must do more than show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact. It must present significant probative evidence in support of its opposition to the motion for summary judgment." Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (internal citations omitted).

In applying the summary judgment standard, the Court must review the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255). However, the trial court is under no duty to "search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact." In re Morris, 260 F.3d 654, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, "the nonmoving party has an affirmative duty to direct the court's attention to those specific portions of the record upon which it seeks to rely to create a genuine issue of material fact." Id.

B

We must begin with the question of immunity, which the Carroll County Defendants pled as an affirmative defense, because the issue of whether qualified immunity applies is one that should be settled at "the earliest possible stage in litigation." Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991). Federal qualified immunity "protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a ...


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