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Maley v. Corizon Health, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

September 27, 2017

BELINDA LEE MALEY, individually and on behalf of the Estate of Matthew Clinton Loflin, deceased; and GENE LOFLIN, individually, Plaintiffs,
v.
CORIZON HEALTH, INC., a Delaware Corporation; CORIZON, LLC, a Missouri Limited Liability Company; CHATHAM COUNTY, a Georgia County; ROY; HARRIS; ESTATE OF AL ST. LAWRENCE; JOHN WILCHER, individually and in his i official capacity as Jail Administrator; SCOTT KENNEDY, M.D.; ADAMAR GONZALEZ, M.D.; and VIRGINIA O'NEILL; Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. UNITED STATES JUDGE

         Before the Court are the Defendants John Wilcher and Al St. Lawrence's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 52), the parties' Joint Consent Motion to Dismiss Defendants Virginia O'Neill, Chatham County, and John T. Wilcher in his Official Capacity (Doc. 87), and the parties' Stipulation of Dismissal of Corizon, LLC (Doc. 65). For the following reasons, Defendants John Wilcher and Al St. Lawrence's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED IN PART and DISMISSED AS MOOT IN PART. Additionally, the parties' Consent Motion to Dismiss Defendants Virginia O'Neill, Chatham County, and John Wilcher in his Official Capacity (Doc. 87) and the parties' Joint Stipulation of Dismissal of Corizon, LLC (Doc. 65) are GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of the incarceration and subsequent death of Matthew Loflin in 2014. (Doc. 1.) On February 6, 2014, Loflin was arrested on drug charges. (Doc. 52, Attach. 2 at 1.) He was held as a pre-trial detainee at the Chatham County Detention Center ("CCDC"). (Id.) At the time of Loflin's detention, Defendant Corizon Health Inc. ("Corizon") provided medical services to detainees at the CCDC pursuant to a contract with Chatham County. (Id.) At all relevant times, Dr. Charles Pugh was the acting onsite medical director employed by Defendant Corizon. (Id., Attach. 5 at 20.) As medical director, Dr. Pugh provided direct patient care and monitored healthcare expenses to ensure care was provided in a cost efficient manner. (Id. at 21.) Defendant Virginia O'Neill was also employed by Defendant Corizon as the health services administrator at CCDC. (Doc. 68, Attach. 2 at 2). As health service administrator, Defendant O'Neill had a variety of non-clinical duties. (Id.)

         After his arrest and arrival at CCDC, Loflin's health began to deteriorate. (Doc. 52, Attach. 2 at 2.) Dr. Pugh believed that Loflin suffered from pneumonia. (Id., Attach. 5 at 28.) Between February 7, 2014 and March 23, 2014, Loflin had at least 16 encounters with Corizon medical staff. (Id., Attach. 2 at 2.) On March 24, 2014, Dr. Pugh became concerned for Loflin's health and decided to admit him toj the CCDC medical infirmary. (Id., Attach. 5 at 28.) In the infirmary, Loflin was provided with around the clock medical care. (Id. at 2.)

         As Loflin's condition continued to worsen, Dr. Pugh ordered that Loflin obtain an echocardiogram on March 26, 2014. (Id. at 17.) The echocardiogram revealed that Loflin had "very poor heart function" that indicated a "fairly severe cardiomyopathy.''' (Id. at 17, 26.) After obtaining these results, Dr. Pugh believed that Loflin needed more intensive care than could be provided in the CCDC infirmary. (Id. at 17.) Dr. Pugh's position at the CCDC did not grant hini the independent authority to admit Loflin to a hospital for more intensive care. (Id. at 16-17.) Rather, Loflin could only have been admitted to a hospital if he was either sent directly to the emergency room, or scheduled for an appointment with an offsite physician who then could decide to admit him to the hospital. (Id. at 17.) Despite Dr. Pughrs concerns, however, Loflin was not transferred to a hospital and remained in the CCDC infirmary. (Id., Attach. 2 at 2.)

         After obtaining Loflin's echocardiogram results. Dr. Pugh met with Defendant John Wilcher, CCDC Jail Administrator, to discuss Loflin's treatment, and to request to have Loflin released on bond. (Id., Attach. 5 at 21.) Dr. Pugh stated that the conversation was focused on the potential cost of Loflin's care and that he "didn't tell [Wilcher] any details of [Loflin's] medical condition." (Id. at 10.) Subsequently, Defendant Wilcher made "inquiries" about getting Loflin released, but his efforts wfere "unsuccessful." (Id. at 12.) Shortly after the conversation with Dr. Pugh, Defendant Wilcher contacted the jail to inquire about Loflin's status. (Doc. 55, Attach. 1 at 2.) Defendant Wilcher spoke with Nurse Thrift, who "advised [Wilcher] of [Loflin'js] status." (Id.)

         During this time, Loflin remained in the CCDC infirmary, where he continued to complain of chest pain and difficulty breathing. (Doc. 52, Attach. 4 at ¶ 44-C70.) Dr. Pugh stated that these symptoms were consistent with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. (Id., Attach. 5 at 28.) At the request of Dr. Pugh, Loflin was transported to an appointment with an offsite cardiologist on April 7, 2014. (Id., Attach. 5 at 7.) Immediately after this appointment, the cardiologist admitted Loflin to Memorial Health Hospital. (Id. at 17.) Loflin died at the hospital on April 24, 2014. (Id., Attach. 2 at 3) .

         After his death, Loflin's mother, Brenda Maley, brought suit individually and on behalf of, the Estate of Matthew Loflin. (Doc. 1.) In an amended complaint, Loflin's father, Gene Loflin, subsequently joined suit in his individual capacity.[1](Doc. 92.) In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Wilcher, along with other named defendants, were deliberately indifferent to Loflin's serious medical need while detained at the CCDC. (Id.) They have filed this action seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged deliberate indifference to Loflin's medical needs and his subsequent wrongful death. (Id.)

         In response, Defendant Wilcher has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment requesting that this Court dismiss all claims against him in his individual capacity.[2] (Doc. 52.) Defendant Wilcher argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity and protected from suit. (Id.) The Plaintiffs contend that Defendant Wilcher is not entitled to qualified immunity, because in their view, Defendant Wilcher violated Matthew Loflin's constitutional right when he acted with deliberate indifference to Loflin's medical needs. (Doc. 55.)

         In addition to Defendant Wilcher's Motion for Summary Judgment, the parties have also filed a series of stipulated dismissals. Specifically, the parties have filed a Consent Motion to Dismiss Virginia O'Neill, Chatham County, and John Wilcher in his official capacity. (Doc. 87.) Additionally, the parties have filed a Stipulation of Dismissal of Corizon, LLC. (Doc. 65.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. DEFENDANT WILCHER'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Standard of Review

         According to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), "[a] party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim of defense-on which summary judgment is sought." Such a motion must be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id. The "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.' " Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (guoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 advisory committee notes).

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmovant "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The substantive law governing the action determines whether an element is ...


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