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Griffin v. Hollis

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

November 4, 2019

NURSE SARA HOLLIS, Baxter County Detention Center; and JAIL ADMINISTRATOR TONY BECK, Baxter County Detention Center DEFENDANTS



         This is a civil rights action filed by the Plaintiff, Tony A. Griffin, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Griffin proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The claims at issue in this case arise out of Griffin's incarceration in the Baxter County Detention Center ("BCDC") from August 4, 2018, through September 14, 2018. Griffin names as Defendants Nurse Sara Hollis and Jail Administrator Tony Beck.

         Griffin, who is Black, contends his constitutional rights were violated when Defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and he was denied medical care on the basis on his race. Griffin has sued the Defendants in their personal capacities only. (Doc. 20 at 4).

         The case is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docs. 24-26, 40). Plaintiff has responded to the Motion, (Docs. 31-32, 42, 48[1]), and it is ready for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Prior Medical History

         During his deposition, [2] Griffin testified that he had been in a serious car accident in 2001 or 2002 during which he sustained injuries to his head, back, left leg, and both feet. (Doc. 26-8 at 17). As a result of the head injury, Griffin has problems with his memory, including forgetting things he is told and people's names. Id. at 26-28. In 2011, Griffin had a light stroke. Id. at 19. Griffin has sciatic nerve damage to his left side. Id. While he was in prison in 2014 or 2015, Griffin had stents put in his heart. Id. at 21. Griffin testified that he has to take "a lot of medicine" for his heart, his blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux disease ("GERD"), rheumatoid arthritis, pain in his shoulder from an injury, and sciatic nerve damage to his left leg. Id. at 21-24. However, he testified he did not "even know half the medicine he takes now." Id. at 21.

         Griffin testified that during periods of time when he was not incarcerated, he did not have ongoing care for his medical problems. (Doc. 26-8 at 17). In fact, he stated that he had not had an outside doctor for years. Id. at 17-18. His grandmother, who was a nurse and a full-blooded Cherokee, provided Griffin with "natural herbs and stuff that helped." Id. at 19. Griffin testified that when he was in Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"), he was put on approximately 17 different medications. Id. at 22.

         Griffin also took seven or eight medications at the halfway house, OMART, where he was placed when he was paroled. Id. at 22. On August 4, 2018, Griffin was arrested at the Mountain Home Motel where he had lived for a "little over a year." (Doc. 26-8 at 29-30). Griffin testified he had his medications, but the arresting officers refused to take them. Id. at 29-30. The medication Griffin had at the hotel had been filled by OMART at a pharmacy in Gassville, Arkansas. Id. at 29-30. Griffin testified that the medication lasted over a year because he was not taking it daily in accordance with the prescription directions, with the exception of the non-prescription 81 mg Bayer aspirin. Id. Griffin testified that OMART had given him "more than what they were supposed to" when he left there. Id. In fact, Griffin stated that one of the nurses at OMART advised him to "keep a lot of [the medication], that way when you get out, you were good." Id. at 35. Griffin testified he could not remember all the medications but knew he was taking high blood pressure and heart medication and pain pills. Id. at 33. According to Griffin, when he tried to get help from three different doctors in Mountain Home, where he was living, "they refused me because of my color. They said they don't do my kind." Id. at 31-32. Griffin testified throughout his deposition that the population of Mountain Home in general, and the detention center personnel in particular, including the Defendants, were racist and wanted any Blacks to move out of the area.

         B. Incarceration at the BCDC

         Griffin was booked into the BCDC on August 4, 2018. (Doc. 26-2 at 1). He remained incarcerated there until September 14, 2018, when he was transferred to the ADC. Id.

         Griffin testified that the day he was arrested, he spoke to Nurse Hollis and advised her that his medication had been left in his hotel room. (Doc. 26-8 at 44-45). Griffin stated that he advised Nurse Hollis that he needed his heart medication. Id. at 45. According to Griffin, Nurse Hollis remarked that Griffin worked with her brother at Bass Cat Boats, made good money, and should give her some. (Doc. 26-8 at 47-48). He refused, and after that, Nurse Hollis avoided him. Id. at 45. Administrator Beck was not a party to these events. Id.

         On September 6, 2018, at approximately 4:15 p.m., Nurse Hollis was talking to Griffin's cellmate, who was on suicide watch about "meds and stuff." (Doc. 26-8 at 39). Griffin testified that he asked Nurse Hollis if he could get something for "pain and stuff." Id. He explained that he was not allowed to bring his "heart medication and stuff' and was having chest pain. Id. According to Griffin, Nurse Hollis "looked at [him] kind of funny and said he would have to fill out a "paper."' Id. Griffin testified he filled out the medical request form and gave it to her. Id. at 40. Then, "she walked off, c[a]me back" and "slid it up under the door."[3] Id. Griffin testified that Nurse Hollis formerly worked at an ADC unit where he had been incarcerated, and he believed she knew he was taking heart medication. Id. at 43. Griffin stated that he told her he needed his heart medication and that it was in his hotel room. Id. Griffin could not recall the name of the medication. Id.

         Griffin testified that on the medical request form he had asked for medication but indicated that he did not have a doctor. (Doc. 26-8 at 41). He asked for Bayer aspirin and told Nurse Hollis that his medications were still sitting in his hotel room. Id. He asked if someone could be sent to get them. Id. Griffin testified his parole officer and Officer Michael Day, who was in the criminal investigation division, indicated Griffin's belongings were still at the hotel. Id. at 41-42. According to Griffin, Officer Day, Nurse Hollis, and an unidentified woman were all sitting in a small room "laughing and stuff and were calling [him] 'Niggers.'" Id. at 42.

         Griffin stated that on September 7, 2018, Nurse Hollis refused him medication, stating that she did not have to "listen or do a damn thing that you tell me." (Doc. 26-8 at 47). She then told him that he could "lay in the cell and die." Id. at 46. Griffin further testified that he begged Nurse Hollis "over, and over, and over" for something to take for his heart. Id. at 64. He believed Nurse Hollis had some of the same type of medication at the facility. Id. According to Griffin, Nurse Hollis did not even provide him with the Bayer aspirin. Id. at 64-65. Instead, "some female jailer snuck me some Bayer aspirin while I was there." Id. at 64.

         Griffin maintains that Administrator Beck said to him: "Nigger, you can lay up in the cell and die, for all I care." (Doc. 26-8 at 45). Griffin did not believe this occurred on the same day that Nurse Hollis made similar statements. Id. at 45-46. Griffin also asserts that Administrator Beck was a "bully." Id. at 48-49.

         On September 7, 2018, Griffin submitted a grievance complaining that Nurse Hollis failed to provide him with medical attention. (Doc. 26-3 at 1). He stated he had a life-threatening illness. Id. He requested to be given an aspirin every day for his heart. Id. He also indicated that Nurse Hollis talked to him like he was a "boy."[4] Id. In response, a jailer was instructed to provide Griffin with a medical request form and to log it in the Guardian Inmate Tracking System. Id.

         A medical request form dated September 8, 2018 appears in the record. (Doc No. 26-4 at 1). In response to questions contained on the form, Griffin stated he had no current doctor, did not have a current pharmacy, could not recall the names of any of his medication except the Bayer aspirin, and he did not know if he had any drug allergies. Id. He also asked for medical attention for his heart. Id. Griffin's signature appears on the medical request. Id. On the bottom portion of the form is an area to be completed by the medical provider. Id. The date of the exam is blank, and in the area for medical notes, the word "refused" is written. Id. There is no signature following this remark. Id.

         On the morning of September 12, 2018, Clifford Beck[5] wrote that he had spoken to Griffin regarding his grievance and told him to complete a medical request form. (Doc. 26-5 at 2). A jailer was instructed to provide Griffin with the form. Id. The same day, Advanced Practice Nurse Denise Clifton-Jones and Nurse Hollis started to complete a health service request form for ADC jail detainees. (Doc. 26-4 at 2). The area on the form for the detainee to describe his injury or illness is blank. Id. Griffin did not sign the form. Id. According to the nurses, Griffin walked out of the medical office before filling in or signing the form. (Doc. 26-4 at 3; Doc. 26-5 at 1). Advanced Practice Nurse Denise Clifton-Jones described the encounter as follows:

Pt has completed a sick call for[m] requesting "heart[.]" When he arrived to the exam room I attempted to decipher what type of problems he has/had and he became belligerent and began yelling stating he doesn't understand why it is so hard to get an aspirin. When I attempted to explain to him that I at least need his pharmacy information so that I can verify the medications he is supposed to be taking. He began yelling again and cursing that he is 9 hours from home and doesn't know what medications he is supposed to be taking nor does he know what pharmacy he has been using-at which time he exited the medical office without completing the visit.

(Doc. 26-5 at 3). Griffin, however, maintains he did not walk out of the office but was instead told to leave. (Doc. 32 at 6).

         Griffin maintains that Administrator Beck[6] went along with Nurse Hollis in refusing him medical attention and denied his request to go to the hospital when he was having "real bad chest pain." (Doc. 26-8 at 51-52). Griffin indicates he told Administrator Beck that he did not have his nitro pills to take and needed to go to the hospital. Id. at 52. According to Griffin, Administrator Beck's response was: "Nigger, I ain't taking you nowhere." Id. Griffin could not recall what day this encounter took place. Id. Griffin further testified that Administrator Beck said: "Nigger, you can lay up in the cell and die, for all I care." Id. at 45. Griffin testified he did not know if he had a heart attack that day since he was never taken to a doctor or the hospital. Id. Griffin stated that it was obvious if he had a heart attack, it was not serious enough to kill him. Id. Griffin also asserts that both Defendants refused to go and get his medication from the hotel. Id. at 58.

         On September 14, 2018, Griffin underwent a transfer assessment at the ADC (Doc. 26-4 at 4). Griffin was placed on Amlodipine Besylate Tab/10 mg[7] and Hydrochlorothiazide Tab/25[8] mg; lab tests were ordered; and, he was referred for a physical examination "for any medical restrictions." Id. at 4-5. Griffin testified he was put on bed rest and medications were started. (Doc. 26-8 at 52). Griffin maintains that he was told his blood pressure was high and that the BCDC personnel "were trying to kill [him]." Id. at 53.

         The BCDC is operated in accordance with written policy, and "the staff is expected to conform to policy." (Doc. 26-7 at 1). The jail administrator, here Defendant Tony Beck, is responsible "for the overall operation of the jail." Id. The BCDC provides "jail inmates with medical and health care to the standards" of existing Arkansas and United States statutory law and court precedents. (Doc. 26-7 at 6). To this end, the BCDC "shall provide ... medical personnel who are duly licensed in the State of Arkansas." Id. One licensed practical nurse ("LPN") is "employed full time and . . . maintains an office and presence inside the confines of the Detention Center when working and on duty." Id. There is also one Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) employed part-time and "who shall regularly be available in person at the Detention Center to see jail inmates a minimum of two (2) times per week." Id. Both "will work under the general authority and direction of a licensed physician . . . however the physician shall not have responsibility for nor be required to keep or maintain a presence at the Detention Center, neither shall the physician be responsible for on-site general supervision of the LPN or APRN." Id.

         When an inmate is booked in, the booking jailer "shall ask a series of basic medical questions to determine, among other things, whether the inmate has any injuries, is under the care of a physician, has any communicable diseases, and is taking any medications prescribed by a licensed health care professional." (Doc. 26-7 at 7). The responses to the questions are to be "fully annotated in the booking file for later review by supervisory personnel and/or licensed medical personnel providing services to the Detention Center." Id. If such questions were asked of Griffin in this case, no record of Griffin's responses has been provided to the Court.

         Requests for medical services are to be made in writing on a medical request form. (Doc. 26-7 at 7). "Other than in cases of emergencies or urgent situations in which jail personnel reasonably believe medical care is immediately necessary, a jail inmate[] will only be provided with professional medical care if they complete a "Medical Request Form" and turn it in for review by licensed medical personnel." Id. The forms are available once per day "during the 8:00 pm distribution of medication time period." Id. Any medical request forms that are completed "will be logged and annotated in the Guardian Inmate Tracking System, which will log the date and time that the completed form was returned." Id. The completed forms are reviewed by the LPN.

         "Jail inmates who have completed the Medical Request Form are permitted to speak personally with and be seen by the LPN during times designated for the distribution] of medication by the LPN." (Doc. 26-7 at 7). Inmates will be seen by the "APRN during such times as the APRN is at the Detention Center, if sufficient information is articulated on the Medical Request Form to necessitate the need to be seen by the APRN." Id. This decision will be determined by the APRN." Id. at 8. For each inmate seen, the "LPN and APRN shall keep detailed and specific medical notes . . . that will identify the nature of the complaint and necessary action, if any, that was taken or decisions made." Id.

         The only prescription medications that are provided and dispensed to inmates are those that have been duly and lawfully prescribed by qualified medical personnel. (Doc. 26-7 at 9). All medications ...

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