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Robertson v. McCormick

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

May 6, 2019

ALTON RAY ROBERTSON, JR. PLAINTIFF
v.
SHERIFF MIKE McCORMICK, Garland County, Arkansas, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Susan O. Hickey, Chief United States District Judge

         This is a civil rights action filed pro se by Plaintiff, Alton Ray Robertson, Jr., under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Separate Defendants Kay Duke, Carol Gray, Danny Burgin, Brittany Darnell, and Rebecca Rioza. (ECF No. 122). Also before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Southwest Correctional Medical Group, Inc. (“SWCMG”). (ECF No. 125). Likewise before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Separate Defendants Lieutenant Amanda Miller, Sergeant Michael Carter, Deputy Lisa Thomas, Deputy Kolby Hamilton, Corporal Shawn Stapleton, Deputy Jason Stovall, Deputy Russell Braswell, Deputy William Coutch, and Deputy Ruey Hendrix, all of whom are employed by Garland County, Arkansas. (ECF No. 128). Plaintiff has not filed a response to the motions and the time to do so has passed.[1] The Court finds these matters ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”) - Grimes Unit in Newport, Arkansas. His claims arise from alleged incidents that occurred in September 2016 while he was incarcerated in the Garland County Detention Center (“GCDC”) serving a sentence as a result of a judgment of conviction. (ECF No. 12, p. 1). Based on Plaintiff's verified Amended Complaint (ECF No. 12) and Defendants' filings, the relevant facts are as follows.[2]

         Plaintiff was booked into the GCDC on September 6, 2016, at approximately 8:00 p.m. (ECF No. 130-1). The booking officer noted that Plaintiff had a history of psoriasis, a skin condition that creates scaly, red patches on the skin that are itchy, sometimes painful, and may result in bleeding. (ECF Nos. 125-2, 130-2). Psoriasis is a chronic disease for which there is no cure. (ECF No. 125-2). Some of the most frequently prescribed medications for treating psoriasis are corticosteroids. Id. at p. 2. They reduce inflammation and relieve itching. Id. Vitamin D is also commonly prescribed to treat psoriasis. It slows skin cell growth during a flare up. Id.

         On September 12, 2016, Plaintiff made a resident request report to GCDC medical staff stating he had advised personnel of his medical conditions and the medication he was prescribed. (ECF No. 125-2, p. 19). Plaintiff did not state he was experiencing any problems at that time. Id. On September 13, 2016, Plaintiff made another resident request report to GCDC staff stating, “I [need] MY MEDS KLONZOPAM 2 MG LINCINEPRIL 25 MS VISTIRL 25 MGS NEXIUM 40 MGS HAVE NOT HAD [any] SINCE SEP 8th [need] MEDS BAD HAVING [outbreak].” (ECF No. 125-2, p. 20). That same day, Plaintiff was seen and assessed by Kay Duke, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (“APRN”). Plaintiff's chief complaint was psoriasis of the hands and chest. (ECF No. 125-2, p. 18). Following the physical examination, Duke diagnosed Plaintiff with psoriasis on his arms, hands, and chest. She ordered Triamcinolone 0.1%, a corticosteroid used topically to treat psoriasis, to be given twice daily for fourteen days. Id. Duke noted that Plaintiff was to receive his Triamcinolone off the medical cart until the medication tub arrived. Id. Plaintiff was seen again by Duke on September 15, 2016. Duke noted that Plaintiff's medication tub had not yet arrived and Plaintiff was complaining of increased itching. (ECF No. 125-2, p. 18). Duke performed another physical examination on Plaintiff and noted that nothing had changed since the examination on September 13, 2016. Id.

         On September 16, 2016, Nurse Danny Burgin noted that a provider ordered Vitamin D3 for Plaintiff to be taken twice daily for fourteen days. (ECF No. 125-2, p. 18). Burgin also completed an intake screening and assessment of Plaintiff at that time. Id.

         On September 18, 2016, Plaintiff submitted a grievance form to the GCDC jail administration, stating that he had put in multiple sick calls on the same issues and that he had “huge” welts and fever and needed medical attention as soon as possible. (ECF No. 130-3, p. 1). Nurse Melissa Jarrett responded, instructing Plaintiff to place a sick call to be seen by medical, and stating, “You have been seen for all complaints in the sick call process.” Id. On September 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed another grievance, claiming he needed medical attention. (ECF No. 125-2, p. 23). Plaintiff received a response to his grievance from Nurse Jarrett again, stating he had been seen for all his complaints in the sick call process. Id. Although an appeal was available to him, Plaintiff did not appeal the response to his grievance. Id.

         On September 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed another grievance, claiming that his psoriasis was “very bad.” (ECF No. 125-2, p. 24). Nurse Jarrett responded to Plaintiff's grievance, advising Plaintiff to place a sick call to be seen again for his complaints and advising Plaintiff that he had already been seen by an Advanced Practice Nurse and given medication for his ailments. Id. Plaintiff did not appeal the response to this grievance. Id.

         On September 23, 2016, Plaintiff also made a resident request report to the GCDC staff, claiming that his condition was getting worse and that it had spread to his genitals, was causing him to lose sleep, and the cream he had received for treatment was not working. (ECF No. 125-2, p. 21). An unknown GCDC officer responded stating, “Already addressed on previous complaint. Need to go to pill call for medication as ordered. That means getting up for morning pill pass.” Id.

         On September 25, 2016, a progress note was made in Plaintiff's medical chart by Nurse Burgin which reads:

Called to barracks, I/M [Plaintiff] sitting in day room with boxers down around ankles. Stated no one will do anything about the psoriasis - refusing to take meds prescribed by provider. Deputys [sic] escorted I/M to other barracks. States he wants to see a doctor that knows what they are doing. I/M smells of urine. Refusing meds.

(ECF No. 125-2, p. 18). That same day, Nurse Burgin noted that he spoke with APRN Carl Ennis, who ordered Prednisone 20 MG and Benadryl 25 MG for Plaintiff to take twice daily for five days. Id. Ennis directed that Plaintiff should continue to be monitored for any changes. Id.[3]

         Plaintiff's medication distribution logs reflect that he frequently missed morning and evening pill call and was therefore unable to receive his various medications. (ECF No. 130-5, pp.1-3).

         One of the last entries in Plaintiff's medical chart is a physical examination and health appraisal of Plaintiff performed on September 26, 2016, by Michelle Reeves, a Registered Nurse. (ECF No. 125-2, p. 26). Although Nurse Reeves' examination identified Plaintiff's psoriasis, she also noted that Plaintiff had no complaints regarding it or any other condition. Id. The physical examination and assessment by Reeves also revealed “no significant medical, mental health, or dental issues currently.” Id.

         The GCDC has policies and procedures in place to provide continuity of medical care for all inmates housed in the facility. (ECF No. 130-6). Pursuant to policy, inmates are provided unimpeded access to care by ensuring inmates' written health complaints are solicited daily, triaged by health professionals, and followed up with appropriate treatment by qualified health personnel. Id. Clinical services are available five times a week and are performed by a physician or other qualified health professional. Id. Twenty-four hour emergency health care is available to inmates who need such care, and it is policy at the GCDC to provide needed medical care to all inmates. Id.

         At all times relevant, SWCMG was under contract with the GCDC to provide healthcare services to inmates housed at the GCDC. Separate Defendants Kay Duke, Carol Grey, Danny Burgin, Brittany Darnell, and Rebecca Rioza were all employees of SWCMG. (ECF No. 126).[4]

         The GCDC also has an established policy and procedure for the submission of inmate grievances which requires that the inmate or detainee give written notice of a complaint, request, or problem through an inmate grievance form. (ECF No. 130-6, pp. 2-4). If an inmate is not satisfied with the decision of the Grievance Coordinator or other staff who responded to the grievance, the inmate may appeal the decision to the Security Director within five days of the inmate's receipt of the response. Id. at p. 3.

         Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on July 20, 2017, alleging he had been denied medical care by the Sheriff of Garland County, Arkansas, and numerous John and Jane Doe officers and medical personnel who worked at the GCDC. (ECF No. 1).[5] On September 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint naming as Defendants Sheriff Mike McCormick and numerous John and Jane Doe defendants at the GCDC who had knowledge of Plaintiff's medical condition in September 2016. (ECF No. 12). Eventually, the following individuals/entities were named as Defendants and served with process: (1) Sheriff Mike McCormick, Grievance Coordinator Destiny Donahue, Jail Administrator Steven Elrod, Deputy Leonard Coatney, Lieutenant Amanda Miller, Sergeant Michael Carter, Deputy Lisa Thomas, Deputy Kolby Hamilton, Corporal Shawn Stapleton, Deputy Jason Stovall, Deputy Russel Braswell, Deputy William Coutch, Deputy Ruey Hendrix, Midkiff, Deputy Lacey, and Deputy Nathan Burgett (collectively the “Garland County Defendants”); (2) SWCMG; and, (3) Kay Duke, Carol Gray, Nurse Danny Burgin, Brittany Darnell, and Nurse Rebecca Rioza (collectively the “SWCMG Employees”).[6]

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the Garland County Defendants, SWCMG and the SWCMG Employees denied him medical care on September 8, 2016. (ECF No. 12). Specifically, he claims that he:

requested on several occasions to be escorted to medical and was told to place a sick call request. Several sick call requests were done but were never responded to. The rash and itching became worse and I lost sleep, suffered anxiety, ...

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