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Reidhead v. State

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 24, 2014

George Reidhead, et al., Plaintiffs,
State of Arizona, et al., Defendants.


JAMES A. TEILBORG, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 53). The Court now rules on the motion.

I. Background[1]

Plaintiffs filed this case against the State of Arizona and individual officers of the Arizona Department of Corrections (in their official capacities) following the death of Brenda Todd while an inmate in the Arizona State Prison Complex at Perryville. (Doc. 1). On January 14, 2011, Todd visited a prison nurse complaining of back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. (Doc. 56-10 at 3). Todd reported having numbness in her hands at night, a burning sensation in her neck, and muscle spasms. ( Id. ) The nurse referred Todd for a future visit with a doctor to "order x-rays." ( Id. )

On January 20, 2011, Todd reported to another inmate that she was having trouble breathing. (Doc. 56-6 at 34). That evening, a pill nurse employed with the Arizona Department of Corrections dispensed medication to inmates in Todd's cell block. See ( id. at 20). Todd informed the nurse that she was experiencing chest pain, left arm pain, numbness, tingling, pain in her neck, and throat constriction. ( Id. at 14). The nurse told Todd to take "some IBU', drink water and lay down for a while." ( Id. ) (source paraphrasing the nurse's comments). One witness reported that Todd had been "begging" for help and that the nurse had said "There is nothing I can do for you[.] [P]ut in an HNR and go lay down." ( Id. at 35). Upon Todd reporting that she had "already put in multiple HNRs, " the nurse said, "We have no staff here, except at complex, there is nothing I can do." ( Id. )

That night, inmates in cells near to Todd heard banging noises at approximately 23:00. ( Id. at 21). One inmate informed Correctional Officer Coughlin (who was on duty from 17:00 to 21:55) that she had heard some kind of noise; Coughlin told this inmate that he would investigate; however, he heard no banging noises and did not observe anyone making noises. ( Id. )

Another officer on duty that night, Corrections Officer Payne, was acting as a night guard. ( Id. at 31). Payne had been informed that one of the inmates was having breathing problems but had not been told which inmate was in distress. ( Id. ) Payne conducted hourly security checks that night[2] and reported that Todd had been sleeping as of 23:00. ( Id. ) Payne reported that he last saw Todd at 04:00 when he conducted the last check of his shift and reported he saw her "[l]ying down." ( Id. at 25). He first denied seeing Todd at 05:20 but then stated he had seen her at that time. ( Id. at 25-26).

Corrections Officer Nelson began security checks at approximately 06:30 and observed Todd lying on her back with her head turned toward the wall and her legs draped over the edge of her bunk. ( Id. at 14). Nelson attempted to contact Todd but believed she was sleeping and continued with her check. ( Id. ) When Nelson returned at 08:20 to conduct her next security check, she saw Todd lying in the same position. ( Id. ) Nelson entered the cell and discovered Todd was unresponsive. ( Id. at 15). Todd was later pronounced dead. ( Id. ) When Todd was discovered, she was cold to the touch and rigor mortis had set in. ( Id. at 26). The responding doctor stated that Todd had been dead for a "number of hours." ( Id. at 28).

An autopsy revealed blockages of approximately 75% in three arteries of Todd's heart. ( Id. ) The medical examiner concluded that Todd died as the result of sudden cardiac death "due to the marked atherosclerotic occlusion of the left anterior descending and right coronary arteries." (Doc. 56-5 at 2).

Plaintiffs, who include Todd's father, her estate, and her daughter, filed this lawsuit alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and the Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference to medical needs and failure to observe and monitor medical conditions. (Doc. 1 at 10). Plaintiffs also allege negligence and gross negligence against the State of Arizona for breaching its duty to provide necessary medical care, violations of the Arizona Constitution's protection of due process and prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and liability for wrongful death. ( Id. at 14-16).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support that assertion by... citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits, or declarations, stipulations... admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " or by "showing that materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Id. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Thus, summary judgment is mandated "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

Initially, the movant bears the burden of pointing out to the Court the basis for the motion and the elements of the causes of action upon which the non-movant will be unable to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to establish the existence of material fact. Id. The non-movant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" by "com[ing] forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (1963) (amended 2010)). A dispute about a fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The non-movant's bare assertions, standing alone, are insufficient to create a material issue of fact and ...

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