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Gunter v. Southern Health Partners, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

March 30, 2017

DAVID RAY GUNTER, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          OSTEEN, JR., District Judge

         This matter is before the court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Rick Brajer[1] (collectively “Moving Defendants”). (Doc. 35.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition (Docs. 47, 48), and Moving Defendants filed a reply (Doc. 49). This matter is now ripe for resolution, and for the reasons stated below, Moving Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff commenced the present action in the Randolph County Superior Court Division of the State of North Carolina by filing a Complaint on November 25, 2015. (Doc. 23.) Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in this matter on March 3, 2016. (Doc. 26.) A Petition for Removal to this court was filed on April 1, 2016. (Doc. 1.) Defendants North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) and the Secretary of DHHS (“the Secretary”), filed the present motion to dismiss on April 29, 2016. (Doc. 35.) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend and to add a party defendant (Doc. 51), which this court granted (Doc. 56). However, in light of the limited nature of the amended complaint, this court ordered that the motion to dismiss filed by DHHS and the Secretary would be considered in response to the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 57), but permitted the parties to request additional briefing. (Id.) DHHS and the Secretary filed a supplemental reply stating that the issues had been fully briefed and no additional briefing was needed. (Doc. 60.) On March 20, 2017, a hearing was held before this court on the motion to dismiss filed by DHHS and the Secretary. This matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was diagnosed with a heart defect as an infant. (Second Amended Complaint (“Second Am. Compl.”) (Doc. 57) ¶ 79.) Plaintiff had surgeries and required substantial medical attention throughout his life for his heart condition. (Id. ¶¶ 79-82.) Plaintiff's physicians prescribed medication to maintain his heart health and circulatory system, including Coumadin, an anticoagulant. (Id. ¶ 83.) The prescribed medications are essential in maintaining Plaintiff's health. (Id. ¶ 84.) Plaintiff must take regular doses of his medications, including Coumadin, to maintain levels of the medicine at a therapeutic level. (Id. ¶¶ 85-87.) Plaintiff took his Coumadin dose at a set hour every day and did not suffer serious complications from his heart condition provided he faithfully observed his physicians' instructions. (Id. ¶ 88.)

         On November 6, 2012, Plaintiff was arrested in Forsyth County, North Carolina, on a charge for failure to appear in Davie County, North Carolina, for a Driving While License Revoked. (Id. ¶ 89.) Plaintiff remained in Forsyth County that night. (Id.) When Plaintiff arrived at the Forsyth County local confinement facility, he completed a medical intake form disclosing that he had a heart condition and took Coumadin daily, along with other medications. (Id. ¶ 90.)

         On November 7, 2012, Plaintiff was transferred to the Davie County local confinement facility. (Id. ¶ 92.) At the Davie County local confinement facility, Plaintiff completed another intake form disclosing that he had a replacement aortic valve and a history of heart stents. (Id. ¶ 93.) Plaintiff met with Defendant Fran Jackson (“Jackson”), to whom he disclosed his heart condition. (Id. ¶ 94.) Jackson listened to Plaintiff's heart with a stethoscope, commenting “That's what you say, ” or words to that effect. (Id.)

         On November 8, 2012, Plaintiff's daughter delivered a small supply of Plaintiff's medications, including Coumadin, to the Davie County local confinement facility. (Id. ¶ 95.) Plaintiff believes that Jackson refused to administer the medication delivered by his daughter, with Jackson stating “I don't know if your wife or daughter is a meth cook.” (Id. ¶ 97.) Plaintiff believes a document was delivered to Davie County local confinement facility stating Plaintiff takes 7 mg of Coumadin by mouth daily. (Id. ¶ 98.)

         On November 13, 2012, Plaintiff's blood was drawn and tested for INR levels, which showed Plaintiff's coagulant level at 1.07, considered to be a baseline level and below the therapeutic level specified for Plaintiff, indicating that Plaintiff did not receive proper Coumadin doses for several days prior to the test. (Id. ¶ 99.) Plaintiff did not receive proper doses of Coumadin in a timely manner while confined at the Davie County local confinement facility despite making efforts to advise and alert all appropriate officials to his medical condition and need for medical care. (Id. ¶¶ 100-01.) Plaintiff asserts that “Defendants” had actual knowledge of Plaintiff's medical condition and need for medical care, but withheld necessary medical care from Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 102.) Plaintiff asserts “Defendants” had policies and procedures in place at the Davie County local confinement facility that were designed to, or operated to, deprive Plaintiff of medical care. (Id. ¶ 103.)

         Plaintiff was transferred from the Davie County local confinement facility to the Stokes County local confinement facility on November 16, 2012. (Id. ¶ 104.) Plaintiff believes that Jackson created a transfer form dated November 15, 2012, which noted that Plaintiff was to receive medications, including Coumadin, and that Plaintiff was scheduled to have an INR blood test on November 23, 2012. (Id. ¶ 105.) On November 16, 2012, an intake form was completed for Plaintiff at Stokes County local confinement facility, which specified Coumadin doses and timing that differed from the transfer form completed by Jackson. (Id. ¶ 106.)

         The records provided to Plaintiff in response to his requests to Sheriff Stokes and to Sheriff Marshall reflect that no Coumadin was administered to Plaintiff on November 16, 17, or 18 of 2012. (Id. ¶ 107.) “Emergency” doses of Coumadin were administered to Plaintiff beginning November 19, 2012. (Id. ¶ 108.) Nothing in “the records” reflects that any licensed M.D. was ever consulted by anyone at the Stokes County local confinement facility or that Plaintiff was ever permitted to have an examination or consultation with a licensed M.D. during this medical emergency. (Id. ¶ 109.) Nothing in “the records” reflects that the “emergency” doses of Coumadin administered to Plaintiff at the Stokes County local confinement facility were prescribed by any licensed M.D. (Id. ¶ 110.) Nothing in “the records” reflects how the determination to administer Coumadin was made or under whose supervision such determinations were made. (Id. ¶ 111.)

         Plaintiff alleges that at all times, “defendants” had a duty to Plaintiff to maintain and preserve accurate records relating to Plaintiff's medical care, but failed to discharge this duty. (Id. ¶ 112.) Plaintiff alleges that during and in response to Plaintiff's medical emergency, “defendants” had a duty to provide access to a licensed M.D., but deliberately withheld access to necessary and appropriate care by a licensed M.D., “exhibiting deliberate indifference to plaintiff's medical needs, and in violation of the statutory duties and obligations set out hereinabove.” (Id. ¶ 113.)

         Plaintiff was released from Stokes County local confinement facility on November 21, 2012. (Id. ¶ 114.) During the Thanksgiving holiday, Plaintiff developed severe abdominal pain and began perspiring profusely. (Id. ¶ 115.) Plaintiff went to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for evaluation, where physicians determined that the interruptions in Coumadin that occurred while Plaintiff was confined at the Davie County and Stokes County local confinement facilities caused Plaintiff to develop blood clots which migrated to his gastrointestinal tract, creating intestinal blockages. (Id. ¶ 116.)

         Removal of the blood clots and blockages required emergency surgery on November 29, 2012. (Id. ¶ 117.) Additional blood clotting was removed through surgery on January 19, 2013. (Id. ¶ 118.) Fissures formed at the sites of incision in Plaintiff's intestines and colon where the blood clots were removed. (Id. ¶ 119.) On July 3, 2013, the fissures in Plaintiff's intestines and colon erupted, causing severe medical complications and injuries. (Id. ¶ 120.) A portion of Plaintiff's bowel was removed as a result of these events. (Id. ¶ 121.) Plaintiff has suffered one or more strokes as a result of the interruption in Coumadin that occurred while he was confined at the Davie County and Stokes County local confinement facilities. (Id. ¶ 122.) Plaintiff suffered pain, loss of quality of life, reduced life expectancy, medical expense, and anticipated future medical expense as a result. (Id. ¶ 123.) Plaintiff alleges that “defendants” ...


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