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Butler v. The County of Northampton

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 15, 2017



          EDWARD G. SMITH, J.

         Under Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), a plaintiff may only hold a municipality liable for a constitutional deprivation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 where the alleged deprivation arises from a policy or custom that amounts to deliberate indifference to constitutional rights. The plaintiff, a former inmate, has sued the defendant, a municipality, under § 1983 for an alleged beating he endured while incarcerated, contending that the beating violated his constitutional rights. He asserts that the defendant's policy or custom of failing to properly train and supervise its corrections officers caused the deprivation of his rights. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the plaintiff opposes. Because the plaintiff has failed to point to record evidence establishing a policy or custom, and has failed to demonstrate that the alleged policy or custom caused his injuries, the court will grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.


         The plaintiff, Jeffrey Butler (“Butler”), was incarcerated at the Northampton County Jail (“NCJ”) on May 17, 2012. Statement of Material Undisputed Facts in Supp. of Def.'s Renewed Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Facts”) at ¶ 1, Doc. No. 66; Plaintiff's Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Purportedly Undisputed Facts (“Pl.'s Facts”) at ¶ 1, Doc. No. 68. At the time, Butler was taking prescription medications for a heart problem, diabetes, depression, and anxiety. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 2; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 2. After about three weeks of incarceration, Butler began suffering from insomnia and anxiety. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 3; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 3. A staff member from PrimeCare Medical, the non-party medical provider at NCJ, saw Butler and prescribed medication to control his symptoms. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 3; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 3.

         At some point after being prescribed the new medication, Butler began experiencing hallucinations. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 4; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 4. Butler hallucinated that his friend and infant children were in his cell wall and could not breathe or get out. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 5; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 5. A PrimeCare staff member performed a mental health and suicide observation on June 18, 2012, and during that observation, described Butler as “anxious” and “verbally hostile.” Def.'s Facts at ¶ 6; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 6. The PrimeCare staff member also noted that Butler was banging on the bars of his cell, would not look the staff member in the eye, was not following orders, and was questioning the status of his medications. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 6; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 6. Butler was then placed on suicide watch level two (but was not transported to a suicide cell) due to irrational behavior and his worry that his medications had been changed. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 7; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 7. The following day, on June 19, 2012, during another observation, Butler was described as “very anxious, hallucinating, and hostile, ” and he was found on the floor of his cell yelling “get the children out of the wall.” Def.'s Facts at ¶ 8; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 8.

         At approximately 1:45 a.m. on June 20, 2012, Butler was in his cell yelling about saving the children stuck in the cell wall. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 9; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 9. Nurse Colleen Bowling ordered that he be placed on suicide watch level one, and he was accordingly transported to a suicide cell. Def.'s Facts at ¶¶ 10, 11; Pl.'s Facts at ¶¶ 10, 11. Butler's clothes, including a religious medallion, were removed.[1] Def.'s Facts at ¶¶ 12, 13; Pl.'s Facts at ¶¶ 12, 13. The officers then removed Butler's handcuffs and exited the cell, and a PrimeCare staff member gave him medication. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 14; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 14.

         Later that day, Nurse Bowling observed Butler sitting upright on his bunk. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 15; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 15. Butler reported pain in his ribs, but he was wearing a suicide gown and Nurse Bowling observed no bruises on him at that time. Def.'s Facts at ¶¶ 15, 16; Pl.'s Facts at ¶¶ 15, 16.

         PrimeCare Mental Health Clinician Catherine Filszar (“Filszar”) observed Butler between 8:50 a.m. and 9:05 a.m. and noted that he was talking to the walls, banging on the walls and windows, and yelling about people coming out of the walls. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 17; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 17. Fliszar also noted that Butler presented in “an acute, psychotic state, with auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, loose associations, incoherent speech, [and] rapid speech.” Def.'s Facts at ¶ 18; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 18. Butler seemed “completely out of touch with reality, irrational, and unable to verbally deescalate.” Def.'s Facts at ¶ 19; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 19. Fliszar contacted the nursing staff to “contact [a] psychiatrist for stat PRN and possible restraint chair order.” Def.'s Facts at ¶ 20; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 20.

         Fliszar returned to observe Butler sometime between 9:50 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. and described him as in an “acute psychotic state. He yelled, screamed, experienced auditory and visual hallucinations, was delusional, paranoid, hostile, labile, verbally and physically aggressive . . . he was completely out of touch with reality and could not be deescalated.” Def.'s Facts at ¶ 21; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 21.

         At approximately 10:45 a.m., medical staff observed Butler behaving irrationally in his cell and refusing to take medication. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 22; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 22. The medical staff notified corrections officers that Butler needed to be “given a shot of medication.” Def.'s Facts at ¶ 23; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 23. Butler was very erratic and was unaware of who was talking to him. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 24; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 24.

         Eventually, Lieutenant Boushell called for the CERT team to remove Butler from his cell and, pursuant to PrimeCare orders, place him in a restraint chair. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 25; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 25. Butler was removed from his cell, placed in a restraint chair, and given an injection of medication. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 26; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 26. Butler remained in the chair for one hour, and Fliszar observed him several times. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 27; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 27.

         At 8:30 a.m. on June 21, 2012, Fliszar checked on Butler and noted that he claimed his ribs were broken and “repeatedly asked [her] to get him ‘the McDonald's bag' that was on the food cart. [She] showed him that it was not a McDonald's bag, and he became agitated and refused to speak with [her] anymore.” Def.'s Facts at ¶ 28; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 28. She noted that Butler presented as easily agitated and delusional with disorganized thoughts, and continued to be acutely psychotic. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 29; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 29. Later, Physician's Assistant Jennifer Mroz (“Mroz”) saw Butler, and he complained about shoulder and rib pain. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 30; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 30. Mroz also noted that he had contusions on his arms and shoulder. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 31; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 31. Mroz ordered an x-ray to be completed the same day. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 32; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 32.

         On June 23, 2012, Butler was released from NCJ. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 35; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 35. Upon release, Butler's girlfriend and an acquaintance, both registered nurses, noticed that Butler could not walk, was badly bruised, and was gasping for air due to broken ribs. Def.'s Facts at ¶¶ 38, 39; Pl.'s Facts at ¶¶ 38, 39. Two weeks later, on July 4, 2012, an x-ray indicated that Butler had broken ribs. Def.'s Facts at ¶ 36; Pl.'s Facts at ¶ 36.

         Butler filed this lawsuit on June 17, 2014, against the County of Northampton (“the County”) and various individuals employed at NCJ for the alleged beating he endured while incarcerated on June 20, 2012. Doc. No. 1. On January 8, 2016, the Honorable James Knoll Gardner granted summary judgment in favor of the individual defendants because Butler had not presented evidence demonstrating that any individual defendant was personally involved in the alleged wrongdoing. Opinion at 22-23, 24, Doc. No. 52. Judge Gardner also granted summary judgment as to the ...

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