United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
AMY M. MURRAY, Administrator of the Estate of Shannon H. Crane, Deceased, Plaintiff,
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, LLC, PAUL STAIRS, GLENN WISE, BEVERLY DANIELS, and ANNETTE BROOKS, Defendants.
A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge.
Crane, a convicted inmate, died at Riverside Regional Jail
(the "Jail"). Two days before his death, Crane
complained of breathing difficulties. A nurse in the
Jail's medical department reported Crane's complaint
and his low blood-oxygen level to Paul Stairs, the on-call
doctor. Stairs ordered administration of oxygen to Crane and
continued monitoring. Two days later, Crane died. Amy Murray,
the Administrator of Crane's Estate, sued Stairs, among
others, for deliberate indifference and wrongful death.
Stairs has moved to dismiss certain claims against him.
Because Stairs did not act with deliberate indifference or
gross negligence to Crane's medical need, the Court
grants Stairs's motion to dismiss.
transferred to the Jail in November 2013. At intake, Crane
had no prior history of heart problems or high blood
pressure. During his incarceration, until the events
surrounding his death, Crane had no record of a need for
February 2015, Crane complained of breathing issues. A nurse
in the Jail's medical department took Crane's vitals,
including a pulse oximeter reading-a test that estimates the
saturation of oxygen in the blood ("Sp02"). The
nurse notified Stairs, the on-call doctor, of Crane's
lower-than-normal Sp02 level. Stairs ordered the nurse (1) to
administer oxygen to Crane and (2) to place him in medical
housing for monitoring. This communication between Stairs and
the nurse occurred over telephone or through some other
electronic means, meaning Stairs never actually saw Crane.
After giving this order, Stairs did not receive any updates
on Crane, did not follow up, and did not provide Crane with
to Stairs's order, the nurse administered oxygen to
Crane. She re-checked his vitals, which revealed a normal
Sp02 level. The nurse did not follow-up any further, nor did
the nurses that worked the next day.
the following morning, Crane was found lifeless in his cell.
Efforts to revive him failed, and emergency personnel
pronounced him dead. Crane died of hypertensive
the Administrator of Crane's Estate, has sued Stairs,
three nurses, and Correct Care Solutions, LLC, the company
contracted to provide medical services at the Jail. Against
Stairs, in Count I, Murray alleges an Eighth Amendment
violation based on Stairs's deliberate indifference to
Crane's serious medical needs. In Count III, she alleges
wrongful death, asserting the theories of simple negligence,
gross negligence, and willful and wanton negligence. Stairs
asks this Court to dismiss Count I in full and Count III in
Count I: Deliberate Indifference
Court will dismiss Count I against Stairs because his conduct
does not rise to the level of deliberate indifference. The
Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. U.S.
Const, amend. VIII. This prohibition extends to conditions of
confinement in prisons and, relevant here, includes a duty of
prison officials to provide adequate medical care.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976).
Inadequate medical care rises to the level of a
constitutional violation when a prison official shows
deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.
test for this type of claim has an objective and a subjective
component. Objectively, the prisoner's medical need must
be sufficiently serious, meaning that the medical need
"has either been diagnosed by a physician as mandating
treatment or is so obvious that even a lay person would
easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's
attention." Scinto v. Stansberry, 841 F.3d 219,
225 (4th Cir. 2016) (citation, quotation marks, and
alternation omitted). Subjectively, the prison official must
have shown deliberate indifference, meaning he had
"actual subjective knowledge of both the inmate's
serious medical condition and the excessive risk posed by the
official's action or inaction." Id. at 226
(citation, quotation marks, and alternation omitted). On the
sliding scale of culpable mental states, deliberate
indifference falls closest to criminal recklessness,
requiring more than negligence, but less than purpose or
knowledge. Id. at 225.
case, Stairs (1) heard about Crane's breathing issues and
low blood oxygen levels, and then (2) ordered administration
of oxygen and further monitoring. In other words, Stairs
learned about Crane's serious medical need from the
nurse, and then took action by ordering the nurse to
administer oxygen and to monitor Crane. Stairs treated the
medical need (i.e., the low Sp02 level) of a
patient. After treating Crane's low Sp02 level,
Stairs did not know about any further serious medical needs
that he needed to address, especially seeing as Crane had no
record of a need for oxygen therapy and no history of heart
problems or high blood pressure. These facts do not plausibly
allege indifference, let alone deliberate indifference.
Consequently, the Court must dismiss Count I against Stairs.