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Blaine v. Louisville Metro Government

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

February 15, 2018

DANIELLA BLAINE, Administratrix of the Estate of Kenneth H. Cross, II, Plaintiff,


          DAVID J. HALE, JUDGE

         Plaintiff Daniella Blaine alleges that her brother, Kenneth H. Cross, II, died as a result of negligence and deliberate indifference by Defendants Corizon, Inc.; Corizon employees Stephanie Kohl and T.J. Sloan (collectively the “Corizon Defendants”); and Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) Director Mark Bolton while Cross was in custody at an LMDC facility. As administratrix of Cross's estate, Blaine asserts violations of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as state-law claims of negligence, gross negligence, and wrongful death. (Docket No. 1) The Corizon Defendants have moved for summary judgment as to the § 1983 claims. (D.N. 97) Bolton seeks summary judgment on the negligence and wrongful-death claims, which are the only remaining claims against him. (D.N. 101) For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the Corizon Defendants' motion, dismiss Blaine's state-law claims without prejudice, and deny Bolton's motion as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Cross was arrested by Louisville Metro Police Department officers and taken into custody at 4:00 p.m. on August 25, 2012. (D.N. 98-1) After being booked at LMDC, he was given a medical assessment by Defendant Kohl, a licensed practical nurse. Kohl's initial notes from that interview state that Cross stumbled up to the medical station; that he told Kohl he had drunk half a beer that day and took Xanax and Lortab for pain; that his speech was slurred and rambling and he smelled strongly of alcohol; that he “appeared to fall asleep several times during his interview”; and that he had suffered a head injury in a car accident several years prior. (D.N. 98-2) Kohl testified at her deposition that she suspected Cross had consumed more than half a beer and that it was “possible” he'd taken drugs as well. (D.N. 109-3, PageID # 853; see id., PageID # 794-75, 816)

         Based on her evaluation, Kohl placed Cross “on detox, ” with instructions that he be assigned a bottom bunk for safety reasons. (D.N. 98-2) In addition, given his “level of functioning, ” Kohl referred Cross to an observation cell for further monitoring. (Id.) According to the Substance Abuse Withdrawal Flowsheet completed by Kohl, Cross's vital signs were normal as of 5:07 p.m. (D.N. 98-3) Although Corizon's policy was for inmates with alcohol or drug issues to be assessed and managed by a physician or “other qualified health professionals” (D.N. 109-6, PageID # 1044), Kohl was not required to contact a physician or advanced practice registered nurse until the end of her shift approximately six hours later. (Id., PageID # 1047-49; D.N. 109-3, PageID # 788; D.N. 109-7, PageID # 1177)

         Cross was placed in an observation cell on the second floor of the jail, where Kohl's supervisor, Defendant Sloan (a registered nurse), was working. (D.N. 109-3, PageID # 785-86; D.N. 109-7, PageID # 1100, 1110, 1120) LPN Ada Daugherty encountered Cross when he arrived on the second floor; at her deposition, Daugherty “recalled that [Cross] was a ‘jovial' person [who] ‘actually hit on' her as he walked past” and that “[w]hen she asked if he was alright, he said that he was and that he was just ready to take a nap.”[1] (D.N. 109-2, PageID # 747) Soon after Cross's arrival, Sloan saw him eating the meal provided by the jail. (D.N. 109-7, PageID # 1142) She later heard him snoring loudly. (Id., PageID # 1148)

         At 8:50 p.m., LMDC Officer Kevin Lamkin was notified by an inmate work aid that “there[ was] something wrong with” Mr. Cross. (D.N. 109-4, PageID # 936) Lamkin “[i]mmediately” went to Cross's cell, where he found Cross blue-lipped and unresponsive. (Id.) Daugherty and Sloan quickly responded and attempted to revive Cross; however, their attempts were unsuccessful, as were the efforts of EMTs who transported Cross to the hospital.[2] (D.N. 109-2, PageID # 749; D.N. 109-7, PageID # 1144-46) Cross died of a drug overdose at 9:33 p.m.[3] (D.N. 109-7, PageID # 1144; D.N. 103-4, PageID # 671)

         Blaine filed this action against Kohl, Sloan, Daugherty, Corizon, Bolton, Louisville Metro Government, LMPD chief Steve Conrad, and two LMPD officers, alleging Fourteenth Amendment violations under § 1983 as well as negligence, gross negligence, and wrongful death under state law. (D.N. 1) At this point in the litigation, the only claims remaining are the § 1983 and state-law claims against the Corizon Defendants and the state-law claims against Bolton. (See D.N. 18; D.N. 59; D.N. 69) The Corizon Defendants seek partial summary judgment as to the § 1983 claim (D.N. 97), and Bolton has moved for summary judgment on the state-law claims. (D.N. 101)

         II. ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is required when the moving party shows, using evidence in the record, “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); see 56(c)(1). For purposes of summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Loyd v. Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland, 766 F.3d 580, 588 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, the Court “need consider only the cited materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); see Shreve v. Franklin Cty., Ohio, 743 F.3d 126, 136 (6th Cir. 2014). If the nonmoving party “fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), ” the fact may be treated as undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2)-(3). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must establish a genuine issue of material fact with respect to each element of each of her claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Blaine fails to do so here.

         A. Claims Against Nurses Kohl and Sloan

         Blaine maintains that Cross's death was the result of deliberate indifference by Kohl and Sloan. (See D.N. 103, PageID # 652-57) “The Eighth Amendment ‘forbids prison officials from unnecessarily and wantonly inflicting pain on an inmate by acting with deliberate indifference toward [his] serious medical needs.'” Jones v. Muskegon Cty., 625 F.3d 935, 941 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Blackmore v. Kalamazoo Cty., 390 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2004)). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extends this protection to pretrial detainees. Id. (citation omitted). To be found deliberately indifferent, “an official must have actually perceived a significant risk to an inmate's health”; “[a]n official's failure to alleviate a significant risk that [s]he should have perceived but did not” does not constitute “the infliction of punishment” for purposes of the Eighth Amendment. Rouster v. Cty. of Saginaw, 749 F.3d 437, 446 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 838 (1994)).

         A claim of deliberate indifference based on denial of medical care has both objective and subjective elements. Jones, 625 F.3d at 941 (citing Blackmore, 390 F.3d at 895). With respect to the objective element, a plaintiff must demonstrate “the existence of a ‘sufficiently serious' medical need, ” id. (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834), while the subjective element requires a showing that prison officials acted with “a sufficiently culpable state of mind, ” i.e., deliberate indifference. Id. (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834) “[T]o prove the required level of culpability, a plaintiff must show that the official: (1) subjectively knew of a risk to the inmate's health, (2) drew the inference that a substantial risk of harm to the inmate existed, and (3) consciously disregarded that risk.” Id. (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). Thus, “[i]t is not enough that there was a danger of which an offic[ial] should objectively have been aware. ‘The official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and [s]he must also draw the inference.'” Watkins v. City of Battle Creek, 273 F.3d 682, 686 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837).

         Here, the parties' dispute focuses on the subjective element. (See D.N. 98, PageID # 600; D.N. 103, PageID # 651-56) The Corizon Defendants argue that they “had no actual knowledge that Mr. Cross had somehow ingested a lethal amount of drugs” (D.N. 98, PageID # 600) and that there is no evidence they “disregarded . . . any substantial risk to Mr. Cross's health.” (Id., PageID # 601) Although this argument mischaracterizes the applicable standard insofar as it suggests ...

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