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Aiken v. Lee

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

December 13, 2019

LINDA LEE, Defendant.



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the following Defendant Linda Lee's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 38], Defendant Lee's Motion to Seal Document [Doc. 40], and Plaintiff's “Answer to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff's Request for Motion for Summary Judgment” [Doc. 49].

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Pro se Plaintiff Jay Junior Aiken is a prisoner currently incarcerated at Ware State Prison in Waycross, Georgia. Plaintiff filed this action on April 3, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for events he alleges transpired while he was detained at Jackson County Detention Center (“Detention Center”) in Sylva, North Carolina. Plaintiff named the following individuals as Defendants: (1) Linda Lee, identified as a nurse at the Detention Center; (2) Charlie LNU, identified as an officer at the Detention Center; (3) John Bucanon, identified as a Captain at the Detention Center; and (4) Chip L. Hall, identified as the Sheriff of Jackson County. [Doc. 1 at 3]. Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Lee for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment survived initial review. [Doc. 10]. The Court dismissed the other Defendants, finding Plaintiff failed to state cognizable claims against them. [Id. at 5-6].

         On June 14, 2019, Defendant Lee moved for summary judgment. [Doc. 38]. In support of her motion, Defendant Lee filed a memorandum in support, an Affidavit, and Plaintiff's medical record, which Plaintiff also moved to seal. [Docs. 38, 40]. Defendant Lee seeks summary judgment on three grounds: (1) Defendant Lee was not properly served; (2) Defendant Lee was not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs; and (3) Defendant Lee is entitled to qualified immunity. [Doc. 38 at 2].

         On July 2, 2019, 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 summary judgment motions and of the manner in which evidence could be submitted to the Court. [Doc. 48]. The Plaintiff was specifically advised that if he had any evidence to offer to show that there is a genuine issue for trial, he must present it to the Court “in a form which would otherwise be admissible at trial, i.e., in the form of affidavits or unsworn declarations.” The Court further advised that:

An affidavit is a written statement under oath; that is, a statement prepared in writing and sworn before a notary public. An unsworn statement, made and signed under the penalty of perjury, may also be submitted. Affidavits or statements must be presented by Plaintiff to this Court no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of this Order and must be filed in duplicate.

[Id.]. The Plaintiff filed an “Answer to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment” [Doc. 49] and an Affidavit [Doc. 51]. Defendant Lee, in turn, filed a reply. [Doc. 50].

         This matter is now ripe for disposition.

         B. Factual Background

         1. Defendant's Forecast of Evidence

         In support of Defendant Lee's motion for summary judgment, she submits her Affidavit and Plaintiff's medical record from Jackson County Detention Center. [Docs. 39-1: Lee Affidavit, 39-2: Medical Record]. This evidence shows as follows:

         Defendant Lee worked for Transform Health during the relevant times. [Doc. 39-1 at ¶ 3]. Transform Health contracted with the Detention Center to provide medical care to inmates. [Id.]. Defendant Lee was never served with Summons or Complaint in this lawsuit. [Id. at ¶ 5]. Defendant Lee recalls often seeing the Plaintiff in the Detention Center “because he often caused trouble, ” she only provided medical care to Plaintiff on one occasion, which was for Plaintiff's complaint of wrist pain. [Id. at ¶ 6]. Defendant Lee never provided medical treatment to Plaintiff related to his heart or for his seizures. [Id. at ¶ 8]. Defendant Lee worked for Transform Health until July 29, 2016, and is now a private duty nurse in Waynesville, North Carolina. [Id. at ¶ 3].

         Plaintiff's medical record shows that he was given a new patient screening by Vickie Hoxit, RN, on March 19, 2016, on his transfer to the Detention Center. [Doc. 39-2 at 2]. On March 28, 2016, Nurse Noxit was called to check on Plaintiff secondary to his complaints of chest pain, profuse sweating, and respiratory difficulties. Plaintiff was curled up in a ball when Nurse Hoxit arrived and Plaintiff believed he was having a “heart attack.” [Id. at 3]. Nurse Hoxit examined and treated the Plaintiff in consultation with Colby Dodd, PA (“PA Dodd”). Medication was administered and apple juice provided. Plaintiff's chest pain ceased. An order was entered for transport of Plaintiff to the hospital on any further complaints of chest pain. [Id.]. Nurse Hoxit examined Plaintiff the next day in follow up to his chest pain the night before, which he reported was “pretty much gone today.” [Id. at 4].

         On April 25, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by PA Dodd in follow up to a recent visit to Harris Regional Hospital emergency department for seizure activity. [Doc. 39-2 at 5]. Plaintiff had been prescribed two different medications to manage Plaintiff's seizures. Plaintiff reported that he had been vomiting up his medication because he had been “severely nauseous.” PA Dodd reported, however, that the correctional officers and nurses had reported hearing Plaintiff gagging himself. [Id.]. There were no complaints related to Plaintiff's heart at this time. On May 6, 2017, PA Dodd noted Plaintiff's ammonia level was high, which it appears to have been related to his seizure activity. [Id. at 6]. On May 10, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by Nurse Hoxit for complaints of continued seizures and “feeling poorly.” [Id. at 7]. The only “ongoing medical problem” listed in this record is Plaintiff's seizures. [Id.].

         On June 24, 2016, a nurse, Laura Busbin, LPN, was called to Plaintiff's dorm for concerns related to Plaintiff's seizure activity. On arriving at Plaintiff's dorm, Nurse Busbin observed Plaintiff lying on the floor, but saw no seizure activity. Plaintiffs dorm-mate reported Plaintiff had had two seizures. After being transported to medical and examined by Nurse Busbin, Plaintiff was able to ambulate back to his dorm ...

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