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Graham v. Hodge

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

November 19, 2014

JEANETTER GRAHAM, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARY OF ALBERT GRAHAM, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF
v.
ALEX HODGE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF JONES COUNTY; JONES COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI AND DEPUTY " JOHN DOE" IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Jeanetter Graham, Individually and as Wrongful Death Beneficiary of Albert Graham, Deceased, Plaintiff: Everett T. Sanders, LEAD ATTORNEY, SANDERS LAW FIRM, PLLC, Natchez, MS.

For Alex Hodge, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Sheriff of Jones County, Jones County, Mississippi, Defendants: J. Lawson Hester, Jason Edward Dare, LEAD ATTORNEYS, WYATT, TARRANT & COMBS - Jackson, Jackson, MS.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Keith Starrett, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [69]. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion is well taken and should be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

This is a wrongful death action brought by Jeanetter Graham, the surviving spouse of the decedent, Albert Graham. Defendant Alex Hodge is presently, and was at all times relevant to the Complaint, the Sheriff of Jones County, Mississippi. Albert Graham died on April 6, 2010, while he was a pretrial detainee in the custody of Jones County.

On November 10, 2009, Albert Graham was arrested for aggravated assault and booked into the Jones County Adult Detention Facility (" Jail" or " Jones County Jail" ). ( See Jail Records [69-2 at ECF p. 8].) This arrest stemmed from Albert Graham shooting Jeanetter Graham in the chest with a .38 caliber handgun. ( See J. Graham Dep. [82] 16:7-25.) Albert Graham was fifty-eight (58) years old at the time of his arrest.

Graham's Booking Medical Sheet indicates, in pertinent part, that he had a heart condition; he had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure; he had borderline high blood pressure; he was taking " Corad," which presumably meant " Coreg," a beta-blocker used to treat congestive heart failure; [1] and, he was on disability. ( See Jail Records [69-2 at ECF pp. 25-26].) Policies and procedures in place at the Jones County Jail required the booking officer to forward the Booking Medical Sheet to the nurse employed at the Jail. ( See Hodge Dep. [79-1] 34:6-18; Walls Dep. [80] 36:15-25.)[2] Generally, the booking officer would place the Booking Medical Sheet in the nurse's box, and the nurse would follow up with the inmate the next day regarding his medical issues. ( See Walls Dep. [80] 6:25-7:12.) The booking officer completing Albert Graham's Booking Medical Sheet failed to comply with Jail protocol by not forwarding the document to Carol Johnston, the nurse employed by Jones County. ( See Hodge Dep. [79-1] 34:6-18; Walls Dep. [80] 36:15-25; Johnston Dep. [81] 20:14-21:6.)

Albert Graham did not receive any medication at the Jail between November 10, 2009, and March 9, 2010. Jeanetter Graham testified by deposition that at some point during this time period, she asked her pastor, Terryl Ulmer, to bring certain medications (Coreg, Coumadin, and aspirin) to the Jail for Mr. Graham. ( See J. Graham Dep. [82] 34:6-35:22.) At his deposition, Terryl Ulmer provided that Jeanetter Graham requested that he take some personal items to Albert Graham, which included two pill bottles. ( See T. Ulmer Dep. [84] 7:20-9:11.) Terryl Ulmer did not know what specific medications were

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inside the bottles. ( See T. Ulmer Dep. [84] 9:12-17.) The guards at the Jail advised Terry Ulmer that they could not accept outside items. ( See T. Ulmer Dep. [84] 8:13-19.)

Jeanetter Graham also testified that she visited Albert Graham at the Jones County Jail in January of 2010. ( See J. Graham Dep. [82] 48:9-49:12.) According to Mrs. Graham, Albert Graham told her, " They won't get me no -- no attention. They won't get me no medicine. They won't even take me to the doctor." (J. Graham Dep. [82] 49:1-3.) Jeanetter Graham thus contacted the Jail Administrator, Stacey Walls, in the latter part of January, and told her about Albert Graham's heart condition and his need for medication. ( See J. Graham Dep. [82] 49:13-50:16.) At her deposition, Stacy Walls confirmed speaking with Jeanetter Graham about Mr. Graham. ( See Walls Dep. [80] 17:9-12.) Stacy Walls could not recall if this communication took place before or after Christmas in 2009. ( See Walls Dep. [80] 18:2-7.) According to Walls, Jeanetter Graham told her that Mr. Graham " had cocaine problems and I believe drinking problems when he was out and that he didn't take his medication like he should but that she was concerned about his health." (Walls Dep. [80] 17:13-18.) Jeanetter Graham further told Walls that Mr. Graham would not complain about his health, and she wanted to make sure he was taken to the doctor and placed on his medication. ( See Walls Dep. [80] 17:19-21.) As a result of this conversation, Stacy Walls spoke with the Jail nurse about Albert Graham and Mr. Graham was taken to the doctor. ( See Walls Dep. [80] 17:25-18:1, 19:3-13.) Stacy Walls had no recollection of Albert Graham himself requesting medical care. ( See Walls Dep. [80] 18:25-19:19.)

Nurse Johnston testified by deposition that she could not recall the first time she saw Albert Graham at the Jones County Jail. ( See Johnston Dep. [81] 23:10-12.) However, she thought it was " [p]robably weeks after he was there." (Johnston Dep. [81] 21:7-10.) Nurse Johnston also stated that Albert Graham never complained to her, and she could not remember what led to her initial contact with Mr. Graham other than her eventually seeing the Booking Medical Sheet. ( See Johnston Dep. [81] 26:4-13.)

The following chronology of events relating to the medical attention Albert Graham received during his incarceration is based on Nurse Johnston's deposition testimony, certain Jail Records [69-2], and Ellisville Medical Clinic Records (" Clinic Records" ) [69-3]:

o On February 17, 2010, Albert Graham signed a medical authorization enabling the Jail to obtain his records from the Heart Care Center. ( See Johnston Dep. [81] 42:25-44:2.)
o On February 22, 2010, Nurse Johnston took Albert Graham's blood pressure. The result was 140/90, which Nurse Johnston characterized as " [b]orderline, a little bit high." (Johnston Dep. [81] 27:2-10.)
o On March 2, 2010, Nurse Johnston faxed Albert Graham's medical authorization to the Heart Care Center. Nurse Johnston thought she received these records prior to March 10. ( See Johnston Dep. [81] 45:14-46:23.)
o On March 9, 2010, Nurse Johnston took Albert Graham's blood pressure. The result was 140/82, which was good. ( See Johnston Dep. [81] 28:16-19.)
o On March 10, 2010, Albert Graham was transported from the Jail to the Ellisville Medical Clinic with a complaint of elevated blood pressure. Donnie Scoggin, a nurse practitioner, saw Albert Graham at this facility. Mr. Graham was noted to have a

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healthy general appearance and some swelling in his ankles. Albert Graham advised Nurse Practitioner Scoggin that he had been off all of his medications for six (6) months. Nurse Practitioner Scoggin prescribed Lotensin to Mr. Graham for his high blood pressure. Upon Albert Graham's return to the Jail on March 10, he was transferred to a medical cell where he could be seen by Nurse Johnston and given his medication on a daily basis. Albert Graham started taking his blood pressure medication on March 11, and continued taking the medication until April 5. ( See Johnston Dep. [81] 23:13-24:25, 38:13-40:14, 54:18-55:18; Jail Records [69-2 at ECF pp. 24, 27-28, 30-31, 41]; Clinic Records [69-3].)
o On March 31, 2010, Nurse Johnston took Albert Graham's blood pressure. ( See Johnston Dep. [81] 28:24-29:5.)

As previously noted, Albert Graham died on April 6, 2010. An autopsy performed by the State Medical Examiner identifies the preliminary cause of death as atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. ( See Jail Records [69-2 at ECF p. 1].) The following circumstances occurred shortly before, and led up to Albert Graham's passing. At approximately 11:28 p.m. on April 5, several inmates thought Mr. Graham was having a seizure and thus called for the officers. ( See Jail Records [69-2 at ECF p. 12].) Sergeant David Hare, Officer Nathan Fayard, and Officer Santana Benjamin responded and noticed that Albert Graham was in distress and was having difficulty breathing. ( See Hare Dep. [69-10] 12:16-14:1; Fayard Dep. [69-13] 5:17-6:21.) Sergeant Hare requested that Officer Fayard take Mr. Graham's blood pressure, but Officer Fayard was unable to complete this task because the machine would not work. ( See Jail Records [69-2 at ECF p. 13]; Fayard Dep. [69-13] 6:2-9.) Sergeant Hare either called or had others contact Stacy Walls, Nurse Johnston, and an ambulance in light of Graham's condition. ( See Jail Records [69-2 at ECF pp. 12-13]; Hare Dep. [69-10] 15:20-25; Fayard Dep. [69-13] 6:10-12.) Officer Fayard began to perform CPR on Graham after noticing his lips turn blue. ( See Jail Records [69-2 at ECF p. 13]; Fayard Dep. [69-13] 6:13-19.) Officer Fayard breathed for Mr. Graham through a pocket mask, while ...


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