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Marva Baez, Individually and As Administratrix of the Estate of v. Lancaster County

October 18, 2011


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


This is the unfortunate case of Luis Villafane who took his own life while incarcerated at Lancaster County Prison ("LCP"). Plaintiff, Marva Baez, brings this civil rights action on behalf of her deceased brother as the Administratrix of his estate. The Plaintiff alleges claims against Lancaster County, Warden Vincent Guarini, and several prison employees for failing to prevent his tragic suicide. These claims primarily allege constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1982.*fn1

In addition to allegations against the Lancaster Defendants, Plaintiff initially filed this suit against PrimeCare Medical, Inc. ("PrimeCare") and medical personnel who treated Mr. Villafane. The medical personnel determined that Mr. Villafane was not suicidal and could be housed in general population rather than remain on suicide status in the medical housing unit. Plaintiff subsequently withdrew all claims against PrimeCare and the medical personnel. The remaining defendants in this case filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the motion.


A. Mr. Villafane's Admission to LCP

Mr. Villafane was committed to LCP as a pre-trial detainee on September 22, 2008, after he was arrested on two charges of rape, aggravated assault, indecent assault and corruption of a person less than 13 years of age stemming from the sexual assault of a child in 2001. (Doc. No. 24, ¶ 1-2.) On the same day that he entered LCP, Nurse Holly Campbell evaluated Mr. Villafane and asked him a series of questions about his medical and mental history. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Although Mr. Villafane stated that he was not feeling suicidal, Nurse Campbell placed Mr. Villafane on suicide watch because he claimed that he had recently experienced the loss of his mother, he answered "no" when asked if he had anything to look forward to, and he stated that he had previously attempted suicide. (Id. at ¶ 4.)

The following day, Dr. Robert Shambaugh, an outside medical provider for LCP, evaluated Mr. Villafane pursuant to PrimeCare‟s procedures. (Id. at ¶ 2.) Dr. Shambaugh is a clinical psychologist employed by PrimeCare as the mental health supervisor for LCP. (Id. at ¶ 5.) LCP and PrimeCare have a policy, program and procedure outlining different levels of suicide and mental health procedures for inmates for the purpose of preventing psychotic or depressed inmates from harming themselves and attempting to commit suicide.*fn3 (Id. at ¶ 92-93.) After evaluating Mr. Villafane, Dr. Shambaugh cleared him for general population because he was relaxed, calm, and in good spirits and denied having any suicidal thoughts. (Id. at ¶ 5.) Dr. Shambaugh opined that Mr. Villafane did not present a serious risk for suicide. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Dr. Shambaugh*fn4 also opined that inmates who are taken off suicide status might still be suicidal. (Doc. No. 30, ¶ 8.)

B. Use of Force Incident

On November 1, 2008, at approximately 8:18 p.m., Mr. Villafane was in line with other inmates for church services on Pod G-1, where he was housed. (Doc. No. 24, ¶ 11.) Officer Andrew Brommer gave standard instructions to inmates, including Mr. Villafane, not to talk in the hallway while lining up for church. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Mr. Villafane started to yell "Ok, tough guy" while Officer Brommer was attempting to speak. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Officer Koltz, who observed that Mr. Villafane was disobeying Officer Brommer‟s instructions, asked Mr. Villafane to step out of line, informed him that he was not permitted to go to church, and instructed Mr. Villafane to secure to his cell. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Mr. Villafane demanded to speak to a supervisor. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Officer Koltz called Sergeant Jacob, the sergeant on duty, and told him that he had given Mr. Villafane several instructions to secure to his cell and that Mr. Villafane was disobeying those instructions and demanding to see a supervisor. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Sergeant Jacob could hear Mr. Villafane yelling in the background that he wanted to see a supervisor. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Sergeant Jacob told Officer Koltz to instruct Mr. Villafane to return to his cell or he would come down and return him to his cell. (Id. at ¶ 19.) When Mr. Villafane again refused to return to his cell, Officer Koltz called a Code 13, which means an officer needs assistance. (Id. at ¶ 21.)

Sergeant Jacob left the office, accompanied by Officer Brackbill and Officer Zimmerman, to enter Pod G-1. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Sergeant Jacob asked Mr. Villafane to lock up and Mr. Villafane said "no." (Id. at ¶ 23.) Sergeant Jacob began to escort Mr. Villafane by taking hold of his left arm as Officer Zimmerman took hold of Mr. Villafane‟s right arm. (Id. at ¶ 23.) As they began to escort Mr. Villafane, Mr. Villafane struggled and resisted, despite Sergeant Jacob‟s instructions to stop resisting. (Id. at ¶ 24.)*fn5 As the officers were attempting to put Mr. Villafane‟s hands behind his back, the officers fell to the floor with Mr. Villafane as he continued to struggle. (Id. at ¶ 25.) Sergeant Jacob gave repeated instructions for Mr. Villafane to stop resisting, but Mr. Villafane ignored these instructions. (Id. at ¶ 26.) Sergeant Jacob then deployed the Electronic Body Immobilization Device ("E.B.I.D.") between Mr. Villafane‟s shoulder blades for approximately 9-10 seconds. (Id. at ¶ 26.) The E.B.I.D. has a safety timer that prevents it from being dispersed for more than 15 seconds. (Id. at ¶ 27.) A few seconds after using the E.B.I.D., Mr. Villafane pulled his arms out from underneath him and the officers were able to get control of his arms and handcuffed him. (Id. at ¶ 28.)

After Mr. Villafane was handcuffed, officers escorted him to the medical unit. (Id. at ¶ 29.) The officers stayed with him while Nurse Stephanie Astree and Nurse Campbell examined him. (Id. at ¶ 29.) Mr. Villafane stated that he was having thoughts of hurting himself which had been getting worse since his mother had died. (Id. at ¶ 31.) Nurse Campell placed Mr. Villafane on Suicide Status I. (Id.) Mr. Villafane was treated for a chipped front tooth and a laceration to his lip, which required treatment at Lancaster General Hospital. (Id. at ¶ 30.)

C. Dr. Shambaugh's Evaluation

Dr. Shambaugh evaluated Mr. Villafane when he returned to LCP from the hospital. (Id. at ¶ 34.) Mr. Villafane asked to be in the medical housing unit because he was "stressing" but never admitted to Dr. Shambaugh that he was having suicidal thoughts. (Id. at ¶ 34.)*fn6 Dr. Shambaugh‟s clinical impression was that Mr. Villafane did not want to go to Pod C-2, where inmates with misconducts are housed, so Mr. Villafane asked to serve his discipline in medical housing where there are nicer accommodations. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Although Dr. Shambaugh did not believe that Mr. Villafane was suicidal, he informed Mr. Villafane that he could continue to stay in medical housing and could take all the time he needed there. (Id. at ¶ 37.) Dr. Shambaugh placed Mr. Villafane onSuicide Status I. (Id.) While on suicide status, Mr. Villafane was housed in a camera cell where he was randomly checked on by officers and given only a smock to wear. (Id. at ¶ 38.)

On November 3, 2008, medical personnel downgraded Mr. Villafane to Suicide Status II. (Id. at ¶ 39.) He remained in a camera cell, he received a jumpsuit to wear, and officers randomly checked on him. (Id. at ¶ 40.) On November 7, 2008, medical personnel evaluated Mr. Villafane and he denied suicidal ideation. (Id.) Medical personnel downgraded Mr. Villafane to Level 4 ("MHIV"), which is general observation. (Id.) While on MHIV, Mr. Villafane received regular checks, not random checks. (Id. at ¶ 41.) Mr. Villafane was not on suicide status from November 7, 2008 to November 18, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 42.) During this time, he had access to sheets, blankets, and his possessions. (Id.)

On November 13, 2008, Mr. Villafane informed medical personnel that he was ready to be returned to general population the following Monday. (Id. at ¶ 43.) Dr. Shambaugh made the decision to return Mr. Villafane to general population after observing that his mood had improved gradually, he was not depressed, he was forward-looking, he wanted his personal belongings back, and he wanted to be back with the other inmates. (Id. at ¶ 44.) Dr. Shambaugh testified that Mr. Villafane‟s mood appeared normal and he was not distressed. (Id. at ...

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