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Scott v. Clarke

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

May 22, 2019

Cynthia B. Scott, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
Harold W. Clarke, ET AL., Defendants



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) (dkt. 554) and Defendants' Motion Pursuant to Rule 59(e) (dkt. 556). Both motions request alteration or amendment of the Court's January 2, 2019 Injunction (dkt. 545). For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part each motion.


         On January 2, 2019, the Court issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (dkt. 544) and entered an Injunction requiring remedial action on the part of the Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”) with respect to medical care to inmates at the Fluvanna (Va.) Correctional Center for Women (“FCCW”) (dkt. 545). The Findings of Fact set out the procedural history of the case as well as the Court's factual findings from a one-week trial. The Court concluded that, in some respects, Defendants breached the Settlement Agreement and the Court enforced the Agreement's terms through an Injunction. (Dkt. 544). The pending motions followed.


         Noting that the parties and Compliance Monitor had expertise that the Court necessarily lacks, the Court provided that the parties “may thus seek reconsideration of the relief tailored by the Court within the period provided by Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).” (Dkt. 544 at 51). Although Rule 59(e) provides no standard for when a court may grant such motion, courts recognize the following grounds: (1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants address four issues with respect to the Injunction. First, Defendants assert that Nurse Ellen Katzman did not testify that the equivalent of “78 full-time” nurses are needed to adequately staff FCCW. Second, Defendants assert that only pharmacists and physicians, not nurses or other personnel, may “dispense” medications and, therefore, the related provisions of the Injunction should be amended to use “administer” rather than “dispense.” Third, Defendants argue that the Court granted relief for a “cause of action” not pled. Fourth, Defendants assert that the Injunction improperly rewrites the Settlement Agreement. (Dkt. 557 at 1-10).

         Plaintiffs do not dispute Defendants' assertion that the “78 full-time” equivalents noted above refer to the FCCW medical team, including individuals other than nurses. Plaintiffs, however, request the Court amend the Injunction to require Defendants to staff the equivalent of 29 full-time Registered Nurses as well as require FCCW to have a sufficient proportion on a consistent basis to assure coverage on every shift, together with adequate Registered Nurse oversight of Licensed Practical Nurses on duty. Plaintiffs agree with Defendants that an amendment is appropriate to reflect that nurses “administer” medications rather than “dispense” medications.

         Plaintiffs request the Court order Defendants to collect certain information and findings, to be shared with the Compliance Monitor. Plaintiffs also request an amendment ordering Defendants to share with Plaintiffs all performance measure information provided by Defendants to the Compliance Monitor. Finally, Plaintiffs request the Court incorporate specific provisions of the Settlement Agreement into any amended Injunction. (Dkt. 555 at 1-16).

         A. Injunction Paragraph 5a.: Staffing Levels at FCCW

         1. Number of Equivalent Full-Time Nurses

         Injunction Paragraph 5a. currently provides that “Defendants shall . . . continuously staff FCCW with the equivalent of seventy-eight full-time nurses. Defendants shall document their daily staffing levels and make[] such documents(s) available to the compliance monitor.” (Dkt. 545 ¶ 5a.). The Injunction defines “nurse(s)” as “either license[d] practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).” (Dkt. 545 ¶ 2g.). This provision was based, in part, on the Court's factual finding that FCCW Nurse “Katzman and another nurse determined that the equivalent of ‘78 full time' nurses are needed to adequately staff FCCW.” (Dkt. 544, Finding of Fact (“FF”) ¶ 110 (citing dkt. 523 at 127)).

         Defendants assert that Katzman's testimony was that the total number of staff (not just nurses) needed to adequately staff FCCW's medical department was 78 full-time equivalents. (See Dkt. 523 at 127 (Katzman responding affirmatively to counsel's question if 78 full-time equivalents were necessary to “adequately staff” FCCW)). Defendants also point to the assessment of staff employed at FCCW as of May 10, 2018, which equaled 77.65 full-time equivalents, comprised of both nurse and non-nurse personnel, the latter including technicians, administrative personnel, physicians and physician assistants. (Dkt. 557-2 at 5; see dkt. 523 at 129 (Katzman testimony)).

         In sum, Defendants ask that Paragraph 5a. be amended to read: “The Medical Department at FCCW shall be staffed with a weekly average of seventy-eight full-time equivalents to include certified and non-certified medical personnel.” (Dkt. 557 at 4). The reference to “weekly average” is discussed below.

         Plaintiffs do not dispute that the seventy-eight full-time equivalents include non-nursing positions but reiterate the need for an injunction specifying that a certain number of nursing staff must be Registered Nurses, rather than Licensed Nurse Practitioners. Plaintiffs assert the Court can do so by relying upon the staffing needs set out by Katzman in the April 5, 2018 FCCW QA/CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) Meeting Minutes, which identified 15 total registered nurses working at FCCW (12 VDOC employees and 3 Armor employees) and a total of 13.7 full time employee vacancies (3 VDOC employees and 10.7 Armor employees), indicating the need for a total of 28.7 Registered Nurses at a minimum. (Dkt. 559 at 2 (citing DTX 12 at RFP900002918-49 and, specifically, RFP900002919-22)). Alternatively, Plaintiffs give the number 25.2 as a minimum full-time equivalent for Registered Nurses if the Court were to rely on the May 10, 2018 FCCW QA/CQI Meeting Minutes attached to Defendants' brief in support of their ...

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