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Hill v. Palmer

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

February 26, 2019

DERRICK PALMER, et al., Defendants.



         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of pro se Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 6). Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 10). Plaintiff has filed two Letters, (Doc. Nos. 3, 7), that are construed as Motions for the Appointment of Counsel, and a third Letter, (Doc. No. 11), is construed as a Motion for Default Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff, who is a pretrial detainee, filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, addressing incidents that allegedly occurred at the Cherokee County Detention Center (“CCDC”). He names as Defendants Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer; CCDC Captain Mark Patterson; CCDC Lieutenant Jeremy Bresch, and CCDC Head Nurse Carrie Colwell. Plaintiff also attempts to add Colwell's employer, Southern Health Partners, as a Defendant. (Doc. No. 6 at 3, 17).

         Construing the Amended Complaint liberally and accepting it as true, Plaintiff alleges that Palmer is legally responsible for the overall operation of the sheriff's department and the detention center medical, their conduct, and their ability to provide adequate medical treatment and respond reasonably to medical care that is glaringly inexcusable or bad, and overseeing CCDC administration. Patterson is legally responsible for the administrative staff and the welfare of all inmates at the facility.

         When Plaintiff was booked at CCDC, he answered medical questions indicating that he had serious medical needs, stating “back, neck and shoulder pain from accident. Right knee swollen and painful, diagnosed as needing replaced.” (Doc. No. 6 at 4). Plaintiff's cane was taken away and not replaced. Two molars have painful cavities. He has arthritis, very poor blurry vision for which he needs prescription glasses, and he was diagnosed with Hepatitis-C, “physician concerned with possible cirrhosis.” (Doc. No. 6 at 4). He has a history of heavy alcohol use and high tolerance for prescription pain medication “and will need to be detoxed.” (Doc. No. 6 at 4). Plaintiff is unemployed and applied for disability twice due to “injuries, great pain, health issues and disabilities.” (Doc. No. 6 at 4).

         Defendants were also informed of Plaintiff's serious medical needs “by physicians medical records, files, hospital records, jail doctors, examinations, blood work, Hepatitis-C blood panel, which is a serious contagious disease that can cause cirrhosis, liver disease and death if not treated.” (Doc. No. 6 at 4). An ultrasound showed enlarged liver. X-rays of Plaintiff's right knee and right shoulder show “existing rotator cuff injury, bone spurs, numerous requests, sick call and grievances up to Lieutenant, Captain and Sheriff, wanting medications, cane, knee brace, dental appointments, eye exam and glasses, Hepatitis-C treatment.” (Doc. No. 6 at 4-5).

         Officials made a dental appointment for Plaintiff after “months of near-constant complaining.” (Doc. No. 6 at 5). One molar was extracted surgically but part of the root was left due to wires in the jaw from a previous injury. The other tooth and root are to be taken later, “causing pain.” (Doc. No. 6 at 5). After months of grievances requesting medical treatment, Plaintiff was taken to a liver specialist in Franklin who, after additional testing, “confirmed the Hepatitis-C disease, mandated treatment and scheduled appointments to start shots.” (Doc. No. 6 at 5). After many more requests, sick calls, and grievances for failure to provide adequate medical care and determine the cause of extreme back and neck pain, Patterson told Plaintiff “it must be age, ” which effectively denied medical care. (Doc. No. 6 at 5). Patterson also denied a knee brace and eye exam and eyeglasses. Plaintiff alleges that he has “blurry, deteriorating vision causing headaches, impairing daily activities.” (Doc. No. 6 at 5). Plaintiff filed sick call requests asking why he wasn't being taken to a physician for treatment of Hepatitis-C that was “diagnosed and mandated treatment, ” but “[m]edical said it was ‘too expensive'” (Doc. No. 6 at 5-6).

         Plaintiff requested medical again for an eye exam and eyeglasses. No. prescription glasses were given. Medical provides reading glasses that are not needed and worsens vision and headaches. Medical paid for inmate Corey Luther's prescription eyeglasses. “Captain says inmate will have to pay cost of eye exam, glasses” and failed to provide glasses until Plaintiff's vision became intolerable. (Doc. No. 6 at 8). Plaintiff was “[f]orced to pay $488 to Andrews Eye Care.” (Doc. No. 6 at 8). Plaintiff filed an ADA complaint with the Department of Justice. His efforts with medical for treatment for Hepatitis-C, back pain, knee pain, cortisone/steroid shots for knee and shoulder pain, and knee brace were denied.

         Plaintiff suffered a serious head injury and had two teeth broken off at the gums while in the B-pod dayroom in a “possible attack by inmates.” (Doc. No. 6 at 6). Plaintiff woke up in an ambulance with Williams on the way to the E.R., bloody and in pain. Plaintiff wanted to know what happened “but no-one knows” even though the dayroom was full of people. (Doc. No. 6 at 6). Plaintiff wants to know what the video camera shows. He suffered a concussion, a gash on the head that required stitches and x-rays, a busted mouth, lips, and a cut tongue. There was nothing more the E.R. could do for Plaintiff's broken teeth and exposed nerves so medical would have to make a dentist appointment. He was prescribed 12 pain pills until the teeth could be fixed.

         Defendants moved Plaintiff to medical. After about 4 days, Plaintiff only received two pills and was told the prescription was empty. (Doc. No. 6 at 7). Plaintiff was moved back to B-pod where he waited for over a month to see a dentist who pulled one tooth and ground the other down instead of fixing his teeth whereas another inmate fell, suffered broken teeth and got a partial. (Doc. No. 6 at 7).

         Plaintiff asked Colwell about extracting a tooth that has a painful cavity that is sensitive to hot and cold and a possible exposed nerve. She said a tooth must be abscessed, infected, and leaking pus and Plaintiff must fill out three sick-calls ($20 each) plus costs of antibiotics and ibuprofen if prescribed. An inmate may pay for extraction if these requirements are not met. Plaintiff states “[d]ental treatment refused, requirements not met (new).” (Doc. No. 6 at 12).

         Plaintiff was assaulted by inmate Jackie Slaughter and suffered a bloody, potentially broken nose. Medical gave him an ice pack and he was moved to Pod-A. After “many sick calls” Plaintiff was issued nasal spray to help him breathe. Another inmate, Larry Reid, had cartilage drilled out of his nose for a deviated septum to help him breathe.

         Bresch moved Plaintiff from Max 23-hour lockdown to general population on the upper floor, top bunk, “knowing the pain and medical issues.” (Doc. No. 6 at 6). Bresch was told he was acting with deliberate indifference to these unreasonable and potentially dangerous changes, and Bresch said “it's therapy.” (Doc. No. 6 at 6). Forcing Plaintiff to be housed upstairs in a top bunk is painful and dangerous to his health. Plaintiff confronted Bresch about lack of treatment and an altercation ensued during which Plaintiff was tased. Plaintiff wrote to the Sheriff and civil rights groups and filed grievances.

         Plaintiff was infected with “staph/MRSA” at least four times. (Doc. No. 6 at 8). Medical was notified each time and antibiotics and ibuprofen were given. Colwell would surgically drain pus from abcessed boils, but Plaintiff was “[n]ever isolated from general population to stop the spread of the virus.” (Doc. No. 6 at 8). Plaintiff developed another staph/MRSA infection in February and March 2018. He submitted a sick call to “medical” and a nurse prescribed antibiotics which did not help. It got worse, larger, and more painful. After more attempts to get medical attention, the boil got as large as a lemon under the left armpit. “Nurse” called Dr. Rebecca Gray who was on vacation, who said to switch antibiotics and give ibuprofen for pain. Colwell left for the weekend. At “med-pass” the weekend nurse and Sgt. Robertson “said the Captain and Lieutenant said not to give any ibuprofen even after Dr. Gray ordered it.” (Doc. No. 6 at 9). The pain was severe. Plaintiff complained for over a week about the serious pain. Grievances to the Lieutenant and Captain did not do any good. The sheriff was written. (Doc. No. 6 at 9). Plaintiff stopped every officer, showed them the boil and how it spread down the ribcage towards the hip, “trenching, ” with nowhere else for the pus to go. Plaintiff told staff that he was not allowed pain meds. Sgt. Robertson, Sgt. Gunter, Sgt. Dayly and other floor officers gave pain medicine. Plaintiff's roommate, Valerie Myers, and officers Steve Zoller, Brandi Spiva, Tiffany Enloe and Sandy Guffey are witnesses. (Doc. No. 6 at 9).

         Dr. Gray determined that the MRSA infection “looked like carbuncle and trenching and believed it to be in the bloodstream.” (Doc. No. 6 at 10). She said it was the worst case she had ever seen and was considering hospitalization. She started antibiotic and pain medication by needle. Nurse Colwell “acted mad and said no-one has ever got a pain shot here before.” (Doc. No. 6 at 10).

         Plaintiff told Dr. Gray about Bresch and the Captain not allowing staff to give ibuprofen and that officials were charging Plaintiff's account $20 for each visit and antibiotic and pain shot. (Doc. No. 6 at 10). The doctor said there was not to be any charge and told officials this. “Abscessed boil was surgically drained and Doctor orders back ibuprofen.” (Doc. No. 6 at 10).

         Bresch knew of the serious and contagious staph infection Plaintiff was suffering in constant pain, yet “he and other officials” showed deliberate indifference, and sadistic and malicious conduct by denying him pain medication and treatment which caused a severe life-threatening infection to spread in the bloodstream. Even though jail officials are required to take steps to prevent the spread of MRSA, they allowed Plaintiff to return to the general population with a contagious open wound which put other inmates at a great risk of being infected. (Doc. No. 6 at 10).

         Plaintiff had to be taken to the nurse's station to have pus/fluid drained from the ribcabe/armpit daily for about a week. Plaintiff was charged $135 after Dr. Gray said he should not be charged. Plaintiff asked Bresch about this and he said “I have to pay when I get medical attention, you're no different.” (Doc. No. 6 at 11).

         Plaintiffs outgoing and incoming mail is stopped and censored, “[l]egal and religious alike.” (Doc. No. 6 at 8, 12). Plaintiff continued with the grievance process and starts writing the Sheriff, civil rights groups, internal affairs, safe and humane jails project, county manager, county attorney, attorney general, threatening to sue. “Staff” refused to hive mail-log and magazines that Plaintiff paid out of his account. (Doc. No. 6 at 12). Bresch renewed seven subscriptions and refused to give Plaintiff Rock of Ages Discipleship Courses Plaintiff' was taking, all religious materials from various ministries were denied, as well as daily devotionals.

         Plaintiff sent the Sheriff a letter through is attorney telling him of the retaliation, mistreatment and civil rights violations. Patterson returned the mailed letter to Plaintiff, “angry that the sheriff got the letter and immediately transferred plaintiff to Macon Co. Detention Ctr. Even though CCDC houses approximately twelve MCDC inmates at any given time.” (Doc. No. 6 at 12).

         “Plaintiff was in general population and placed in Max segregation 23-hr lockdown on 4-23-18 to 9-4-18 while in MCDC.” (Doc. No. 6 at 12-13). While in MCDC Plaintiff continued to write the sheriff, county manager, county attorney, who advised sheriff to give Plaintiff his mail that was “boxed up” for over a year. (Doc. No. 6 at 13).

         Plaintiff wrote Human Rights Defense Center, the ACLU, Internal Affairs, SBI, Attorney General, and many others. Sheriff and Chief Dept. Joe Wood go to MCDC to see plaintiff and ask what he wants. Plaintiff wants reimbursement for medical charges and magazines and newspapers that were being held, mail, and fair medical treatment. “Sheriff says to send him and Co. Attny proof.” (Doc. No. 6 at 13).

         Plaintiff sent Sheriff Palmer and County Attorney Darryl Brown statements and copies of all grievances, sick calls, magazine covers with names of other inmates receiving them, detailed complaints about what is going on at CCDC after verbally telling sheriff and Wood. After repeated attempts to resolve these issues with the sheriff, Brown, and County Manager Wiggins, Plaintiff never got a response. Plaintiff even asked Sheriff to settle for $800 to reimburse Plaintiff for his expenses.

         While in segregation at MCDC, Plaintiff submitted a sick call about a decayed painful tooth that was denied medical attention at CCDC. Jail Doctor Creel promptly scheduled a dentist appointment and the tooth was extracted for free. Creel ordered a blood panel for Hepatitis-C and requested files from liver specialist, Dr. Berrier, to see why treatment was not administered after it was mandated. “Increased meds.” (Doc. No. 6 at 14).

         Plaintiff continued to write to the Sheriff, Wiggins, Brown, Scout newspaper, Andrews Journal newspaper, civil rights centers, the state auditor, County Finance Director Candy Anderson who was doing an audit on CCDC, the SBI which was investigation CCDC about the suspicious death of an inmate and the beating of a handcuffed federal inmate. CCDC paid Stokes $800 not to litigate. Plaintiff writes to DOJ, Internal Affairs, Governor Roy Cooper, Congressman Mark Meadows, and county commissioners. Plaintiff receives letter from Brown stating he had a meeting with Sheriff Palmer and Patterson, stating he advised them to turn over Plaintiff's “boxed up” mail without delay. (Doc. No. 6 at 14).

         “Officials” sent Plaintiff approximately three dozen magazines, many of which were not his, and there should have been at least 124, and sent him “some religious material but not all. No. newspapers.” (Doc. No. 6 at 15). The Macon County mail log shows what is included. Wood came to see Plaintiff at Macon on August 8, 2018 to let him know he was looking into Plaintiff's allegations and an internal investigation. Palmer came to Macon on August 15, 2018 after four months of segregation to see what Plaintiff wanted. Plaintiff told the Sheriff about “civil rights being violated, drugs, cell phones, vigilante justice carried out by officers or officers paying inmates to do it.” (Doc. No. 6 at 15). Plaintiff stated he feared going back to CCDC because more retaliation would ensue.

         “Defendants” moved Plaintiff back to CCDC and placed him in max segregation 23-hour lockdown. Punishment continues for “no reason” on September 4, 2018 and Plaintiff still in “Max” as of November 5, 2018. (Doc. No. 6 at 15).

         Palmer and Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the violations of Plaintiff's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by knowing of the risk and failing to respond reasonably or by failing to act. They were notified by grievance, letters, health history, inmate fights, incident reports, the county attorney, civil rights groups, letters to the sheriff and personal interviews with the sheriff and Wood. Plaintiff's needs, unwarranted punishment, and medical care neglect show interference with serious medical needs.

         Eyeglasses and Hepatitis-C treatment were mandated and never given. Broken teeth were delayed over a month, causing excessive and wanton pain before extraction. Plaintiff's back, neck, and knee were untreated. He was denied pain medications for MRSA, which was not property diagnosed or treated by a specialist. He was given three different antibiotics which caused the spread of the infection, severe pain, and was returned to gen pop with a contagious open wound. Colwell cut Plaintiff's pain medications by nearly 70% and his anxiety and mental health by 50% and will not follow up or get medical records from MCDC.

         Plaintiff wrote grievances and mailed out lawsuits on October 8 and 10, 2018 and learned that Bresch “has intercepted them and taken them out of the mail-log on the computer.” (Doc. No. 6 at 15). Morris logged them in and Officer Chandler says they were taken out of the computer. Plaintiff confronted Bresch and he said “he does not have to provide mail-log nor does he have to prove it.” (Doc. No. 6 at 16). An “altercation” ensued; Bresch “choke[d] plaintiff out in Max dayroom, ” witnessed by all inmates. (Doc. No. 6 at 16). Bresch locked Plaintiff down for 14 days with no hour out. Plaintiff wrote grievances which did not help. “Defendants” say they do not have to give an hour out, contrary to North Carolina statutes. (Doc. No. 6 at 16-17).

         Plaintiff claims that he was repeatedly delayed/denied medical care resulting in further, more serious injuries and will continue to cause unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, and that he will continue to be irreparably injured by Defendants' conduct unless the Court grants declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, compensatory and punitive damages, fees and costs, other just and equitable relief that the Court deems necessary.

         II. ...

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