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Barnett v. Page

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

April 2, 2018

SHERIFF SAMUEL PAGE, et al., Defendants.


          Joe L. Webster United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Jennifer Thomas, RN's ("Nurse Thomas") Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket Entry 35.) Plaintiff James Anthony Barnett, Jr. did not file a response. Also before the Court is Plaintiffs motion entitled, "Motion to Withdraw." (Docket Entry 39.) For the following reasons, the Court recommends that Defendant Thomas' Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and Plaintiffs Motion to Withdraw be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a prisoner of the State of North Carolina, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on December 14, 2015. (Compl, Docket Entry 2.) Plaintiff alleges that on May 31, 2013, he was transported to the Rockingham County Detention Center ("Rockingham") from the Alamance County Detention Center. (Id. ¶ V.) Plaintiff states that he suffers from several mental disorders and upon arriving at Rockingham, he informed the booking officer and nurse of his mental impairments during his initial screening. (Id.) Plaintiff did not have his medication with him, so he signed a release form so that Rockingham officials could review his medical records and prescribe him medication. (Id.)

         Between June 2013 and December 2013, Plaintiff alleges that he constandy submitted mental health referrals asking to see and speak to a mental health professional. (Id.) Plaintiff was told that it was Nurse Thomas' decision whether or not to allow him to see a professional and that there was nothing the other nurses could do. (Id.) He states that Nurse Thomas "refuse[d] to see (Thim] and evaluate [his] mental health" and place him on a list to see a mental health professional. (Id.) During this time, Plaintiff also wrote Defendant Sheriff Samuel Page[1] "two letters of requests asking [Page] to step in and investigate to find out why plaintiff was] not being put on the list to see a mental health professional." (Id.) Plaintiff states that "[o]n December 7, 2013, he was hearing really strong voices and seeing things . . . which lead [him] to cut [his] neck (from the right side of [his neck] around towards [his] throat area) and fight the detention staff when they came to try and retrieve the razor blade from [him]." (Id.) Plaintiff was tazed, handcuffed, and rushed to the hospital. (Id.) Plaintiff was subsequendy placed on suicide watch. (Id.)

         In his prayer for relief, Plaintiff asks for compensatory damages and requests that the Court award injunctive relief by: (1) ordering Rockingham officials "to stop ignoring, denying and delaying inmates medical and mental health treatment;" (2) ordering inmate medical and mental health issues "to be dealt with prompdy;" (3) requiring "better decisions and judgments be made at [Rockingham] by staff and medical staff, based on mere common sense and knowledge and based on medical training and expertise, regardless of what that person(s) [or] colleague (s) may say or think;" (4) permanently suspending Nurse Thomas and ordering Defendant Sheriff Page to step down; and (5) ordering Defendants to pay Plaintiffs court and attorney fees if Defendants "are found liable and in the wrong." (Id. ¶ VI.)

         Nurse Thomas has submitted an affidavit and Plaintiffs complete medical file from his incarceration at Rockingham between May 2013 and December 2013. (See Thomas Aff., Docket Entry 37; Barnett Medical Records, Docket Entry 37-1.) According to her affidavit, Nurse Thomas is a registered nurse licensed in North Carolina. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 2.) At all relevant times, she was employed by Southern Health Partners to provide medical care to inmates at Rockingham and served as the medical team administrator. (Id. ¶ 3.) Nurse Thomas is not authorized to prescribe medication. (Id. ¶ 7.) Rather, medications for inmates at Rockingham would be prescribed by Manuel Maldonado, a physician's assistant who came to Rockingham generally once per week. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.)

         Under the contract between Southern Health Partners and Rockingham, Southern Health Partners and its representatives did not provide mental health services to inmates. (Id. ¶ 4.) Instead, mental health services were provided by Daymark Mobile Crisis ("Daymark") and Sharon Neville ("Neville") served as a liaison between Rockingham medical providers and Daymark. (Id.) If an inmate requested mental health services or if mental health services were needed, Rockingham's medical staff would provide records or other information to Neville. (Id.) Neville would then determine whether mental health services would be provided by Daymark. (Id.) Nurse Thomas had no control over whether Daymark would provide mental health services to an inmate. (Id. ¶ 39.) Thus, in the context of mental health services, Nurse Thomas' responsibilities were limited to ensuring that Neville received an inmate's request for mental health services. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 39.)

         Plaintiff was booked into the Jail on May 31, 2013. (Id. ¶ 8; see also Barnett Medical Records at 1.) During his initial medical assessment on or about June 1, 2013, Plaintiff reported taking several medications and reported a history of being bipolar, and having schizophrenia and depression. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 9; Barnett Medical Records at 4-5.) Plaintiff denied that he had recently considered committing suicide. (Barnett Medical Records at 6.)

         Plaintiff executed an Authorization for Release of Medical Information to Correctional Facilities, authorizing Rockingham medical providers to obtain his medical records from Alamance County, where Plaintiff was incarcerated prior to being transferred to Rockingham. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 11; Barnett Medical Records at 14.) Alamance County Mental Health reported that it had no medical records for Plaintiff. (Barnett Medical Records at 14.) Additionally, Nurse Thomas personally spoke to a provider at the Alamance County Jail, who informed her that Plaintiff was not taking any mental health medications during his incarcerations at the Alamance County Jail. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 11; Barnett Medical Records at 57.) Because the providers were unable to obtain verification of Plaintiff s prescriptions and because Maldonado never ordered any mental health drugs, no mental health medications were administered to Plaintiff. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 12.) Absent an order from Maldonado, Nurse Thomas was unable to administer prescription medications. (Id.) During his incarceration, Plaintiff submitted several Sick Call Slips requesting to be seen by a mental health provider. (Thomas Aff. ¶¶ 13, 15, 38, 40-41, 45; Barnett Medical Records at 22-26, 29.) Nurse Thomas left each of these Sick Call Slips for Sharon Neville, so that Neville could make a determination as to whether an evaluation by a Daymark provider was warranted. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 51.)

         On June 25, 2013, Plaintiff reported to the nursing staff that he had not eaten since June 2, 2013. (Id. ¶ 17.) Several Suicide Assessment forms were completed in response to Plaintiffs refusal to eat. (Id. ¶ 16; Barnett Medical Records at 37-52.) He began eating again on July 2, apparently stopped eating again, and then resumed eating around July 10, 2013. (Thomas Aff. ¶¶ 21, 22, 30; Barnett Medical Records at 58-60.) During Plaintiffs reported hunger strike, his weight was regularly checked, he was regularly encouraged to eat and drink, and his mucous membranes were checked to determine if he was dehydrated. (Thomas Aff. ¶¶ 17, 19, 20, 24-27, 33-35; Barnett Medical Records at 57-60, 62.)

         Maldonado examined Plaintiff on July 2, 2013. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 21; Barnett Medical Records at 58.) Maldonado performed a physical examination, ordered a mental health referral, urged Plaintiff to start eating, and ordered daily weight checks. (Barnett Medical Records at 58.) Following Maldonado's examination, Plaintiff was seen by providers with Daymark on three occasions: July 2, 2013, July 8, 2013, and July 15, 2013. (Thomas Aff. ¶¶ 23, 28, 32; Barnett Medical Records at 17-19.) At the conclusion of the third evaluation, the provider for Daymark, Lisa Marshall, recommended that Plaintiff be removed from suicide watch. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 32; Barnett Medical Records at 19.) In response, Plaintiff was removed from suicide watch on July 16, 2013. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 34; Barnett Medical Records at 62.)

         After Plaintiff was released from suicide watch and began eating, he never reported to Nurse Thomas or any of the other providers at Rockingham that he felt suicidal or felt the urge to harm himself. (Thomas Aff. ¶ 52.) Nurse Thomas states that, at all times, she attempted to treat Plaintiff in accordance with her best medical judgment and pursuant to accepted standards of practice for registered nurses. (Id. ¶ 53.) She was never deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs medical needs. Id.

         II. ...

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