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Haid v. Cradduck

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

June 24, 2016

SCOTT JAMES HAID PLAINTIFF
v.
SHERIFF KELLY CRADDUCK; NURSE DARLA WATSON; DEPUTY A. THOMPSON; and DEPUTY PITTS DEFENDANTS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMTHYL L. BROOKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is the Report and Recommendations ("R&R") (Doc. 44) filed in this case by the Honorable James R. Marschewski, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Arkansas. The R&R advises the Court to dismiss several of Plaintiff Scott Haid's claims on summary judgment, and to allow three of his claims to proceed. Defendants filed Objections to the R&R (Doc. 45) on December 29, 2015, to which Haid responded on January 22, 2016 (Doc. 46). Haid did not file any objections to the R&R. After reviewing the record de novo and considering Defendants' objections, the Court ADOPTS IN PART AND DECLINES TO ADOPT IN PART the Magistrate Judge's R&R.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are ably set out in the R&R and require no more than a brief recounting here. Haid's Complaint alleges that he has a series of medical conditions including diabetes, back pain, a hydrocele on his testicles, a history of transient ischaemic attacks, and a history of blood clots in his legs. According to Haid, Defendants violated his constitutional rights when he was incarcerated at a Benton County Department of Corrections ("BCDC") facility awaiting trial on certain criminal charges. Specifically, Haid contends that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by failing to provide adequate medical care for his conditions, including by failing to provide him with an adequate diabetic diet. Haid also asserts violations of his Fourteenth Amendment privacy rights stemming from a urologist's appointment, and a nurse's conversation with a guard.

         Defendants moved for summary judgment on all of Haid's claims on October 2, 2015 (Doc. 38). The R&R suggests dismissing Haid's individual capacity claims against Sheriff Cradduck, right to privacy claim against Deputy Thompson, and official capacity claims based on alleged inadequacies in BCDC's intake procedures. It recommends keeping, however, Haid's official capacity claim related to diabetic meals, right to privacy claims against Nurse Watson and Deputy Pitts, and denial of medical care claims against Nurse Watson. For the reasons discussed below, the Court adopts the R&R with respect to Haid's diabetic meals claim, declines to adopt the R&R with respect to his right to privacy claims against Nurse Watson and Deputy Pitts, adopts in part and declines to adopt in part the R&R with respect to his denial of medical care claims against Nurse Watson, and adopts the remainder of the R&R.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT LEGAL STANDARD

         "The 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). The Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and give the non-moving party the benefit of any logical inferences that can be drawn from the facts. Canada v. Union Elec. Co., 135 F.3d 1211, 1212-13 (8th Cir. 1997). The moving party bears the burden of proving the absence of any material factual disputes. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Nat'l Bank of Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602 (8th Cir. 1999). If the moving party meets this burden, then the non-moving party must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."' Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). These facts must be "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Allison v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66 (8th Cir. 1994) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). "The nonmoving party must do more than rely on allegations or denials in the pleadings, and the court should grant summary judgment if any essential element of the prima facie case is not supported by specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial." Register v. Honeywell Fed. Mfg. & Techs., LLC, 397 F.3d 1130, 1136 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Haid's Official Capacity Diabetic Meals Claim

         The Court agrees with the R&R's conclusion that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether BCDC provided Haid with diabetic meals sufficient to maintain his health. While the Magistrate Judge's reasoning on this matter is sound, the Court writes on to explain its somewhat more nuanced views of the legal standard and factual issues in this case.

         Haid's claim involves components of both an inadequate medical care allegation, and an inadequate condition of confinement allegation. That is, diabetes is a medical condition, one aspect of the treatment for which involves a specialized diet. And, the dietary options provided by a prison constitute a condition of confinement. While these two categories of allegations have been treated by courts as formally distinct, the legal standard for proving a constitutional violation for each revolves around the same concept: deliberate indifference.

         To elaborate, "[deliberate indifference by prison personnel to an inmate's serious medical needs violates the inmate's eighth amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment." Smith v. Jenkins, 919 F.2d 90, 92 (8th Cir. 1990); see also Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976).[1] To establish deliberate indifference, "an inmate must show (1) that he suffered objectively serious medical needs and (2) that the prison official actually knew of but deliberately disregarded those needs." Plemmons v. Roberts, 439 F.3d 818, 823 (8th Cir. 2006) (quotations and alterations omitted). With respect to the first prong, "[a]n objectively serious medical need is one that either has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment, or is so obvious that even a layperson would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Jones v. Minn. Dep't of Corrs., 512 F.3d 478, 481 (8th Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). With respect to the second, deliberate disregard "is equivalent to criminal-law recklessness, which is more blameworthy than negligence, yet less blameworthy than purposefully causing or knowingly bringing about a substantial risk of serious harm to the inmate." Schaub v. VonWald, 638 F.3d 905, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2011) (quotation omitted).

         The standard is effectively the same for conditions of confinement. As the Supreme Court has explained, there is "no significant distinction between claims alleging inadequate medical care and those alleging inadequate 'conditions of confinement.'" Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 303 (1991). Thus "[w]hether one characterizes the treatment received by [a] prisoner as inhumane conditions of confinement, failure to attend to his medical needs, or a combination of both, " the deliberate indifference standard applies. Id. (quoting LaFaut v. Smith, 834 F.2d 389, 391-92 (4th Cir. 1987) (J. Powell, retired, sitting by designation)). As to the specific condition of confinement challenged by Haid, there is no doubt that "prisoners have a [constitutional] right to nutritionally adequate food." Wishon v. Gammon, 978 F.2d 446, 449 (8th Cir. 1992). To prevail on an inadequate diet claim, then, a prisoner must "show that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his . . . dietary needs." Id. Given that Haid's claim concerns the adequacy of his diet in light of his diabetes, it survives if genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his dietary needs as a diabetic.

         Though the Court views this question as particularly close, it finds that genuine issues of material fact do exist. The R&R emphasizes Haid's weight loss and his allegation that his diabetic meals were often no different, or immaterially different, from the meals provided to non-diabetic prisoners. See Doc. 44, pp. 7, 11. The Court agrees that these two sets of facts are the most pertinent. Haid testified that he lost more than 40 pounds over the course of a couple of months, (Doc. 40-4, pp. 49-51), and information in the record corroborates his weight loss.[2] Defendants suggest that Haid's weight loss is inapposite because eating foods that one should not eat as a diabetic would cause weight gain, not weight loss. See Doc. 45, pp. 1-2 (citing to affidavit of Dr. Lafferty). However, this medical evidence does not account for Haid's testimony that he sometimes did not eat his entire meal because he knew that certain foods were bad for his diabetes. For example, he refrained from eating fruits in heavy syrup and some amount of bread when he was served eight slices per day. (Doc. 40-4, p. 50). Haid also complained of other symptoms possibly in conjunction with his weight loss, such as kidney pain (Doc. 50-4, p. 52), weakness and muscle loss (Doc. 40-2, p. 145), and lethargy (Doc. 40-2, p. 152). The Eighth Circuit has, on at least one occasion, reversed a district court's grant of summary judgment when a diabetic prisoner alleged that improper treatment of his diabetes resulted in weight loss along with other symptoms. Roberson v. Bradshaw, 198 F.3d 645, 647-48 (8th Cir. 1999).

         The Magistrate Judge was also correct in finding that the content of the diabetic meals provided to Haid raises questions of material fact. From November 27, 2013 through April 9, 2014, Haid consistently lodged complaints about his diet through the jail's Offender Communications Center. See Doc. 40-2, pp. 120-152. While some of Haid's complaints related to indigestion caused by certain foods served at the jail, many of them concerned the health effects of the meals offered to diabetics. Haid noted that several of his meals did not materially differ from those served to non-diabetic prisoners, and included foods that diabetics should generally avoid.[3] Coupled with Haid's weight loss during this same time frame, the alleged similarities between diabetic and regular meals create an issue of fact as to whether the meals were adequate to serve Haid's medical needs as a diabetic.

         Making this issue a close call for the Court is BCDC's efforts in monitoring Haid's blood sugar. Haid's blood-sugar levels were monitored consistently throughout his stay in jail, see Doc. 40-2, pp. 108-115, and the only medical opinion in the record suggests that his blood sugars were "very well controlled, " Doc. 40-6, p. 2. This fact certainly supports Defendants' contention that the diabetic meals were medically adequate, but given Haid's aforementioned evidence, it does not make that contention an undisputed fact. Cf. Ingrassia v. Schafer, __F.3d __, 2016 WL 3228409 (8th Cir. June 13, 2016) (affirming district court's denial of qualified immunity where plaintiffs weight loss of 14 pounds in three months left him within the normal BMI for his height).

         The Court believes the questions of fact identified above are material in light of the deliberately indifferent legal standard. There is no question that maintaining a proper diabetic diet is an "objectively serious medical need." Plemmons, 439 F.3d at 823. There is also no question that prison officials actually knew that Haid was diabetic, and knew the risks related to providing inadequate nutrition to diabetics. E.g., Doc. 40-2, p. 5 (Benton County Jail Medical Questionnaire). Despite the jail's monitoring of Haid's blood sugars, his four-plus months of notifying the jail about his dietary issues, along with his dramatic weight loss during the same time, raise an issue of material fact as to whether the jail was deliberately indifferent to his dietary needs as a diabetic. Accordingly, the Court adopts the R&R's findings as to Haid's official capacity diabetic diet claim.

         B. Haid's Right to Privacy Claims

         Haid alleges that Deputy Pitts violated his constitutional right to privacy by refusing to leave the room with another inmate during a doctor's appointment in which Haid was at times nude from the waist down and openly discussed his medical history. He also contends that Nurse Watson and Deputy Thompson violated his constitutional right to privacy by disclosing one of his medical conditions to another BCDC employee. The R&R found that Haid's claim against Deputy Thompson was too tenuous to proceed, and the Court agrees.[4] However, the R&R also found that Haid's claims against Nurse Watson and Deputy Pitts could proceed, as they were not entitled to qualified immunity on the issue. On this finding, the Court disagrees.[5]

         "The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials 'from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" Pearson v. Callahan,555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). The test for whether an official is entitled to qualified immunity includes two prongs. The first is whether, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the facts show that the official's conduct violated a constitutional right. See Washington v. Normandy Fire Prot. Dist,272 F.3d 522, 526 (8th Cir. ...


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