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Hixson v. Hutcheson

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division

February 8, 2018

CARY HIXSON, Plaintiff,
BRYAN HUTCHESON, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Cary Hixson, an insulin-dependent diabetic, alleges he was denied insulin while incarcerated at Harrisonburg-Rockingham Regional Jail ("HRRJ"). Hixson's First Amended Complaint for Monetary Damages (the "FAC"), ECF No. 34, raises various claims against Defendants Bryan Hutcheson, Steven Shortell, Dr. Michael Moran (collectively with Hutcheson and Shortell, the "HRRJ Defendants"), Southern Health Partners, Inc. ("SHP"), c and John Doe #1 and #2 ("Does, " and collectively with the HRRJ Defendants and SHP, "Defendants").[1]

         This matter comes before the court on the HRRJ Defendants' and SHP's Motions to Dismiss. ECF Nos. 37 & 53. For the reasons discussed below, the court will GRANT in part and DENY in part the Motions to Dismiss. The court will also sua sponte CONSOLIDATE this action with Hixson v. Raynes. 5:18-cv-00001-MFU.

         I. Allegations

         Plaintiff Cary Hixson is a 53-year-old man who was, at all relevant times, diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes.[2] FAC ¶¶ 3, 32, 68. Hixson was incarcerated at HRRJ for six months. Id. ¶ 3. Hixson does not plead the exact dates during which he was incarcerated. Hixson is not currently incarcerated. Id.

         Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson was the supervising operator of HRRJ, id. ¶ 4, while Shortell was the operator of HRRJ, id. ¶ 7. Dr. Moran was a medical doctor employed by HRRJ. Id. ¶ 109. Additionally, Dr. Moran was "working on behalf of the county" and was employed by Rockingham County "[f]rom at least August 1, 2016 through January 29, 2017." Id. ¶¶ 109, 111, 114. SHP is a regional health care provider that employs and contracts with medical care professionals to provide care to inmates at HRRJ. Id. ¶ 10. Does #1 and #2 ("Does") were nurses employed by SHP to provide medical care at HRRJ. Id. ¶ 11.

         SHP was under contract to provide medical services at HRRJ. Id. ¶ 49. Prior to Hixson's incarceration at HRRJ, Hutcheson, Shortell, and SHP developed a"policy that prohibited all staff, including medical staff, at HRRJ from providing medication, including insulin, to diabetics housed at HRRJ. Id. ¶¶ 28-29, 64. Hutcheson, Shortell, and Dr. Moran approved SHP's policy of not providing diabetic medication. Id. ¶¶ 66-67. These policies have led numerous inmates at HRRJ to be denied treatment. Id. ¶¶ 30-31.

         Upon incarceration at HRRJ, Does, on behalf of SHP, performed a medical screening of Hixson. Id. ¶¶ 68, 75. Upon inquiry, Hixson informed Does that he was diagnosed with diabetes and needed to take medication, including insulin, to control his diabetes. Id. Does reviewed Hixson's medical files and confirmed he needed medication, including insulin, as well as a diabetic diet, to treat his diabetes. Id. ¶¶ 68, 77. Dr. Moran reviewed Hixson's medical files and knew that Hixson required treatment for his diabetes. Id. ¶ 117. Each defendant was aware on the first day of Hixson's incarceration that Hixson was diabetic. Id. ¶148.

         As ordered by Dr. Moran, Does took Hixson's blood sugar levels daily a total of 150 times, each of which was recorded on an SHP form. Id. ¶¶ 79, 82, 120. While a blood-sugar level below 110 mg/dL is considered normal, Hixson's blood-sugar level read less than 110 mg/dL only 3 out of 150 times, over 180 mg/dL 41 times, and as high as 407 mg/dL.[3] Id. ¶¶ 84-86. Despite these high levels, and despite having the authority to do so, Does refused to provide Hixson with or order insulin or other necessary diabetic medication. Id. ¶¶ 89-92. Does did this despite knowing the risks to Hixson. Id. ¶ 94-96.

         Hixson regularly complained about the pain he was in due to not receiving insulin, and Hutcheson, Shortell, and Moran directly received those complaints. Id. ¶¶ 42-43, 125. Hixson also complained to Does about the pain he was in. Id. ¶¶ 102-04. Instead of treating Hixson, however, Does threatened Hixson with solitary confinement, and asked HRRJ deputies to put Hixson in solitary confinement, because he continued to complain about not receiving proper treatment for his diabetes. Id. ¶¶ 33, 107.

         Similarly, Dr. Moran reviewed Hixson's medical records and knew he needed insulin. Id. ¶¶ 117, 119. While Dr. Moran instructed the staff to serve Hixson a dabetic meal and personally reviewed Hixson's elevated blood-sugar levels, he refused to provide Hixson with insulin or other diabetes medication. Id. ¶¶ 118-24. Dr. Moran refused treatment despite knowing the risks of failing to provide Hixson with insulin. Id. ¶¶ 127-29.

         Because he was not treated at HRRJ, Hixson suffered severe, prolonged pain throughout his feet, hand, and legs, suffered from blurred vision and ringing in his ears for his entire stay at HRRJ, and now suffers from organ damage and shortened life expectancy. Id. ¶ 46.

         Hixson filed suit against Defendants. The FAC contains nine counts. Count I, pled against Dr. Moran and Does in their individual capacities, alleges Section 1983 claims based on a violations of Hixson's Eighth Amendment rights. Count II, pled against Hutcheson and Shortell in their individual capacities, alleges supervisory liability arising out of the same Section 1983 claim in Count I. Count III, pled against the HRRJ Defendants in their official capacities, alleges a violation of the ADA. Similarly, Count IV, also pled against the HRRJ Defendants in their official capacities, alleges a violation of the Rehabilitation Act. Count V, pled against Hutcheson and Shortell in their individual capacities, alleges state-law gross negligence. Count VI, pled against Dr. Moran, SHP, and Does, alleges state-law medical malpractice. Count VII, pled against SHP, alleges state-law respondeat superior liability. Count VIII, pled against all Defendants, seeks punitive damages. Finally, Count IX seeks attorneys' fees against unspecified parties.

         II. Consolidation

         When "actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, " Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42 allows the court to "consolidate the actions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a)(2). Consolidation is a "managerial device" that "makes possible the streamlined processing of groups of cases, often obviating the need for multiple lawsuits and trials." 8 Moore's Federal Practice § 42.10[l][a]. The court has wide discretion to consolidate actions. A/S J. Ludwig Mowinckles Rederi v. Tidewater Constr. Co., 559 F.2d 928, 933 (4th Cir. 1977). That discretion extends to consolidating actions sua sponte. 8 Moore's Federal Practice § 42.10[2][a]-[b]: see also Beach Mart. Inc. v. L & L Wings. Inc., Nos. 2:11-CV-44-F & 2:14-CV-52-F, 2014 WL 4635450, at *1 (E.D. N.C. Sept. 15, 2014) (consolidating cases sua sponte).

         When exercising its discretion to consolidate, the court must consider:

whether the specific risks of prejudice and possible confusion were overborne by the risk of inconsistent adjudications of common factual and legal issues, the burden on parties, witnesses and available judicial resources posed by multiple lawsuits, the length of time required to conclude multiple suits as against a single one, and the relative expense to all concerned of the single-trial, multiple-trial alternatives.

Arnold v. E. Air Lines. Inc., 681 F.2d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 1982): see also Antoine v. Amick Farms. LLC. Civ Nos. ELH-16-2444 & ELH-16-2938, 2017 WL 68646, at *14 (D. Md. Jan. 6, 2017) (consolidating actions after considering "duplication of discovery" and "trial testimony, " "conserv[ation] [of] judicial resources, ... reduc[tion] [of] expenses associated with trial, " and the "inconvenience to witnesses for both sides").

         On January 3, 2018, Hixson filed Hixson v. Raynes, 5:18-cv-00001-MFU, in this court. The complaint in Raynes (the "Raynes Complaint" or "Raynes Compl."), Complaint, 5:18-cv-00001-MFU, ECF No. 1, brings claims against Katherine Raynes and Janelle Seekford, two nurses employed by SHP to provide medical care to inmates at HRRJ. Raynes Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10. The allegations in the Raynes Complaint mirror the allegations in the FAC. Moreover, the claims against Raynes and Seekford-a Section 1983 claim, a state-law medical malpractice claim, and requests for punitive damages and attorneys' fees-happen to he. the, same, claims brought against Does in the FAC. Compare Id. at 20-21, with FAC 38-39, 44-45. It is clear from the face of me Raynes Complaint diat Raynes and Seekford are, in fact, die Does named in the FAC. Instead of amending the FAC to identify Does, however, Hixson has filed a separate complaint.

         The court now has before it two actions that involve the same ultimate sets of facts, law, and witnesses. Discovery and trial testimony in the two actions will almost assuredly be duplicative, as, at base, both die FAC and the Raynes Complaint involve the same underlying facts and, to a large extent, causes of action. Not only do the two actions "present a common question of either law or fact, ...

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