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Hughes v. Campbell County

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

June 11, 2015

JOHN HUGHES, Plaintiff,
CAMPBELL COUNTY, KENTUCKY, et al., Defendants.


DAVID L. BUNNING, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff John Hughes brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Heather Vasser, Aimee Paire and Southern Health Partners, Inc. ("SHP"), alleging that he was denied adequate medical care while imprisoned at the Campbell County Detention Center ("CCDC") in January 2013. Hughes also brings state law claims for negligence and failure to comply with 501 KAR 3:090, which governs the provision of medical services to inmates in Kentucky jails.

Discovery is complete and Defendants now move for summary judgment on all claims against them. Defendants contend that the § 1983 claims fail because Hughes is unable to show that Nurse Vasser or Nurse Paire acted with deliberate indifference towards his serious medical needs. Defendants also argue that the negligence claims are time-barred, while the regulatory claim is unsupported by the evidence. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion will be granted in full. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367(a).

II. Factual and Procedural Background

A. The Parties

Defendant SHP is a Delaware corporation that provides medical services to small and medium sized detention centers across the country. (Doc. # 50-1 at 2). In accordance with 501 KAR 3:090, [1] the CCDC contracted with SHP to provide healthcare services to its inmate population. (Id. ) At all times relevant to this matter, Defendants Heather Vasser and Aimee Paire worked as nurses for SHP. (Id. at 3). Their duties included managing sick call, dispensing medications and otherwise attending to the prisoners' healthcare needs. (Id. ) They reported to the SHP regional administrator, Brenda Brown. (Id. ) For additional dental services, SHP subcontracted with Mid America Health, Inc. ("Mid America"), which arranged for a dentist to visit the CCDC twice a month. (Id. )

Plaintiff John Hughes was booked at the CCDC on March 12, 2012. (Id. ) Within a couple of days, he was transferred from the main jail to the Restricted Custody Center, which is also referred to as "Class D." (Hughes Deposition, Doc. # 49 at 88-90). The transfer was necessary so that Hughes could participate in a work program. (Id. ) Throughout his incarceration, Hughes worked five days a week as a member of the road crew. (Id. ) Aside from the incident giving rise to this lawsuit, Hughes requested medical services on only one other occasion, and recalls that the treatment he received was satisfactory. (Id. )

B. The Incident

On January 2, 2013, Hughes began experiencing pain in his tooth and assumed that it might be chipped. (Id. at 95). After two days with no improvement, he completed a "sick call slip" and provided it to a deputy in Class D, expecting that the deputy would pass it along for SHP medical staff to review. (Id. at 100-01). In the space provided for describing his ailment, Hughes wrote "[I] have a chiped [sic] tooth that is showing the nerve it hurts nonstop and I can't get any sleep. Please Help ASAP." (Doc. # 50-8 at 2). Although Hughes insists he was never seen by Nurse Heather Vasser in connection with this tooth, she signed the sick call slip as evidence of review on January 6, 2013.[2]

Over the next few days, Hughes' tooth continued to bother him and he started to notice minor swelling on his face. (Doc. # 49 at 120-21). The pain affected his ability to work, although it is unclear exactly how many days he missed. Hughes testified that he stopped working completely on January 2, 2013, the first day he noticed something wrong with his tooth. (Id. at 93). But according to the documents provided by Defendants, Hughes did not miss a scheduled day of work until January 4, 2013, the same day he submitted his first sick call slip. ( See Doc. # 50-7 at 2-7). He resumed working the very next day, and did not miss again until January 9th. (Id. )

On January 7, 2013, Hughes approached a nurse that was making her daily rounds and asked if the medical staff had reviewed his sick call slip. (Doc. # 49 at 105-06). The unidentified nurse responded that they had not, but said that someone would get to it as soon as possible. (Id. ) When Hughes asked for some Ibuprofen, the nurse explained that she could not provide him with any medicine until the medical staff had processed his first sick call slip. (Id. )

By January 8, 2013, the swelling had spread to Hughes' neck. (Id. at 122). Frustrated and still very uncomfortable, he asked a deputy for another sick call slip, which he completed and personally delivered to a nurse on the morning of January 9, 2013. (Id. at 107-09). In the space provided for describing his condition, Hughes simply wrote the words "bad tooth, " and nothing else. (Doc. # 50-10 at 2). Shortly after submitting the second sick call slip, he was transported to the main jail to see a dentist from Mid America. (Doc. # 49 at 113). The dentist recorded a large abscess in tooth # 32 and noted that Hughes' jaw was "swollen and warm to the touch." (Doc. # 50-11 at 4). An x-ray was not possible because Hughes was unable to open his mouth wide enough. (Id. ) The dentist administered Ibuprofen and Benadryl for the pain and swelling, and prescribed a course of antibiotics to treat the infection. (Id. ) Hughes was scheduled to be seen again the next time a dentist visited the CCDC. (Id. ) The plan was to pull his abscessed tooth once the infection was gone. (Doc. # 49 at 110).

Following his visit with the dentist, Hughes stayed in a holding cell at the main jail for a few hours before being transported back to Class D. (Id. at 114-15). He spent the remainder of the afternoon waiting for his antibiotics, but was eventually told that it would take a couple of days before they arrived.[3] (Id. )

On January 10th, Hughes was unable to get out of the bed. (Id. at 117). The swelling had spread to his chest and he was experiencing difficulty breathing. (Id. at 123). In the early afternoon, a deputy in Class D noticed his condition and decided to take Hughes back to the main jail so that medical staff could examine him. (Id. at 117). He was seen first by Nurse Fitzgerald, who took his vitals and administered 600 milligrams of liquid Ibuprofen. (Doc. # 50-12 at 2). When Nurse Paire arrived, she noted pronounced swelling on his Hughes' jaw and neck and observed that he could not open his mouth wider than one-half inch. (Doc. # 50-13 at 3, ¶ 24). She discussed the situation with Brenda Brown and then decided to call Dr. So, who recommended that Hughes be sent to the hospital immediately. (Id. at 3, ¶ 25). Nurse Paire complied. (Id. )

At the hospital, Hughes was taken directly into surgery. (Doc. # 49 at 163). Though still awake, doctors operated primarily on his neck and performed a tracheotomy to stabilize his breathing. (Id. at 164-65). The surgery was successful and the tube in Hughes' neck was removed a few days later. (Id. at 165-66). Hughes stayed at the hospital to recover until January 17, 2013. (Id. ) From there, he returned to the CCDC for ...

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