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Everhart v. Southern Health Partners, Inc.

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

December 2, 2019

WAYNE ALVIN EVERHART PLAINTIFF
v.
SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, INC.; And SEVIER COUNTY, ARKANSAS DEFENDANTS

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11) filed by Defendant Sevier County, Arkansas. Plaintiff filed a Response (ECF No. 14) and Defendant Sevier County filed a Reply. (ECF No. 15). Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3)(2011), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey, Chief United States District Judge, referred this case to the undersigned for the purpose of making a Report and Recommendation.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The instant motion is based on the doctrine of res judicata. Defendant Sevier County argues Plaintiff's claims are barred because they were previously brought in Everhart v. Gentry, et al, Civil No. 4:17-cv-04113 and dismissed with prejudice. Accordingly, the Court will first discuss the issues and claims decided in the 2017 lawsuit.

         A. Plaintiff's 2017 Lawsuit

         On December 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Eastern District of Arkansas against the following Defendants: Sharon Flournoy, a nurse employed by Southern Health Partners, Inc. the third party medical provider for the Sevier County Detention Center (“SCDC”); Deputy Chris Walcott, the jail administrator for the SCDC; and Robert Gentry, the Sheriff of Sevier County. (ECF No. 2). The case was transferred to the Western District, Texarkana Division, on December 11, 2017. (ECF No. 4). Plaintiff claimed these Defendants denied him medical care while he was incarcerated in the SCDC between August 20, 2017, and October 25, 2017, when they ignored his complaints of pain from his hernia and ulcers in his mouth and when his medications were “messed up” and improperly dispensed to him on three occasions. Plaintiff also claimed his constitutional rights were violated when Defendant Walcott refused to provide him with copies of his grievances. Plaintiff sued Defendants in their official and individual capacities and sought “compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress and mental anguish”. (ECF No. 2, p. 6).

         On July 25, 2018, Nurse Flournoy filed a summary judgment motion and brief in support arguing she was not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs and “no policy or custom of Southern Health Partners, Inc. caused Plaintiff to suffer any unconstitutional harm.” (ECF No. 33, 35, p. 7). Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition to the motion on August 15, 2018. (ECF No. 41). On September 11, 2018, Robert Gentry and Chris Walcott filed a summary judgment motion and brief in support arguing in relevant part they were not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs and there was no basis for official capacity liability against their employer Sevier County. (ECF No. 42). On October 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition to Gentry and Walcott's motion. (ECF No. 46).

         On December 20, 2018, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motions for summary judgment. (ECF No. 47). Specifically, the Court found Southern Health Partners, Inc. was under contract with the SCDC to provide healthcare services to inmates housed at the SCDC and Nurse Sharon Flournoy was an employee of Southern Health Partners, Inc. According to the affidavit of Nurse Sharon Flournoy, there was no policy of Southern Health Partners, Inc. that prohibited treatment of Plaintiff for his medical conditions. (ECF. 35-1, p. 3). Plaintiff did not dispute this. In addition, the Court discussed in detail the policies of the SCDC regarding medical care for all inmates housed in the facility and found the summary judgment record demonstrated Sevier County and Southern Health Partners, Inc. had policies in place to provide adequate medical care to Plaintiff and other inmates at the Sevier County Jail in 2017. Id.

         The Court dismissed with prejudice all official capacity claims against Defendants Gentry, Walcott and Flournoy finding Plaintiff failed to produce evidence of any policy or custom of Sevier County or Southern Health Partners, Inc. which contributed to the alleged violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Id. at p. 19. However, the Court denied summary judgment on Plaintiff's individual capacity claims against Nurse Flournoy and Chris Walcott for denial of medical care based on Plaintiff's complaints of pain. (ECF No. 67). The 2017 lawsuit is currently set for a jury trial on March 30, 2020. (ECF No. 69).

         B. Plaintiff's 2019 Lawsuit

         Plaintiff filed the instant case pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on August 14, 2019. (ECF No. 1). In response to this Court's order, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on September 5, 2019. (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff is asserting claims against Defendants Sevier County and Southern Health Partners, Inc. for denial of medical care based on inadequate polices, failure to abide by the policies in place, and failure to train their employees. (ECF No. 5).

         In his first claim Plaintiff states Defendant Sevier County and Southern Health Partners, Inc. were “deliberately indifferent/conflicting medical policies and procedures” between August 26, 2017, through October 25, 2017, “even when constituted a medical emergency on several different occasions, one of which I was taken to emergency room…”. (ECF No. 5, p. 4). Plaintiff states the SCDC's and Southern Health Partners Inc.'s “medical (emergency) policies and procedures are in direct conflict with one another …for instance SCDC states all staff trained to handle medical emergencies/to handled immediately, then states all medical is to be handled by SHP Inc.'s reference jail policies for further/more specific instructions…” Id. at p. 5.

         In Claim Two, Plaintiff alleges between August 26, 2017 and October 25, 2017, Southern Health Partners Inc.'s “continuous operation while chronically understaffed, resulting in denial of medical care even when constituted a medical emergency, falsifying/forged document/medical records, operation outside scopes of practice from personel…” (ECF No. 5, p. 5). Plaintiff goes on to state Southern Health Partners Inc.'s website states “specifically to provide a higher than standard quality of medical care and that they reduce risk & impact of negative events involving inmate medical are through training, processes and supervision yet failed to meet the genuine medical needs of myself…due to understaffing …” Id. at p. 6.

         In Claim Three, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Sevier County and Southern Health Partners Inc. failed to properly “train, supervise/evaluate its staff/medical personel to ensure all applicable standards are met & adequate medical care provided”. Plaintiff claims Defendants “allowed its personal to deny/delay medical care leaving me subject to further injury, ...


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