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Person v. District of Columbia

August 17, 2009

WILLIAM PERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 44

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'S PARTIAL MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA'S PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS*fn1

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff, William Person, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendant the District of Columbia*fn2 ("the District") for the alleged deprivation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The plaintiff alleges that during the period of his incarceration, the District violated his constitutional rights through its agents' deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, which resulted in the amputation of his leg. The District has filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the Fourteenth Amendment is not applicable to the District, that the plaintiff cannot show that the alleged denial of medical care was a result of an official District policy and that the plaintiff failed to include indispensable parties in the action. The court concludes that the plaintiff has not demonstrated that a genuine issue of material fact exists with respect to his Eighth Amendment claim and, accordingly, grants the District's motion for partial summary judgment. With respect to the plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim, the plaintiff concedes that he has not stated a cognizable claim, and the court grants the District's motion to dismiss that claim.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. The District's Policies

The District conducts an intake medical examination for each new inmate. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 4 at 40-41. During this intake examination, the inmate is seen by a nurse and a physician to determine if further medical attention is necessary. Id., Ex. 4 (Dep. of Jewel Kendall, R.N. ("Kendall Dep.")) at 41. In addition, the inmate is given a copy of the "Inmate Handbook"*fn3 and informed of the "sick call system," which is one method by which an inmate may request medical attention while incarcerated. Id. at 8 & Ex. 3 (Dep. of Paulos Kidane, M.D. ("Kidane Dep.")) at 21-22; Kendall Dep. at 19-20, 65. To request medical attention through the sick call system, an inmate fills out a form setting forth the relevant medical issues. Kidane Dep. at 21-22; Kendall Dep. 19-20. The forms are picked up once a day and a nurse reviews the forms and responds. Kendall Dep. at 44. If the inmate has an urgent medical need, the nurse has the inmate brought to the urgent care area immediately; otherwise the inmate is seen the following day by a nurse in the cell block. Id. at 68.

Another way in which an inmate may receive medical attention is for the inmate to tell an officer of the medical problem. Id. at 19. That officer must then call the infirmary, where a nurse or physician reviews the inmate's chart and determines what action to take. Id. If medical attention is necessary, the inmate is either brought to the hospital or a nurse goes to the jail and accompanies the inmate to the urgent care area. Id. at 42. Should the inmate require urgent medical care, the response time is five to ten minutes. Id.

An additional policy applicable in this case is the District's practice of rescheduling medical appointments if they conflict with court hearings. See Def.'s Reply at 6. The District reschedules the appointments to take place "immediately" after the court date, but typically not on a Saturday or Sunday. Id. The urgent care area, however, is available on the weekends, as evidenced by the plaintiff's utilization of the service on Sunday, November 2, 2003. Id. at 4; Kendall Dep. at 54.

B. Factual Background

The undisputed facts in this case are as follows. On October 17, 2003, the plaintiff fractured his right leg while descending a set of concrete stairs. Def.'s Mot. at 5; Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. He underwent surgery at the Greater Southeast Community Hospital ("GSCH"), and doctors placed his leg in a cast. Def.'s Mot. at 5; Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. GSCH then released the plaintiff into the custody of the D.C. Department of Corrections, which contracts with the Center for Correctional Health Policies and Studies ("CCHPS") to provide medical care to inmates. Def.'s Mot. at 5-6; Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. Once the plaintiff arrived at the District's jail on October 25, 2003, Dr. Paulos Kidane and Jewel Kendall, a registered nurse, performed an intake medical examination. Def.'s Mot. at 5.

As a result of this intake examination, Kidane ordered that the plaintiff receive pain medication every eight hours. Id. at 11. The plaintiff received his first dosage of pain medication on October 25, 2003, and received it three times a day for the next five days, with two exceptions. Id. at 11-12. The plaintiff states that the pain in his leg worsened from October 25, 2003 until November 2, 2003 and that he repeatedly complained about the pain and the need for medical attention to correctional officers. Id. at 6-7. Each time the officer responding to the plaintiff's request told the plaintiff that he had called for medical care, but that it had not yet arrived. Id. at 7 & Ex. 1 ("Pl.'s Dep.") at 56. The plaintiff indicates that he submitted a form through the sick call system once before his court hearing and that a nurse came and administered 250 milligrams of Tylenol. Pl.'s Dep. at 57.

As a result of the intake examination, Kidane also referred the plaintiff to an orthopedic specialist "to be seen as soon as possible" because he needed "immediate attention." Pl.'s Opp'n at 4; Kidane Dep. at 24, 54. An appointment was set for October 31, 2003. Def.'s Mot. at 12; Pl.'s Opp'n at 4. On the morning of October 31, 2003, however, the plaintiff went to court for a scheduled court appearance and missed his appointment with the orthopedic specialist. Def.'s Mot. at 12; Pl.'s Opp'n at 4. Because the orthopedic appointment conflicted with the court hearing, the appointment was rescheduled for November 6, 2003. Def.'s Mot. at 12. On Sunday, November 2, however, GSCH readmitted the ...


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