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Gallion v. Hinds County

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

May 27, 2015

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. 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, Defendant. Consolidated with Civil Action No. 3:14cv139-DPJ-FKB

ORDER

DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

These consolidated civil-rights cases relate to the untimely death of Tracey Gallion, who was a pretrial detainee at a detention center in Hinds County, Mississippi. The cases are before the Court on Defendant Hinds County, Mississippi's Motion for Summary Judgment [68]; Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Exhibit #72-1, #73-1, Affidavit of Charles Gallion [74]; Motion in Limine to Preclude Testimony of Charles Gallion [76]; and Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Exhibit #72-2, #73-2 [78]. As discussed below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not met the burden of showing that Hinds County acted with deliberate indifference or that it adopted a policy or custom that was causally connected to Gallion's unfortunate death. Hinds County's motion for summary judgment is therefore granted. The remaining motions are denied as moot.

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 [68-3] at 15. A health-screening form completed upon his intake indicated that Gallion disclosed that he was not then taking any medications and had no medical issues at that time. Id. at 16.

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." Medical Records [68-4] at 11. The form indicated that Gallion had been suffering from these problems for the duration of his time at HCDF and, when asked to "list all medications you are taking, " he wrote, "asthma pump, Lunesta and Allegra for sinuses." 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 10. The April 3, 2012 form likewise indicated that Gallion had been suffering from this shortness of breath for the duration of his detention. 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. Officers on the scene called medical, and at approximately 7:20 p.m., personnel 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 possible hyper-ventilation." Medical Records [68-4] at 4. Medical personnel allowed Gallion to remain in the hallway to catch his breath, at which point he returned to his cell unit. The medical personnel left the cell area at approximately 7:30 p.m.

Just an hour later, at 8:30 p.m., officers called medical for Gallion for the second time. A medical officer 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.[1]

On the morning of April 6, 2012, Dr. Lawrence Sutton saw Gallion for complaints of "no appetite/bronchitis & a cold." Medical Records [68-4] at 6. Dr. Sutton ordered that Gallion be transferred to Central Mississippi Medical Center ("CMMC") for further evaluation. Roughly two hours after arriving at CMMC, Gallion became unresponsive in the emergency room. 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 Tracey Gallion, Jr., and all heirs and wrongful death beneficiaries of Gallion, filed this lawsuit on November 1, 2012. Plaintiff asserted § 1983 claims for denial and/or delay of medical care against Hinds County, Mississippi, and a slew of Hinds County employees in their individual and official capacities. The Court granted the individual defendants qualified immunity on February 26, 2014. In the interim, on October 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed a separate suit against Hinds County asserting both state and federal claims arising out of Gallion's death. The cases were consolidated, and on September 22, 2014, the Court granted Hinds County's motion to dismiss the state-law and punitive-damages claims. Thus, the sole remaining claims are federal claims against Hinds County, Mississippi.[2]

II. Standard of Review

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. Pursuant to Rule 56(c)(1), a party asserting that a fact "is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." "The court has no duty to search the record for material fact issues. Rather, the party opposing the summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate precisely how this evidence supports his claim." RSR Corp. v. Int'l Ins. Co., 612 F.3d 851, 857 (5th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Finally, 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) (per curiam); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993) (per curiam).

III. Analysis

Tracey Gallion's death was a tragic event; he was only 28 years old. But stating a claim against a municipality under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires more than an allegation that its employees acted negligently. So too, Rule 56(c) requires record evidence supporting the elements of municipal ...


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