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Maley v. Corizon Health, Inc.

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

February 21, 2018

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 official capacity as Jail Administrator; SCOTT KENNEDY, M.D.; ADAMAR GONZALEZ, M.D.; and VIRGINIA O'NEILL; Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendant Scott Kennedy's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 66) and Defendant Corizon Health, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 67). For the following reasons, Defendant Kennedy's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Defendant Kennedy's motion is GRANTED with respect to any claim for wrongful death premised on state law. However, Defendant Kennedy's motion is DENIED with respect to Plaintiffs' deliberate indifference and corresponding wrongful death claims. Defendant Corizon's motion is also GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Defendant Corizon is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claim for wrongful death pursuant to state law. However, summary judgment is DENIED with respect to Plaintiffs' deliberate indifference and corresponding wrongful death claims against Defendant Corizon.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of the incarceration and subsequent death of Matthew Loflin in 2014. (Doc. I.)[1] On February 6, 2014, Loflin was arrested on drug charges. (Doc. 92 at 8.) He was held as a pre-trial detainee at the Chatham County Detention Center PCCDC") . (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.) Dr. Charles Pugh was the acting onsite medical director employed by Defendant Corizon. (Doc. 93, Ex. 2 at 72.) As the onsite medical director, Dr. Pugh provided direct patient care and monitored healthcare expenses to ensure healthcare was provided in a cost-efficient manner. (Id. at 23, 79.) Defendant Dr. Scott Kennedy was the acting regional medical director for Defendant Corizon. (Doc. 93, Ex. 1 at 7.) In his role, Defendant Kennedy "served as coach, mentor, instructor, and supervisor to the site medical directors within his region of all facilities in Georgia and Florida." (Doc. 79, Attach. 2 at 2.)

         After his arrest and arrival at the CCDC, Loflin's health quickly began to deteriorate. (Doc. 66-3, Attach. 3 at ¶ 34-37.) Initially, Dr. Pugh believed that Loflin suffered from pneumonia. (Doc. 93, Ex. 2 at 108.) Between February 7, 2014 and March 23, 2014, Loflin had at least 16 encounters with Defendant Corizon's medical staff. (Doc. 66-3, Attach. 3.) On March 24, 2014, Dr. Pugh became concerned about Loflin's condition and decided to admit him to the CCDC medical infirmary. (Doc. 93, Ex. 2 at 67.) In the infirmary, Dr. Pugh reported that Loflin was provided with the best possible care that could be provided at a jail. (Id. at 121.) However, Dr. Pugh acknowledged that the CCDC infirmary was not equipped to handle serious medical conditions. (Id. at 68.)

         On March 26, 2014, Dr. Pugh ordered an echocardiogram to test Loflin's heart. (Id. at 62-3.) The echocardiogram revealed that Loflin had a "very poor heart function" that indicated a "fairly severe cardiomyopathy." (Id. at 64.) After obtaining these results, Dr. Pugh believed that Loflin needed more intensive care than could be provided in the CCDC infirmary. (Id. at 121.) Dr. Pugh's position at the CCDC, however, did not grant him the independent authority to admit Loflin to a hospital for more intensive care. (Id. at 62.) 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.)

         On March 26, 2014 and March 28, 2014, Dr. Pugh spoke with Defendant Kennedy to discuss Loflin's care. (Id. at 66-7, 85.) During these calls, Dr. Pugh stated that he believed Loflin should be taken to the emergency room so that he would be able to quickly see a cardiologist. (Id. at 85, 114.) Defendant Kennedy, however, disagreed. (Doc. 93, Ex. 1 at 92-3.) Defendant Kennedy did not think that Loflin would actually be able to see a cardiologist if admitted to the emergency room. (Id. at 92-3.) Instead of sending Loflin directly to the emergency room, Defendant Kennedy and Dr. Pugh decided to schedule Loflin an appointment directly with an offsite cardiologist. (Id. at 110.) An appointment was scheduled for April 7, 2014. (Doc. 93, Ex. 2 at 25.)

         In the meantime, Loflin remained in the CCDC infirmary, where he continued to complain of chest pain and difficulty breathing. (Doc. 66-3, Attach. 3 at ¶ 67-70.) At some point, Dr. Pugh spoke with Defendant John Wilcher, CCDC Jail Administrator, to request that Loflin be released from incarceration on bond.[2](Doc. 93, Ex. 2 at 33.) Dr. Pugh testified that it was Defendant Corizon's standard practice to request the release of a prisoner who would likely require expensive care. (Id. at 38.) Once released, Defendant Corizon would have no obligation to pay for the prisoner's medical bills. (Id.) In this case, Dr. Pugh's request to have Loflin released from incarceration was ultimately unsuccessful. (Id. at 34.)

         On April 7, 2014, Loflin attended his scheduled appointment with an offsite cardiologist, Dr. Brett Burgess. (Id. at 25.) Immediately after this appointment, Dr. Burgess admitted Loflin to Memorial Health Hospital. (Id. at 26.) On April 24, 2014, Loflin died at the hospital. (Doc. 92 at 16.)

         After his death, Loflin's mother, Plaintiff Brenda Maley, brought suit individually and on behalf of the Estate of Matthew Loflin. (Doc. 1.) In an amended complaint, Loflin's father, Plaintiff Gene Loflin, subsequently joined suit in his individual capacity.[3] (Doc. 92.) In the amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Kennedy and Corizon were deliberately indifferent to Loflin's critical medical needs while detained at the CCDC. (Id.) As a result, Plaintiffs 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 support of their claim, Plaintiffs have consulted with a cardiologist, Dr. Charles Wickliffe. (Doc 69-2, Ex. 1 at 6-7.) Dr. Wickliffe opined that Loflin "died of the complication of his congestive heart failure and underlying cardiomyopathy." (Id.) He acknowledged that while Loflin's condition likely had a poor prognosis from the beginning, "[h]is death was related to the marked delay in initiation of appropriate treatment for his congestive heart failure." (Id.) He further concluded that the care provided at the CCDC was insufficient to properly treat Loflin's condition. (Id.)

         Defendants Kennedy and Corizon have now each filed similar motions for summary judgment. (Doc. 66; Doc. 67.) In their motions, Defendants Kennedy and Corizon argue that Plaintiffs are unable to establish any facts to support their contention that either Defendants Kennedy or Corizon were deliberately indifferent to Loflin's medical needs. As a result, both Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' wrongful death claim also must fail.

         ANALYSIS

         I. 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) (quoting 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 essential. DeLong Equip. Co. v. Wash. Mills Abrasive Co., 887 F.2d 1499, 1505 (11th Cir. 1989).

         As the Supreme Court explained:

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.; The burden then shifts to the nonmovant to establish, by going beyond the pleadings, that there is a genuine issue as to facts material to the nonmovant's case. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991).

         The Court must review the evidence and all reasonable factual inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88. However, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. at 58 6. A mere "scintilla" of evidence, or simply conclusory allegations, will not suffice. See, e.g., Tidwell v. Carter Prods., 135 F.3d 1422, 1425 (11th Cir. 1998). Nevertheless, where a reasonable fact finder may "draw more than one inference from the facts, and that inference creates a genuine issue of material fact, then the Court should refuse to grant summary judgment." Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 933-34 (11th Cir. 1989).

         II. CLAIMS AGAINST ...


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