Vincent v. Warren County, Kentucky, 102815 FED6, 15-5048

Docket Nº:15-5048
Opinion Judge:STRANCH, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:GREGORY R. VINCENT, Administrator of the Estate of Shannon Ray Finn, deceased; SANDRA RODDY, Guardian of S.N.F., J.W.F., and G.R.F., minor children of Shannon Ray Finn, deceased, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. WARREN COUNTY, KENTUCKY, et al., Defendants, and JACKIE STRODE, Individually and in his official capacity as the Jailer of the Warren County Regi
Judge Panel:BEFORE: CLAY and STRANCH, Circuit Judges; BLACK, District Judge.
Case Date:October 28, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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GREGORY R. VINCENT, Administrator of the Estate of Shannon Ray Finn, deceased; SANDRA RODDY, Guardian of S.N.F., J.W.F., and G.R.F., minor children of Shannon Ray Finn, deceased, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

WARREN COUNTY, KENTUCKY, et al., Defendants,

and

JACKIE STRODE, Individually and in his official capacity as the Jailer of the Warren County Regional Jail, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 15-5048

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

October 28, 2015

         NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PUBLICATION

         ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY

          BEFORE: CLAY and STRANCH, Circuit Judges; BLACK, District Judge. [*]

          OPINION

          STRANCH, Circuit Judge.

         This is the second appeal brought in a case concerning the 2009 death of Shannon Ray Finn in the Warren County Regional Jail in Bowling Green, Kentucky. In the first appeal, we reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Warren County Jailer Jackie Strode on the ground of qualified official immunity, but we affirmed the district court on all other issues. Finn v. Warren Cnty., 768 F.3d 441, 444 (6th Cir. 2014). On remand, Jailer Strode again moved for summary judgment, arguing that the negligence claims against him are precluded by the jury's findings at the previous trial. The district court granted the motion, prompting this second appeal. For the reasons we explain below, we again REVERSE the grant of summary judgment in favor of Jailer Strode and REMAND the case to the district court with an instruction to conduct a jury trial on the plaintiffs' negligence and gross negligence claims against Jailer Strode.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of the case are set forth in our prior opinion, Finn, 768 F.3d at 444–48, so we summarize only those details necessary to this decision. On March 20, 2009, Shannon Finn died in the Warren County Regional Jail during the course of alcohol withdrawal. Id. at 444. Upon admission to the jail three days earlier, Finn did not show any signs of alcohol withdrawal, but his symptoms developed the following day. Id. at 445. On-site licensed practical nurses, employed by Southern Health Partners (SHP) to provide health care to inmates under a contract with Warren County, performed a few perfunctory medical assessments and administered some oral medications to Finn, but they failed to contact SHP's Medical Director for the jail, Dr. John Adams, to obtain orders for further medical treatment. Id. at 445–447. Finn's condition worsened to delirium tremens, and deputy jailers eventually found him dead in his cell. Id. at 445–48.

         Finn's late father, Johney E. Finn, as administrator of Finn's estate, and Sandra Roddy, as guardian of Finn's three minor children, filed suit against Warren County, Jailer Strode, six deputy jailers, SHP, Dr. Adams, and two SHP nurses.1 Id. at 444. The complaint asserted federal constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state-law negligence claims. Id. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Strode, holding that he was entitled to qualified official immunity on the negligence claims against him. Id. at 448. The court also dismissed some other parties and claims before trial. Id. at 444. A jury ultimately returned verdicts in favor of all remaining defendants. Id. On appeal, we reversed the district court's ruling that Strode was entitled to qualified official immunity on the negligence claims, but affirmed on all other issues. Id. at 448–53.

         In our opinion, we observed that the parties presented testimony of medical experts who expressed contradictory opinions about "whether Finn received proper medical care, whether the alcohol withdrawal treatment protocol written by Dr. Adams provided for appropriate medical care, and whether Finn's life could have been saved if he had been transported to a hospital." Id. at 447. We also noted that the parties "presented the testimony of jail experts who offered different opinions on whether the jail's written Emergency Medical Services Policy (EMS) was adequate and whether the deputy jailers followed the EMS policy." Id.

         The EMS policy states:

Emergency medical services are available 24 hours a day to inmates of the Warren County Regional Jail to ensure prompt emergency medical attention. All officers are trained to respond to medical emergencies since an inmate's life may depend on appropriate first aid. Emergency medical . . . care shall be available to all inmates commensurate with the level of such care available in the community.

Finn v. Warren Cnty., No. 1:10-cv-00016, R. 185-1 (W.D. Ky.). The policy mandates that "drug or alcohol withdrawal" suffered by an inmate "shall constitute an emergency and [its] presence will initiate the Medical Emergency Care Plan." Id. The Medical Emergency Care Plan instructs the deputy jailer to give immediate first aid to the inmate, "[t]elephone the Emergency Transport Unit . . . [c]all for assistance from other Detention Officers/law enforcement" and "[t]elephone the Emergency Room." Id. A different section of the policy directs "[t]he officer confronted with a medical emergency" to "call the EMT, Doctor, or Nurse, in accordance with the Medical Emergency Care Plan . . . and relay the emergency information, " and "comply with the facility's Nurse, Doctor or EMT instructions." Id. (emphasis in original).

         We recognized in our prior opinion that Strode offered pivotal trial testimony on whether the deputy jailers' failure to follow the mandatory requirements of the EMS policy proximately caused Finn's death:

. . . Strode testified that jail policy prohibits admission of an arrestee to the jail if that person appears to be experiencing an emergency medical condition. Because the jail's EMS policy defines an emergency as "drug or alcohol withdrawal, " Strode confirmed that Finn would not have been admitted to the jail if he had shown any symptoms of alcohol withdrawal at the time he was booked into the jail. The arresting officer would have taken Finn to a nearby medical facility for treatment before he was admitted to the jail.

. . . Strode explained that he does not want the deputy jailers to make medical judgments so he wrote the EMS policy to outline simply and clearly the jailers'...

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