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Bennett v. Carter County Board of County Commissioners

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

April 17, 2019

JEANNE BENNETT, Administrator of, the Estate of Michael Manos, Deceased, Plaintiff,
CARTER COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS; CHRIS BRYANT, Sheriff of Carter County, in his official capacity; MILTON ANTHONY, in his individual capacity; JOSH ADAMS, Deputy; and BRANTLEY MAXSON, Deputy; Defendants.



         This case arises out of Michael Manos's arrest, conviction and subsequent treatment at the Carter County Jail in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Mr. Manos is deceased, so the Plaintiff is his mother Jeanne Bennet, who is also the administrator of his estate. The Plaintiff sued a number of individuals and entities, including the remaining Defendants in the case, Chris Bryant, in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Carter County, Oklahoma; Milton Anthony, former sheriff, in his individual capacity; and deputies Josh Adams and Brantley Maxson, in their individual capacities. The claims against these Defendants are made pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and all have filed summary judgment motions. In accordance with its decisions announced on March 29, 2019, see Docket No. 240, the Court issues this opinion setting forth its reasons for: (i) granting the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendant, Deputy Brantley Maxson [Docket No. 172], the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendant Milton Anthony and Brief in Support [Docket No. 194] and Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendant Josh Adams and Brief in Support [Docket No. 195]; and, (ii) denying Defendant Sheriff Chris Bryant's Motion and Brief for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 182].

         I. Procedural History

         The Plaintiff filed this case on July 25, 2017, in this Court. In her Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged three causes of action against the various Defendants, but only the first and second implicate these four defendants.[1] The Plaintiff's First Claim for Relief is raised pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as to all four Defendants, alleging violations of the constitutional right to medical care and mental health care as to Defendants Adams and Maxson, and based on a policy or custom, as well as failure to train and failure to supervise as to Defendant Former Sheriff Anthony in his individual capacity and Defendant Sheriff Bryant in his official capacity. The Second Claim for Relief is raised pursuant to § 1983 as to Defendants Adams and Maxson, alleging violations of the constitutional right to humane conditions of confinement.

         II. Law Applicable

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows that “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 genuine issue of material fact exists when “there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The moving party must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986), with the evidence taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). However, “a party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . . or . . . showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         III. Factual Background

         The undisputed facts[2] reflect that beginning October 22, 2015, Manos was at the Carter County Jail serving a four-month sentence for assault and battery. When Anthony became sheriff, a policy and procedure manual was already in place, and he delegated training to Jail Administrator Michael Armstrong. Armstrong has no recollection of providing these policies to Jail staff from 2013 through 2015. Jail policy at all relevant times stated that medical care was to be delivered by a licensed physician and through the use of trained health care personnel. See Docket No. 183, Ex. 1 at p. 4. Likewise, all detention officers were to be trained in emergency first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“CPR”) with updated yearly training. Id. However, Carter County Jail had no licensed physician on staff, and instead had hired licensed registered nurse Kim Miller. She did not regularly review medication logs, although she had access to the logs and the Jail Entry Log.

         Manos had a history of mental illness, and upon his intake that day, a Medical Questionnaire indicated that he had high blood pressure and bipolar disorder. See Docket No. 183, Ex. 2. Furthermore, there were boxes checked indicating that he was currently under medical treatment and that he was currently taking medication prescribed by a doctor, but there were no further details on these two points because the “Explanation” section listed “n/a.” Id. It is undisputed that Manos was prescribed a number of medications for impairments including high blood pressure, diabetes, and bipolar disorder. Upon his incarceration, the Plaintiff provided those medications to the jail.

         Although there is some dispute about whether the jail would accept medications that had been opened, it appears the jail did accept at least some of Manos' medications because there is a medication log beginning October 22, 2015 for seven different medications. See Docket No. 183, Ex. 3. The Plaintiff challenges the veracity of these logs, asserting that there were discrepancies regarding pill count, and that logs were filled out prior to handing out medications to inmates. However, jailers testified that it was their process to fill out the logs, then have inmates initial or note “pass” when medications were accepted for refused. Based on the logs, Manos was fairly consistent in accepting his medications for the first few days, but began passing on some or all of them beginning October 28, 2015. He also began refusing some or all of his meals, beginning October 30, 2015.

         On October 27, 2015, Manos was moved to a holding cell following tensions with other inmates. The Carter County Jail policy for holding cells is that a deputy was required to observe each holding cell once per hour, or once every fifteen minutes if the inmate was suicidal or in need of medical observation. See Docket No. 183, Ex. 1, p. 1. Later that morning of October 27, jail staff moved Manos to cell A104, a medical cell where he was housed until November 7. The Carter County Jail has no separate specific policy for observance related to medical cells, but the general Jail policy requires documented hourly sight checks, as well as sight checks at least every half hour for inmates who were mentally or emotionally disturbed, identified as escape or suicide risks, or housed in disciplinary isolation. Id. at p. 3. The cells are under video surveillance, but that video footage was not preserved and is not part of the record in this case.

         On October 29, 2015, Manos smeared feces on himself and his cell, and had to be forcibly removed and showered. Defendant Adams testified that, around this time, he saw Manos laying in his feces, that he had informed Nurse Miller and Jail Administrator Michael Armstrong about Manos' behavior, and that he had been told they were working on it. On November 3, 2015, Jail Administrator Armstrong called an ambulance for Manos because he had been eating his own feces, and apparently smeared feces on himself and his cell. When EMTs arrived, Manos was naked and handcuffed on the floor of the dayroom at the jail, because his cell had been flooded and water was coming from the toilet. The Prehospital Care Report states that jailers reported to the EMTs that Manos had not eaten for five days (except for his own feces), and had also not had insulin for five days, and that he was “acting crazy.” Docket No. 183, Ex. 6. Neither Maxson nor Adams was present for this event. The EMTs twice checked Manos' blood sugar, which was normal, and did not transport him to the ER. The report states, “carter co decided pt was faking his craziness and decided not to transport, but clean him up and keep him instead.” Id. Deputy Johnny Denny signed a Refusal of Service for Manos. See Docket No. 183, Ex. 4.

         After the EMTs left, Manos was taken to the showers and had to be assisted to get his backside clean, and was then returned to his cell, which had also been cleaned. Manos continued to refuse most, but not all, food and medications. On November 6, 2015, Judge Thomas Baldwin of the District Court of Carter County issued an order releasing Manos upon time served, with the stipulation that he only be released to his mother (the Plaintiff herein) and a friend, Michael Crawford, on the condition that she transport him to the Veteran's Administration Facility in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. See Docket No. 182, Ex. 27. The Plaintiff has testified that she planned to pick him up on Sunday, November 8, 2015.

         On November 7, 2015, around 4:30 p.m., Adams and Maxson were conducting a sight check and noted Manos lying on the ground, growling and mumbling to himself. An hour later, Maxson returned to dispense medications and asked Manos four times if he wanted to take his medications. On the fourth time, Manos replied, “No.” Around 6:00 p.m., Maxson was passing out meal trays and Manos refused the dinner tray. He still had his uneaten lunch tray, which Maxson left in case Manos wanted it later. Adams picked up the meal trays, but left Manos' lunch tray after Manos said he would eat it “in a minute.” Around 8:50 p.m., Adams was passing out commissary, observed Manos lying on the floor close to the door, and asked Manos if he had eaten yet, to which Manos replied, “Not yet.”

         At 10:01 p.m., Maxson entered Manos's cell to ask if he wanted his medications, but could not get a verbal response from him even after tapping Manos' foot with his shoe. Maxson saw Manos' chest rise a few times, did not believe Manos was in distress, and continued with his medication pass. However, he began to suspect something was wrong with Manos and went to Adams with his concerns. They returned to Manos' cell and found him not breathing and with no detectable pulse; additionally, he had feces and urine smeared on him. Neither started CPR at that time. Adams went to the tower, and an ambulance was called at 10:10 p.m. Maxson relieved Deputy Corbin Whitener in the tower, and Whitener went to the cell to begin CPR; Adams also got two others to assist with CPR.

         EMTs arrived around 10:16 p.m. and were escorted to the cell where officers were trading off performing CPR. The Prehospital Care Report from EMTs notes that officers were switching partners for CPR upon their arrival, and noted that the inside of the cell was covered in feces. Manos was removed out of the cell for easier access and EMTs began CPR. They attempted to intubate him, but were unsuccessful due to feces in Manos's mouth, and were unsuccessful after multiple attempts. Manos was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead at 10:48 p.m. His probable cause of death was listed as pulmonary embolism, with diabetes and hypertension as significant contributing factors. Docket No. 208, Ex. 15.

         At the time of this incident Maxson had been through two weeks of on-the-job training but had not received annual jailer training or first aid/CPR training but had previously been trained in CPR in 2008. Adams had a current certification in CPR training. Defendant Anthony (the sheriff at the time) had no interaction with Manos during the time he was incarcerated at the jail.

         IV. Analysis

         Defendant Adams asserts that he is entitled to summary judgment because there is no evidence that he violated Manos's constitutional rights-either to medical care or humane conditions of confinement-and he is therefore entitled to qualified immunity. Defendant Maxson likewise asserts that there is no evidence he was deliberately indifferent to Manos' constitutional rights, and he is entitled to qualified immunity. Defendant Anthony asserts that Plaintiff cannot establish supervisory liability against him, and that he is therefore entitled to qualified immunity. Defendant Bryant, in his official capacity as the current sheriff, asserts that he is entitled to summary judgment because none of the jail employees violated Manos' constitutional rights, and furthermore, that no policy, practice, or custom at the jail caused a violation of his constitutional rights, that there is insufficient evidence of any alleged failure to supervise, and that the Plaintiff cannot identify a specific deficiency related to failure to train. The Plaintiff challenges all of these arguments, contending that the actions of Adams and Maxson constituted an underlying constitutional violation, that former sheriff Anthony is liable as a supervisor for constitutional violations, and that current sheriff Bryant is liable in his official capacity and is therefore likewise not entitled to summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the Defendants Adams, Maxson, and Anthony are entitled to qualified immunity and should therefore be granted summary judgment, but that the Defendant Bryant, in his official capacity as representative of the County, is not entitled to summary judgment.

         A. Individual Liability Claims.

         The Court first turns to the claims asserted by the Plaintiff against the Defendants Adams, Maxson and Anthony in their individual capacities. Such claims are subject to the defense of qualified immunity. See, e. g., Clark v. Wilson, 625 F.3d 686, 690 (10th Cir. 2010) (“The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”), quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009).

         “When a defendant asserts qualified immunity at summary judgment, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that: (1) the defendant violated a constitutional right and (2) the constitutional right was clearly established. The court may consider either of these prongs before the other ‘in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand.'” Cunningham v. New Mexico, 2014 WL 12791236, at *4 (D. N.M. May 2, 2014), quoting Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236 (emphasis added). “[P]rison officials who actually knew of a substantial risk to inmate health or safety may be found free from liability if they responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 844 (1994). “In other words, immunity protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.'” White v. Pauly, U.S., 137 S.Ct. 548, 551 (2017), quoting Mullenix v. Luna, U.S., 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015). “If, and only if, the plaintiff meets this two-part test does a defendant then bear the traditional burden of the movant for summary judgment-showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Rojas v. Anderson, 727 F.3d 1000, 1003 (10th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         1. The Claim for Failure to ...

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