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Bruffett v. Gooding County

August 2, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge


Previously in this case, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendants were permitted to renew their Motion for Summary Judgment, and Plaintiff was given an opportunity to provide supplemental facts in opposition. (Dkt. 54.) Subsequently, Defendants filed a second Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 55); the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) was ordered to produce Plaintiff's medical records (Dkt. 60); and Plaintiff filed several supplements (Dkt. 58 & 61.)

Having reviewed the record in this matter, including the parties' original and supplemental submissions, the Court finds that oral argument is unnecessary and enters the following Order granting the Motion for Summary Judgment.


1. Remaining Medical Claims

Defendants Kingsland, Gibbs, and Cornett are non-medical jail staff. At the time of the incidents at issue, Plaintiff was a pretrial and post-conviction detainee at the Gooding County Jail, whose health problems included diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and schizophrenia. (Plaintiff's Motion and Submission of More Records for Judgment, Exhibits, Dkt. 61-1, pp. 1-2.)

When the Court reviewed Defendants' first Motion for Summary Judgment, several questions were unanswered by the record presented: (1) whether any Defendant had responsibility for seeing that Plaintiff received medical care after he filed a February 1, 2006 "kite" (medical request form) to talk with a doctor; (2) whether any Defendant had responsibility to see that Plaintiff received physical therapy upon his return from the hospital on January 31, 2006; and (3) whether any Defendant was responsible for failing to respond to Plaintiff's kite of July 11, 2006, complaining that he was told by jail doctors that he would not get help or rehabilitation in jail.

Subsequently, Defendants submitted the daily jail logs summarizing the interactions between jail staff and Plaintiff, as well as the interactions between medical providers and Plaintiff. Plaintiff submitted Affidavits of himself and several inmates who were at the Gooding County Jail during the time period in question, as well as prison medical records from the time period following his jail stay.

After reviewing the entire record, the Court concludes that Defendants have come forward with sufficient admissible evidence to show that Plaintiff was receiving regular, adequate medical care at the jail, and that Plaintiff's complaints and conditions were not severe or obvious enough to cause a responsibility to arise in Defendants to independently provide additional or different care. In the face of Defendants' evidence, Plaintiff has not come forward with sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in his favor, and thus summary judgment is appropriate. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 4787 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986).

The key consideration regarding Plaintiff's remaining claims is that the record contains insufficient evidence of deliberate indifference, which is a required element of an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim.*fn2 Deliberate indifference exists when an official knows of and disregards a serious medical condition or when an official is "aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of harm exists," and actually draws such an inference. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 838 (1994). Mere indifference, medical malpractice, or negligence will not support a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment. Broughton v. Cutter Lab, 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980). A mere delay in treatment does not constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment, unless the delay causes serious harm. Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1335 (9th Cir. 1990). Generally, "prison officials are entitled to rely on the opinions, judgment, and expertise of prison medical personnel in determining the course of treatment that is medically necessary and appropriate for an inmate." Wynn v. Mundo, 367 F.Supp. 2d 832, 837-38 (D. N.C. 2005).

A. February 2006 Medical Care

In response to the Court's request for supplemental information, Defendants provided a chronology of Plaintiff's incarceration, called an "Inmate Information Sheet." The following chronology is from the Inmate Information Sheet, as well as from medical records and other items submitted by the parties: Jan. 30, 2006 Hospital "Progress Notes" state: "Patient still has [reduced] balance and is high fall risk with/without walker. S/p Lieutenant Sam Gibbs about assist [sic] they can provide patient in jail and she stated patient can use walker and they will provide assist as patient needs to ensure safety. They can also follow through with exercise protocol and gait [illegible] goals given by PT. Will order walker and set exercise and gait goals for patient." (Exhibits to Plaintiff's Response, p. 33, Dkt. 51-3.)

Jan. 31, 2006 "Interagency Patient Transfer Form" states: "Use walker"; "Patient is at risk for falls"; and "PT to evaluate and treat for ambulation." (Exhibit to Affidavit of Michael Kane, p. 27, Dkt. 49-8.)

Jan 31, 2006 Plaintiff's hospital "Discharge Summary" states: "He is to use a walker when ambulating. He is to get physical therapy for ambulation. He is to follow up with the facility medical personnel for his medical care." (Response Exhibits, p. 32, Dkt. 51-3.)

Jan. 31, 2006 Plaintiff returned to the jail from St. Alphonsus Hospital. Defendant Gerlyn Walker-Gibbs filed an Affidavit stating that Plaintiff was provided with a walker and moved to a part of the jail where he could be closely monitored.

Jan. 31, 2006 Dr. Ian called to clarify Plaintiff's medications.

Feb. 1, 2006 Plaintiff filed a kite requesting to speak to a doctor.

Feb. 1 or 2, 2006 Plaintiff was seen by Physician's Assistant Marcie Marrow, who notes that Plaintiff needs to go ...

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