United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY K. FRIZZELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
case comes before the court on remand. On appeal, the circuit
panel determined that plaintiff Clyde Allen Rife established
a genuine issue of material fact on his civil rights claims
that defendants Joe Jefferson, Jonathon Willis, Chad Dale,
and the McCurtain County Jail Trust (the “Remand
Defendants”) denied him medical attention during
pretrial detention for injuries sustained in a single-vehicle
motorcycle accident. Rife v. Okla. Dep't of Pub.
Safety, 4 F.3d 637');">854 F.3d 637 (10th Cir. 2017). The panel
remanded for decisions on the following narrow questions: (1)
whether Mr. Rife's constitutional right to medical care
was clearly established; and (2) whether a reasonable fact
finder could identify a causal link between the McCurtain
County Jail Trust's policies or customs and the violation
of Mr. Rife's constitutional right, id. at 642.
judgment shall be granted if “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A
dispute is “genuine” if the evidence permits a
rational trier of fact to resolve the issue either way.
Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 644');">144 F.3d 644, 670
(10th Cir. 1998). A fact is “material” if it is
essential to the outcome of the case. Id. On review,
a court must examine the record in the light most favorable
to the party opposing summary judgment. Wolf v.
Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 50 F.3d 793, 796 (10th Cir.
1995). But “the nonmoving party may not rest on its
pleadings [and] must set forth specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial as to those dispositive
matters for which it carries the burden of proof.”
Applied Genetics Int'l, Inc. v. First Affiliated
Secs., Inc., 12 F.2d 1238');">912 F.2d 1238, 1241 (10th Cir. 1990).
Indeed, bare allegations, without evidentiary support, will
not suffice. See Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v.
Kinder, No. 11-CV-450-GKF-PJC, 2012 WL 5494926, at *2
(N.D. Okla. Nov. 13, 2012).
1983 provides a cause of action against any person who
deprives an individual of federal rights or liberties under
color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. But qualified
immunity operates as a complete defense. See Olsen v.
Layton Hills Mall, 12 F.3d 1304');">312 F.3d 1304, 1312 (10th Cir. 2002).
To defeat an assertion of immunity, a plaintiff must show
that: (1) alleged conduct violated a constitutional right;
and (2) the law clearly established that right at the time of
the defendants' actions. Shrum v. City of Coweta,
Okla., 449 F.3d 1132');">449 F.3d 1132, 1138 (10th Cir. 2006). Here, Mr.
Rife has alleged a violation of his right to custodial
medical attention by the Remand Defendants. See
Rife, 854 F.3d at 647-54. As previously stated, the
remanded questions are: (1) as to all Remand Defendants,
whether those rights were clearly established; and (2) as to
the McCurtain County Jail Trust, whether a causal link exists
between its policies or customs and the violation of Mr.
Rife's rights. Id. The court addresses each
question in turn.
Whether Mr. Rife's Right to Custodial Medical Attention
Was Clearly Established
a clearly established right, the court need not conduct
“a scavenger hunt for prior cases with precisely the
same facts.” See Pierce v. Gilchrist, 359 F.3d
1279, 1298 (10th Cir. 2004). Rather, the relevant inquiry is
“whether the law put officials on fair notice that the
described conduct was unconstitutional.” See
Id. “[A] general constitutional rule”
already in existence can ‘apply with obvious clarity to
the specific conduct in question, even though the very action
in question has [not] previously been held
unlawful.'” See Anderson v. Blake, 469
F.3d 910, 914 (10th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hope v.
Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002) (internal quotation and
citation omitted)). To that end, the court looks to Supreme
Court decisions, Tenth Circuit precedent, and the
“clearly established weight of authority from other
[federal] courts.” See Dodds v. Richardson,
14 F.3d 1185');">614 F.3d 1185, 1206 (10th Cir. 2010).
detainees are not men without countries, persons without any
clearly defined rights.” See Blackmon v.
Sutton, 4 F.3d 1237');">734 F.3d 1237, 1240 (10th Cir. 2013) (emphasis
omitted). Indeed, “[b]y 1997, it was beyond debate that
a pretrial detainee enjoys at least the same
constitutional protections as a convicted criminal.”
See Id. at 1240-41 (emphasis in original). Such
protections include “[t]he right to custodial medical
care.” See Olsen, 312 F.3d at 1315 (citing
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97');">429 U.S. 97 (1976)). And
“[w]here disputed material facts implicate . . .
whether a serious medical need existed or whether an officer
was deliberately indifferent to it, a court may not grant
summary judgment.” See Id. at 1315-16.
the circuit panel found the following facts give rise to an
actionable deliberate indifference claim. With respect to
defendant Jefferson, the trooper who transported Mr. Rife to
jail: knowledge that Mr. Rife was involved in a motorcycle
accident; the presence of grass stains on Mr. Rife's
paints and shirt indicating he was thrown from his
motorcycle; dried blood on Mr. Rife's nose; Mr.
Rife's inability to remember the date, time, what he did
that day, or his social security number; physical symptoms,
including miosis, nystagmus, dizziness, and lethargy;
statements by Mr. Rife that he felt sick and
“floaty”; Mr. Rife's complaints about head
and chest; and video-recorded evidence of Mr. Rife's
groaning in Jefferson's squad car. See Rife, 854
F.3d at 648-49. With respect to defendants Willis and Dale,
the jailhouse detention officers: knowledge that Mr. Rife was
arrested for public intoxication; physical symptoms,
including dizziness and confusion; the presence of grass
stains on Mr. Rife's paints and shirt; dried blood on Mr.
Rife's nose; the fact Mr. Rife was dazed; the absence of
alcohol on Mr. Rife's breath; Mr. Rife's loud
groaning and moaning as recounted in a fellow arrestee's
declaration, which “unambiguously indicate[d] that Mr.
Rife was obviously in pain when he entered the holding
cell”; and the placement of Mr. Rife on medical
observation. Id. at 650-53. Both sets of facts raise
genuine issues of material fact as to the violation of Mr.
Rife's rights under § 1983. Id.
briefing, the Remand Defendants did not seriously dispute
that the right to medical attention was clearly established
at time it was violated. See [Doc. No. 43, pp.
29-30] (Mot. for Summ. J. of Defs. Tadlock, McClain, Dale,
and Willis) (failing to raise “clearly
established” argument); [Doc. No. 90, pp. 9-10] (Reply
in Support of Mot. for Summ. J. of Defs. Okla. Dep't of
Pub. Safety, Jefferson, McCurtain Cty. Jail Trust, Dale, and
Willis) (failing to respond to Mr. Rife's “clearly
established” argument). But at a telephonic hearing
held post-remand, they changed course, arguing the right to
medical attention in these specific circumstances was not
sufficiently particularized under newly established
law-specifically, White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548');">137 S.Ct. 548
(2017), and Aldaba v. Pickens, 44 F.3d 870');">844 F.3d 870 (2016).
court's experience, new constitutional rules are not
normally announced with language like: “[t]oday, it is
again necessary to reiterate the longstanding principle,
” White, 137 S.Ct. at 552; or “[the
court] repeated its earlier direction, ”
Aldaba, 844 F.3d at 872. To be sure, rights
“should not be defined at a high level of
generality.” White, 137 S.Ct. at 552
(quotation marks and citation omitted). And “the
violative nature of the particular conduct must be
clearly established.” Pickens, 844 F.3d at 877
(quotation marks and citations omitted) (emphasis in
original). But “[a] prior case need not have identical
facts.” See Patel v. Hall, 49 F.3d 970');">849 F.3d 970, 980
(10th Cir. 2017). The question “is whether it would
have been clear to a reasonable officer that his or her
conduct was unlawful in the situation.” See
Id. (quotation marks, citations, and alterations
caselaw clearly establishes Mr. Rife's constitutional
right to medical attention as a pretrial detainee for
injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. See, e.g.,
Garcia v. Salt Lake Cty., 768 F.2d 303, 307-08 (10th
Cir. 1985) (affirming jury verdict); Barton v.
Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 965-67 (8th Cir. 2016); Marquez
v. Bd. of Cty. Com'rs Eddy Cty., No. 11-CV-838
JAP/WDS, 2012 WL 12895017, at *7-8 (D.N.M. Dec. 3, 2012)
(denying summary judgment), aff'd 543
F.App'x 803 (10th Cir. 2013); Kraft v. Laney,
No. CIV S-04-129 GGH, 2005 WL 2042310, at *20-23 (E.D. Cal.
Aug. 24, 2005). And the fact Mr. Rife was suspected of
intoxication does not change the result. Indeed, in many
cases, individuals arrested for DUI will require medical
attention for injuries sustained in an accident. See
Barton, 820 F.3d at 965-67; Marquez, 2012 WL
12895017, at *7-8. It is the medical need, not the offense
charged, that triggers a person's right to medical
attention upon custodial arrest. See Self v. Crum,
439 F.3d 1227');">439 F.3d 1227, 1230-31 (10th Cir. 2006); Marquez,
2012 WL 12895017, at *7-8. So, whether Mr. Rife was injured
by the motorcycle accident-as defendant Jefferson should have
known-or impaired from intoxication-as defendants Wallis and
Dale believed-his symptoms clearly established a right to
medical attention during his transport to and detention at
the McCurtain County Jail. See, e.g.,
Garcia, 768 F.2d at 307-08; Barton v.
Taber, 820 F.3d at 965-67; Marquez, 2012 WL
12895017, at *7-8.
Mr. Rife has produced evidence upon which a reasonable jury
could find deliberate indifference to his clearly established
right to medical attention following a motorcycle accident,
defendant Jefferson is not entitled to summary judgment on
his qualified immunity defense. See Olsen, 312 F.3d
at 1315-16. And because Mr. Rife has produced evidence upon
which a reasonable jury could find deliberate indifference to
his clearly established right to medical attention when
placed in a holding cell while “obviously in pain,