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Woodson v. City of Richmond

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

February 12, 2015

STEFAN WOODSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, et al., Defendants

As Corrected February 19, 2015.

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For Stefan Woodson, Plaintiff: Seth R Carroll, Jonathan E. Halperin, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Richmond, VA; Benjamin Martin Andrews, The Halperin Law Center LLC, Glen Allen, VA; Elyse Hamilton Stiner, Richmond, VA.

For City of Richmond, Virginia, Defendant: David P. Corrigan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeremy David Capps, Maurice Scott Fisher, Jr, Harman Claytor Corrigan & Wellman, Richmond, VA; Kyle Reese Elliott, Office of the Richmond City Attorney, Richmond, VA.

For C. T. Woody, Jr., Sheriff, City of Richmond, Defendant: Jeff Wayne Rosen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeffrey A. Hunn, Pender & Coward PC, Virginia Beach, VA.

For Correct Care Solutions, LLC, Motsumi Moja, M.D., Defendants: Edward Joseph McNelis, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, Isaac Abraham McBeth, Rawls, McNelis & Mitchell, P. C., Richmond, VA.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

Robert E. Payne, Senior United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Docket No. 295) filed by C.T. Woody (" Woody" ). For the reasons set forth below, this motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

I. Circumstances Leading Up To And On July 9, 2012

On March 27, 2012, Stefan Woodson (" Woodson" ) was committed to the Richmond City Jail (the " Jail" ) for service of sentence. Woodson was housed in the Jail's Medical Tier because of several medical conditions ascertained on admission. The Medical Tier consists of twelve separate cells, each housing one inmate, and a long open common area. In the early morning hours of July 9, 2012 Woodson was transported to the emergency room after being found unresponsive in his cell on the Medical Tier at the Jail. MCV Emergency Room Records. The circumstances surrounding Woodson's illness are the subject of this action.

During the first nine days of July 2012, the city of Richmond experienced a severe heat wave. Affidavit of Kalkstein, at ¶ ¶ 12-14, 17. During this period, the National Weather Service issued many heat-related advisories. Id. at ¶ ¶ 11-14. These high temperatures were further exacerbated by high humidity levels. Id. at ¶ 25. Inmates on the Medical Tier at the Jail were subjected to very high temperatures. There was a barrel fan on the Medical Tier. There was limited access to ice water. There was an exhaust fan, of disputed efficacy, in Woodson's cell.

In the days leading up to July 9, 2012, Woodson complained to Jail employees that he was not feeling well. On July 5, Woodson was examined by Dr. Motsumi Moja and employees of Correct Care Systems, LLC[1], who recorded a temperature

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of 102.3 degrees. Chronic Care Periodic Exam Record. Dr. Moja recommended that Woodson have his temperature checked again that night and in the morning and prescribed the use of Motrin and advised Woodson to follow up next week. Id. The doctor's recommendations notwithstanding, Woodson's temperature was not checked again before July 9, and no other care or treatment was offered to him before that date.

During the course of the day on July 8, 2012, Woodson interacted with several Jail employees and informed them that he was feeling ill. The extent and frequency of that interaction is disputed. Deputy Sheriff Donald Palmer was on duty on the Medical Tier of the Jail from 0800 until 1600. He testified that Woodson informed him " that he was hot and not feeling well" in " the morning hours at some time" before lunch. Palmer Dep. at 34:1-7. In response, Palmer gave Woodson two Styrofoam cups of water and told the nurse performing morning pill pass that Woodson was hot and not feeling well. Id. at 30:17-21; 35. Palmer testified that he observed Woodson during the day interacting " normally" with other inmates. Id. at 36:3-5. At some point after lunch, Woodson drug his mattress out of his cell, laid in front of the fan, where he slept there until the dinner hour. Caballero Dep. at 46-47.

The next shift of Jail employees worked from 1600 until 2400. The deputies working on the Medical Tier during this shift included Deputy John Whitaker and Deputy Tristan Brown. Whitaker performed his duties on the Medical Tier from 1600 until around 1730 and directly interacted with Woodson once during a head count. Woodson did not speak to Whitaker during this interaction, but Whitaker testified that Woodson did nod at him. Whitaker Dep. 113: 8-13. Brown performed at least two security checks on the Medical Tier during the period spanning approximately 1730 until 2200. Brown Dep. at 9. During that period of time at least two inmates advised Brown that Woodson was feeling lightheaded. Id. When so advised, Brown claims that he spoke with Woodson who " responded, spoke clearly, and did not mumble" and he subsequently contacted the medical department. Id. at 10: 18-23. However, after his round, Brown reported to Robert Cushionberry in the medical department that Woodson was not feeling well. Id. at 16:4-10. Cushionberry told Brown to give Woodson water and have him lie down. Id. at 17:15-16. Brown followed these instructions. Id. at 17:18-22.

A little before 2200, Whitaker returned to duty on the Medical Tier. Whitaker Dep. at 90:1-3. He was informed by Brown that Woodson was not feeling well and that Brown had informed the medical department. Id. at 95:21-96:6. In addition, several other inmates told Whitaker that Woodson was hot and not feeling well. Id. at 90:4-14. When informed of this, Whitaker asked Woodson if he was " all right" and he says that Woodson responded by nodding his head. Id. At this point, Whitaker contacted the medical department and Robert Cushionberry to inform him that Woodson was hot and not feeling well and needed to be seen by the medical department. Id. at 96:20-25. Cushionberry told Whitaker that everyone was feeling hot and to have Woodson drink water and lie down. Id. at 104:1-10, 108:5-8. Whitaker relayed this advice to Woodson and the other inmates. Id. at 109: 1-6. However, the inmates informed the staff that the water that was made available to them was hot. Id. at 3-6. Whitaker then went to the deputy dining room, filled up two Styrofoam cups of ice water, and handed the cups to the other inmates to give to Woodson. Id. at 109: 7-23.

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For the rest of the shift, Whitaker claims that he performed the required twice hourly security checks and did not notice Woodson in any distress. Id. at 111:6-8; 101:2-13. However, Woodson disputes that the twice-hourly security checks required by jail policy were performed on the evening of July 8 and presents testimony from inmates that support that allegation. E.g., Caballero Dep. at 24:5-14. Thus, the parties dispute whether the deputies were performing the " required' 30 minute security checks in compliance with Jail policy on the evening in question. As the non-moving party, Woodson is entitled to the reasonable inference that the checks were not performed as required on the evening of July 8 and morning of July 9, 2012.

Woodson's condition deteriorated further during the course of the evening of July 8. While the exact timeline of events is not discernable from the evidence in the record, it is clear that, at some point before being sent to the hospital, Woodson defecated and threw up on himself (Caballero Dep. at 25:3-15), was bleeding from the head (Id. at 25:9-15), and was gagging (Id. at 25:9-13). Additionally there is testimony that residents notified a Jail employee of Woodson's condition and " cursed" at this employee for not doing more to help Woodson. Id.; Pinkston Dep. at 25:1-26:13. The only identified Jail employees to have been on the Medical Tier that evening were Whitaker and Brown.

The next shift at the Jail ran from 2400 on July 8 to 0800 on July 9. Deputy Anthony Perry and Corporal Edward Moody were assigned to the Medical Tier for that shift and were told that Woodson had been feeling ill during previous shift. At this point, all inmates had been locked down into their cells for the night. Perry Dep. at 109:4-13. Perry stated that he performed security checks at 12:23 AM and 12:45 AM. Id. 109:17-21, 110:20-25. During each of these checks, Perry claims that Woodson indicated that he was " okay" by nodding his head to Deputy Perry when asked. Id. at 113: 7-25, 114:1-3. Moody stated that he performed security checks and noted that Woodson was breathing and lying in a normal sleeping position. Moody Dep. at 24:6-15. Woodson disputes that these checks occurred, and again is entitled to the reasonable inference that they did not. Caballero Dep. at 25:16-36:16. Woodson has offered evidence that inmates also told an unidentified Jail employee that Woodson was sick and needed to be seen by medical. At this stage, the record is unclear whether those communications occurred only on the shift manned by Whitaker and Brown or also on the shift managed by Perry and Moody.

At 2:17 AM, Moody performed a security check and " observed [Woodson] lying across his bunk, in an awkward position, and appearing to be unresponsive." Moody Dep. at 32: 6-33:23, 48:7-11. A medical alert was called and Woodson was taken first to the medical clinic area. Id. Woodson was then transferred to MCV, where he was diagnosed with hyperthermia and was discovered to have an elevated body temperature of 105.8 degrees. MCV Hospital Records. An Emergency Department record estimated that Woodson's core body temperature reached a maximum of 108.5 degrees. Id.

II. Heat-Related Precautions

The adverse conditions at the Jail have been well documented in previous cases before this court. Sleeper v. City of Richmond, No. 3:12cv441, 2012 WL 3555412 (E.D. Va. Aug. 16, 2012); Brown v. Mitchell (Brown I), 308 F.Supp.2d 682 (E.D. Va. 2004). According to Virginia state law, Woody is responsible for the day-to-day

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operations and maintenance at the Jail. Va. Code. Ann. § 53.1-116 et seq.

During the July 2012 heat wave, Woodson was housed on the Medical Tier of the Jail. Woodson's Jail Records at 1. While certain areas of the Jail had recently been equipped with air conditioning, there was no air conditioning on the Medical Tier and the inmates there did not have access to those areas that were air conditioned, such as the inmate dining room. Allmon Dep. 69:9-20. Unlike the inmates in general population who were taken to the air conditioned dining hall for three meals a day, inmates confined on the Medical Tier took their meals while locked in their cells in the un-air conditioned Medical Tier. There is a dispute between the parties as to whether the Sheriff's office was responsible for the decision to confine Medical Tier inmates to their cells during meal time or whether CCS was responsible for the inmates' eating arrangements. Motions Hearing Transcript, January 9, 2015 at 36:23-37:7. As the non-moving party, Woodson is entitled to the reasonable inference that the Sheriff's department had instituted that policy.

In an attempt to alleviate the stifling conditions inside the Jail, administrators, including Woody, instituted several " cooling" measures following Woody's election as Sheriff in 2006. These measures included opening windows, placing large floor fans within the housing tiers, providing three meals a day with liquids, providing " icebergs" to inmates[2], and placing coolers of cold water on housing tiers when outside temperatures rise to 95 degrees. Affidavit of Woody; Woody Dep. at 28. Woodson however offered evidence that most of the fans did not provide ventilation, but were merely exhaust fans. There was only one fan on the Medical Tier. Caballero Dep. at 45:15-20. Additionally, he asserts that water coolers frequently ran dry and, while a cooler may have been present on the Medical Tier on July 8, 2012, it had run dry early in the day and the Jail employees had failed to refill them. Palmer Dep. at 23:6-9; Perry Dep. at 47:1-2; Pinkston Dep. at 40:8-25; Martin Dep. at 14:20-22; Caballero Dep. at 63:7-14.

Finally, although the Medical Tier did not have access to air conditioned areas, Woody contends that cells on the Medical Tier did have sinks with hot and cold running water and the inmates there had access to a common shower facility when the tier was not locked down. Affidavit of McRae, at 1. However, there also is evidence that the water in the cell sinks was often hot during the summer and that the inmates typically relied on the deputies for access to cold water during these times. Whitaker Dep. at 37:1-10; Quinney Dep. at 32:6-33:9; Caballero Dep. at 20:11-16; 22:22-23:5. This is supported by the fact that deputies had to leave the Medical Tier on July 8, 2012 to retrieve cold water for Woodson to drink.

III. Compliance With DOC Standards And Training Requirements

The Virginia Department of Corrections (" DOC" ) does not require that jails keeps temperature readings or maintain a specific temperature during times of extreme heat or cold. Instead, the Virginia DOC mandates only that " air conditioning mechanical ventilation systems, such as electric fans, shall be provided when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees." 6 Va. Admin. Code § 15-40-1160. The Jail was certified to be compliant with the above lighting and heating standard and as also compliant with all other " Life, Health, and Safety Standards" in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

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The training academy run by the Sheriff's department is certified by Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (" DCJS" ), is subject to inspection by the DCJS, and provides a wide range of training on varying topics. Affidavit of Overby; Final Curriculum 68th Basic Training Academy; DCJS Compulsory Minimum Training Standards and Performance Outcomes for Jail Officers. This academy includes training on rounds, patrols, inspections, security checks, logbooks, observation of inmates, preventive patrol techniques, unusual odors and sounds, head counts, intake and screening, special populations, and abnormal behavior/mental illness. DCJS Compulsory Minimum Training Standards and Performance Outcomes for Jail Officers. In addition to certification and field training, deputies must receive 24 hours of in-service training every two years. Additionally, the Jail trains deputies in First Aid, CPR, and AED use, which includes material on heat related emergencies. Affidavit of Overby; First Aid Curriculum. If a new deputy has not completed basic training, he must receive two weeks of on the job training, including one-on-one supervision. Affidavit of Overby; " On the Job" training manual.

IV. Section 1983 Claim

On July 2, 2014, Woodson filed the Fourth Amended Complaint in this action. Docket No. 187. In the FAC, Woodson presents three claims against Woody. Count II is a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[3] alleging a violation of Woodson's Eighth Amendment[4] rights stemming from an official policy or custom concerning the operation of the Jail, including a failure to provide appropriate training for deputies employed at the Jail. Id. at 37. Count III is also a claim under § 1983 that alleged a violation of Woodson's Eighth Amendment rights stemming from Woody's deliberate indifference to the conditions of Woodson's confinement, his deliberate indifference to Woodson's serious medical needs, and his supervisory liability for such deliberate indifference. Id. at 39. Finally, Count VI alleged a claim for gross negligence under Virginia state law. Count VI was dismissed with prejudice as to all parties on December 17, 2014. Docket No. 519. Woody has moved for summary judgment on all remaining counts. Docket No. 295. Woodson has responded. Docket No. 449. Woody has replied. Docket No. 502. A hearing on the matter was held on January 9, 2015 and the motion is now ripe for review.

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, summary judgment " shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In Celotex Corp. v. Catrett[5], the Supreme Court stated that Rule 56(c) requires the entry of summary judgment

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" after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an essential element to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. In order to enter summary judgment " there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact, since a complete failure to proof concerning an essential elements of the nonmoving party's case renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323.

When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, a court must interpret the facts and any inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Seabulk Offshore, Ltd. v. Am. Home. Assurance Co., 377 F.3d 408, 418 (4th Cir. 2004). In order to successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must demonstrate to the court that there are specific facts that would create a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). " Where...the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate." United States v. Lee, 943 F.2d 366, 368 (4th Cir. 1991).

II. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Standard

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code (§ 1983) provides that:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

In order to prove a claim for violation of constitutional rights through § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he was " deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law." Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. ...


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