United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
MARY GRIFFITH, as Administratrix of the Estate of Tracy Eugene Griffith PLAINTIFF
CORRECTHEALTH KENTUCKY, LLC, DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. BUNNING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
February 12, 2014, Tracy Eugene Griffith was arrested for
parole and probation violations and transported to the Carter
County Detention Center (the “Detention Center”),
where he was booked and placed into the general population.
Griffith's time at the Detention Center was short-lived,
he died only two days later-on February 14, 2014- as a result
of pyopneumoperitoneum, perforation of duodenal ulcer, and
peptic ulcer disease. This case is about the medical care
Griffith received during those two days. The question is
whether a reasonable jury could find that Defendants were
deliberately indifferent to Griffith's serious medical
needs, negligent, or both.
Mary Griffith, the mother and administratrix of
Griffith's estate, filed a Complaint on January 28, 2015,
seeking to hold a litany of defendants liable for
Griffith's death. Many of these Defendants have been
dismissed from this action. (Doc. # 30). Remaining are three
defendants: Correcthealth Kentucky, LLC
(“Correcthealth”), the private corporation who
contracted with the Detention Center to provide medical
services to inmates, and Michale D. Nichols and Susie
Hatfield, the nurse and nurse practitioner who were
responsible for Griffith's care (collectively
“Defendants”). In her Complaint, Plaintiff
asserts constitutional claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that the Defendants violated Griffith's
constitutional rights to adequate medical care, as well as a
wrongful-death claim. (Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 1, 41-56).
The Court has federal-question jurisdiction under 29 U.S.C.
§ 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction under 29 U.S.C.
matter is before the Court upon Defendants Correcthealth
Kentucky, LLC, Michael D. Nichols, and Susie Hatfield's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 48). The Motion is fully
briefed (Docs. # 51 and 52), and ripe for review. Because
Plaintiff cannot establish that the Defendants were
deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need,
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted as to
Plaintiff's constitutional claim. However, rather than
enter judgment as to her state-law claims, the Court declines
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, and thus dismisses
Plaintiff's wrongful-death claim without prejudice.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
being arrested for parole and probation violations, Tracy
Griffith spent less than 48 hours at the Detention
Center-from Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 12:03 p.m., when
he was booked into the jail-until Friday, February 14, 2014
at approximately 8:00 a.m., when he died. (Doc. # 51 at 2,
his arrival at the Detention Center, Griffith was processed
by Deputy Jailer Denise Knipp. (Doc. # 48-4). As part of the
intake process, Deputy Knipp conducted a medical screening,
where she asked Griffith a series of health-related questions
from the “Standard Medical Questions” form.
Id. at 12:3-9. It included the following questions:
“Do you need immediate medical attention?”
“Have you recently been hospitalized or treated by a
doctor?” “Do you have any type of medical
problems that we should be aware of?” (Doc. # 48-12).
To each of these questions, Griffith answered
“No.” Id. However, Griffith answered in
the affirmative to other questions, including: “Do you
have a serious medical condition that will require treatment
here?” and “Are you currently taking prescribed
medications that may need to be continued?”
Id. When questioned about his conditions, Griffith
indicated that he had “Hep[atitis]-C, ” but was
only able to explain his “serious medical
conditions” as back-and-stomach related. (Doc. # 48-4
at 12:10-13:23). Deputy Knipp attempted to inquire further,
but Griffith stated that he did not know the name of his
stomach condition. Id. at 13:3-16.
the intake process was completed, at approximately 12:07
p.m., Griffith was assigned to a general-population cell.
(Doc. # 48-4 at 16:6-17:7; 18:2-5). Although Griffith
complained of stomach pain during the booking process, when
Deputy Knipp asked whether he needed medical attention,
Griffith declined, and thus, Deputy Knipp did not refer
Griffith for a medical review and did not place him in a
medical-observation cell. Id. at 15:3-14; 17:8-18:1.
Griffith made no other complaints that day, and did not
appear to be in pain. (Doc. # 51-5 at 36:17-19).
next morning-at approximately 10:30 a.m. on Thursday,
February 13, 2014- Griffith complained of severe abdominal
pain. (Doc. # 51-4 at 7:3-21). Deputies responded to
Griffith's complaints and escorted him to the medical
observation area. (Docs. # 51-4 at 7:22-8:3; 51-5 at
approximately 11:00 a.m., Michale Nichols, a registered
nurse, examined Griffith. (Doc. # 48-13 at 1). During the
examination, Nurse Nichols observed Griffith vomiting in a
trash can, and she noted a “large amount of emesis,
” “green/brown in color, ” with
“undigested food.” Id. Nurse Nichols
checked Griffith's blood pressure, pulse, temperature,
and respiration, which were all within normal parameters.
Id. She also found Griffith to be “alert,
” “oriented, ” “coherent, ” and
“ambulatory.” Id. With respect to his
stomach pain, Griffith informed Nurse Nichols that his pain
had “started a couple hours ago, ” but reported
having “normal bowel movements” and no difficulty
urinating. Id. Upon examination, Nurse Nichols found
Griffith's abdomen was “soft” and
“non-tender to touch.” Id. Nurse Nichols
also noted that Griffith had active bowel sounds in all four
quadrants. Id. At that time, Griffith informed Nurse
Nichols of a history of pancreatitis. Id.; see
also (Doc. # 48-6 at 20-22). He made no mention of
ulcers or peptic ulcer disease. Id. After the
examination, Nurse Nichols called Susie Hatfield, the nurse
practitioner, for orders. (Doc. # 48-13). Nurse Practitioner
Hatfield's clinical impression indicated possible
pancreatitis, and she issued orders for Phenergan and a
liquid diet. (Doc. # 48-6 at 58:6-8). Griffith was also
placed in a medical-observation cell. (Doc. # 48-13 at 1).
Nichols checked on Griffith an hour later-at 12:00 p.m.-and
found him “resting in his cell.” Id. By
2:30 p.m., however, Griffith was again complaining of severe
abdominal pain. Id. Accordingly, Nurse Nichols again
contacted Nurse Practitioner Hatfield, and a
“telemed” examination was arranged. Id.
The medical records reflect that a “telemed”
examination was conducted at 2:40 p.m. Id. at 2.
Nurse Nichols again checked Griffith's blood pressure,
pulse, temperature, and respiration, which were all within
normal parameters. Id. Griffith's abdomen
continued to be soft and non-tender to touch. Id.
However, during the “telemed” examination,
Griffith informed Nurse Nichols and Nurse Practitioner
Hatfield that he had recently been seen in the Emergency Room
at King's Daughters Medical Center “for the same
problem.” Id. Accordingly, a medical-records
request was signed and faxed to King's Daughters Medical
the “telemed” examination, Nurse Practitioner
Hatfield ordered one gram of Tylenol for Griffith's pain
and ordered Griffith's blood to be drawn for multiple
tests, including: complete blood count, comprehensive
metabolic profile, amylase, lipase, and a urinalysis.
Id. at 2, 4; see also (Doc. # 48-6 at
46:1-47:23). In her deposition, Nurse Practitioner Hatfield
explained that she ordered a complete blood count because
Griffith “was complaining of abdominal pain” and
“had a history of pancreatitis, ” thus, she
“wanted to check and see if he had any elevation in his
white blood cell count, ” which would indicate an
infection. (Doc. # 48-6 at 46:14-24). Nurse Practitioner
Hatfield also ordered a comprehensive metabolic profile,
amylase and lipase tests, and a urinalysis to assess
Griffith's pancreas, liver, and kidney function.
Id. at 47:10-21.
twenty minutes, Nurse Nichols had performed the urinalysis
and noted that Griffith's urine was “amber in
color, ” and that the urine was negative for
leukocytes, nitrites, blood, and glucose. (Docs. # 48-13 at
2; 48-6 at 48:18-49:20). The urinalysis also showed
unremarkable urobilinogen, protein, PH, and ketone levels,
and indicated only that Griffith might have been dehydrated.
(Doc. # 48-6 at 48:8-49:18). Nurse Nichols reviewed these
results, as well as the medical records from King's
Daughters Medical Center, with Nurse Practitioner Hatfield at
3:00 p.m. (Doc. # 48-13 at 2). The medical records listed
Griffith's medications, specifically Tylenol and
Hydrocodone. (Doc. # 48-6 at 56:12-20). Notably absent from
the medical records received was any mention or indication
that Griffith had a history of duodenal ulcers or peptic
ulcer disease. Id. After this telephone call, Nurse
Practitioner Hatfield ordered Nurse Nichols to re-check
Griffith in one hour. Id.
p.m., Nurse Nichols drew Griffith's blood for the
complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic profile, and
amylase and lipase tests. Id. She also re-checked
Griffith's blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and
respiration, which continued to be within normal parameters.
Id. In the same entry, Nurse Nichols also noted that
there were “[n]o further complaints from inmate
Griffith [at] this time, ” so he was sent back to his
cell to lay down. Id. Thereafter, Nurse Nichols
contacted Quest Diagnostic for “STAT pick up.”
Id. Within twenty minutes, Quest Diagnostic arrived
“for lab pick up.” Id.
approximately 4:10 p.m., Nurse Nichols went off-duty and
“advised” Deputy McDavid that if Griffith
experienced “problems to contact Susie Hatfield”
and gave permission for jail officials to “administer
another dose of Tylenol 1gm [and] Phenergan 25mg … if
Inmate Griffith requested.” Id. at 2-3. Nurse
Nichols's notes indicate that at approximately 10:00
p.m., she “called Deputy McDavid from home to check on
Inmate Griffith” and was advised that Griffith
“has complained of pain [and] nausea” and had
been administered one gram of Tylenol and twenty-five grams
of Phenergan at approximately 7:30 p.m. Id. at 3.
Nurse Nichols's notes reflect that Deputy McDavid
informed her that Griffith “was resting quietly in his
medical observation cell” at the time of her call, and
that she instructed Deputy McDavid to inform midnight shift
that they could Contact Hatfield if needed. Id.
Plaintiff has called Nurse Nichols's 10:00 p.m. call into
question, as the Detention Center's call logs do not
reflect the call. (Doc. # 51 at 3).
the approximately eighteen hours that Griffith was in the
medical-observation cell, jail officials performed
forty-eight separate monitoring checks. (Doc. # 48-14). At
the last check-at 6:45 a.m. on Friday, February 14,
2014-Griffith was observed “quiet” and
“relaxed.” Id. But within an hour,
sometime around 7:40 a.m., Deputy Joe Littleton, a sergeant
on the midnight shift, checked on Griffith and observed that
he “was a little bit pale” and that his stomach
did not appear to rise or fall. (Doc. # 48-8 at 19:3-17).
Because of these observations, Deputy Littleton had the cell
door opened and checked Griffith's pulse. Id. at
19:17-20. When he did not feel a pulse and did not see or
feel Griffith breathing, he instructed other jail officials
to call 911 and commenced CPR efforts on Griffith.
Id. at 19:21-20:6. Deputy Littleton performed CPR
until EMS arrived. Id. at 20:11-13. At that time,
Griffith was pronounced dead. Id. at 20:14-22. An
autopsy later determined that Griffith died as a result of
pyopneumoperitoneum, perforation of duodenal ulcer, and
peptic ulcer disease.
claim that these facts, even when construed in favor of the
Plaintiff, do not create a genuine dispute as to any of
Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. # 48-1 at 17). Specifically,
Defendants claim that the Plaintiff has failed to prove that
they were deliberately indifferent to Griffith's serious
medical needs; failed to establish that Correcthealth had a
policy, procedure, or custom resulting in inadequate medical
care; and failed to prove that Defendants' care fell
below the established standard of care and proximately caused
Griffith's death. Id. In response, the Plaintiff
argues that there is sufficient evidence from which a jury
could find that the Defendants were deliberately indifferent,
that Correcthealth is liable for establishing and executing
policies that resulted in constitutional violations by its
employees, and that Defendants' care fell below the
standard of care and proximately caused Griffith's death.
(Doc. # 51).
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when the record reveals “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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
where “there is sufficient evidence … for a jury
to return a verdict for” the non-moving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249
(1986). The “moving party bears the burden of showing
the absence of any genuine issues of material fact.”
Sigler v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 532 F.3d 469, 483
(6th Cir. 2008). Once a party files a properly supported
motion for summary judgment, by either affirmatively negating
an essential element of the non-moving party's claim or
establishing an affirmative defense, “the adverse party
must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
However, “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence
in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be
insufficient.” Id. at 252.
Court must “accept Plaintiff's evidence as true and
draw all reasonable inferences in [her] favor.”
Laster v. City of Kalamazoo, 746 F.3d 714, 726 (6th
Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). The
Court is not permitted to “make credibility
determinations” or “weigh the evidence when
determining whether an issue of fact remains for
trial.” Id. (citing Logan v. Denny's,
Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001)). “The
ultimate question is ‘whether the evidence presents a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.'” Back v. Nestle USA, Inc.,
694 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson,
477 U.S. at 251-52). If there is a dispute over facts that
might affect the outcome of the case under governing law, the
entry of summary judgment is precluded. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248.
moving parties, the Defendants must shoulder the burden of
showing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact as
to at least one essential element of Plaintiff's claim.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Laster, 746 F.3d at 726
(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324
(1986)). Assuming Defendants satisfy their burden, the
Plaintiff “must-by deposition, answers to
interrogatories, affidavits, and admissions on file-show
specific facts that reveal a genuine issue for trial.”
Laster, 746 F.3d at 726 (citing Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 324).
Plaintiff's deliberate-indifference claim is dismissed
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
set forth facts that, when construed favorably, establish (1)
the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under
the color of state law.” Sigley v. City of Parma