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Hill v. Wamble-Fisher

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 12, 2014

DAVID TYLER HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
SHELL WAMBLE-FISHER; CYNTHIA RICHMOND; SERGEANT WEBB; HEATHER DUNHAM; ARIS DUNCAN; RUSSEL NITCHALS; LIEUTENANT BUTLER; ARVEL SHEDD; JEFF HENRY; KATHLEEN NIECKO; BRENT REINKE; and IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

RONALD E. BUSH, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff David Tyler Hill, a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action. Pending before the Court is Defendants Aris Duncan's[1] and Heather Dunnam's[2] Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 61). Defendants Duncan and Dunnam are the only Defendants remaining in this action against whom Plaintiff has been allowed to proceed. ( See Dkt. 48 at 10, 12.)

All parties who have appeared in this case have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to enter final orders (Dkt. 36). See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Accordingly, the Court will decide this matter on the record without oral argument. D. Idaho L. R. 7.1. For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Therefore, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

INTRODUCTION

For approximately 30 days beginning March 18, 2009, Plaintiff was housed in C-Block, Tier Three at Idaho Maximum Security Institution (IMSI). This tier is known as C-3. C-3 is a specialized mental health treatment unit "designed to help identify an offender's acute mental health needs and to initiate appropriate treatment. Placement in C-3 is by referral only." (Dunnam Aff., Dkt. 61-7, ¶ 5.) A treatment team consisting of "a psychologist, psychiatrist, nurse practitioners, socials workers..., psychiatric technicians, and correctional officers" manage the care of each inmate on C-3. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Defendant Dunnam describes the treatment and behavioral system in C-3 as follows:

Offenders were expected to take all prescribed medications and respect all staff and treatment team members as well as other offenders. They were also expected to follow the directions of the treatment and custody staff and the Idaho Department of Correction's rules and regulations.
Offenders housed in C-3 were subject to a level system that was designed to keep them and staff safe and secure. Levels are assigned based on offender behaviors, security risk, level of functioning, program compliance, treatment participation and psychiatric presentation. There are four levels with Level 1 being the most restrictive and non-level, the least restrictive. Level 2, which was [Plaintiff's] level, does not allow personal property, which includes reading books, photo albums, bibles, personal letters and paper, although legal paperwork was allowed. Phone privileges, and access to security pens and writing paper were coordinated by treatment team staff. Offenders were not allowed any contact with other offenders. Showers and linen exchanges were done on schedule.
Level status was determined by the treatment team on a weekly basis and adjusted depending upon an offender's behavior, progress with treatment, and participation for the prior week. If an offender has not engaged in any disruptive, aggressive behavior, has been compliant with his treatment plan, which includes medication adherence, and established appropriate activities of daily living, then their offender level could be assessed for moving to a less restrictive level.

( Id. ¶¶ 5-7) (emphasis added).

Defendants Duncan and Dunnam were members of Plaintiff's treatment team. Duncan was one of the psychiatric technicians, and Dunnam was a social worker. (Coleman Aff., Dkt. 61-1, ¶ 4; Dunnam Aff. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Duncan and Dunnam violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate mental health care during his time in C-3.

DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

1. Factual Background

This section includes facts that are undisputed and material to the resolution of the issues in this case. Where material facts are in dispute, the Court has included Plaintiff's version of facts, insofar as that version is not contradicted by clear documentary evidence in the record. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) ("When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.")

Plaintiff's medical records have been submitted through the custodian of those records, Linda Gehrke. Plaintiff's medical records and Plaintiff's own pleadings show that he has a history of inappropriate and threatening behavior toward female staff in general, and toward one woman in particular. ( See, e.g., Compl., Dkt. 3, at 9.) Prior to Plaintiff's transfer to C-block, Plaintiff was ordered by a prison official to stay at least five feet away from all female staff members because he had been "stalking" and "grooming" them. (Initial Review Order, Dkt. 7, at 4.) Believing these characterizations to be unfair, Plaintiff filed a grievance that referred to "clubbing a female staff member and dragging her back to his cell." ( Id. ) Plaintiff minimizes the threat posed by his grievance, stating that this grievance was "sarcastic." (Dkt. 66-1 at 3.) He was subject to disciplinary action for this threat, but his behavior did not improve.

Plaintiff attempted suicide on March 17, 2009. As a result, Plaintiff was transferred to C-3. (Dkt. 48 at 3.) Vicki Hansen evaluated Plaintiff upon his transfer and, based on Plaintiff's denial of suicidal ideation at that time, determined that he was at low risk of suicide. Hansen noted that Plaintiff's "attempts to bully staff, inappropriate coping strategies and criminal history indicate that when thwarted, he will increase the ante by engaging in more dangerous forms of self harm." (Ex. A to Gehrke Aff., Dkt. 61-4, CMS 156.) Notwithstanding Hansen's assessment of a low suicide risk, Plaintiff was kept in a suicide watch cell for his own safety until March 20, 2009. ( Id., CMS 157-58, 161-63.)

On March 20, 2009, Plaintiff was evaluated by Mary Hicks, a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner. Plaintiff wanted to continue the medication Elavil, while Ms. Hicks "suggested that [Plaintiff] try Tegretol for a mood stabilizer, continue with the order of Paxil and begin tapering off of Elavil." (Gehrke Aff., Dkt. 61-3, ¶ 9 & Ex. A, CMS 166.) At this evaluation, Plaintiff "was cooperative with [Ms. Hicks's] formulating a medicational-treatment plan and... agreed to give her recommendations of switching to Tegretol a try." (Dkt. 66-1 at 5.) Plaintiff was removed from suicide watch and placed in the general C-3 unit.

Plaintiff's next mental health evaluation occurred on March 25, 2009, when Dr. Michael Quattrocchi assessed Plaintiff as having Axis I disorders of depressive disorder not otherwise specified, anxiety, parasomnia with possible sleep paralysis, and a history of substance abuse. (Ex. A. to Gehrke Aff., CMS 173.) Dr. Quattrocchi also assessed Plaintiff as having an Axis II "personality disorder, mixed, with antisocial and borderline features." ( Id. )

Plaintiff's treatment team developed a behavioral and treatment plan for Plaintiff on April 3, 2009. ( Id., CMS 183, 185.) The plan addressed Plaintiff's "[v]erbal threats toward staff, inappropriate comments towards female staff, manipulating peers, and the behaviors that cause the disruption of the orderly and safe operations of the unit." ( Id., CMS 183.) The plan contemplated Plaintiff's development of positive behaviors, such as engaging in socially appropriate exchanges and appropriate conflict resolution skills. ( Id. ) In addition to the behavioral aspects, the plan also stressed that Plaintiff was to continue taking Paxil and Tegretol, and medication compliance was the short term goal of the plan. ( Id. ) The primary long term goals were to "improve [Plaintiff's] ability to function in a less restricted and structured environment such as Tier 2, " to promote Plaintiff's "independent ability to manage symptoms and anger appropriately, " and to ...


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