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Lee v. Jackson County, Mississippi

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

December 29, 2016

DOROTHY LEE, as Wife and Personal Representative of John Morris Lee, Jr. and Estate of John Morris Lee, Jr., Deceased, and JOHN MORRIS LEE, III, as Son and Wrongful Death Beneficiary of John Morris Lee, Jr., Deceased PLAINTIFFS
v.
JACKSON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, et al. DEFENDANTS

         MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT DR. SID ROSS'S [258] MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING AS MOOT DR. SID ROSS'S [254] MOTION TO STRIKE TESTIMONY AND SUPPLEMENTAL EXPERT REPORT OF MICHAEL STEVENS, D.O.; AND DENYING AS MOOT DR. SID ROSS'S [265] MOTION TO STRIKE SUPPLEMENTAL WITNESSES

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT are the Motion [254] to Strike Testimony and Supplemental Expert Report of Michael Stevens, D.O., the Motion [258] for Summary Judgment, and the Motion [265] to Strike Supplemental Witnesses, all filed by Defendant Dr. Sid Ross.[1] These Motions are fully briefed. Having considered the Motions, related pleadings, the record, and relevant legal authority, the Court is of the opinion that Defendant Dr. Ross's Motion [258] for Summary Judgment should be granted, and that Plaintiffs' claims against Dr. Ross should be dismissed in their entirety. Dr. Ross's Motions [254], [265] to Strike are rendered moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual background

         This case arises out of the unfortunate death of John Morris Lee, Jr. (“Mr. Lee” or “Decedent”) on February 24, 2013, while he was incarcerated at the Jackson County Adult Detention Center (“ADC”) in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Mr. Lee was arrested and booked into the Pascagoula City Jail on December 1, 2012, on a felony shoplifting charge. Release Sheet [258-1] at 21. On December 5, 2012, Mr. Lee was transferred to the ADC. Booking Medical Sheet [258-1] at 19-20; Booking Sheet [258-1] at 22-23. On February 24, 2013, at approximately 7:11 a.m., other inmates summoned deputies to the dayroom where Mr. Lee was located. Death Investigation [258-1] at 1. Mr. Lee was reportedly having a seizure and was found unresponsive and gasping for breath. Id. Emergency medical technicians arrived at approximately 7:18 a.m. and took over cardio pulmonary resuscitation. Id. at 1-2. At approximately 7:58 a.m., Mr. Lee was transported via ambulance to the Singing River Hospital emergency room, where he was pronounced dead at 8:23 a.m. Id.

         1. Dr. Ross's role at the ADC

         Dr. Sid Ross (“Dr. Ross”) began working as a contract physician at the ADC in 2005, and worked in that capacity through at least February 2013, during the time periods relevant to this case. Dep. of Dr. William Ross [258-4] at 8-9, 23-24. Dr. Ross visited the ADC on Tuesday mornings and would see all patients with complaints who were presented to him by the ADC's nursing staff. Id. at 10, 12-13. According to Dr. Ross, he “would see any [patients at the ADC] that the nurse felt that [he] needed to see.” Id. at 14.

         “If the nurse gave [Dr. Ross] a report and [he] didn't feel comfortable with what was reported, [he] would ask to see them, and [the nurse] would make sure that [he] saw them.” Id. at 14-15. If an urgent need arose while Dr. Ross was not at the ADC, the nurses would send the patient to the emergency room. Id. at 17-18. “And if [the nurses] were iffy about whether or not they should go, [the nurses] would counsel [Dr. Ross] by phone, and [Dr. Ross] would give advice to go or not.” Id. at 18.

         As a general matter, Dr. Ross did not recall seeing ADC patients' initial intake forms. Id. at 18, 49-50. “The forms were not presented to [him].” Id. at 71. Dr. Ross instead reviewed the medical history of patients which were “garnered by the nurse.” Id. at 18.

         According to Dr. Ross, when someone incarcerated at the ADC submitted a request or a “kite” seeking the initiation of medications for conditions that were chronic and ongoing, “[t]he nurse will usually present [Dr. Ross] with the statement that the patient has requested and that she has submitted request for backup medical information.” Id. at 29. “The kites were submitted to the nurses, and the nurses deemed those that needed to be brought to [Dr. Ross].” Id. at 72. Dr. Ross never personally reviewed these kites. Id. at 72-73.

         2. The ADC's nurses and work performed at the ADC

         At all times relevant to this case, Defendant Jona Crowley was a registered nurse (“RN”) who worked as the ADC's “staff nurse” or “head nurse.” Dep. of Jona Crowley [258-2] at 6. Junna Jackson and Kristi Bourn were licensed practical nurses, and Kelli Tassin was a registered nurse, all of whom also worked at the ADC. Dep. of Jona Crowley [258-2] at 52; Dep. of Junna Jackson [258-3] at 4, 22.

         When nurses received an inmate request for treatment, “any of the nurses could have answered the kites.” Dep. of Jona Crowley [258-2] at 9. “[T]he only time [Crowley] would have had face-to-face contact with an inmate was on Tuesdays, with the doctor, unless it was an emergency.” Id. at 12.

         According to Crowley, protocol was that if an inmate responded on an ADC questionnaire or informed one of the nurses to the effect that he had been prescribed medication that he did not have with him, the inmate needed to complete a Release of Information (“ROI”) form in order for the ADC to obtain additional information. Id. at 13-14. Likewise, when an ADC inmate requested prescription medication, Crowley explained that the inmate was required to sign a ROI form in order for the ADC staff to determine what medications the inmates had been prescribed. Id. at 9-10. The ROI was then sent to the inmate's doctor or hospital. Id. at 10.

         When the ADC medical staff received the records back from the inmate's physician, Crowley would read over them and place them in Dr. Ross's bin for review when he came in on Tuesdays. Id. at 10, 55-56. According to Crowley, if something came up that needed attention before Tuesday, she would call Dr. Ross, or send the inmate to the emergency room if the inmate needed immediate medical attention. Id. at 10-11. Dr. Ross described Crowley as a “triage nurse” who would evaluate inmates “and see when and how much treatment [was] necessary.” Dep. of Dr. William Ross [258-4] at 60.

         3. Mr. Lee's medical treatment at the ADC

         Mr. Lee's December 5, 2012, Booking Medical Sheet at the ADC listed a “Dr. McLossky” as his doctor. Booking Medical Sheet [258-1] at 19. The Booking Medical Sheet disclosed that Mr. Lee had, either in the present or the past, suffered from epilepsy, fainting spells, heart condition, high blood pressure, and seizures. Id. The Booking Medical Sheet reflected that Mr. Lee was prescribed medication by a doctor for high blood pressure and seizures. Id. at 19-20. However, the Booking Medical Sheet did not list any specific medications Mr. Lee took, nor did it specifically identify what medical provider had prescribed any such medications or what pharmacy Mr. Lee used to fill prescriptions. See id.

         Mr. Lee had previously been incarcerated at the ADC on several different occasions, for one day in May 2011, see Booking Sheet [258-1] at 29-30, Release Sheet [258-1] at 42-43; from June to October 2011, see Booking Sheet [258-1] at 27-28, Release Sheet [258-1] at 39-40; and from January to April 2012, see Booking Sheet [258-1] at 25-26, Release Sheet [258-1] at 36-37. While Mr. Lee was incarcerated at the ADC in June through October 2011, the ADC's Medication Administration Records noted that Mr. Lee had been prescribed Lanoxin 0.25 mg by a Dr. Hudson and three Dilantin 100 mg daily by a Dr. Simmons. Medication Record [258-1] at 59-62. During Mr. Lee's incarceration from January to April 2012, the ADC's Medication Administration Records indicated that Mr. Lee had been prescribed one Digoxin 25 mg and three Dilantin 100 mg daily by a Dr. Emerick. Medication Record [258-1] at 56-58.

         On January 6, 2013, during his final incarceration at the ADC, Mr. Lee submitted an inmate request, also known informally as a “kite, ” which read as follows:

I have a pass [sic] record her [sic] at the ADC, will you check my record and you will see my medical history. I need to be place [sic] back on my seziuer [sic] and heart M.E.D.S. [sic] please. (1) I take Loxian [sic] 0.25 mg 1 time a day → mornings. (2) I take Dilantin 100 mg 3 time [sic] a day → give all 3 at night.

         Inmate Request [258-1] at 54. On January 7, 2013, Crowley responded to Mr. Lee's request as follows:

Where are your meds? Have them brought to ADC. Sign ROI to your Dr[.]

Id.; see also Dep. of Jona Crowley [258-2] at 16, 58 (identifying this response as hers). When asked in her deposition if she had informed Dr. Ross of Mr. Lee's January 6, 2013, request, Crowley testified, “I don't believe so.” Dep. of Jona Crowley [258-2] at 49.

In an inmate request submitted on January 8, 2013, Mr. Lee stated that: I was told by your [illegible] staff “nurse” to write a kite to the head my pass [sic] records from Dr. Ross. Please look into this matter. My health condition is life threaten[ing]. I need to see a doctor.
* * * P.S. Read the response on back page. Sir, if I had my on [sic] medication I wouldn't never ask [sic] the nurse Mrs. Jonna [sic] ...

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