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Edwards v. Graham County Jail

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

November 29, 2017

GRAHAM COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Kevin Crane, Kim Holloway, and Kenneth Hyde. (Doc. No. 25).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Pro se Plaintiff Billy Edwards filed this action on September 21, 2016, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging claims of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs as to various Defendants based on an alleged delay in treatment after Plaintiff allegedly suffered a heart attack while a pre-trial detainee at the Graham County Detention Center (“the jail”) in Robbinsville, North Carolina. (Doc. No. 1). On December 22, 2016, following its initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and § 1915A, the Court entered an Order, holding that Plaintiff's claims of deliberate indifference against Hyde, Crane, and Holloway were sufficient to survive the Court's initial review, but dismissing the remaining Defendants. (Doc. No. 7). On March 14, 2017, Hyde, Crane, and Holloway filed their Answer, denying liability and asserting several affirmative defenses. (Doc. No. 14). On March 23, 2017, the Court entered a Pretrial Order and Case Management Plan, setting a discovery deadline of July 21, 2017, and a deadline for dispositive motions of August 21, 2017. (Doc. No. 15). The parties exchanged written discovery. On July 5, 2017, the Court entered an Order granting leave to Defendants to take Plaintiff's deposition, (Doc. No. 22), which was conducted on July 14, 2017.

         The moving Defendants filed their pending summary judgment motion on August 21, 2017. Defendants' summary judgment materials include Exhibit 1, titled “Plaintiff's Release of Documents, ” and Plaintiff's deposition. See (Doc. Nos. 24-1; 26-1). On August 24, 2017, this Court entered an order in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a response to the motion for summary judgment and of the manner in which evidence could be submitted to the Court. (Doc. No. 28). Plaintiff has responded to the summary judgment motion by submitting his own sworn statement and an affidavit of prior Graham County jail inmate Terry Buchanan. See (Doc. Nos. 29, 29-1). This matter is therefore ripe for disposition.

         B. Factual Background

         The evidence on summary judgment shows the following:

         Plaintiff is a North Carolina inmate currently incarcerated at Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. (Doc. No. 24-1 at p. 15: Pl.'s Dep.). At the time of the events forming the basis of this action, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Graham County jail, and Defendants were each employed by the Graham County Sheriff's Office at the jail- Hyde was employed as a Corporal and Day Shift Supervisor; Crane was employed as a transport officer; and Holloway was employed as a detention officer.

         On September 19, 2015, [1] Plaintiff requested medical attention due to complaints of chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath. (Doc. No. 24-1, Ex. 4). Graham County's jail does not have any medical staff, so inmates needing medical attention are transported to outside healthcare providers. (Doc. No. 24-1 at pp. 25, 48-49, 85). Jail employee Charlene West transported Plaintiff to an urgent care clinic and then to Murphy Medical Center. (Id. at pp. 78-79, 88). Upon evaluating Plaintiff, Murphy Medical Center transported him to Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where he was medically evaluated and received treatment involving the placement of stents. (Id. at pp. 51-52, 107). Following treatment at Mission Hospital, Plaintiff was released from Graham County's custody on bond, but was subsequently arrested again for violations of that bond. (Id. at pp. 58-60, 62; Ex. 5). Plaintiff remained incarcerated until his trial in January 2016, when he was convicted and taken into the custody of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. (Doc. No. 24-1 at p. 15).

         Plaintiff alleges and testified that on the date in question, there was a period of delay from the time he first requested medical attention until he was ultimately transported by jail personnel for medical evaluation and treatment. (Doc. No. 1; Doc. No. 24-1 at pp. 54-55). Based on Plaintiff's own allegations and testimony, Plaintiff's contentions as to the precise length of this alleged delay are unclear, [2] and Defendants have not stipulated to Plaintiff's assertions as to the same. Defendants contend, in any event, that when the questions and inconsistencies within Plaintiff's allegations and testimony are resolved and viewed in the light most favorable to him, the delay was at most about 10½ hours-from 7:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.[3]See (Doc. No. 24-1 at pp. 54-55).

         Plaintiff alleges that he first complained of chest pains, left arm pain, and breathing problems to Holloway at 7:30 a.m., although he does not expressly allege he requested medical attention at that time. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ IV(1)). Plaintiff alleges that Holloway checked his blood pressure, informed him it was “very high, ” and instructed him to go lay down on his bunk. (Id.). Around 8:00 a.m., Plaintiff told jail personnel that he was “hurting bad” and needed to go to the doctor. (Doc. No. 24-1 at p. 87). At or around this time, another inmate at the jail, Charles Goodson, fell and also requested medical attention. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ IV(3); Doc. No. 24-1 at pp. 25, 89-90). Both Plaintiff and Goodson filled out Medical Request Forms to be taken for medical treatment sometime between 11:30 a.m. and noon. (Doc. No. 24-1 at pp. 25, 45, 100; Ex. 4). Plaintiff understood that filling out this form “was the first step to me being . . . taken . . . to the doctor.” (Id. at pp. 48-49). Plaintiff contends that Hyde informed Plaintiff that he and Goodson would be transported for medical treatment “around noon, ” but that around 1:00 p.m., the transport officer Crane told him he could not watch both Plaintiff and Goodson at the same time, and transported Goodson for treatment before him. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ IV(3) and (4)); Doc. No. 24-1 at pp. 91-92, 124).

         Plaintiff testified that he told Hyde that he thought he was having a heart attack, although he did not specifically allege this in his Complaint, nor did he write it on his Medical Request Form. (Doc. No. 24-1 at pp. 92-93, 104, Ex. 4; Doc. No. 1). At no time did Plaintiff tell defendants to “call 911” for him. (Doc. No. 24-1 at p. 103). Plaintiff testified that he kept asking whether anyone was going to take him every time the jail personnel made their rounds, and was eventually told that there was not anyone available to take him and that he would have to wait until Charlene West's son was finished playing a football game sometime after 5:00 p.m. (Id. at pp. 100-01). Around 6:00 p.m., Charlene West transported Plaintiff to an urgent care clinic. (Id. at p. 52). The urgent care clinic then referred him to Murphy Medical Center. (Id. at p. 106).

         Plaintiff testified that medical testing performed at Murphy Medical Center indicated he had experienced “multiple heart attacks.” (Id. at p. 107). Plaintiff was then transported from Murphy Medical Center to Mission Hospital. (Id.). He underwent testing at Mission the next morning, on September 20, 2015. (Id. at pp. 51-52). Plaintiff testified that cardiologist William Thomas Maddox evaluated him and diagnosed him as having had a heart attack. (Id. at pp. 50, 107). According to Plaintiff, Dr. Maddox advised him that “there was some bad stuff going on” and that he had “blockages.” (Id. at pp. 52-53). Dr. Maddox recommended bypass surgery. (Id.). Plaintiff testified he was “scared to death” at the thought of heart surgery, and he asked Dr. Maddox whether there were any less serious treatment alternatives. (Id.). Dr. Maddox informed him about a stent procedure as an alternative to bypass surgery. (Id.). Plaintiff decided on the stent procedure instead of bypass surgery. (Id. at p. 53).

         A doctor other than Dr. Maddox performed the stent procedure. (Id. at pp. 53-54). Plaintiff is unable to identify this doctor. (Id.). After the stent procedure, Dr. Maddox checked on Plaintiff. (Id. at p. 54). Dr. Maddox told him that the stents were not permanent, and that he would “have trouble out of them eventually.” (Id. at p. 55). Plaintiff told Dr. Maddox he was thinking about filing a lawsuit over the alleged delay by the jail in getting him medical attention. (Id. at p. 54). According to Plaintiff, Dr. Maddox told him that “excessive delay has caused you severe heart damage, ” and that if Plaintiff needed his help with anything to contact him. (Id. at p. 55). Dr. Maddox prescribed Plaintiff's medications following the stent procedure, but Plaintiff only takes aspirin now. (Id. at pp. 66-67). Plaintiff has not been seen by a cardiologist since being treated by Dr. Maddox in September 2015. (Id. at p. 58).

         Plaintiff testified he has written Dr. Maddox at Asheville Cardiology three times since filing suit, asking whether he would testify on Plaintiff's behalf. (Id. at pp. 74-75). He has not received any response, and has not had any communications with Dr. Maddox since speaking with him in the hospital. (Id. at pp. 75-77). Plaintiff testified he has also requested ...

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