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Hulse v. Southern Health Partners, Inc.

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

October 5, 2017

JASON C. HULSE PLAINTIFF
v.
SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, INC. and ROBYN SIMS DEFENDANTS

          OPINION

          P. K. HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Jason C. Hulse, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. He proceeds in forma pauperis. Although he was proceeding pro se when he filed the original Complaint, an attorney then entered an appearance on his behalf (ECF No. 6).

         The case is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 76) filed by the Defendants. Plaintiff has responded (ECF No. 82) to the Motion. Additionally, Defendants have filed a reply (ECF No. 84). The Motion is now ready for decision.

         Plaintiff maintains he was denied adequate medical care while incarcerated at the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC). Specifically, he contends Defendants had a custom or policy of denying medical treatment to inmates on the basis that the inmate was awaiting transfer to the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 14, 2015, Plaintiff was involved in a motorcycle accident. (ECF No. 82-5). He was arrested and various charges were filed against him including possession of drugs and driving while intoxicated (DWI). (ECF No. 78-1 at 4). A parole violation was also lodged against him.

         Following the accident, Plaintiff was treated at the Northwest Medical Center for injuries including head pain, shoulder pain, and a laceration across his right knee. (ECF No. 82-4). He was discharged in the early morning hours of April 15, 2015, with a prescription for an antibiotic, Bactrim, and a pain reliever, Norco. Id.

         Plaintiff was then booked into the WCDC. (ECF No. 78-1 at 4). Plaintiff testified that he repeatedly asked to see a nurse before he was booked in. (ECF No. 82-5 at 36). He wanted to request follow-up medical treatment and ask when he would start receiving his pain medication and antibiotics. Id. at 37. He indicates he was told several times that he would be screened by the medical company before he was put in a regular jail cell. Id. at 36. Plaintiff testified that when this did not occur, he began asking the nurse at pill call for medical care. (ECF No. 82-5 at 42).

         Plaintiff never received the pain medication and was told it was a non-narcotic facility. (ECF No. 82-5 at 49). He did not receive the antibiotics until after his stitches were taken out on April 28, 2015. Id. at 50. His knee became infected and it took about a week for it to clear up. Id. at 52-53.

         He was convicted of a parole violation on May 5, 2015. Plaintiff was sentenced to serve time in the ADC and was being housed at the WCDC awaiting transfer. (ECF No. 78-1 at 2); (ECF No. 82-5 at 82-83). He remained incarcerated at the WCDC until January 11, 2016, when he was transferred to the ADC. (ECF No. 78-1 at 5).

         Southern Health Partners, Inc. (SHP), became the contract medical care provider for inmates at the WCDC on November 1, 2014. (ECF No. 78-1 at 1). The doctors and nurses providing medical services at the WCDC were employees or agents of SHP.

         The ADC has had in place since August 29, 1991, a policy that requires medical care professionals in Counties housing ADC inmates to obtain prior approval for treatment or medical services for a condition that is routine or non-life threatening. (ECF No. 78-1 at 2 & ECF No. 78-2 at 1).

         On September 15, 2015, ADC's Administrator of Medical and Dental Services sent a memorandum to Arkansas County Sheriffs and Jail Administrators explaining the process for an eligible jail detainee to access medical and dental services through the ADC. (ECF No. 78-1 at 2 & 78-3). The memorandum states in part:

A jail inmate is eligible for necessary medical and dental services' claims to be paid by the ADC if the services are provided specifically for the ADC inmate by an off-site provider. If the jail has contracted for a provider to see ADC inmates at the jail, and the services are not provided to detainees or inmates who are not ADC inmates, such services will be considered off-site medical or dental services. ADC will not pay claims for services provided to all detainees, inclusive of those not sentenced to ADC.

         (ECF No. 78-3 at 1).

         After his arraignment, which Plaintiff believes occurred on April 17, 2015, a guard tried to get Plaintiff medical assistance but was informed to just tell the Plaintiff to put in a medical request. (ECF No. 82-5 at 41). On April 18, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a medical request asking to have a nurse check his stitches.[1] (ECF No. 79-8 at 1). On April 19, 2015, he submitted a medical request asking why he had not been screened by a nurse, that he needed his stitches checked, and asking when he would be getting his antibiotics. Id. On April 22, 2015, Nurse Loni Plumlee responded: “added to nurse call.” Id. Plaintiff was seen by the nurse on April 24, 2015, or April 25, 2015. (ECF No. 82-5 at 46). No treatment or chart notes were provided with respect to any nurse visits.

         On April 27, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a medical request stating he had not been screened and his stitches were supposed to be taken out in seven days. (ECF No. 78-8 at 1). If medical staff could not see to his needs, Plaintiff asked to be transported to the hospital where he could receive proper care. Id. He submitted another request asking who he had to contact to file a complaint for negligent medical treatment. Id. at 2. Nurse Plumlee responded asking what his complaint was. Id.

         On April 28, 2015, Plaintiff asked to be seen by the psych nurse. (ECF No. 78-8 at 2). In response, Nurse Plumlee said he had been added to the psych nurse list. Id.

         On April 29, 2015, Plaintiff again asked to be added to the psych nurse list. Id. Plaintiff indicated there had been a misunderstanding and he believed a guard had put him down as refusing to see the nurse. Id. On April 29, 2015, Plaintiff submitted another request in which he stated he was supposed to have the dressing on his knee changed twice daily as a result of the stitches having to have been cut and torn out. Id. at 3. On May 1, 2015, Nurse Plumlee responded that he had been added to the treatment book and asked if Plaintiff's dressing had been changed since his April 29th request. Id. Plaintiff responded that he was given a large Band-Aid and ointment. Id.

         On May 4, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a request asking to be seen by the doctor for a hernia. (ECF No. 78-8 at 3). On May 5, 2015, Plaintiff asked if he had been added to the doctor's list. Id. On May 6, 2015, his request was closed by Nurse Plumlee with a notation that Plaintiff had been seen by the nurse. Id. Plaintiff responded by saying he needed to be seen by the doctor not the nurse. Id.

         On May 7, 2015, Plaintiff again asked to see the psych nurse. (ECF No. 78-8 at 4). On May 13, 2015, Nurse Plumlee indicated Plaintiff had been added to her list. Id.

         On May 8, 2015, Plaintiff complained that he had previously been seen on April 24th by the same nurse who was on duty that evening. (ECF No. 78-8 at 4). Plaintiff stated he wanted to request that the “hateful[]” nurse not have anything to do with him. Id. He stated he wanted to be seen by a doctor not a nurse. Id. He also indicated his hernia was getting bigger. Id. In response, he was told he was on the doctor list for that Friday, May 15th. Id.

         On May 9, 2015, Plaintiff complained about the delay in his treatment and the manner in which he was treated by the one nurse. (ECF No. 78-8 at 5). He indicated again that he had a hernia that was getting progressively worse and asked to be seen by a doctor. Id. If no doctor was available, he indicated he wanted to go to the hospital. Id.

         On May 10, 2015, Plaintiff submitted another request about his hernia. (ECF No. 78-8 at 3). He indicated it had grown in size and was painful. Id. Plaintiff stated he wanted to see the doctor ASAP. Id. On May 12, 2015, Nurse Plumlee responded that he was on the doctor's list for Friday, May 15th. Id.

         On May 11, 2015, Plaintiff submitted two requests asking that his hernia issue be addressed. (ECF No. 78-8 at 6). He indicated it was bulging more and burning. Id. On May 20, 2015, Nurse Plumlee responded: “Sir, since you are an ADC inmate, ADC has to approve any Dr. visits with our doctor here or an outside doctor visit. [W]e are working with them to ...


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