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Wilkins v. Ouachita County

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

July 24, 2015

VINNIE WILKINS, Individually and As Administratrix and Personal Representative for the Estate of MICHAEL LARAY WILKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
OUACHITA COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SUSAN O. HICKEY, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 41). Plaintiff has responded. (ECF No. 58). Defendants have replied. (ECF No. 64). This matter is ripe for the Court's consideration.

BACKGROUND

On August 4, 2010, Michael Wilkins was arrested and detained in the Ouachita County Detention Center (the "Detention Center"). On his first day in the Detention Center, Wilkins completed an inmate medical form indicating his known medical conditions, including high blood pressure, chest pain, dizziness, and indigestion. Wilkins visited the Cabun Clinic regularly and received prescription medication while incarcerated at the Detention Center. On or about March 20, 2011, Wilkins filled out a medical request form reminding the Detention Center that he needed a follow-up appointment after his February 18, 2011 visit to the doctor. Again, on March 21, 2011, Wilkins submitted a medical request form asking for a doctor's appointment. On both occasions, Wilkins received a response that an appointment had been made for him at the Cabun Clinic. On April 8, 2011, Jailer Davidson took Wilkins to the clinic where they were told that his appointment was for April 11, 2011 not April 8. Wilkins asked if he could see someone anyway because he did not feel well. A nurse came to the lobby and met with Wilkins to discuss his symptoms. She advised Wilkins and Jailer Davidson that she would check with the doctor to see whether he could see Wilkins. Shortly thereafter, the nurse returned and informed Wilkins that the doctor would not be able to see him and he would have to return on April 11, 2011 for his scheduled appointment. Jailer Davidson transported Wilkins back to the Detention Center.

On April 9, 2011, Wilkins filled out a medical request form and asked to go to the doctor or the hospital. He wrote, "I feel very weak. I can't eat anything. I'm very nervous. I'm dropping my plates and my drinks. I feel like vomiting but I can't. I need to go to the hospital. Seriously I got heartburns [sic]. Please I got headaches [sic]". (ECF No. 43, Ex. 1, p. 13). In response to these forms, Wilkins was told that he had an appointment scheduled for April 11, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.

Later that day, Wilkins fell in his cell. Jailers Sanchez and Garcia each indicated on separate incident reports that Wilkins "faked a fall." (ECF No. 43, Ex. A, p. 14-15). They went to check on Wilkins and asked him what had happened. Wilkins responded that he was going to the bathroom and fell. They inspected him for any injuries and asked him if he was hurting anywhere. Wilkins stated that his back was hurting, but Jailers Sanchez and Garcia could not find any sign of injury. They helped him back to bed and monitored him around the clock.

On April 10, 2011, Wilkins did not want to get out of bed to take his medications. Eventually he walked to the door of his cell where Officer Wood was waiting with Wilkins' medications, but Wilkins did not speak. Wilkins held his hand out for his medications but refused to sign the medicine sheet that inmates are required to sign when they receive medication. After about ten minutes, Officer Wood told Wilkins to sit back down. Following this incident, Officer Wood called his supervisor, Lieutenant Bolton, and advised him of Wilkins' behavior. Lieutenant Bolton told Officer Wood to ask Deputy Mills, the shift supervisor, to assess Wilkins and determine whether Wilkins' situation was serious enough that he needed to go to the emergency room. Deputy Mills did an evaluation of Wilkins via video monitor. Deputy Mills determined that Wilkins did not need to go to the emergency room. Wilkins ate breakfast but did not eat lunch. Officer Wood checked on Wilkins several times that day. Officer Wood noted that Wilkins was not speaking in complete sentences, but he considered that common for Wilkins because he was on a lot of medication.

On the evening of April 10, 2011, Jailor Garcia noticed Wilkins looked as though he was not breathing. Jailors Garcia and Sanchez entered Wilkins' cell and found him unresponsive. Jailor Sanchez could not find a pulse and could not hear his heart beating when he put his ear to Wilkins' chest. Jailer Sanchez immediately called dispatch to send an ambulance. The paramedics made unsuccessful attempts to revive Wilkins in the ambulance. Shortly after Wilkins arrived at the hospital, he was pronounced dead.

On March 7, 2013, Plaintiff Vinnie Wilkins, as the Administratrix of the Estate of Michael Laray Wilkins, filed her Complaint in this case. She alleges that pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, her husband's constitutional rights were violated when Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Plaintiff filed claims against Ouachita County, Arkansas; David Norwood in his individual capacity and official capacity as Sheriff of Ouachita County, Lieutenant Joe Strickland in his individual capacity and official capacity as Chief Deputy of Ouachita County; and Lieutenant James Bolton in his official capacity as Jail Administrator for Ouachita County. Her Complaint also includes claims for negligence, wrongful death, and conspiracy.

LEGAL STANDARD

The standard of review for summary judgment is well established. When a party moves for summary judgment, "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Krenik v. County of LeSueur, 47 F.3d 953 (8th Cir. 1995). This is a "threshold inquiry of... whether there is a need for trial-whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); s ee also Agristor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732 (8th Cir. 1987). A fact is material only when its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Id. at 252.

DISCUSSION

Defendants Norwood and Strickland contend that summary judgment should be granted in their favor because they are entitled to qualified immunity on the claims asserted against them in their individual capacities. Plaintiff argues that qualified immunity does not apply because Defendants Norwood and Strickland provided inadequate training and supervision at the Detention Center that proximately caused Wilkins' death. Defendant Ouachita County and Defendants Norwood, Strickland, and Bolton assert that they are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims asserted against them in their official capacity because there was no unlawful ...


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