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Acheson v. Fleming

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 25, 2018

JEFFREY L. ACHESON Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH FLEMING, Correctional Officers, individually and in his official capacity; IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION; CORIZON, (formerly Corizon Health, Inc., a Delaware Corporation), Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill Chief U.S. District Court Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it a motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment filed by defendant Fleming. The motion is fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motion.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Acheson claims that defendant Fleming, a Correctional Officer employed by the Idaho Department of Corrections, rejected his pleas for medical treatment while he was suffering a heart attack, and that the delay in treatment caused substantial damage to his heart. Fleming responded by filing a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment arguing that Acheson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and missed the deadline for filing his Notice of Tort Claim under the Idaho Tort Claims Act.

         To determine the facts for the purpose of this motion, the Court has taken as true all the allegations set forth in Acheson's Complaint and Declaration, and has not examined any other extrinsic material. Nevertheless, because the Court has examined Acheson's Declaration, the motion to dismiss is converted into a motion for summary judgment. See Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 2014) (discussing procedure for resolving failure-to-exhaust claims in PLRA litigation). There are no disputed issues of fact, at least pertaining to the Court's resolution of this motion, because the Court has taken as true all the allegations of Acheson's Complaint and Declaration.

         On September 18, 2014, Acheson began experiencing severe chest pains that radiated down his left arm and up his left neck. His cellmate helped him to the medical unit where he told Correctional Officer Fleming about his nausea and pain, and requested immediate medical attention. Fleming told him that there was no medical staff available to see him because they were busy with another situation, and that he should return to his bunk and wait for the inmate count to take place. Acheson returned to his bunk but his condition worsened and he returned to plead with Fleming for help, but Fleming again told him to await the inmate count. Fleming told Acheson that he would personally contact medical staff after the count was finished.

         Acheson was in “terrible pain” during the count and lost consciousness. He awoke the next morning - September 19, 2014 - “physically drained, exhausted, and very sore.” See Acheson Complaint (Dkt. No. 3) at ¶ 17. For a third time, he asked Fleming to contact the medical staff, but Fleming told him the staff members were too busy to examine him and that they did not “respond to their phones nor radio.” Id. at ¶ 19. Fleming dismissed Acheson's complaints as being merely the flu. Id. at ¶ 20.

         Later that same day, Acheson was finally examined by medical personnel who concluded that he had suffered a heart attack the previous night, September 18, 2014. A few days later, Acheson was troubled by “what I believed was medical's lack of response to defendant Fleming's call for medical assistance.” Acheson Declaration (Dkt. No. 20-2) at ¶ 15. To investigate, he sought “information as to whether defendant Fleming had contacted them [Corizon] on September 18, 2014” by filing a concern form with Corizon on September 25, 2014, just six days after he learned that he had suffered a heart attack. Id. A Corizon nurse responded, telling Acheson that “medical had no way of tracking that information.” Id. at ¶ 16.

         It was not until July 28, 2015, that Acheson learned that Fleming had never made a call on September 18, 2014. Acheson had been complaining to another inmate about not getting a clear answer from Corizon, and was overheard by Corporal Cheryl Davis, who searched the prison's call logs and determined that Fleming had made no call. Id. at ¶ 20.

         The next day, on July 29, 2015, Acheson filed a concern form with the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) for Fleming's failure to contact the medical staff on September 18, 2014.[1] Acheson argues that “I could not file a grievance within 30 days of my heart attack with Defendant Fleming because I did not have any conclusive information that Defendant Fleming had in fact failed to contact medical staff on September 18, 2014 for my immediate medical needs.” Id. at ¶ 19. He goes on to argue that “[u]ntil Corporal Davis told me that Defendant Fleming had never called medical on September 18, 2014 or September 19, 2014, I did not know that I had been wronged and that Defendant Fleming had, in fact, been negligent in his duties giving me claim to grieve against Defendant Fleming.” Id. at ¶ 24.

         Fleming originally filed suit against Fleming, Corizon, and the IDOC. His claims against Corizon and the IDOC were dismissed in an Initial Review Order. See Initial Review Order (Dkt. No. 9). That same Order allowed the action to proceed against Fleming on the federal claim of deliberate indifference and on the state claim of gross negligence. Id.

         Fleming has filed a motion to dismiss arguing that Acheson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and failed to file a Notice of Tort Claim within the time frame required by the Idaho Tort Claims Act. As stated above, the Court will treat the motion as a motion for summary judgment with ...


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