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Hanson v. Blaine County

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 9, 2018

SCOTT HANSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BLAINE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it Defendants Gooding County, Shaun Gough, William Shubert, and Jesus Gonzalez's (Gooding County Defendants) Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 66); Defendants Blaine County and Gene D. Ramsey's (Blaine County Defendants) Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 67); and Defendant Judith Peterson's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 68). Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Strike (Dkt. 73) and Blaine and Gooding County Defendants' Motion to Strike (Dkt. 79). The Court heard oral argument on June 25, 2018, and now issues the following decision.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are 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).

         On August 14, 2014, Plaintiff Scott Hanson underwent surgery for removal of cataracts in his right eye. Wood Decl. Ex. 1 85:10-25, 87:4-5, Dkt. 71-1 (“Hanson Dep.”) Because complications during the surgery prevented Mr. Hanson's surgeon, Dr. William Fitzhugh, from removing all of the lens material, a second surgery was scheduled for August 21. Id. Ex. 2 at 1, Dkt. 72-2 (“Fitzhugh Statement”). This surgery went “very well.” Id. Dr. Fitzhugh also performed surgery on Mr. Hanson's left eye on September 11, without complication. Id. Afterwards, Dr. Fitzhugh told Mr. Hanson to continue taking previously prescribed medication, including Prednisone, a topical anti-inflammatory eye drop medicine. Id. He also told Mr. Hanson to let him know of any loss of vision, flashing lights, or “floater” phenomena in either eye. Id.; Hanson Dep. 31:4, Dkt. 71-1. A follow-up appointment was scheduled for two to three weeks later. Id.

         However, on September 19, Mr. Hanson was arrested for a parole violation, and was not allowed to take his eye drops with him to jail. Hanson Dep. 23:17-27:21, Dkt. 71-1. During the booking process, Mr. Hanson told the booking officer, Deputy Hitt, that he needed immediate medical attention because he was taking eye drops for post-cataract surgery care and had not been allowed to bring them. Davis Decl. Ex. A, Booking Video, Dkt. 67-4; Def.'s SOF ¶ 3. Mr. Hanson also told Deputy Hitt that he was taking five medications: Prozac, Buspar, Ibuprofen, Zyrtec, Prilosec, and one whose name he could not remember. Davis Decl. Ex. A, Booking Video, Dkt. 67-4. Mr. Hanson was told that there was no one in the nurse's station at that time and that he would be seen as soon as there was. Hanson Dep. 48:8-20, Dkt. 71-1.

         As part of the booking process, Deputy Hitt completed a booking form, which both he and Mr. Hanson signed. Davis Decl. Ex. B at 4, Dkt. 67-5; Carey Aff. Ex. B 54:18-21, 55:2-4, Dkt. 68-6. It contained the following questions and answers:

Question

Answer

Do you need immediate medical attention (if yes, notify medical).

Y MENTAL HEALTH MEDS

Do you currently have any health problems?

Y CATARACT SURGERY, MENTAL HEALTH

Are you currently taking any medication?

Y PROZAC, BUSPAR, IBPROFEN, ZYRTEC, PRILOSEC, AND ONE UNKNOWN

Which pharmacy do you use?

ALBERTSONS

Davis Decl. Ex. B at 4, Dkt. 67-5.

         Defendant Peterson was a licensed nurse employed by Correctional Healthcare Companies (“CHC”), which Blaine County contracted with to provide medical care to inmates at the jail. Carey Aff. Ex. A 15:24-16:5, 26:4-16, 27:16-20, Dkt. 68-5. After reviewing Mr. Hanson's booking report, Defendant Peterson called Albertsons to verify and order Mr. Hanson's prescriptions. Peterson Dep. 49:5-9, Dkt. 71-5. However, she did not order his Prednisone eye drops, despite Mr. Hanson's standing prescription for them at that pharmacy.[1] Hanson Dep. 35:5-7, Dkt. 71-1.

         Mr. Hanson was held in Blaine County Jail until September 22, and did not remember being seen by any medical personnel during this time. Hanson Dep. 49:2-6, Dkt. 71-1. On September 22, Defendant Shubert transported Mr. Hanson to Gooding County Jail. Wood Decl. Shubert Deposition Exhibits 29:8-16 (“Shubert Dep.”), Dkt. 71-3. Throughout the drive, Mr. Hanson “complained of [his] eye condition and need for medications and medical attention.”[2] Supp. Wood Decl. Ex. 1 at 2, Dkt. 75-3.

         When Mr. Hanson arrived at Gooding County Jail, he explained his needs to Defendant Gonzalez, the booking officer, and stated that he had been off his medications for 72 hours. Supp. Wood Decl. Ex. 1 at 2, Dkt. 75-3; Hanson Dep. 30:8-31:6, Dkt. 71-1. Defendant Gonzalez told him that only an emergency would justify seeing medical staff sooner that the regular Wednesday visit, and that he did not think it was an emergency in Mr. Hanson's case. Id. In response, Mr. Hanson stated that “this was prescribed medication that [he] needed to be using on an hourly basis” and “reiterated the circumstances regarding [his] eye surgery and [his] need for [his] eye drops and follow-up care.” Id.

         On September 23, Mr. Hanson completed an inmate request form, or “kite, ” requesting a doctor's appointment and asking that his prescriptions be renewed. Wood Decl. Shubert Deposition Exhibits at 23, Dkt. 71-3. The following day, Mr. Hanson was seen by Dr. Olson, the doctor who had a contract to provide medical services to Gooding County Jail detainees at that time. Hanson Dep. 30:18-31:9, Dkt. 71-1; Shubert Dep. 51:19-23, Dkt. 66-8. Dr. Olson “acknowledge[d] the seriousness of [his] condition and ordered [his] prescriptions, including eye drops, from Kendrick pharmacy.” Supp. Wood Decl. Ex. 1 at 3, Dkt. 75-3; Hanson Dep. 31:7-12, Dkt. 71-1.

         Later on September 24, the Gooding County Jail received Mr. Hanson's prescriptions from the Kendrick pharmacy. Gonzalez Dep. 31:2-32:6, Dkt. 71-4. Mr. Hanson saw the delivery truck from the pharmacy arrive, but even though he told jail staff that his medicine was on the truck, he was transported back to Blaine County Jail without having received them. Hanson Dep. 31:8-23, Dkt. 71-1. He was told that the medicine was too expensive and that he would have to get it at Blaine County Jail. Id.

         During the drive, Mr. Hansen explained that he was experiencing what looked like “black ink” raining down from the top part of his eye, and that his eye was full of “floaters.” Id. 32:9-22. When he arrived back at Blaine County Jail, Mr. Hanson immediately demanded to be seen by medical staff because he had lost all sight in his right eye. Supp. Wood Decl. Ex. 1 at 5, Dkt. 75-3. They refused, and later that day, Mr. Hanson filled out a kite in which he stated that his eyes were “sore and cloudy.” Peterson Deposition Exhibits, Part 2 at 7, Dkt. 71-7.

         On September 25, Mr. Hanson told Defendant Peterson that he needed his Prednisone, and that he had just gotten a prescription from Dr. Olson in Gooding. Carey Aff. Ex. B 34:4-10, Dkt. 68-6. Defendant Peterson ordered the Prednisone, and Mr. Hanson received it within three hours. Id. 34:4-23.

         On September 29, Mr. Hanson filed another kite stating “loss of sight in right eye, ” “need to be seen by outside provider ASAP, ” and “medication not being dispensed as prescribed.” Wood Decl. Peterson Deposition Exhibits, Part 2 at 8, Dkt. 71-7. Defendant Peterson called Dr. Fitzhugh's office and spoke with the doctor on call, who told her to send Mr. Hanson to the Twin Falls emergency room. Carey Aff. Ex. A 82:3-23, Dkt. 68-5. However, she did not do so, even though she had told Mr. Hanson that they would get him to the emergency room if she could not reach Dr. Fitzhugh. Hanson Dep. 115:5-12, Dkt. 71-1. Instead, Mr. Hanson saw Dr. Williams, an optometrist. Supp. Wood Decl. Ex. 1 at 4, Dkt. 75-3. By the time Mr. Hanson saw Dr. Williams, he was “completely blind in [his] right eye.” Id.

         Dr. Fitzhugh saw Mr. Hanson on October 1. Fitzhugh Statement at 2, Dkt. 72-2. At this time, Mr. Hanson's “visual acuity in his right eye was less than 20/400” and “[h]is intraocular pressure was reduced to zero which is a common concomitant of retinal detachment.” Id. Though Dr. Fitzhugh immediately referred Mr. Hanson to retinal subspecialists in Boise, a series of surgeries failed to improve Mr. Hanson's vision, which has progressively declined. Id. In Dr. Fitzhugh's opinion, “the delay in examination and denial of prescribed necessary medications” was the cause of the decline. Id.

         On October 31, 2014, Mr. Hanson filed a claim for damages pursuant to the Idaho Tort Claims Act with Gooding County and Blaine County. Compl. ¶ 32, Dkt. 46. The claims were denied. Id. Mr. Hanson filed a complaint in this Court on September 16, 2016. (Dkt. 1.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). 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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact “that may affect the outcome of the case.” Id. at 248.

         The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. 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 dispute as to 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. Deveraux, 263 F.3d at 1076. 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 dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Federal Law Claims

         County Defendants seeks dismissal of Mr. Hanson's federal claims against them because there has been no showing they were deliberately indifferent to Hanson's medical needs, they are protected by qualified immunity, and there is no basis for municipal liability. Defendant Peterson asks the Court to dismiss all of Mr. Hanson's federal claims against her because Hanson has not shown she was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. The Court will address each of these arguments below.

         A. Deliberate Indifference

         Mr. Hanson claims that Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments through their deliberate indifference to his medical needs while he was incarcerated.

         (1) Deliberate Indifference Under the Eighth Amendment

         The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects prisoners against cruel and unusual punishment while incarcerated. Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, to maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on prison medical treatment, an inmate must show “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). In the Ninth Circuit, the test for deliberate indifference consists of two parts. Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091 (9th Cir. 2006). First, the plaintiff must show a “serious medical need” by demonstrating that “failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Id. at 1096. Second, the plaintiff must show the defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent. Id. at 1060. Additionally, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the ...


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