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Norman v. Lewis

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

January 31, 2019




         Plaintiff Darren Lee Norman filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff currently is incarcerated in the Pine Bluff Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction.

         The events at issue in this case occurred at the Baxter County Detention Center ("BCDC"). Plaintiff has named as Defendants Jail Administrator Brad Lewis, Officer Ryan Thompson, and Officer Phillip Krug. During a seizure Plaintiff suffered on August 19, 2014, [1] he maintains that Officers Thompson and Krug used excessive force against him when they utilized a technique known as a sternum rub on him three separate times, causing him physical injury. Plaintiff also maintains he did not receive adequate medical care while detained at the BCDC.

         The case is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 45). Plaintiff has responded, see Doc. 50, and the Motion is now ready for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was booked into the BCDC on August 14, 2014. (Doc. 47-2, p. 1). He was released on September 1, 2014, for medical reasons. Id. at 3. As part of the intake process, Plaintiff indicated that he had a history of three strokes and a traumatic brain injury and that he suffered from seizures, depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. (Doc. 47-4, p. 1). He listed his medications as Gabapentin, Hydroxyzine, Trazodone, Quetiapine, and Divalproex. Id. Plaintiff later testified in this lawsuit that he had been diagnosed with epilepsy and had seizures "pretty frequently]," about two or three times a month or more. (Doc. 47-7, pp. 15-16). Plaintiff brought his medications to the jail with him. (Doc. 47-4, p. 25).

         On August 16, 2014, Plaintiff sought medical care for chest pain and numbness in his left arm. (Doc. 47-3, p. 1). He filled out an "Inmate Medical Request" form on that date. A note on the form indicates that Plaintiff was examined on August 19, 2014, though the time of day of the examination is not specified. Id.

         On August 19, 2014, at approximately 6:40 p.m., Plaintiff had a seizure. Officers Thompson and Krug performed sternum rubs[2] on the Plaintiff. Plaintiff has submitted a video[3] of this event. The video shows the following:

18:40:52 Plaintiff falls to the floor having a seizure.
18:41:00 Officer Thompson attempts to place a mat under Plaintiff's head.
18:41:04 Officer Thompson puts Plaintiff on his right side and raises Plaintiff's left arm.
18:41:18 Officer Thompson walks to a counter a few feet away and leans on it observing Plaintiff.
18:41:55 Officer Thompson turns Plaintiff onto his back. Officer Krug approaches.
18:41:58 Officer Krug, with his back to the camera, appears to perform a sternum rub (lasting approximately 3 seconds).
18:42:02 Officer Thompson performs a sternum rub (lasting approximately 9 seconds).
18:42:32 Officer Thompson performs a sternum rub (lasting approximately 6 seconds).
18:43:22 Officer Thompson turns Plaintiff onto his left side.
18:43:48 Officer Krug walks off screen. Officer Thompson continues to observe the Plaintiff turning him back onto his left side several times.
18:56:21 Officer Krug arrives back and leans on the counter.
18:57:54 Officer Thompson appears to be demonstrating the length of the injury to Plaintiff's sternum by holding his hands to his own chest with the hands separated by approximately six to eight inches.
18:59:30 The paramedics arrive.
19:00:42 The paramedics are provided with Plaintiff's medication 19:05:32 Plaintiff is placed on the stretcher. He appears to be conscious.
19:06:22 Plaintiff is taken out.

         Plaintiff was transported to Baxter Regional Medical Center ("BRMC"). (Doc. 47-4, p. 2). He was prescribed Phenytoin.[4] Id. at 3. Plaintiff testified that, ordinarily, when he comes out of a seizure, everything is confusing to him. (Doc. 47-7, p. 22). He did not recall having had the seizure, but he remembered waking up in the hospital. Id. at 22, 26. He first became aware of the wound caused by the sternum rubs when he woke up. Id. at 40. He experienced "a lot of pain" whenever he moved. Id. Hospital personnel noted that Plaintiff had an "8cm superficial abrasion over the sternal area." (Doc. 51-1, p. 77).

         On August 20, 2016, Plaintiffs mother, Teresa Norman, visited him at the jail. She is a registered nurse with 30 years of experience working in emergency rooms. She described her son's wound as being 8 cm by 3 cm in area. (Doc. 51-1, p. 86). Her husband took photographs of the wound that day, including the following photograph:

(Image omitted)

(Doc. 51-51, p. 57). Additionally, Plaintiff submitted several photos of the injury taken during his various trips to the hospital. See Id. at 70, 73, 76.

         According to Plaintiff, the wound would bleed and "stuff would always ooze out through the gauze and [his] shirt would stick to it." (Doc. 47-7, p. 40). Jail staff would give Plaintiff antibiotic ointment, gauze, and tape for the wound. Id. Plaintiff also received Ibuprofen or Tylenol for pain relief. Id. at 44.

         Plaintiff testified that it took "[q]uite a while" for the wound to stop oozing. (Doc. 47-7, p. 41). He testified that the pain from the wound lasted approximately a month. Id. at 45. Plaintiff does not believe that the sternum rubs he received affected the seizure he had on August 19, either positively or negatively. Id. at 51. However, he still bears a scar on his chest from the wound caused by the sternum rubs. (Doc. 51, p. 2).

         On August 21, 2014, Jail Administrator Lewis made the following note in Plaintiff's file:

When inmate went to Hospital, I was contacted by one of the Paramedics who wanted to speak to a Supervisor. I called and they wanted us to be aware that who ever did the Sternum Rub on the Inmate had used to[o] much pressure and had rubbed the skin and pulled out Chest Hair and they should not be putting that much pressure when doing this. I spoke to Cpl Ryan Thompson and he stated he did give the inmat[e] a Sternum rub and also Phillip Krug came in behind him and Gave him a Sternum Rub Also. I explained to Cpl. Thompson and advised him what was going on and to advise Jailer Krug also.

(Doc. 47-4, p. 25).

         With respect to Plaintiff's aftercare at the BCDC, the jail's internal ...

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