United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
MICHAEL P. MILLS U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
cause comes before the court on the motion of defendant
Management and Training Corp. (MTC) et al for
summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiffs
Brenda Green et al have responded in opposition to
the motion, and the court, having considered the memoranda
and submissions of the parties, concludes that the motion
should be granted in part and denied in part.
a wrongful death case, based on both federal claims asserted
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims of
negligence, arising out of the death of John Robert Green,
III. Green died of a heart attack on January 1, 2017 while
incarcerated at the Marshall County Correctional Facility
(MCCF) operated by defendant. In its brief, defendant
describes the facts surrounding Green's death as follows:
In the early morning hours of January 1, 2017, Green began
having chest pains. At or about 6:40 a.m., an unidentified
offender signaled towards the watch tower that another
offender was having some sort of trouble. At 6:47 a.m., a
Code Blue (a call for medical help) was called for Bravo Dorm
2 where Green was housed. At about 6:51 a.m., MTC employees
responded to Green's dorm where he was found sitting
upright against his bed. Ultimately, Green was carried out of
the dorm on a stretcher, and taken to the medical dorm. At
roughly 6:57 a.m., a Code Green was called, and CPR and other
life saving measures were undertaken. By 7:10 a.m., MCCF
officials called for an ambulance. The Med Stat ambulance
arrived on the unit at 7:33 a.m. Green was deceased when the
brief at 2].
their part, plaintiffs dispute many of defendants'
assertions regarding the response times of prison employees,
but, as discussed below, their evidence regarding the
response time issue has been rather heavily impeached by
summary judgment evidence in this case. Perhaps as a result
of this impeachment evidence, plaintiffs assert in their
brief that their “primary” claim now relates to
their allegation that MTC failed to adequately staff its
prison at the time of Green's death. Plaintiffs assert
that deliberate indifference and/or negligence by MTC in
staffing the prison resulted in employees discovering
Green's distress later than they otherwise would have.
Defendant has presently moved for summary judgment, arguing
that no genuine issue of fact exists regarding its liability
in this case and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter
court will first address plaintiffs' federal Eighth
Amendment claims, as to which they face a much more daunting
burden of proof than with their state law negligence claims.
It is well settled that “[a]n inmate's right to
medical care is abridged if a prison official acts with
deliberate indifference to his medical needs, as deliberate
indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs
violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel
and unusual punishment.” Miller v. Hall, 2018
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134135 at *10 (N.D. Miss 2018) (holding that
the prison guard's actions did not amount to deliberate
indifference because the guard did not know of the
inmate's need for medical attention.) (citing Estelle
v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d
251 (1978)). In the Eighth Amendment context, the test for
establishing deliberate indifference is one of
“subjective recklessness as used in the criminal
law.” Id. (citation omitted).
the subjective recklessness standard, there is no liability
under § 1983 unless the plaintiff alleges facts which,
if true, would demonstrate that a prison official (1) knew
that the inmate faced a substantial risk of serious harm; and
(2) disregarded that risk by failing to take reasonable
measures to abate it. Id. (citation omitted). Where
a plaintiff complains of a delay in medical treatment, he
must show deliberate indifference to serious medical needs
that resulted in substantial harm. Id. (citing
Alderson v. Concordia Par. Corr. Facility, 848 F.3d
415, 422 (5th Cir. 2017) and Easter v. Powell, 467
F.3d 459, 464 (5th Cir. 2006)). “Evidence of efforts by
prison staff to attend to the medical need will negate a
finding of deliberate indifference.” Jackson v.
Cain, 864 F.2d 1235, 1246 (5th Cir. 1989). “Not
all failure to provide care is actionable, however, as
negligent conduct by a prison official does not give rise to
a constitutional violation.” Id. (citing
Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 106 S.Ct. 662, 88
L.Ed.2d 662 (1986); Oliver v. Collins, 914 F.2d 56,
60 (5th Cir. 1990)).
the Eighth Amendment standard is thus a stringent one, that
is not the only, or even the primary, obstacle to
plaintiff's federal claims in this case. As noted in the
decisions above, the typical Eighth Amendment claim deals
with claims against specific state officers who, the
plaintiffs typically allege, were subjectively indifferent to
the medical needs of a prisoner. In this case, however,
plaintiffs assert Eighth Amendment claims against MTC itself,
and this places an additional, and very heavy burden, upon
them in this case. In their brief, plaintiffs acknowledge
that MTC is considered a “municipality” in the
§ 1983 context, which permits it to take advantage of
the highly rigorous “policy or custom” standard
set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978).
municipality may only be held liable under § 1983 for
violating a citizen's constitutional rights if “the
governmental body itself ‘subjects' [that] person
to a deprivation of rights or ‘causes' a person
‘to be subjected' to such deprivation.”
Connick v. Thompson, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 1359 (2011).
Governmental entities are “responsible only for [their]
own illegal acts” and are “not vicariously liable
under § 1983 for [their] employees' actions.”
Id. Thus, there is no respondeat superior
liability under § 1983; rather, the key to municipal
liability is demonstrating that a deprivation of a
constitutional right was inflicted pursuant to an official
policy or custom of the municipality in question. Monell
v. Dep't of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978).
The alleged unconstitutional conduct asserted “must be
directly attributable to the municipality through some sort
of official action or imprimatur.” Piotrowski v.
City of R.H., 237 F.3d 567, 578 (5th Cir. 2001).
establish constitutional liability against MTC, plaintiffs
must establish (1) an official policy or custom, of which (2)
a policymaker can be charged with actual or constructive
knowledge, and (3) a constitutional violation whose
“moving force” is that policy or custom.
Rivera v. R.H. Indep. Sch. Dist., 349 F.3d 244,
247-249 (5th Cir. 2003). A “policy or custom” can
be either (1) a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or
decision that is officially adopted and promulgated by the
municipality's lawmaking officers or by an official to
whom the lawmakers have delegated policy-making authority; or
(2) a persistent, widespread practice of city officials or
employees, which, although not authorized by officially
adopted and promulgated policy, is so common and well settled
as to constitute a custom that fairly represents municipal
policy. McGregory v. City of Jackson, 335 Fed.
App'x. 446, 448-449 (5th Cir. 2009).
must also demonstrate a link between the policy and the
constitutional violation, and the policy must be maintained
with “objective deliberate indifference” to a
constitutionally protected right. Lawson v. Dallas
County, 286 F.3d 257, 263 (5th Cir. 2002). A
municipality acts with objective deliberate indifference if
it promulgates a policy or custom despite the “known or
obvious consequences that constitutional violations would
result.” Piotrowski, 237 F.3d at 567.
Deliberate indifference of this sort is a stringent test, and
“a showing of simple or even heightened negligence will
not suffice” to prove municipal culpability.
Id. at 579.
thus clear that plaintiffs face an exceedingly difficult
legal burden in seeking to establish Eighth Amendment
liability against MTC, and this court does not believe that
their summary judgment briefing even comes close to meeting
that burden. Indeed, in contending that an MTC policy or
custom resulted in the death of Green, plaintiffs' entire
argument is as follows:
Williams was deposed as the representative of MTC under Rule
30(b)(6). She was asked to respond to the following question:
can you say about our paragraph 6, here, ‘Describe
backup measures, if any, which MTC employs routinely or
otherwise to compensate for no-show correctional
officers' since that seems to be a problem?
A. So it's a matter of trying to get people to stay over
from the previous shift and or have other people come in if
it's-if it's their day off and you can get ahold of
them and have them-have them come in.
Plaintiffs'Exh. “7”, Williams depo.Excerpts
p.55, line 18-p, 56, line 2.
That reply led to the following
Q. Okay. So that would be the shift supervisors trying to
arrange all of that?
Q. Okay. What-what is your perception of the extent to which
the staff was effective or-or-what's the word I'm
looking for-whether the-the dorm was ...