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Emery v. Helder

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

February 5, 2018




         This is a civil rights action in which Plaintiff Jason Duane Emery is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Wrightsville Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"). At all times relevant to this Complaint, he was incarcerated in the Washington County Detention Center ("WCDC").

         Plaintiff contends his constitutional rights were violated at the WCDC in the following ways: (1) he was not provided with an adequate diet, and the method in which the jail transported the food to the prisoners was substandard; (2) the commissary charged exorbitant prices; (3) he was denied access to the courts; (4) the grievance procedure was inadequate; (5) he was denied access to newspapers or other media containing local, state, or world news; (6) the classification system denied him Equal Protection; and (7) he was denied adequate medical care. Plaintiff also brings a supplemental state law claim under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("ADTPA") based on the operation of the commissary.[1]

         The case is before the Court on two motions for summary judgment. The first is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of Aramark Correctional Services, LLC ("Aramark"), and its employees, Tommy Roark, Tina Webb, Jessie England, and Carla Cink (collectively, the "Aramark Defendants"). See Doc. 88. Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition to this Motion. See Doc. 125. The second Motion for Summary Judgment was filed on behalf of Sheriff Helder, Major Denzer, Lieutenant Foster, Sergeant Stanton, Sergeant Morse, Sergeant Arnold, R. Walker, Dr. Karas, Nurse Landon Harris, Corporal Caudle, Corporal Workman, Nurse Kristen Nichols, Corporal Mulvaney, Deputy J. Velasco, Lieutenant Reeser, and Sergeant Ake (collectively, the "Washington County Defendants").[2]See Doc. 97. Plaintiff also filed a Response to the second Motion for Summary Judgment. See Doc. 122. For the reasons explained herein, the Aramark Defendants' Motion is GRANTED, and the Washington County Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was booked into the WCDC on June 24, 2016. (Doc. 99-2, p. 1). At that time, he was 6'1" and weighed 242 pounds. Id. at 2. According to the intake sheet, he stated that he was currently taking the blood pressure medications Amlodipine, Minoxidil, and Lisinopril, as well as a pain medication called Tramadol. Id. He did not have the medications with him at the time of booking. He further reported that the last time he was seen by a doctor was in Eureka Springs approximately two months prior. Plaintiff also alleged that he had suffered past injuries to his neck, back, knee, and shoulder. Also at the time of booking, he admitted to being addicted to methamphetamine and using the drug daily. (Doc. 99-3, p. 2).

         Once incarcerated at the WCDC, Plaintiff began receiving regular meals, three times per day. "Arkansas Jail Standards, Section 11-1001, require the minimum daily calorie level for sedentary inmates shall be 2300 calories and the minimum calories for active inmates shall be 2700 calories." (Doc. 99-1, p. 3); see also Doc.100-1, p. 1. Aramark contracts with Washington County to provide all food and commissary services at the WCDC. No WCDC employee "is qualified to manage the caloric values of the menu plans." (Doc. 99-1, p. 3). Further, Aramark is not required to consult any WCDC employee in the planning or preparation of the meals served in the WCDC.

         Defendants Tommy Roark, Tina Webb, Jessie England, and Carla Cink are Aramark employees who were assigned to work at the WCDC during the relevant time.

         The Aramark dietician responsible for the inmate menu was Kate Crowley, MPH, RD, LDN. She has a master's degree in public health, and she is both a registered dietician and a licensed dietician/nutritionist. (Doc. 90-2, p. 1). According to Crowley, the menu at the WCDC is periodically reviewed to ensure that all meals are nutritionally balanced and meet caloric requirements sufficient to sustain good health. The menu is also approved by Washington County.

         Crowley affirms that the regular inmate menu meets the guidelines of the American Correctional Association and the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, dietary guidelines for adults aged 19 to 50. See Id. at 2. She maintains that the meals served each day total approximately 3000 calories, which exceeds the current daily recommended intake for an adult aged 19 to 50. According to Crowley, all meals served to Plaintiff were in compliance with the 28-day meal plan approved at the WCDC. Id. at pp. 3, 5. The WCDC follows the meal plan without regard to when commissary orders are placed or delivered. Moreover, Crowley claims that when setting, reviewing, or approving the menu at the WCDC, she is unaware of which days, if any, that commissary orders are placed or delivered. Id. at 3. Aramark employees oversee the preparation of meals at the WCDC, and specific utensils are used to ensure that a full serving of each food item is easily and precisely measured. See Doc. 90-2 at 2.

         Defendant Carla Cink is Food Service Director for Aramark. She manages the kitchen and inmate meals at the WCDC. Cink asserts in her affidavit that all meals served to Plaintiff were in accordance with official Aramark policy which required that the meals be prepared pursuant to the guidelines established by the dietician. See Doc. 90-3, p. 1. The WCDC makes a daily request for a specific number of each type of meal, such as a regular meal, a vegetarian, or a diabetic meal. Id. at 2. Cink further affirms that Aramark's services are subject to the oversight of the Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. Id.

         Plaintiff's Complaint includes allegations about the inadequacy of the food served at the WCDC. He testified in his deposition that he weighed 244 pounds[3] when booked into the WCDC on June 24, 2016. See Doc. 90-1, p. 9. He asserted that approximately a month and a half later, he was down to 234 pounds, [4] and he also believed he had lost muscle mass.[5] Id. at 9-10. He stated during his deposition on August 19, 2016, that his weight had been measured the previous day, and he had weighed 234 pounds. Id. at 9. Priorto his incarceration, Plaintiff believed he was eating more than 3, 000 calories per day. Id. at 21. In his opinion, 2, 500 calories per day is the "minimum ... for a person to survive." Id.

         Plaintiff also testified in his deposition that on commissary-order days, inmates usually received less food on their meal trays-for example, just one sandwich instead of two. Id. at 10. Plaintiff believed that WCDC/Aramark placed less food on the trays intentionally, in order to induce inmates to order more commissary products. Id. Inmates were permitted to order from the commissary only one day per week, usually on Saturdays, and inmates would receive their commissary orders on Mondays. Id. Plaintiff testified that he would typically order ramen noodles from the commissary because they "had some type of substance" to them. Id. at 14.

         Plaintiff contends the Aramark and Washington County Defendants violated the ADTPA based on the high prices they charged for commissary items. He believes Defendants engage in price gouging. He also contends the food portions at the ADC are "much larger" than at the WCDC. Id. According to Plaintiff, the inmates at the WCDC were constantly hungry or "starving at all times, because we are not fed good." (Doc. 90-1, p. 11); see also Doc. 99-5, p. 20. Plaintiff testified that being hungry causes one to be more irritable and aggressive and that hunger was "the worst torture a person can go through in most cases." (Doc. 90-1, p. 16).

         He agreed that WCDC inmates receive three meals a day, with a typical breakfast consisting of a biscuit and gravy, oatmeal or grits, eggs, and milk or juice. Id. at 11. Plaintiff described a typical lunch tray as consisting of two sandwiches, some iceberg lettuce and cake or a cookie. He described dinner trays as typically including some rice or "meat-type deal, " iceberg lettuce, a vegetable such as carrots or green beans, and cake or a cookie. Id. at 12. But on commissary-order days, Plaintiff testified that the dinner tray was usually missing one item-typically the vegetable. Id.

         Aside from his complaints about the amount of food served, Plaintiff also takes issue with how the food trays were transported from the kitchen to the pods for service. Once the meals are prepared, they are transported by trustees to the pods and then served. (Doc. 90-3, p. 2). Meals are served in covered trays, stacked in an interlocking fashion on a rolling cart. (Doc. 90-2, p. 2). Plaintiff believes the food should be transported in a "hot box" instead, so that the meals stay warmer. He filed grievances on several occasions, complaining that the food trays were placed in the hallways between the pods and then left there for sometimes more than an hour before service. He contends that this food-service procedure is unsanitary and unsafe for the inmates.

         Turning to Plaintiff's official-capacity claims, he believes that since Sheriff Helder was in charge of the facility, he had the ability to step in and order that detainees be provided with more food. Plaintiff admits that he never spoke with Sheriff Helder about the food, though. According to Sheriff Helder's affidavit, he relies upon his "chain of command" to administer the various operations of the jail, pursuant to the WCDC's implemented policies and procedures. See Doc. 99-8, p. 1. Sheriff Helder indicates that, generally, he is "not personally involved unless the problem is systemic or not capable of resolution by [his] staff." Id. at 1-2. With respect to Plaintiff, Sheriff Helder is not particularly surprised that he had no personal knowledge of any of the incidents Plaintiff complained of in this case, since "Plaintiff's allegations deal with day to day decisions and operations in the Detention Center, " and Sheriff Helder is not personally involved in those decisions. Id. at 2.

         Plaintiff also admits that he never spoke directly with Major Denzer, the Jail Administrator, with regard to his requests and grievances-though Plaintiff did address at least some of those written requests and grievances directly to Major Denzer. Major Denzer confirms in his affidavit that the "Detention Division operates in a chain of command whereby most direct contact with detainees occurs with pod deputies who are tasked with carrying out the routine, day to day operations such as meal delivery, safety functions during transport or medication distribution, or oversight of daily clean up of the facility." (Doc. 99-9, p. 1). The deputies are supervised by a number of persons, including a corporal, sergeant, and one or more lieutenants. Major Denzer further maintains that he is not involved in routine aspects of daily operation of the jail, and he was not familiar with Plaintiff before he filed the instant case. Id. at 2.

         As for Sergeants Morse, Fuller, Stanton, and Arnold, as well as Lieutenant Foster, they are the WCDC staff members who usually responded in writing to Plaintiff's requests and grievances. With that said, however, Plaintiff admits that these officers never spoke to him in person about his grievances about food quantity or quality, and they were never present when Plaintiff was served his meals. See Doc. 90-1, p. 12.

         Moving on, Plaintiffs next claim is that he was denied adequate access to a law library. He testified that the WCDC requires inmates to obtain a court order to be transported to a library off site, as the facility does not have its own library. In one of his grievances, Plaintiff indicated that he could not obtain a "court order for such a thing because I couldn[']t talk to [the] judge or public defender at my court hearing. My requests to both offices have gone ignored for a month." (Doc. 99-5, p. 21). He was told by WCDC officials that a court order was necessary to be transported off site, and that he was free to request legal assistance by filling out a form that could be faxed to the public defenders' office. Id. Plaintiff believed that the public defender could not help him with his civil rights cases or with filing a motion under Rule 37 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure for ineffective assistance of counsel-particularly when Plaintiff was making the argument that a public defender had provided him ineffective assistance. Id.

         Plaintiff's next claim concerns the amount of paper he was given at the WCDC. When Plaintiff would ask for pieces of paper and envelopes for his legal materials, he was told he had to choose between using the paper for legal work and writing letters home. Plaintiff testified in his deposition that he ran out of paper when doing his legal work. (Doc. 90-1, pp. 24-25). He borrowed paper from other inmates. Id. He claims that he did not know anything about, deadlines in his various cases and was not "made aware" of any deadlines he had missed. Id. at 26. Further, he contends that a civil rights case he filed in this District, Emery v. Hyslip, 5:16-CV-05277, was ultimately dismissed because of his lack of knowledge of the law and his lack of resources to pursue claims against certain types of defendants. He believes that his lack of access to legal resources also hampered his ability to address a child custody case he had pending against him, and a civil forfeiture complaint. See Doc. 123, p. 8.

         With respect to the WCDC's policy on providing paper, Corporal Mulvaney affirms that inmates are provided with "paper, a pencil, and two free envelopes per week" and that "[n]on-indigent inmates may purchase additional writing materials and postage paid envelopes from commissary." (Doc. 99-1, p. 5). According to the WCDC inmate handbook, detainees are provided "postage, envelopes, and paperfor communication with the courts, and two envelopes and ten sheets of paper per week for correspondence of a personal nature." (Doc. 101-1, p. 23).

         Plaintiff next maintains that the grievance procedure was inadequate. First, he contends his rights were violated by the limit placed on the number of grievances/requests a detainee could have "open" on the kiosk at any one time. (Doc. 99-5, p. 18). He argues that his access to the grievance system was being hindered by jail staff not closing his previous grievances. Id. He believes some grievances were left open for days, and because of this, jail staff were "blocking my access to the courts and my right to due process." Id. Next, he contends that he received inadequate or no responses to some of his grievances. He believed that appealing grievances was useless, and that grievances were not passed up the chain of command, as he expected them to be.

         The WCDC grievance policy provides that "[a] grievance shall be made by utilizing the kiosk provided in the cellblock." (Doc. 100-1, p. 9). According to Corporal Mulvaney, the "kiosk system allows a detainee to have up to three open matters at once." (Doc. 99-1, p. 4). Corporal Mulvaney explains in his affidavit that "[t]his is because of the limitations on the system and to prevent abuse by detainees." Id. However, he notes that detainees "have regular contact with deputies" and if the "detainee had too many open matters in the electronic system, the detainee may address the problem to a Deputy directly." Id. Further, if the kiosk is "down or unavailable, " paper grievances are available. Id. at 4-5.[6]

         Plaintiffs next claim is that he was being denied newspapers, magazines, and meaningful access to news media while in the WCDC. He claims that WCDC staff played the radio, but the broadcast was either music or "campaign radio" with no local, state, or world news. (Doc. 90-1, p. 29). Plaintiff indicated that the radio stations only played political news concerning the 2016 Presidential race, and this news was meaningless to him as he could not vote in the election anyway. (Doc. 99-5, p. 22). He claimed he had not seen or heard "anything about local, state, country, or world news since" he had been at the WCDC. Id. He noted that other detainees in the WCDC, including trustees and inmates in the work-release pod, were allowed to view the news on television. Id. He also claimed that other county jails and the ADC allow inmates to read newspapers. Id. He maintains that when he complained about the lack of news at the WCDC, he was told that the facility had been assured by its legal advisor that the "decision to discontinue newspapers in this facility and only use XM Radio[7] as its news source for its detainees ... [was] within the law and [did] not violate anyone's rights." Id.

         Corporal Mulvaney responds in his affidavit that the WCDC "provides a subscription to several satellite radio stations which are played during daytime hours and which are intermittently changed." (Doc. 99-1, p. 6). He maintains that these radio stations "provide discussions of news topics and various viewpoints." He agrees, however, that the WCDC discontinued the practice of providing newspapers to the general population, allegedly "[b]ecause of constant problems with damage caused by inmates hoarding newspapers, fighting over them, or using newspapers to clog toilets and start fires . . . ." Id.

         Plaintiff's next claim concerns the housing classification he was assigned at the WCDC. Plaintiff testified that he was housed on "A side" with all the violent offenders, even though he had never been charged with a violent offense. (Doc. 90-1, p. 32).

         Although he did not report any threats to his safety, Plaintiff indicated he had asked to be moved "many times to B side where I feel like I'm supposed to be at because I'm not a violent offender." Id. at 33. While he could not point to any specific incident, Plaintiff indicated he was sure he had been threatened at some point by other inmates. Id. He testified that "tensions are high in these pods at all times . . . ." Id.

         Plaintiff also testified that he felt that A side was the "punishment pod, " since inmates on B side were allowed access to their personal property and were able to get on their bunks during the day, but A side inmates were denied such privileges. Plaintiff does not know who determined his classification, but he pointed out that he had never had a disciplinary incident at the jail or been involved in any sort of altercation. Id. at 34. On July 11, 2016, when Plaintiff requested in a written grievance to know his "custody score" and complained that he wished to be housed in "B side, " Corporal Caudle's written response was that Plaintiff had been assigned to A side because he was a "medium or maximum, " and that "points don't matter." (Doc. 99-5, p. 13). When Plaintiff continued to question his classification status, he was in formed in writing on July 13, 2016, by Lieutenant Foster, that designations were based on:

an objective classification system which is in accordance with our policy and procedure which is in compliance with State and Federal Law. You initial classification is based upon you[r] criminal history and your curent criminal charge and a few other factors. Because of the classification system you have the opportunity to potentially improve your classification based upon your behavior while in this facility.

Id. at 15.

         Plaintiff was, in fact, involved in a physical altercation with other inmates on August 20, 2016, after which he was charged with "behavior which is aggressive or disruptive to the facility" and "provoking or agitating a fight." See Doc. 102-10. In the written description of the incident, it appears Plaintiff was involved in a fight with four other inmates. Two of the inmates received injuries that required treatment at the nurses' station, but Plaintiff was not among the injured. Just prior to this fight, on February 16, 2016, his status had been officially changed to "minimum" security. See Doc. 102-7, p. 1. He believes prior to February 16, he was misclassified as a "medium" or "high" security inmate and assigned to A side.

         According to Corporal Mulvaney's affidavit supplied in response to Plaintiffs contentions, the inmate classification system "considers factors such as a detainee's criminal history and pending charges and provides a guideline for placement of the detainee." (Doc. 99-1, p. 5). The staff also considers whether there is "available space" and whether "any persons ... are known as a threat to or threatened by the detainee" Id. Corporal Mulvaney indicates that A side is generally reserved for detainees on administrative or disciplinary segregation or those classified as "high or medium-high risk inmates." Id. at 6. He explains that B side is generally reserved for "low to low-medium risk inmates" and trustees. Id.

         Plaintiff's next claim is that he was denied adequate medical care while in the WCDC. According to WCDC policy, emergency medical services are available 24 hours a day. (Doc. 99-1, p. 2). "Officers are trained to respond to medical emergencies and may provide temporary lifesaving care while [emergency medical services] or other medical personnel are in route." Id. Since January 1, 2016, Dr. Karas has served as the jail's doctor, and Karas Correctional Health has provided all medical care pursuant to a contract with Washington County. Id. at 3. Detainees are instructed to submit medical complaints via an electronic kiosk, and the requests are then reviewed by the medical staff. According to Corporal Mulvaney, the WCDC's policy is that "[a]ll matters of judgment regarding health services are made within the sole province of the contract medical staff, " and "[a]ll decisions regarding medications, medical testing, or medical treatment are left to the professional medical judgment of the physician at the detention facility." (Doc. 99-1, p. 3) (emphasis omitted).

         Plaintiff claims that Dr. Karas and his medical staff provided substandard medical care with respect to Plaintiffs withdrawal and detoxification from methamphetamine, which occurred when he first arrived at the WCDC. Plaintiff also takes issue with the way the medical Defendants administered his blood pressure medications. Plaintiff claims he was diagnosed with high blood pressure during a prior incarceration in the ADC. Following his release, he visited a private doctor and was placed on the drug Amlodipine. He testified in his deposition that he continued having problems with blood pressure, and his doctor increased his dosage of Amlodipine and added a prescription for the drug Lisinopril. After that, his private doctor added the drug Minoxidil, as Plaintiff's blood pressure was still high. Plaintiff testified that for his first week or week-and-a-half at the WCDC, he was not given any blood pressure medication. See Doc. 90-1, p. 40. He contends that he provided medical staff with the name of his pharmacy so that they could verify the blood pressure medications he was taking. Id. at 41.

         According to jail medical records, medical staff did verify Plaintiff's prescriptions for Amlodipine, Lisinopril, and Minoxidil on June 24, 2016-the day he was booked into the jail. Plaintiff's private physician, Dr. House, had prescribed all three medications, and Plaintiff last filled them on June 8, 2016. (Doc. 99-3, p. 5). Plaintiff was then approved by the jail doctor to receive both Amlodipine and Lisinopril on June 24, and Plaintiff started receiving them on June 25, 2016. Id. at 8-10. The medication administration records indicate Plaintiff was first given Amlodipine and Lisinopril on June 25, 2016. Id. at 57. The records further indicate that he refused these medications on June 28, June 29-30, July 6-7, July 13, and July 28, 2016. Id. at 54-56. In addition to Amlodipine and Lisinopril, on July 8, 2016, Plaintiff began receiving Naproxen, an anti-inflammatory painkiller, and on July 27, 2016, he began receiving a nightly dose of Melatonin. Id. at 8, 53.

         Plaintiff disputes that he was given his blood pressure medication beginning on June 25, despite what the medical logs indicate. See Doc. 90-1, p. 42. He claims instead that he had to "argue every day" with the nursing staff for the first week to week-and-a-half he was incarcerated at the WCDC in order to receive his pills. Id. He further claims that he did not refuse medication on the dates indicated in the logs, but that his medication was often not on the pill cart. Id. at 41, 44. Plaintiff stated that on one occasion, a nurse, whose name he does not recall, indicated that she knew Plaintiff had not been refusing his medication and that he should file a grievance. Id. at 41. Plaintiff testified that after this interaction with the nurse, he had no further problems getting his blood pressure medication. Id. at 44.

         Jail medical records confirm that on June 24, 2016, the day Plaintiff was booked, he submitted a sick-call request regarding, among other things, not having received his blood pressure medications yet. (Doc. 99-3, p. 10). He was added to the sick-call list on June 27, 2016. Id. But on June 28, 2016, medical staff made a notation in the logs that Plaintiff would not being seen during sick call that day because the medications he requested were "on med cart." Id.

         As for his complaint about inadequate medical care given during his detoxification from methamphetamine, Plaintiff testified he was addicted to methamphetamine and would also take Hydrocodone or Percocet. He confirmed that when he was booked into the WCDC, he had been on methamphetamine and opiates for about a year and a half, and that this long period of addiction made his detox period worse than on previous occasions. He testified that he began sweating, felt sick, vomited, had diarrhea, did notfeel like eating, was delirious a few times, hallucinated a couple of times, and felt his joints had "locked up." (Doc. 90-1, pp. 45-46, 52). He also told staff that he felt like he was dying and would often sleep on the concrete floor of the pod area, having been administered the drug Naproxen for the "shakes and pain." Id. at 42. Instead of being locked out of his jail cell, he would have preferred to stay in his cell while going through detox so he could "rest and sleep and get [his] strength back up." Id. at 50.

         Jail medical records indicate that Plaintiff was placed on a "detox screen" for five days beginning on June 24, 2016. (Doc. 99-3, p. 9). On June 24, Plaintiff submitted a sick call request complaining that he had neck, back, knee, and shoulder problems, and that he wanted to be able to lie down when he was hurting. Id. at 10. He said he had so many injury issues that "there is no way I can sit at a table or stand around all day." Id. He did not mention in the grievance any problems associated with detoxifying from methamphetamine.

         Plaintiff also testified that he had contact with medical staff twice a day during pill call. During those times, the nurse would merely ask what his symptoms were. Plaintiff felt he should have also been seen by a doctor and had his blood pressure checked on a regular basis. However, he testified that as of the date of his ...

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