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A.H. v. Louisville Metro Government

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 8, 2018

A.H. AND H.H., THE MINOR CHILDREN OF JAMES HATCHER, BY AND THROUGH HEIDI GALLO, THEIR MOTHER, NEXT FRIEND, AND GUARDIAN APPELLANTS
v.
LOUISVILLE METRO GOVERNMENT; TOM CAMPBELL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING JAILER AND DIRECTOR OF LOUISVILLE METRO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; CORIZON, LLC, FORMERLY KNOWN AS CORIZON, INC., FORMERLY KNOWN AS CORRECTIONAL MEDICAL SERVICES, INC.; LORIE HATCHER; AND JAMES REESE APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE BRIAN C. EDWARDS, JUDGE ACTION NO. 09-CI-001990

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANTS: Andrew Horne Louisville, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEES, LOUISVILLE METRO GOVERNMENT AND TOM CAMPBELL: I. Joel Frockt Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Louisville, Kentucky

          BEFORE: CLAYTON, CHIEF JUDGE; ACREE AND J. LAMBERT, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          LAMBERT, J., JUDGE.

         A.H. and H.H., through their mother, next friend, and guardian Heidi Gallo (hereinafter, collectively, Gallo), have appealed from several orders of the Jefferson Circuit Court finding the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections and Director Tom Campbell were immune from suit and dismissing their claims against them seeking damages related to the death of their father, James Hatcher, while he was in their custody. We affirm.

         This action began with the filing of a complaint in the Jefferson Circuit Court on February 25, 2009, by Gallo as the administratrix of Hatcher's estate and as the next friend and mother of his minor children. As defendants, Gallo named Louisville Metro Government (LMG); Correctional Medical Services, Inc. (CMS); Tom Campbell, individually and in his official capacity as the acting jailer[1] and Director of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDOC); nurses Lorie Hatcher and Jennifer Reese; and guards Wayne Mumford, Edward Dugan, William McFarland, Royce Standard, Chad Puente, and Ron Anthony. The complaint alleges that Hatcher entered the jail at 11:00 am on February 21, 2008. After showing signs of a medical issue, Hatcher passed away the following day. In a 2012 order, the circuit court more specifically described the circumstances as follows:

Plaintiffs allege that at the time of his death, Mr. Hatcher was being detained on charges of civil contempt for failure to fully honor his child support obligations. While being detained at the Louisville Metro Corrections Department, Mr. Hatcher became disoriented, and he was isolated into a single cell. Corrections officers who were present during this time believed his deteriorating condition while in the cell was caused by him "detoxing". Plaintiffs allege that the corrections officers did not give Mr. Hatcher any medication because there is a policy at the facility to deny detainees all medications that can be habit forming. After a period of time, the officers notified a nurse of Mr. Hatcher's deteriorating condition, however, Mr. Hatcher passed away.

         Gallo alleged that the guards and nurses were both aware of Hatcher's condition and ignored the threat to his safety and health, which resulted in his death. She alleged that the defendants' conduct was intentional, reckless, deliberate, and wanton and/or malicious, and that it was indicative of their deliberate disregard for Hatcher's life and his rights. She also alleged that reasonable discovery would show that this type of treatment by the defendants was not unusual but was part of a continuing pattern of willful and deliberate ignoring of inmates' medical needs in the jail and that this was a result of the custom and practices of LMG and CMS that were applied to everyone who exhibited medical conditions or problems while in the jail. On the basis of these allegations, Gallo sought compensatory and punitive damages for violations of Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 71.040, negligence and gross negligence, outrage, malpractice on the part of the nurses, being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment under § 17 of the Kentucky Constitution and the 8th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution, and loss of companionship for the minor children.

         CMS and the nurse defendants filed an answer raising statute of limitations and immunity defenses. Three guards filed handwritten answers related to observing signs of detox by Hatcher and stating they and the staff had responded properly once it was determined that he had a more serious condition. LMG and the guards filed a formal answer also raising statute of limitations and immunity defenses.

         Shortly thereafter, the defendants notified the circuit court that they had filed a notice of removal to the United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky, in March 2009 (No. 3:09CV-223-H). This removal was based upon federal question jurisdiction. Over the course of the federal proceedings, Gallo dismissed her federal claims as well as claims against defendants McFarland and LMG. Gallo then moved to remand the case to state court because only state law claims remained to be decided. While in federal court, the other defendants sought a partial summary judgment to dismiss the claims against them and opposed the motion to remand. In its ruling, the federal court noted that significant discovery had taken place since 2009 and motions for partial summary judgment had been submitted, but it nevertheless granted the motion to remand based upon the significant court involvement expected in the future and the possible raising of a novel issue of state law related to the application of KRS 71.040. Therefore, the district court remanded the remaining claims to the circuit court.

         In October 2011, the defendants moved the circuit court on remand for summary judgment seeking dismissal of all claims against Campbell in his official capacity and all claims against the individual defendants (including Campbell). This was the motion that had been pending before the federal district court. By way of background, the defendants explained that in the federal action, two stipulations of dismissal were entered in January 2011, in which all federal claims for federal constitutional or statutory violations and all claims against McFarland and LMG were dismissed. The January 31, 2011, stipulation of partial dismissal stated that Gallo dismissed her claims against McFarland and LMG, but it specified that "this should not be construed as a dismissal of any claims against Defendant Tom Campbell for any liability in his official capacity while acting as the defacto [sic] county jailer if the claim must be asserted against the county entity." Gallo also dismissed her claims "for violations of the Constitution of the United States and/or any federal statute." An amended complaint was filed the following month to conform to the stipulation of dismissal and no longer contained any allegations related to violations of § 17 of the Kentucky Constitution or any unspecified state statutes. In the state action, the defendants sought summary judgment from the circuit court on the basis of qualified official immunity, citing Bryant v. Pulaski County Detention Center, 330 S.W.3d 461 (Ky. 2011), as well as official immunity for Campbell in his official capacity. In the alternative, the defendants argued that Gallo failed to state a cause of action under Count 1 for a violation of KRS 71.040, as that statute cannot be used to seek damages from individual LMG employees.

         Following a status conference, [2] the defendants moved the court to order Gallo to amend the complaint to conform to the rulings and stipulations made in the federal action and to properly identify the remaining parties. The court granted the motion by order entered October 7, 2011, and noted that the amended complaint was filed in open court that day. The amended complaint omitted Gallo's claims for federal constitutional or statutory violations. Gallo included additional information about LMG's policy related to medical issues exhibited at the jail:

Specifically, through a long standing policy of Tom Campbell, LMG and CMS all individuals detained at the Jail were denied lawfully prescribed narcotic and psychotropic medications if they had the potential for abuse. This blanket denial had the foreseeable effect of producing hundreds of inmates going through detoxification with the commensurate resulting seizure activity and as a consequence both the Defendant Guards and Defendant Nurses became desensitized to seeing inmates in physical distress, which resulted in an extraordinary delay in providing Mr. Hatcher with medical care resulting in his death. In their answer, the LMG defendants again asserted statute of limitations and immunity defenses. They also noted that pursuant to the ...

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