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Andrews v. Woody

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

May 31, 2018

BENJAMIN M. ANDREWS, Administrator of the estate of Zachary Tuggle, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF C.T. WOODY, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M. Hannah Lauck United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Naphcare, Inc., Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran's (collectively, "Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment, [1] filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.[2] (ECF No. 75.) Plaintiff Benjamin M. Andrews, Administrator of the Estate of Zachary Tuggle ("Andrews") responded, (ECF No. 81), and Defendants replied, (ECF No. 89). The Court heard oral argument on May 30, 2018. Accordingly, the matter is ripe for disposition. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331[3] and § 1367.[4] For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Procedural History

         The action before the Court arises from Zachary Tuggle's incarceration at the Richmond City Justice Center ("RCJC") awaiting trial. Tuggle, who had a diagnosed seizure disorder at the time he entered the RCJC, experienced a fatal seizure while incarcerated there. Andrews thereafter filed a Complaint against various defendants alleging, on behalf of Tuggle's estate, violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, [5] state law gross negligence, and medical negligence. After Defendant Sheriff C.T. Woody filed a Motion to Dismiss, Andrews filed his Amended Complaint. The Court held an Initial Pretrial Conference and scheduled a jury trial to begin on May 9, 2018.

         On March 5, 2018, upon motion by the parties, the Court dismissed Sheriff C.T. Woody and Charles Armstrong as defendants from this action. Only Defendants remain. After granting several joint motions for extensions of time, which ultimately impacted the scheduled trial date, the Court continued the jury trial and set a hearing date and a briefing schedule for dispositive and evidentiary motions.

         The following causes of action, articulated in the Amended Complaint, remain:

COUNT IV: Medical Negligence Claim against Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran;
COUNT V: Vicarious Liability Claim against Naphcare, Inc., based on the negligence of Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran; and,
COUNT VI: Section 1983 Claim against Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran for Deliberate Indifference to Tuggle's Serious Medical Needs.
Defendants move for, and Andrews opposes, summary judgment on all counts.

         B. Factual History[6]

         The claims remaining before the Court-and those which are the subject of the Motion for Summary Judgment-all pertain to the manner in which Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran responded to Tuggle's seizure. Naphcare, Inc. ("Naphcare") provided medical care to Tuggle at RCJC during his incarceration there. Naphcare employed Smith, Turner, Drake, Faison, and Emran (collectively, the "Medical Personnel Defendants") at all times relevant to Andrews's claims.

         1. Zachary Tuggle's Entry to the Richmond City Justice Center[7]

         On October 31, 2014, Tuggle was arrested and eventually housed in the RCJC awaiting trial. When he entered the RCJC, Tuggle had a diagnosed seizure disorder, resulting from a 2007 gunshot wound to the head. The RCJC medical staff knew that Tuggle had a seizure disorder. Tuggle took Keppra for his seizures, but occasionally still experienced seizures. While housed at the RCJC, Tuggle "was not taking his medicine regularly, " and had missed approximately fourteen doses in the thirty days before his death. (Death Summary 2, ECF No. 81-12.)

         2. Tuggle's July 13, 2015 Seizure

         On July 13, 2015, while in his cell, Tuggle experienced a seizure. At approximately 12:28 p.m., a Medical 10-18[8] was called in the RCJC for cell 6F, Tuggle's cell. 911 was also called at approximately that time.

         Cecilia Faison, a registered nurse, was the charge nurse at the time the Medical 10-18 was called. She and Demetrice Smith, a licensed practical nurse, retrieved the code cart-a cart medical personnel are supposed to take to every medical emergency-and responded together. Faison and Smith were the first medical personnel to arrive at Tuggle's cell.

         When they arrived at Tuggle's cell, Faison saw Tuggle lying on his bed. Smith testified that Tuggle was lying on his side. Faison saw Tuggle take two breaths. Faison checked for, but did not feel, a pulse. Faison and Smith asked the deputy to put Tuggle in the hallway so they could begin CPR.[9] Once in the hallway, Faison and Smith turned Tuggle on his side, and Smith "swip[ed] his mouth and took out some of the vomit, " and they began CPR. (Smith Dep. 82, ECF No. 76-3.) Smith testified that when she performed this "finger sweep, " a "brown, thick substance" came out of Tuggle's mouth. (Id. at 84-85.)

         Tracy Turner, a licensed practical nurse, and Gwendolyn Drake, a certified nursing assistant, responded together to the medical emergency call. Turner testified that she retrieved the crash cart before going to Tuggle's cell, 6F.[10] When Turner and Drake arrived at Tuggle's cell, Smith and Faison were already there, and Smith was performing CPR. Smith asked for relief, so Drake did one set of chest compressions on Tuggle, then Smith took back over. Drake felt a "faint pulse" when she checked Tuggle's wrist and neck, and noticed that he was breathing "[a] little." (Drake Dep. 48-49, ECF No. 81-1.) Drake testified that she did not see any blood when doing chest compressions on Tuggle. She also stated that Tuggle had "a little food in his mouth" that other members of the medical response team swept out of his mouth. (Id. at 49.)

         Dr. Khairul Emran also responded to the Medical 10-18, and arrived to Tuggle's cell at approximately 12:30 p.m. He "checked [Tuggle] for [a] pulse but could not find it." (Death Summary 2, ECF No. 81-12.) In a "Death Summary" prepared by Dr. Emran on July 15, 2015, two days after Tuggle's death, he notes that while performing CPR on Tuggle, "the CPR nurses saw blood coming out of his mouth and nose." (Id.)

         At 12:30 p.m., the Richmond Ambulance Authority received a call to respond to the RCJC for "Cardiac Arrest." (Patient Care Rep. 1, ECF No. 81-8.) Four minutes later, at 12:34 p.m., Paramedic Samantha Bako, EMT Eric Meyer, and members of the Richmond Fire Department arrived at Tuggle's cell. Smith was administering CPR when Bako and Meyer arrived. Bako testified that, when she and Meyer arrived at Tuggle's cell, she observed the medical personnel "backing away, they didn't want to give information, and nobody-no one even said they didn't know what happened at that time, they just backed away." (Bako Dep. 68, ECF No. 81-9.) In the Patient Care Report that Bako filled out after responding to the emergency call, she wrote:

When EMS arrived on scene and asked what was going on[J staff at the jail didn't answer EMS[. I]t took several attempts and for the fire fighters to say [J "[H]ey can someone tell us what's going on" before staff at the jail acknowledged EMS.
Staff wouldn[']t give EMS report as to events leading up to cardiac arrest. Staff backed away from the [patient] and then ...

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