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Walker v. SCI Employee Mankey

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 28, 2018

MONTAGUE WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
SCI EMPLOYEE MANKEY, SCI EMPLOYEE MCWILLIAMS, SCI EMPLOYEE HENRY, SCI EMPLOYEE RHODES, SCI EMPLOYEE BOBECK, RN, SCI EMPLOYEE TRAYTER, SCI EMPLOYEE TERNITSKY-GORDON, DR. PAUL DASCANI, WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, an agency of the COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, and JOHN DOES 1-10, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LISA PUPO LENIHAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Presently before the Court is the Partial Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Department of Corrections (“DOC”) Defendants Mary Bobeck, Stanley Henry, Shelly Mankey, Kenneth McWilliams, Robert Rhodes, Danielle Ternitsky-Gordon, and Tony Traytor (collectively “DOC Defendants”).[1] (ECF No. 92.) Also before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Paul Dascani, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Medical Contract Defendants”) (ECF No. 98.)

         This is a tragic case concerning Plaintiff, Montague Walker (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Walker”), who was rendered a quadriplegic after falling from his bunk at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette (“SCI-Fayette”). For the reasons that follow, the motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

         The Court will grant summary judgment as to all claims against Defendants Kenneth McWilliams, Stanley Henry, and Robert Rhodes. In addition, the Court will grant summary judgment on all Fourteenth Amendment claims against the remaining medical DOC Defendants. The Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs will be denied. The Motion for Summary Judgment relating to the state law negligence claim against RN Bobeck will be denied. As noted in the footnote above, Plaintiff's medical malpractice claims against LPN Trayter and LPN Ternitsky remain.

         The Court will deny the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Dr. Dascani and Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

         RELEVANT FACTS

         The following facts are taken from the DOC Defendants' and Plaintiff's Concise Statements of Material Fact and Responses thereto (ECF Nos. 94, 105, 103 & 116), and are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. In addition, certain facts are taken from the Medical Contract Defendants' and Plaintiff's Concise Statements of Material Fact and Responses thereto (ECF Nos. 100, 111, 109 & 118), and are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. Where necessary, the Court also looks to other relevant parts of the summary judgment record.

         Events at Plaintiff's Cell Immediately after Accident and Prior to Arrival of Medical

         On January 16, 2013, Plaintiff was an inmate at SCI-Fayette. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 1.) On that day, Plaintiff was in the top bunk of his cell bunk bed when afternoon yard was called. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 2.) Plaintiff attempted to jump down off the bunk, but his feet became tangled in his sheets and he fell, head first, striking his head on the floor. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 3.) Plaintiff could not free his arms to break his fall. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 4.)

         Defendant Officer McWilliams was the first person to arrive at the scene after Plaintiff's fall, at approximately 1:25 pm. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 6.) Officer McWilliams had been making rounds and was walking up the stairs towards Plaintiff's cell when he heard Plaintiff saying, “Help me.” (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 7.) Officer McWilliams went to Plaintiff's cell, looked in the window, and saw him lying on the floor. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 8.) Plaintiff was lying on his back with his head towards the toilet and door and his feet near or under the table/desk and his sheet on top of him. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 9.) Plaintiff's legs and lower torso were twisted and appeared tangled. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 10.) Plaintiff's mattress was also on the floor. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 11.) Plaintiff's left arm was beside his head, and his right arm was under his body. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 12.) Plaintiff's position appeared to be very awkward. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 13.) When he saw Plaintiff on the floor, Officer McWilliams immediately radioed for Plaintiff's cell door to be opened and McWilliams went inside. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 14.) Plaintiff told Officer McWilliams that he was attempting to climb out of bed when he fell and hit his head on the floor of his cell. (ECF Nos. 94 &105 ¶ 15.) According to Officer McWilliams, Plaintiff told Officer McWilliams that he could not move his legs. (ECF No. 94 ¶ 16.) The parties dispute, however, whether Plaintiff could move his arms and legs immediately after Plaintiff fell from his bunk. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 16.) Plaintiff states repeatedly in his deposition that he could move his arms and legs after the fall but before he was placed on the stretcher, (Walker Dep., ECF No. 106-1 at 2-3, 5-7, 9, 11)[2] while others testified or stated that they either were told by Plaintiff that he could not move or feel one or more of his extremities immediately after the fall, or they did not observe Plaintiff move when interacting with him (McWilliams Dep., ECF No. 95-1 at 24, 26, 33; McWilliams Incident Report, ECF No. 95-2at 2; Freeman Dep., ECF No. 95-8 at 21, 26; Mankey Dep., ECF No. 95-3 at 43, 55, 56, 69, 76-77; Mankey Statement, ECF No. 95-5 at 2; Rhodes Dep., ECF No. 95-6 at 28; Trayter Dep., ECF No. 95-13 at 58-59).

         Officer McWilliams did not touch Plaintiff and told him not to move. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 17.) He immediately made a radio call to non-defendant Officer Plumley in the unit control bubble to call medical. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 19.) Upon hearing Officer McWilliams' call, Defendants Unit Manager Mankey, Counselor Rhodes, and Officer Henry went directly to the cell. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 20.) Non-defendant Sergeant Freeman had been in the control bubble with Officer Plumley when he heard Officer McWilliams call, and he immediately went to Plaintiff's cell. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 21.) Sergeant Freeman also radioed to Officer Plumley to notify the medical department because Plaintiff was lying on the floor. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 23.) When Unit Manager Mankey and Counselor Rhodes arrived at Plaintiff's cell, they saw him lying on the floor. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 24.) Mankey told Plaintiff not to move his head and that medical was on its way. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 33.) Mankey and the officers never moved or touched Plaintiff when he was lying in his cell; their job was to provide first-aid until medical personnel were present. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 40.)

         LPNs Trayter and Ternitsky Respond to the Emergency Call

         LPNs Trayter and Ternitsky arrived at Plaintiff's cell. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 41.) LPN Trayter believes that they had been told that an inmate fell from the top bunk and was lying on the floor, so they took a collar as a precaution. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 55.) They also grabbed a stretcher when leaving medical. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 56.) They both recall seeing Mr. Walker lying on the floor beside the bunks. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 58.) The first thing Trayter recalls doing was to see if Mr. Walker was conscious and breathing, which they did by asking questions and looking for respirations. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 61.) Plaintiff was conscious and responded appropriately. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 62.) LPN Ternitsky recalls asking Plaintiff what happened, and he responded that he had fallen from getting tangled in his sheets. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 63.) LPN Trayter remembered asking him what had happened, whether he was in pain, and Plaintiff indicated he had pain in his neck. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 64.) One of the LPNs conducted a Babinski test[3] on Mr. Walker's foot and it was negative. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 67.)

         The LPNs intended to transfer Mr. Walker back to the triage facility in medical so that the doctor could further assess him. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 68.) LPN Trayter generally recalls using a blanket to slide Plaintiff enough to get him onto the stretcher in the cell. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 69.) Trayter recalls that they used a log roll procedure, with one person stabilizing the head while the other grabbed Mr. Walker's shoulder and hip, and rolled Mr. Walker onto his side so that a blanket could be placed underneath him. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 70.)

         The LPNs had brought a collar to the cell. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 89.) At some point, LPN Ternitsky or LPN Trayter would have had staff call to medical for more collars since RN Filcheck appears on a video[4] with more supplies as Mr. Walker is being carried down the steps. Since Filcheck's appearance indicates a call was made to medical for more collars/supplies, Ternitsky believes she or Trayter must have attempted to put the collar they brought with them on Plaintiff but it did not fit. Plaintiff himself recalls medical staff trying to fit a collar on while he was in the cell, and that it did not fit. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶¶ 90-92.) The nurses were in the cell for over eight (8) minutes, and then carried Plaintiff out of the cell. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶¶ 71-72.)

         It was a tight fit to get Plaintiff out of the hallway outside the cell, and Plaintiff was a big man. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 74.) Plaintiff testified that it felt like the “backboard” broke and it felt like he was dropped to the floor. Defendants deny that Plaintiff was dropped or slammed to the ground, but instead contend that the LPNs carried Plaintiff on his stretcher low to the ground and occasionally placed him on the ground in an easy manner as they maneuvered him out of the cell. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶¶ 82-83.) Defendant Henry, a DOC guard, testified that when LPNs Trayter and Ternitsky were carrying Plaintiff out of the cell head-first, no one was holding Plaintiff's head. (ECF Nos. 103 & 116 ¶ 51.) Similarly, Henry testified that when the LPNs put Plaintiff on the ground, no one was holding his head, and that no one was holding his head when they picked him up to try and take him out of his cell again. Henry indicated that the LPNs manipulated and tried to turn the stretcher by going into the hot water closet and then back into the cell two or three times, and that no one was holding Plaintiff's head at this time. (ECF Nos. 103 & 116 at¶¶ 54-57. The parties agree that the stretcher “sagged.” (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶¶ 82-83.)

         The video evidences that as Plaintiff was being carried down the stairs, he did not have on a collar or brace, his head was not stabilized, and no one was holding his head. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 88; Video, DOC Defendants' Exhibit 18 at 12:17-12:45.)[5]According to DOC RN supervisor Kenneth Randolph, the standard of care regarding the type of board used to carry Plaintiff out of the cell would have been a solid backboard, rather than a canvas stretcher, to protect Plaintiff from further injury. Randolph further testified that if LPNs Ternitsky and Trayter were unsure of Plaintiff's treatment under the circumstances, according to DOC guidelines and protocols, they would be expected to call and either speak to the supervisor or another nurse for guidance. (Dep. of K. Randolph, ECF No. 104-5 at 11, 15-17.)

         At the bottom of the stairs, after placing Plaintiff on the wheeled gurney, LPN Ternitsky tried to fit one of the other collars that nurse Filcheck had brought. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶ 100.) The Plaintiff disputes Defendants' statements that none of the collars would work so Ternitsky had to use CID blocks. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶¶ 101-02.) Based on her experience and practice, LPN Ternitsky would have continued to monitor and assess Plaintiff's medical condition as he was being moved to medical. LPN Trayter recalls continuing to assess Plaintiff during this time to make sure he was breathing. (ECF Nos. 94 & 105 ¶¶ 101-02.)

         The DOC Training Academy basic first aid training documents provide:

a) Upon completion of this training program, a student will be able to describe how to recognize and provide first aid treatment for a head, neck, or back injury.
b) Upon completion of this training program, a student will be able to correctly demonstrate how to stabilize a suspected head, neck, or back injury.
c) When the body suffers a significant force, such as from a high fall, shooting, or motor vehicle crash, serious injury can result, most notably to the spine.
d) Injury to the spinal cord can result in permanent paralysis or in a life-threatening condition, such as the loss of breathing.
e) After an initial injury, movement of damaged spinal bones can result in additional injury to the spinal cord.
f) If a significant mechanism of injury occurred, it is best to assume a spinal injury exists.
g) Stabilize Head:
- Get into a comfortable position behind the person.
- Cup your hands on both sides of the head, without covering the ears, to ...

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