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Davis v. Brown

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

March 14, 2019

Vernell Davis, et al., Plaintiffs,
Sheriff Thomas E. Brown, et al., Defendants.



         Shantell Ada Johnson died while in custody at the DeKalb County Jail. A Dekalb County police officer had arrested her the day before on an outstanding warrant when she allegedly ran a stop sign. (Dkt. 1 at ¶¶ 19-20.) At the time, Ms. Johnson was suffering from on-going complications related to a 2010 gunshot injury. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-37.) The Jail provided a medical screening upon her arrival and placed her in general population. (Id. at ¶ 26.) She died in her cell. (Id. at ¶ 37.)

         Ms. Johnson's mother sued the DeKalb County Sheriff and several correctional officers who worked at the Jail, claiming they violated her daughter's constitutional right to necessary medical aid as a pretrial detainee. (Dkt. 1.) The Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss several claims but allowed others to continue. (Dkt. 12 at 13.) At the close of discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims. (Dkt. 67.) The Court grants Defendants' motion.

         I. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “No genuine issue of material fact exists if a party has failed to ‘make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element . . . on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.' ” AFL-CIO v. City of Miami, 637 F.3d 1178, 1186-87 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). A fact is “material” if it is “a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997).

         The moving party bears the initial responsibility of asserting the basis for its motion. Celotex, 637 F.3d at 323. The movant is not, however, required to negate the nonmovant's claim. Id. at 324. Instead, the moving party may meet her burden by “ ‘showing' - that is, pointing to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Id. After the moving party has carried its burden, the non-moving party must present competent evidence that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

         The court must view all evidence and factual inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Samples v. City of Atlanta, 846 F.2d 1328, 1330 (11th Cir. 1988). But “the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

         II. Factual Background

         In March 2013, officers booked Ms. Johnson into the DeKalb County Jail. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 1; 71 at ¶ 1.) Plaintiff alleged in her complaint that, when Ms. Johnson got to the Jail, she complained of vomiting and abdominal pain. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 22.) She also alleged Ms. Johnson wore a visible colostomy bag. (Id. at ¶ 26.)

         The undisputed evidence, however, does not support Plaintiff's allegations. Correct Care Solutions (“CCS”) provides medical screenings to inmates being booked into the Jail and provides necessary medical care to inmates while in custody. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 2; 71 at ¶ 2.) When it screened Ms. Johnson, CCS noted she had no colostomy bag. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 3; 71 at ¶ 3.) Plaintiff presented no evidence to contest this fact or to support her claim that Ms. Johnson was wearing such a device.

         CSS determines whether inmates with medical issues can be housed in general population rather than in the medical ward. (Dkt. 67-2 at ¶ 9.) Once it identifies a medical or mental health issue, it provides inmates with colored wristbands. CCS cleared Ms. Johnson for housing in general population rather than in the medical ward. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 10; 71 at ¶ 10.)

         Because of privacy requirements, CCS does not disclose information about an inmate's medical condition to jail employees unless an employee needs the information to protect the inmate's health or safety. (Dkt. 67-2 at ¶ 4.) There is no evidence CCS shared any information about Ms. Johnson's medical condition with any Defendant (or, in fact, any other Sheriff's Office employee).

         Plaintiff contends Ms. Johnson needed medical assistance while she was in her cell. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 27.) She claims Ms. Johnson rang the emergency call button in her cell several times on the day of her arrest and Detention Officer Person - who is not a defendant in this action - told her to stop doing so and refused medical treatment. (Id. at ¶¶ 27- 28, 30.) She also claims Ms. Johnson and her cellmate rang the buzzer several times the next day and Detention Officer Persons again told them to stop doing so and refused medical treatment. (Id. at ¶ 30.) Later that day, Officer Fountain - who also is not a defendant in this action - called over the jail radio for medical assistance. (Dkt. 88-1 at 1.) She told those receiving the call - including Defendant Frazier, a sergeant at the Jail - that Ms. Johnson was unresponsive and not breathing. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶¶ 11-12; 71 at ¶¶ 11-12.) It is undisputed that prior to receiving the radio transmission, Defendant Frazier was unaware Ms. Johnson needed medical care. (Dkt. 88 at 90:18-24.)

         Defendant Frazier and Sergeant Williams (who is not a defendant) responded to the radio call. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 13; 71 at ¶ 13.) Sergeant Williams checked Ms. Johnson for a pulse and said she was “cold.” (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 17; 71 at ¶ 17.) No. one provided CPR. (Dkt. 93 at 47:8-9; 48:18- 19.) Four minutes after Sergeant Williams and Defendant Frazier's arrival at Ms. Johnson's cell, medical personnel - none of whom are defendants in this action - arrived and tried to revive her. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 18; 71 at ¶ 18; 88 at 35:2.)

         Other officers also came to Ms. Johnson's cell. Captain Akies - who is not a defendant - was there. (Dkts. 87 at 169:2; 88 at 34:14-18.) When Defendant Sergeant Lawton arrived, Lieutenant Leslie (who is not a defendant) told her to lock down the floor and remain with Ms. Johnson's cellmate. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 20; 71 at ¶ 20; 84 at 20:25-21:6.) Defendant Lawton never saw Ms. Johnson, and there is no evidence she was aware of her medical condition before she arrived at the scene. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 21; 84 at 22:3-4.)

         While Plaintiff claims Defendants Frazier and Lawton failed to provide Ms. Johnson necessary medical care, the undisputed evidence shows neither Defendant was aware of her medical condition or had any contact with her before Officer Fountain raised the alarm.[1] (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 14; 71 at ¶ 14.) Neither worked the morning shift when Ms. Johnson allegedly rang the inmate emergency call button in her cell, the calls Plaintiff claims Officer Person ignored. (Dkts. 67-2 at ¶ 15; 71 at ¶ 15.) Both Defendant Frazier and Defendant Lawton submitted evidence that they were unaware of her medical condition or need for medical care before the radio transmission. (Dkt. 84 at 22:3-4.) Plaintiff presented no evidence to the contrary.

         There also is no evidence that Defendants Sheriff Jeffrey Mann, Sheriff Thomas Brown, or Major Reginald Scandrett were aware of Ms. Johnson's medical condition. At the time, Defendant Brown was Sheriff of DeKalb County, Defendant Mann was Chief Deputy Sheriff, and Defendant Scandrett was the Jail Division Commander. (Dkt. 89 at 13:21; 17:19-20.) The undisputed evidence established that Defendant Scandrett oversaw the workings and functioning of the jail, like its budgeting and other facility services. (Dkt. 91 at 15:13-18.) He had no contact with Ms. Johnson and was unaware of her medical condition. (Id. at 26:9-12.) Defendant Mann testified that he recalled no grievances about the duress button or the emergency call button. (Dkt. 89 at 16:18- 22.) He testified there was no widespread history of not responding to the emergency call buttons in jail cells, nor was there a widespread history of officers failing or refusing to obtain appropriate medical care for inmates. (Dkt. 67-2 at ¶ 26.) As there was no issue with officers providing appropriate medical care and treatment to inmates, Defendants contend in their material facts that there was no apparent need to provide additional training to officers on identifying inmates with medical issues.[2] (Id. at ¶¶ 24-27.)

         III. Procedural History

         Plaintiff, as Administratrix of her daughter's estate, first sued several jail employees in a separate action. See Davis v. DeKalb Cty. Sheriff Dep't, et al., 1:15-cv-00661-MHC (N.D.Ga. Oct. 14, 2015). After two amendments to her complaint, she voluntarily dismissed her case in September 2015 and filed this lawsuit five months later. (Dkt. 1 at 2.) She asserted nine causes of action against various Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Georgia state law, claiming Defendants violated her daughter's constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by denying her necessary medical care while in jail. (Id. at ¶ 1.) She originally sued Defendants Sheriff Thomas E. Brown, Sheriff Jeffrey Mann, Major Reginald Scandrett, Major Wanda Collins, Sergeant Necha Lawton, Sergeant Eureka Frazier, Officer Christina Persons, and Investigator Rodney Scandrett. (Id. at ¶ 9.) The Court dismissed all claims against Officers Persons as barred by the statute of limitations and all claims against the remaining Defendants in their official capacities. (Dkt. 12 at 13-14.) The Defendants moved for summary judgment and Plaintiff dismissed several claims.[3] This Court addresses Defendants' motions on these claims that remain outstanding:

• Count II - § 1983 claim against Defendant Sergeant Lawton for deliberate indifference to render acceptable medical care;
• Count III - § 1983 claim against Defendant Sergeant Frazier for deliberate indifference to render acceptable medical care;
• Count V - § 1983 claim against Defendant Sheriff Brown for deliberate indifference to render acceptable medical care;
• Count VI - § 1983 claim against Defendant Sheriff Mann for deliberate indifference to render acceptable medical care;
• Count X - Violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 42-5-2, 42-4-4(1)(2), and 42-4-32(d) by all Defendants in their individual capacities;
• Count XII - Negligent Failure to Train and Supervise against Defendants Sheriffs Brown and Mann; and
• Count XIV - Violation of O.C.G.A. § 15-16-24 against Defendants Sheriffs Brown and Mann for misconduct of their jailors.

         The Court notes that, in responding to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff largely disregarded Local Rule 56.1B, which requires a nonmovant to refute directly each of a movant's facts with concise responses and specific citations to evidence. LR 56.1B(2)(a)(2), NDGa. For the most part, Plaintiff simply denied Defendants' claims of undisputed facts or stated she “is without sufficient information to respond” to various paragraphs in Defendants' statement of material facts. (Dkt. 71.) Plaintiff had eight months to conduct discovery and obtain the necessary information - if it existed - to dispute Defendants' statements of material fact. (Dkt. 18.) She also failed to file her own statement of material facts about which she believed genuine issues exist. See LR 56.1B(2)(b), NDGa (requiring the nonmovant to file a “statement of additional facts which the respondent contends are material and present a genuine issue for trial”).

         Because Plaintiff violated Local Rule 56.1B, this Court considers admitted each of Defendants' facts to which Plaintiff failed to respond properly. See LR 56.1B(2) (“This Court will deem each of the movant's facts as admitted unless the respondent . . . directly refutes the movant's fact with concise responses supported by specific citations to evidence . . . .”); Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1303 (11th Cir. 2009) (“Plaintiffs['] failure to comply with local rule 56.1 is not a mere technicality.”); see also Smith v. Mercer, 572 Fed.Appx. 676, 678 (11th Cir. 2014) (noting that ...

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