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Alan K. Van Orden, Personal v. Caribou County; Caribou County Sheriff's Department

June 8, 2012

ALAN K. VAN ORDEN, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF CRYSTAL RHEA BANNISTER, ROBERT BANNISTER, AS A PARENT AND LEGAL HEIR OF CHRYSTAL R. BANNISTER, AND MICHELLE WALESKE, AS A PARENT AND LEGAL HEIR OF CRYSTAL R. BANNISTER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CARIBOU COUNTY; CARIBOU COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, AN OFFICE CONTROLLED AND DIRECTED BY CARIBOU COUNTY; RIC L. ANDERSON, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF CARIBOU COUNTY; MICHAEL HADERLIE, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COMMANDER OF THE CARIBOU COUNTY JAIL; BROCK LOPEZ, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DETENTION SERGEANT OF THE CARIBOU COUNTY JAIL; HEATH S. DOWNS, AN INDIVIDUAL; BRANDY BREDEHOFT, AN INDIVIDUAL; JUDY PROBART LONG, AN INDIVIDUAL; JODI SUTER, AN INDIVIDUAL; BRETT SMITH, AN INDIVIDUAL; AND JOHN DOES 1 THROUGH 10, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

The Court has before it four motions: (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on Defendants' Affirmative Defenses (Dkt. 86); (2) Defendant Brett Smith's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 88); (3) the County Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 93); and Defendants' Motion to Strike (Dkts. 145) certain exhibits offered by Plaintiffs. The Court has read and thoroughly considered the briefing and relevant attachments, and heard oral argument on May 30, 2012. As more fully expressed below, the Court will grant summary judgment to Defendants, and deny as moot Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and Defendants' motion to strike.

BACKGROUND

On August 22, 2009, Chrystal Rhea Bannister attempted suicide by overdosing on prescription medications. Bannister called 911 and was transported to Bear Lake Memorial Hospital, in Montpelier, Idaho. On the morning of August 25, 2009, Trevor Robinson, MD, and mental health professional Shaun Tobler discharged Bannister subject to a treatment plan. That plan included prescription medications and mental-health appointments. See Pl. Stat. of Facts, Dkt. 134 at 2.

Just before leaving the hospital, Bannister took a dose of methadone, provided by Dr. Robinson until Bannister could get her prescription filled. Med. Admin. Rec., Dkt. 96-7. Soon after her discharge, Bannister was arrested for attempting to alter her methadone prescription. Officer Wells Report, Dkt. 96-8 at 6-7. Because Bear Lake County lacks a jail facility, it contracts with Caribou County to house its detainees. Accordingly, Bannister was transported to Soda Springs by Officers Wells and Knutti, where she was booked into Caribou County Jail. Id. Officer Knutti informed Deputy Brandy Bredehoft and dispatcher Jodi Suter, who were on duty at the jail, that Bannister had attempted suicide on August 22, and had just been released from the hospital because of that suicide attempt. Pl. Stat. of Facts, Dkt. 134 at 2-3.

Because of the report received from Officer Knutti, Bredehoft requested confirmation from Dr. Robinson that Bannister could safely be incarcerated. In response to that request, she received a fax from Dr. Robinson, which noted that Bannister had been released from the hospital as "mentally and medically stable." Robinson Fax, Dkt. 105 at 55-57. Dr. Robinson's fax recommended three medications for Bannister, including Methadone, to prevent withdrawal. Id. Bredehoft determined that Bannister should be "medically segregated," given her possible withdrawal. According to Bredehoft, "medical segregation" includes monitoring, although no written policy specifies a monitoring frequency. Bredehoft Dep. 77:21 -- 78:21, Dkt. 105 at 77-78. "Suicide watch," which Bredehoft did not call for, requires checks every 15 minutes. Id.

According to Bredehoft and Deputy Heath Downs, whose shift followed Bredehoft's, when an inmate needs a prescription filled, standard operating procedure is to contact the jail's contracted physician's assistant, Defendant Brett Smith. Bredehoft Dep. 128:7-130:9, Dkt. 93-6 at 6-7; Downs Dep. 122:16-18, Dkt. 93-7 at 20. Smith testified at deposition that jail personnel did not need his assistance in filling routine prescriptions. Smith Dep. 274:14-24, 310:2-5, Dkt. 96-1 at 90, 93. However, Methadone for withdrawal -- as opposed to pain -- must be prescribed by those with a special license in Idaho; Smith did not believe that Dr. Robinson had such authority. Smith Dep. 215:13-218:18, 233:5-234:25, Dkt. 96-1 at 54-55, 71-72.

Bredehoft contacted Smith the afternoon of August 25, and had several phone conversations about obtaining Bannister's medications. Smith also spoke briefly with Bannister. Def. Smith Stat. of Facts, Dkt. 90 at 5-6. Ultimately, Smith told Bredehoft he would work on obtaining the Methadone, and be back in touch. Smith Dep. 233:5-234:25, Dkt. 96-1 at 71-72. After trying unsuccessfully to reach Bannister's usual doctor, Smith was able to secure a few doses of Methadone through a licensed supervising physician, until Bannister could fill her prescription. Smith Dep. 30:20-31:19, Dkt. 96-1 at 9-10. The Methadone was ready for a deputy to pick-up at the hospital pharmacy that evening. Id. 313:18-20, Dkt. 96-1 at 96; 180:1-181:9, Dkt. 96-1 at 38-39.

During her time at the jail, Bannister became increasingly agitated. She demanded her medications, particularly Methadone, and to be taken to a hospital or to see a care provider. At least once, Bannister kicked the door of her cell to get the jail staff's attention. Pl. Stat. of Facts, Dkt. 134 at 5. Downs told Bannister the jail was working on getting the Methadone, and that she would need to be patient. Downs allowed Bannister to make two phone calls, and offered to put her in the general population where she would have distractions such as television. Bannister declined. Downs Incident Narrative, Dkt.111 at 2-3.

Dispatcher Judy Long relieved Suter as dispatcher around 7:00 p.m. that day. Long warned Bannister not to use the intercom except for emergencies, or else her intercom access would be cut off. Long Narrative, Dkt. 111 at 11.

Bannister's cell was near the booking area which was continuously monitored by video which was displayed in the dispatch area. The dispatcher on duty was to check the monitor and respond to inmates over the intercom. Long Dep. 50:10-14, Dkt. 93-8 at 7. Long failed to check the monitor for about an hour and 15 minutes, during which Bannister hanged herself. Pl. Stat. of Facts, Dkt. 134 at 10. Downs discovered Bannister hanging, alerted Long by intercom, and began CPR. By that time, Bannister had been dead between twenty and thirty minutes. Id. at 6-7.

Plaintiffs -- Bannister's parents and the personal representative of her estate, have sued Caribou County, the Caribou County Sheriff's Department, dispatchers Suter and Long, Deputies Bredehoft and Downs, and PA Smith, among other County Defendants. The suit asserts negligence, and constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs, the County Defendants, and Defendant Smith have each moved for summary judgment.

LEGAL STANDARD

One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, id. at 255, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001)(en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir.2000).

This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Id. at 256-57. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show "by her affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file" that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

However, the Court is "not required to comb through the record to find some reason to deny a motion for summary judgment." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir.2001) (quoting Forsberg v. Pac. Northwest Bell Tel. Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1418 (9th Cir. 1988)). Instead, the "party opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable facts." Southern California Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003).

ANALYSIS

1. State Law ...


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