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Norris v. Engles

September 18, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Webber Wright United States District Judge

Memorandum Opinion and Order

Plaintiff Susan Norris brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violation of her constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff responded to the motion, defendants replied to the response, and plaintiff responded to the reply. After careful review of the motion, responses, reply, briefs, statements of undisputed facts, and exhibits, the Court finds the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.


Norris was diagnosed with manic bipolar depression when she was fifteen years old. She is taking a number of prescription drugs, some of which are taken via an intravenous line implanted in her arm, a PICC line. In March 2005, Norris was being treated by Dr. Ron Bates and seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Holden. Norris testified that when she hurt emotionally, she had the urge to cut herself so that the sad emotion would go away. Sometimes she would cut herself in an attempt to escape and shut down her emotions. Norris' cutting usually consisted of a one- to two-inch long incision of her abdomen.

On March 21, 2005, Norris was sad that her husband did not spend time with her. In an attempt to work out her feelings verbally instead of physically, she call the Vista Health Hotline in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where Holden works. She was unable to reach Holden; instead, she talked to a woman who was unfamiliar and who did not understand what Norris meant when she said she was trying to "fight the urge." Norris told the woman she did not want to cut but the urge was very strong. She told the woman how she was feeling and that she wanted to cut. Norris did not believe the woman understood what "cut"meant. The woman told Norris to go to the hospital. Norris hung up because she did not think the woman was helping her. After she hung up, she went to talk to her neighbor, Mary Post. She told Post about calling the hotline, and she visited with Post until she was past the emotional state.

Amanda Simpson, with Vista Health, called the Batesville, Arkansas, police dispatch, advising that Norris was threatening suicide. Dispatch contacted Jeremy Page who was a deputy with the Independence County Sheriff's Department. Deputy Page made contact with Norris at Post's house. He said Mr. and Mrs. Post were concerned about her welfare. He also said that at some point during their conversation, Norris stated she was considering suicide, and made the statement that she wanted to die. Deputy Page testified that after Norris made those statements, he determined he had to take Norris for her protection. He took Norris to the county jail where she was processed.

Separate defendant Jacquita Engles was on duty the night Page brought Norris to the jail. Engles said Page told her Norris was a protective custody hold and that she was trying to harm herself. Page gave Engles Norris' purse which contained her medication. Norris asked Engles at that time if she could have her medication. Engles did not know how to administer medication through a PICC line. Deputy Page indicated to Engles that Norris could administer the medication to herself at the book-in desk. Norris was the first inmate Engles had seen come in with a PICC line, and she realized Norris might have a serious medical issue.

Engles put Norris in a padded cell and told Norris she would have to strip and wear a paper gown. Norris began to complain about being cold and squatted down beside the "bean pole." Engles squatted on the other side and got enough information from Norris to put her in the booking system. Norris told Engles she had thoughts of cutting herself and that cutting herself made her feel good. Norris admitted that she had experienced suicidal thoughts but Engles does not believe Norris told her she had thought about suicide that day. Norris showed Engles some of the cuts on her stomach, and Engles told Norris to replace the band-aids because the cuts might get infected. Norris was frustrated because she was cold and told Engles that she was going to pull out her PICC line and bleed to death. When Engles told Luke Lindsey, her supervisor, what Norris had said, he told her to handcuff Norris behind her back and she did. Norris was able to bring her hands in front of her, and Lindsey then told Engles to cuff Norris behind her back and take another pair of cuffs and handcuff her to the grate in the floor. Engles used a pair of leg irons in order to attach Norris to the grate. The grate served as an open toilet.

Later, Engles spoke to Mr. Bearden, the mental health screener, and told him she thought Norris' cuts were infected. Bearden told Engles to take Norris to the White River Medical Center and that he would come back to screen her. Engles and another jailer escorted Norris to the emergency room. Norris claims that when they were getting her ready to go to the hospital, Engles hit her with handcuffs and either Engles or the other jailer kicked her. After her wounds were examined by a nurse practitioner, Norris was released and returned to the jail. Bearden eventually met with Norris; he recommended she be released and she was.

Norris filed this lawsuit alleging Engles' actions "violated the Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, be free from the infliction of pain, and to be free from having her liberty deprived without due process of law." Compl. at ¶ 16. She claims Engles' actions were "so outrageous and barbaric as to shock the conscience of the Court," ¶ 17, and that she is entitled to compensatory and punitive damages. Norris alleges Sheriff Bowers "failed to develop policies for the safe and humane treatment of persons suffering from mental illness, knowing that such persons are taken into custody." ¶ 15.

Defendants move for summary judgment arguing there is no proof of a violation of constitutional rights, no proof of an unconstitutional County policy, and no proof to support punitive damages. Engles also asserts Norris' claims are barred by qualified immunity.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). As a prerequisite to summary judgment, a moving party must demonstrate "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the moving party has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non-moving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleading but must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).

"[A] genuine issue of material fact exists if: (1) there is a dispute of fact; (2) the disputed fact is material to the outcome of the case; and (3) the dispute is genuine, that is, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party." RSBI Aerospace, Inc. v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co., 49 F.3d 399, 401 (8th Cir. 1995). The inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citations omitted). Further, summary judgment is particularly ...

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