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Gallion v. Hinds County

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

February 26, 2014

MAURICE GALLION, as Administrator, of the Estate of TRACEY GALLION, SR., and on behalf of and as natural uncle of TRACEY GALLION, JR., a minor, and on behalf of all heirs and wrongful death beneficiaries of TRACEY GALLION, SR., deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

This § 1983 case is before the Court on the motion of Defendants Sheriff Tyrone Lewis, Warden Calvin Matthews, Lieutenant Stanley Thurman, and Ruth Wyatt, RN, in their individual capacities, to dismiss or for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity [19, 21], along with their motion to strike [41]. For the reasons that follow, the motions are granted.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Plaintiff's decedent, Tracey Gallion, Sr., was booked into the Hinds County Detention Facility ("HCDF") in Raymond, Mississippi, on March 10, 2012. The jail intake form listed, under Medical Needs, only that Gallion "states he has vericos [sic] veines [sic] lower left leg." Inmate Records [21-3] at 17.

On March 27, 2012, Gallion submitted a Health Services Request Form, complaining that he "ha[d] a chest cold, nose running and [his] leg want [sic] let [him] sleep." Deposition Exhibits [38-6] at 92. The form indicated that Gallion had been suffering from these problems for the duration of his time at HCDF and stated that he was using an "asthma pump" and taking Lunesta and Allegra for sinuses.[1] Id. That document was stamped "received, " but neither the form nor Gallion's medical records indicate that any medical professionals at HCDF addressed Gallion's March 27 request. Gallion submitted another Health Services Request Form on April 3, 2012, stating that he was "short of breath and need[ed his] pump." Id. at 91. That form was also stamped "received, " but the medical records do not reflect that Gallion received any care until April 5, 2012.

On the evening of April 5, 2012, at approximately 7:08 p.m., two inmates escorted Gallion out of his cell unit and explained that Gallion needed medical attention because he was having difficulty breathing. Lieutenant Stanley Thurman, who was the shift supervisor on duty that evening, and Officer Weathersby were both present at that time. One of them instructed Officer Mary Gainwell to call medical, which she did. At approximately 7:20 p.m., Nurse Travis Williams and Medical Officer Shawonda Owens from HCDF medical responded to find Gallion on the floor, complaining that he could not breathe. The medical personnel concluded that Gallion "appeared to just be out of breath due to hyper-ventilation." Medical Records [21-4] at 5. Medical personnel allowed Gallion to remain in the hallway to catch his breath, at which point he returned to his cell unit. Williams and Owens left the cell area at approximately 7:30 p.m.

Just an hour later, at 8:30 p.m., Officer Weathersby called medical for Gallion for the second time. Medical Officer Marion Hayes arrived at approximately 9:35 p.m. and escorted Gallion to the medical facilities, where he was given a breathing treatment. Following the breathing treatment, Gallion indicated that he felt better, and he was escorted back to his cell unit at around 9:59 p.m. The medical personnel who handled Gallion on the evening of April 5, 2012, put him on a list of inmates to see a medical doctor the following day.[2]

On the morning of April 6, 2012, Dr. Lawrence Sutton saw Gallion for complaints of "no appetite, bronchitis & a cold." Medical Records [21-4] at 7. Dr. Sutton ordered Gallion transferred to Central Mississippi Medical Center ("CMMC") for further evaluation. At CMMC, Gallion "became unresponsive in the ER while awaiting diagnosis." Autopsy Report [38-1] at 3. Gallion was admitted to the hospital ICU with the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest. Gallion ultimately developed multi-system organ failure and died on April 23, 2012.

Plaintiff Maurice Gallion, acting as Administrator of the Estate of Gallion and on behalf of his nephew Tracey Gallion, Jr., and all heirs and wrongful death beneficiaries of Gallion, filed this lawsuit on November 1, 2012. Plaintiff asserts § 1983 claims for denial and/or delay of medical care against Hinds County, Mississippi, and Sheriff Lewis, Warden Matthews, Lieutenant Thurman, and Nurse Wyatt, in their individual and official capacities. The individual-capacity defendants filed their qualified-immunity motions on March 22, 2013, and a lengthy period of immunity-related discovery ensued. The immunity issues have now been fully briefed, and the Court has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction and is prepared to rule.

II. Standard

Although Defendants moved alternatively for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) and for summary judgment under Rule 56, the parties engaged in immunity-related discovery and have submitted evidence in support of their respective positions. The Court will consider the motion under Rule 56. Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323. The nonmoving party must then "go beyond the pleadings" and "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (citation omitted). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments are not an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993).

III. Analysis

In general terms, Plaintiff asserts that Gallion was denied or received delayed medical care while incarcerated, in violation of his constitutional rights, and that the denial and/or delay of medical care caused his death. To establish a constitutional violation in the form of denied or delayed medical care, a plaintiff must prove "objectively that he was exposed to a substantial risk of serious harm' and that jail officials acted or failed to act with deliberate indifference to that risk, ' which requires actual knowledge and deliberate disregard." Victoria W. v. Larpenter, 369 F.3d 475, 483 (citing Lawson v. Dallas Cnty., 286 F.3d 257, 262 (5th Cir. 2002)). "For an official to act with deliberate indifference, the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a ...


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