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Wood v. City of Lancaster

January 13, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dalzell, J.


Plaintiff Curtis Wood, administrator of the estate of Devon Lee Reid, sued the City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, certain of its police officers, Lancaster County, and certain of its prison officials and personnel for their alleged involvement in Reid's death on September 17, 2004 while in Lancaster County Prison ("LCP"). Wood later voluntarily dismissed his claims against the City of Lancaster and its police officers.

We have already granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Darlene Cauler and Elizabeth Haddox, two nurses at LCP. The remaining defendants are Lancaster County, Warden Vincent Guarini, Corrections Officer James Flaherty, Mental Health Counselor Troy Waltz (together the "County defendants"), Dr. Robert Doe, who was the prison medical director in 2004, and Dr. Stephen Powers, who was the prison psychiatrist in 2004.

Wood asserts violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and state law wrongful death claims against all the remaining defendants. He asserts Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dr. Doe, Dr. Powers, Waltz, and Flaherty. Wood also asserts a Monell claim against Lancaster County and Warden Guarini, as the decision-maker for the prison, as well as a supervisory liability claim against Warden Guarini. All defendants have moved for summary judgment on each claim against them. We resolve those motions now.

I. Factual Background

We will first describe certain LCP policies, procedures, departments, and personnel to place the events from July 16, 2004 to September 17, 2004 in context. We will then at length detail the events culminating in the death of Devon Lee Reid, and finally consider the plaintiff's expert medical reports and Dr. Doe's explanation of his service to his late patient.

A. Lancaster County Prison

LCP's medical and mental health policies, procedures, and personnel play a significant role in this case. We shall first describe Warden Guarini's role in establishing LCP's mental health policies and procedures. We will next present the roles that Dr. Doe and Dr. Powers respectively played in the hospital, and what administrative and diagnostic procedures they used. We shall then view LCP's mental health policies and procedures in effect when Reid was incarcerated there.

1. Warden Guarini

Warden Guarini was the chief executive of LCP. Pl.'s Mem. Ex. N [Guarini Dep.] at 5. He had a hand in most LCP policy. Id. Warden Guarini formulated LCP mental health and medical policy in consultation with the prison medical director. Id. His role was to work out the security implications and concerns attendant to implementing an overall medical policy.

Id. Medical staff made all medical and mental health decisions, and other than those medical staff administratively reporting to Warden Guarini, he did not exercise any specific oversight of the medical staff or of their decisions. Id. at 6-7.

2. Doctors Doe and Powers

Dr. Robert Doe and Dr. Stephen Powers, respectively the prison's medical director and psychiatrist, were independent contractors. Doe Mem. Ex. 2 [Doe Dep.] at 10; Powers Mem. Ex. C [Powers Dep.] at 33.

Dr. Doe supervised the medical department and was responsible for medical decisions and signing off on the actions of nurses and mental health counselors. Doe Dep. at 21. In particular, Dr. Doe had to sign off on any additions to an inmate-patient's charts, any drug prescriptions, and any changes to Suicide Status. Id. at 84-85. When an inmate complained about a medical issue, a nurse would initially evaluate the inmate and either treat him or put him on a schedule to see the doctor. Id. at 35. Dr. Doe would only examine an inmate if a nurse referred that inmate to him. Id. at 35.

Although Dr. Doe was the medical director of the prison, he did not have significant oversight over how Dr. Powers treated patients. Dr. Doe would review some cases with Dr. Powers, but this was primarily for the purpose of his own edification rather than as a means of supervising Dr. Powers. Powers Dep. at 37-38. In general, Dr. Doe deferred to the psychiatrists and mental health counselors on most mental health decisions. Doe Dep. at 31-32

Dr. Powers spent two half-days each week at the prison seeing inmates. Powers Dep. at 34. Dr. Powers only saw patients referred to him by mental health counselors. Id. at 36. He relied on the prison personnel to provide him with information about an inmate's problematic behavior. Id. at 40. It was also understood that the counselors and corrections officers would update Dr. Powers about changes in, or worsening of, a particular inmate's behavior. Id. at 40-41. Although Dr. Powers relied on the counselors and corrections officers to bring him patients and news about the changes in their behavior, he did not rely on their assessments of the inmates' behavior when making his diagnoses. Id. at 69-70.

3. Mental Health Status Policy and Procedure

LCP had four official levels of suicide status and mental health status. Pl.'s Mem. Ex. D at 1020-21. LCP placed an inmate on Suicide Status I if the inmate stated that he or she planned suicide and would act on it. Id. at 1020. When on this status, corrections officers were required to make random checks to personally observe the inmate every fifteen minutes. Id. LCP would place an inmate on Suicide Status II if that inmate "expresse[d] hopelessness, but has no current plan on how they would harm themselves." Id. Again, when an inmate was placed on this status, corrections officers must make random fifteen minute checks. Id. If an inmate was placed on either Suicide Status I or II, they had to be housed in a cell with a camera. Id.

Mental Health Status Levels III and IV were not suicide watch status. Id. at 1021. LCP used these Levels to observe inmates who "exhibit[ed] signs of mental health concerns [through] his thoughts or actions" or the "individual need[ed] to be observed, so a further determination can be made concerning individual['s] mental status." Id. at 1021. These two Levels constituted Medical Observation Status, and only required corrections officers to make random checks every thirty minutes. Id. LCP did not require inmates on these mental health status levels to be housed in a camera cell.

After making the decision to put an inmate on Suicide Status or Medical Observation Status, medical staff would have an inmate on such status transferred to the Medical Housing Unit ("MHU"). Id. at 1022. Medical staff then submitted an unusual activity report, assessed the patient's clinical conditions and mental status, and notified the medical director to get a verbal order for the level of Suicide Status. Id. Medical staff were to review the mental health status of inmates in the MHU at least every twenty-four hours. Id. at 1025-31. During their fifteen and thirty minute random checks on inmates in the MHU, corrections officers were to speak to the inmate and see if he or she responded. Doe Dep. at 71; Guarini Dep. at 22. If they were non-responsive, the officer was to call a code that would bring down nurses and other medical staff on duty. Doe Dep. at 71-72.

According to the official procedures, the decision to put an inmate on, or take him off, Suicide Status was to be a "medical staff decision" about which the prison physician had the final say. Pl.'s Mem. Ex. D at 1022, 1025-31. During Reid's incarceration at LCP, the prison physician in question was Dr. Doe. Doe Dep. at 31. But other medical staff, i.e., nurses and mental health counselors, could take "precautionary measures" when the prison physician was not available. Pl.'s Mem. Ex. D at 1022.

Dr. Doe testified that a physician had to sign off on the decision to move an inmate into or out of the camera cell, but that a mental health counselor or nurse usually would make the initial decision. Doe Dep. at 31. Counselors and nurses could also move an inmate onto or off of Suicide Status or Medical Observation Status without a physician examining the inmate. Id. at 47-48. Dr. Doe would not personally evaluate the inmate in a camera cell, or talk with the counselors about the decision, but he would review the note made in the progress chart and sign off on the decision. Id. If there was a medical problem with an inmate, it was the obligation of the nurses to notify a physician. Id. at 32. If there was a psychiatric issue, then it was the obligation of the nurses to notify the mental health counselors who, if necessary, would notify the psychiatrist. Id. at 32-33.

Dr. Doe could occasionally disagree with the mental health counselors' assessments. Id. at 84. Dr. Doe rarely saw a patient before signing off on a change in suicide status. Doe Dep. at 93. He testified that he had done it perhaps two or three times during his ten years at LCP. Id. If the nurse or mental health counselor was uncertain about making the change, the physician would see the inmate. Id. If the nurse or mental health counselor was certain in their judgment, Dr. Doe would defer to it. Id. at 93-94.

B. The Death of Devon Lee Reid

Devon Lee Reid was twenty-six years old, six feet four inches tall, and weighed about 265 pounds when he entered LCP on July 16, 2004. Doe Mem. Ex. 1 at 87. This was not his first time in LCP. He had been jailed several times before, and had had contact with some, if not all, of the people involved in this case. Doe Dep. at 24; Powers Dep. at 74, 83-84, 87-94; Waltz Dep. at 10. Those who were asked said that Reid had been a likeable fellow, was somewhat shy and was easily bullied by those smaller than he. Flaherty Dep. at 34; Pl.'s Mem. Ex. G1*fn1 at 7, Ex. G2 [Waltz Dep.] at 42-43.

1. Reid's Prior Mental Health History

Reid had been hospitalized for mental health issues seven or eight times. Powers. Dep. at 50, Ex. 4. On November 6, 2002, Reid was admitted to Lancaster General Hospital because he had purposefully overdosed on medication and drank bleach. Powers Dep. Ex. 5. The psychiatrist who saw Reid noted that Reid stated that he suffered from auditory hallucinations and fears that someone was out to get him. Id. That psychiatrist diagnosed Reid as paranoid schizophrenic and prescribed medication. Id.

On April 10, 2003, while incarcerated at LCP, Reid met with Dr. Robin Miller. Powers Dep. at 74, Ex. 4. Reid told Dr. Miller that he was having bad hallucinations that told him to kill himself. Id. Dr. Miller diagnosed Reid as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and prescribed Haldol and Cogentin for him. Id.

Later that year, while still at LCP, Reid met with Dr. Stephen Powers, who had taken over as the prison psychiatrist from Dr. Miller. Reid and Dr. Powers initially met on September 25, 2003 as a follow-up to Reid's visit with Dr. Miller. Powers Dep. at 83-84, Ex. 3. During this visit, Reid told Dr. Powers that he did not recall any hallucinations, his tongue was protruding for the past couple of months, and he felt stiff and slow. Id. Dr. Powers observed that Reid was communicative and in good spirits. Id. Dr. Powers reduced the dose of Haldol that Reid was taking, and began to question the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Id.

Dr. Powers had planned to meet with Reid again on October 23, 2003, but Reid declined the visit. Powers Dep. at 87, Ex. 7. Either through Dr. Powers going to Reid's cell or the counselor's reports, Dr. Powers recorded in a progress note that Reid was not showing any behavioral problems though his tongue was still protruding, but less so. Id.

Dr. Powers followed up with Reid on November 28, 2003. Powers Dep. at 89-93, Ex. 8. During this visit, Dr. Powers observed that Reid stated that he was having trouble breathing and speaking, which Dr. Powers attributed to the reduction in the Haldol dose. Id. Reid also stated that he thought people had "worked together against him." Powers Dep. at 90. Dr. Powers noted that when Reid said this he was smiling and unafraid, which was not what Dr. Powers would have expected from someone diagnosed as paranoid. Id. at 91-92. Dr. Powers decided to take Reid off the Haldol and replace it with Vitamin E. Id. at 92. Dr. Powers still diagnosed Reid as a chronic paranoid schizophrenic, but was now much less certain -- his notes reflected the possibility that this had been the diagnosis because it "[a]lways made sense to counselors." Id.

Dr. Powers met with Reid again on January 16, 2004. Powers Dep. at 93-94, Ex. 9. Dr. Powers recorded that Reid was "[g]etting [a]long", "[h]aving trouble keeping food down", "[h]aving sharp chest pains and gained a lot of weight." Id. at 93. Dr. Powers also noted that Reid seemed cheerful, responsive, not suicidal, and was relating well and openly. Id. at 94. Reid's tongue had also stopped bothering him. Id. Based on all of this, Dr. Powers began to "seriously doubt schizophrenic diagnosis", and decided to cease medicating Reid with psychotropic drugs. Id.

At some point after this, Reid was released from LCP.

2. Back in LCP

On July 15, 2004, City of Lancaster Police arrested Reid. After subduing him, the police took Reid to the hospital because they had hit him with a baton on the leg and wrist.

Pl.'s Mem. Ex. B at 59-61. After an evaluation at the hospital, Reid was brought to LCP at about 8:20 a.m. on July 16, 2004.*fn2

Id. at 58.

Initially, LCP personnel interviewed Reid about his medical history. He completed two different questionnaires in which he complained about pain in his wrist and legs, told his interviewers that he suffered from schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, had been hospitalized for mental health issues, and had attempted suicide two or three years earlier. Id. at 88; Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. D. On one of the forms, Reid also stated that he was not taking any medications at the time for his mental illness. Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. D.

A nurse also interviewed Reid on July 16, 2004. Id. Ex. E. During this interview Reid stated that he had been committed "for 'acute anxiety attack'", suffered from bi-polar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, and had been taking Seroquel for his mental issues while committed but had stopped since his release because he felt he did not need them. Id. The nurse noted that Reid should be scheduled to see the psychiatrist. Id. The next day, the same nurse again examined Reid, this time for the pain in Reid's right wrist and bruising on both thighs, which Reid stated resulted from the police subduing him. Id.

On July 20, 2004 a nurse examined Reid's wrist again, and treated him for a laceration. Id. Ex. F. Two days later, another nurse examined Reid for complaints of burning urination and green discharge, and prescribed antibiotics. Id. On August 2, 2004, Reid requested medical attention because there were green spots on his underwear, he had pain in his chest and throat, and he was coughing up mucus. Id. Ex. H. Reid was given cold medication and scheduled for a sick call. Id.

That same day, Sherry Gerhart of the Lancaster County Mental Health Mental Retardation Office ("MHMR") emailed mental health counselor Troy Waltz. Pl.'s Mem. Ex. G1 at 15-18, Ex. 2. The email consisted of a list of individuals incarcerated at LCP who were also patients of MHMR. Id. Waltz explained that he had emailed Gerhart a list of incarcerated individuals that he thought may have been MHMR patients to find out who each one's MHMR case manager might be. Waltz Dep. at 6-7. Although Gerhart provided Waltz with Reid's case manager's name, there is no record that Waltz contacted this case manager. Id. at 8.

On August 5, 2004, defendant Dr. Doe examined Reid for continued complaints about his wrist. Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. I; Doe Dep. at 33. Dr. Doe observed swelling over the lateral right wrist. Doe Dep. at 34. Reid explained to Dr. Doe that the injury occurred during his arrest. Id. Dr. Doe ordered an x-ray and a follow-up visit a week later. Id. At no time during this visit did Reid complain about chest pains or shortness of breath. Id. at 33-34.

A private company evaluated the x-ray on August 6, 2004 and determined that Reid had a fracture of his right wrist. Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. J.

That day Reid made another request for medical attention. Id. Ex. K. Reid again complained of green spots on his underwear and coughing up mucus; he also stated that he was dizzy, experiencing blurry vision, feeling nauseous, and suffering from chest pains. Id.

Four days later, Dr. Doe's physician's assistant examined Reid regarding these symptoms. Id. Ex. I. The physician's assistant noted that the chest pains signaled a diagnosis of costochondritis*fn3 because Reid's chest wall was tender to palpation, i.e., the pain could be reproduced by touching the area, and Reid's lungs were "[c]lear to auscultation," i.e., the physician's assistant listened to Reid's lungs and determined they were clear. Doe Dep. at 69, 90-91; Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. I; Pl.'s Mem. Ex. B at 91. The physician's assistant recorded Reid's complaints about blurred vision and dizziness as well as tenderness in his right wrist. Pl.'s Mem. Ex. B at 91. The progress note also reflects that when Reid told the physician's assistant that he only drank six cups of water each day, the physician's assistant encouraged Reid to double his intake. Id.

On August 12, 2004, Dr. Doe saw Reid again. Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. N; Doe Dep. at 36. It is uncertain whether the physician's assistant's notes were part of the chart at the time Dr. Doe saw Reid. Doe Dep. 37-38. However, Dr. Doe did review the August 10, 2004 progress note the physician's assistant had completed before seeing Reid. Doe Dep. at 40-41; Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. I. Dr. Doe did not recall Reid complaining about his chest during his August 12, 2004 visit, and Dr. Doe concentrated his attention on Reid's wrist. Doe Dep. at 36, 39, 40, 41. Dr. Doe referred Reid to an orthopedic specialist, who Reid saw on August 23, 2004.*fn4 Id. at 41; Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. N, Q. Dr. Doe did not meet with Reid in person again. Doe Dep. at 43.

On August 17, 2004, Reid again sought medical attention. Lancaster County Def.'s Mem. Ex. O. Reid complained of headaches, chest pains, back pain, lightheadedness when standing, phlegm in his throat, and problems with his kidneys, bladder, and stomach. Id. He also specifically requested that he be tested for "multiple sclerosis, emphysema, cancer, West Nile virus, mercury, diabetes, anemia, sickle cell, hernia, transverse myelitis, and Guillain-Barre." Id. Two days later, Reid reiterated his request for testing and added Hepatitis C and scabies to the list of potential ailments. Id. Ex. P. A nurse responded to Reid's medical request and asked him to list the specific symptoms he was experiencing because LCP "would not test you unless you have symptoms." Id.

3. On And Off Suicide Status

On August 28, 2004, Reid informed one of the nurses that he had "just decided" that he was "going to kill himself," and at 4:15 a.m. Reid was placed on Suicide Status I in a camera cell. Id. Ex. R. That same day at about 7:00 p.m., a mental health counselor, Carrie McWilliams, interviewed Reid. Id. McWilliams noted that Reid stated that he was regularly being robbed and having problems on his cell block and that "he would not be suicidal if moved to any block but 3-1." Id. McWilliams noted that Reid was making eye contact, was smiling, was not exhibiting suicidal ideation, and should be removed from suicide status. Id.

At around 9:15 p.m. Reid refused to be moved to cell block 3-2, and McWilliams met with Reid again. Id. Ex. S, T. McWilliams noted this time that Reid said that "he could not go to 3-1 or 3-2. [Reid] stated that he would rather move to C-2, but said he would end up right back in MHU. [Reid] said he could not guarantee his safety on C-2." Id. Ex. S. McWilliams noted that she believed that Reid was manipulating the prison rules, but that he should be kept on Suicide Status I because of his "threats of self-harm." Id.

For the next day and a half Reid remained on Suicide Status I in the MHU without incident. Id.

At about 9:30 a.m. on August 30, 2004, mental health counselor Troy Waltz interviewed Reid. Id. Waltz noted that Reid stated that "he needs to be moved off of MHU now [because] people are 'crazy down here.' [Reid] states he is fine, not suicidal." Id. Waltz noted that Reid was smiling, attentive, alert, and did not exhibit suicidal ideation. Id. Waltz also noted that he believed Reid was "malingering" and should be removed from all status. Id. That same day, at about 5:00 p.m., the Associate Warden of LCP formally notified Reid that the prison was placing him on manipulation status for a thirty day period because of his actions over the previous days.*fn5 Id. Ex. U. Reid was returned to cell block 3-2. See id. Ex. V.

At about 10:15 p.m. on September 1, 2008, corrections officers on cell block 3-2 called the medical department to have a nurse come and check on Reid because he had cut his wrists.

Id. The nurse went down to Reid's cell and observed that he had dried and fresh blood on his face, hands, and shirt, he had a laceration on his left wrist, and prison personnel had found a pen that had been torn apart and sharpened. Id. The nurse cleaned and treated Reid's wrist, but did not refer Reid to Dr. Doe because the wound was superficial. Id; Doe Dep. at 47. The nurse noted in the ...

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