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Gatson v. City of Louisville

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

September 11, 2014

GENETTLE T. GATSON, Individually as Heir of James Lee and as Administratrix of the Estate of James Lee; MARCUS GORE, Individually as Heir of James Lee; DERRICK J. GATSON, Individually as Heir of James Lee; and OPELEAN LEE, Individually as Heir of James Lee, Plaintiffs,


GLEN H. DAVIDSON, Senior District Judge.

Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment [65] filed by Defendant City of Louisville, Mississippi. Upon due consideration, the Court finds that the motion should be granted.

A. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiffs Genettle T. Gatson, Marcus Gore, Derrick J. Gatson, and Opelean Lee ("Plaintiffs") bring this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Defendant the City of Louisville, Mississippi (the "City., ).[1] Plaintiffs seek damages in connection with the death of the Decedent James Lee (the "Decedent").

The following facts are not in dispute. The Decedent was incarcerated at the Winston-Choctaw County/Regional Correctional Facility (the "WCCRCF") for unpaid fines and/or misdemeanor reasons from October 4, 2011 through December 6, 2011. The WCCRCF has in place a sick-call procedure, which inmates and detainees can use for medical treatment. During the Decedent's subject two-month incarceration, he submitted at least twelve sick-call requests. On November 25, 2013, the Decedent complained of hemorrhoids and rectal bleeding. The Decedent was given hemorrhoid treatment and Tylenol. The Decedent subsequently saw a medical doctor at the WCCRCF who recommended intravenous antibiotics and surgery. On December 6, 2011, the Decedent was released from custody. On July 16, 2013, the Decedent died.

Plaintiffs allege that the City "has a policy of allowing a non court official being the Chief of Police and/or Assistant Chief of Police to determine whether jail or payment arrangements are made regarding fines"; that "[t]he [Decedent] was denied payment arrangements"; and "Plaintiff was ordered to jail by the City." PIs.' Compl. [1] ¶ 12. Plaintiffs aver that during the Decedent's subject incarceration he was subjected to deliberate indifference to his medical needs, "in accordance with the City['s] customs and procedures." Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiffs allege that the City is liable since the alleged acts were carried out "pursuant to a policy or custom of the City of Louisville and in conspiracy with the County of Winston, Mississippi, as said policy or custom of refusing medical treatment... was moving force behind the constitutional violations, " and that the City is "the proximate cause of said deliberate indifference." Id. ¶ 23. Plaintiffs aver that as a result of the alleged deliberate indifference, the Decedent underwent multiple surgeries, including one to remove his colon, and eventually died after being transported to the hospital. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b).

In the Court's February 14, 2014 Order [63] and memorandum opinion [64] dismissing the claims against the other Defendants based on the doctrine of qualified immunity, the Court lifted the stay on merits-discovery, which had been imposed while qualified-immunity issues were pending. Seven days later, on February 21, 2014, the City filed the present motion for summary judgment [65], arguing that summary judgment is proper on the remaining claims because of the Court's rulings on the qualified-immunity issues, particularly the Court's ruling that Plaintiffs had failed to show deliberate indifference on the part of the other Defendants. Plaintiffs filed a response to the motion, and the City filed a reply. The matter is now ripe for review.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); Weaver v. CCA Indus., Inc., 529 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2008). The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing 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., 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Under Rule 56(a), the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to "go beyond the pleadings and by... affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61 F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995).

Where the parties dispute the facts, the Court must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). "However, a nonmovant may not overcome the summary judgment standard with conclusional allegations, unsupported assertions, or presentation of only a scintilla of evidence." McClure v. Boles, 490 F.Appx. 666, 667 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)).

C. Analysis and Discussion

As stated above, Plaintiffs' claims against the City are brought pursuant to § 1983. "Section 1983 provides a cause of action against any person who deprives an individual of federally guaranteed rights under color' of state law." Filarsky v. Delia, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 132 S.Ct. 1657, 1661, 182 L.Ed.2d 662 (2012) (quoting § 1983). "Anyone whose conduct is fairly attributable to the state' can be sued as a state actor under § 1983." See id. ; see also Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 73 L.Ed.2d 482 (1982). "A municipality or other local government may be liable under this section if the governmental body itself subjects' a person to a deprivation of rights or causes' a person to be subjected' to such deprivation." Connick v. Thompson, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 1359, 179 L.Ed.2d 417 (2011); see Monell v. N.Y. City Dep'l of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). However, "under § 1983, local governments are responsible only for their own illegal acts, '" Connick, 131 S.Ct. at 1359 (quoting Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479, 106 S.Ct. 1292, 89 L.Ed.2d 452 (1986) (emphasis in original)); local governments "are not vicariously liable under § 1983 for their employees' actions, " id.

Plaintiffs assert that the City failed to establish and implement policies, practices, and procedures to assure adequate delivery of medical care to the Decedent; that the alleged actions were carried out pursuant to the City's unconstitutional policy or custom of refusing medical treatment and in conspiracy with Winston County; that this policy was the moving force behind the alleged constitutional violations; and that the City failed to train or supervise its ...

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