Gunter v. S. Health Partners

Decision Date23 March 2021
Docket Number1:16CV262
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina
PartiesDAVID RAY GUNTER, Plaintiff, v. SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, INC., et al., Defendants.

OSTEEN, JR., District Judge

Presently before this court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Southern Health Partners, Inc., Jason Junkins, Sandra Hunt, Fran Jackson, and Manuel Maldonado (collectively, the "Medical Defendants"), (Doc. 123), to which Plaintiff has responded, (Doc. 137), and Medical Defendants have replied, (Doc. 144).

Further, Medical Defendants have filed a related Motion to Strike, (Doc. 142), the Affidavit of Michael Teal from Plaintiff's response to Medical Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff has responded, (Doc. 153), and Medical Defendants have replied, (Doc. 156).

These motions are ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, this court will grant in part and deny in part Medical Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and grant Medical Defendants' Motion to Strike.

A. Parties

Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Davie County and Stokes County jails over fourteen consecutive days in November 2012. (Medical Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Med. Defs.' Br.") (Doc. 124) at 2.) Defendant Southern Health Partners, Inc. ("SHP") is a corporation that contracts with county jails to provide medical services, including at Davie County and Stokes County jails. (Id.) Defendant Jackson is a nurse employed by SHP who worked at Davie County jail. (Id. at 2-3.) Defendant Hunt is a nurse employed by SHP who worked at Stokes County jail. (Id. at 3.) Defendant Maldonado is an independent contractor with SHP and a Physician's Assistant who served as Medical Director at both Davie and Stokes County jails. (Id.) Defendant Junkins is an independent contractor with SHP who served as the company's corporate medical Director during the applicable time period. (Id.) Defendant Junkins resides in Alabama and neither treated Plaintiff nor supervised the providers who did treat Plaintiff. (Id.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff commenced the present action in the Randolph County Superior Court Division of the State of North Carolina on November 6, 2015, by filing an Application Extending Time to File Complaint (Petition for Removal, Ex. B (Doc. 1-2)), and a Motion Extending Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Action. (Id., Ex. C (Doc. 1-3).) Plaintiff was granted permission to file a complaint up to and including November 26, 2015, by order of the Assistant Clerk of Superior Court. (Doc. 1-2.) By order of the Superior Court Judge, the statute of limitations for Plaintiff's medical malpractice action was extended to and including March 4, 2016. (Doc. 1-3.)

Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on November 25, 2015, against Southern Health Partners, Inc., Jason Junkins, Sandra Hunt, Fran Jackson, and others. (Complaint ("Compl.") (Doc. 23).) On March 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint, adding Defendant Manuel Maldonado and adding a Medical Malpractice claim. (Doc. 26.) The Amended Complaint contained a "9(j) Medical Malpractice Certification." (Id. at 87.)

A Petition for Removal to this court was filed on April 1, 2016. (Doc. 1.) On December 27, 2016, with leave of court, (Doc. 56), Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint to substitute adefendant. (Second Amended Complaint ("Second Am. Compl.") (Doc. 57).) In the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff brings claims against Medical Defendants for medical malpractice, violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, negligence, negligent supervision, false imprisonment, and torture and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Id.) On January 9, 2017, Medical Defendants answered Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 61.) On February 22, 2017, Medical Defendants filed a Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings, seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's medical malpractice claim for failure to comply with Rule 9(j) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure and failure to allege certain claims against certain defendants. (Doc. 63.) This court denied that motion on September 20, 2017. (Doc. 87.)

On December 14, 2018, this court approved the Amended Joint Rule 26(f) Report, (Doc. 99), prepared by the parties, (Doc. 101). Discovery was scheduled to close on July 10, 2019. (Id.). On December 3, 2019, the parties filed a Joint Motion for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery, (Doc. 107), which this court granted in part, extending discovery until March 16, 2020. (Text Order 02/25/2020.) Plaintiff filed a Consent Motion for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery on March 13, 2020, (Doc. 111), which this court granted, (Text Order 03/23/2020.) Discovery closed on June 15, 2020. (Id.)

Following the close of discovery, Medical Defendants filed the instant Motion and Memorandum for Summary Judgment, (Docs. 123, 124), on July 6, 2020. Plaintiff filed a response on July 30, 2020, (Pl.'s Resp. to Med. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Resp.") (Doc. 137)), and Medical Defendants filed a reply on August 10, 2020, (Med. Defs.' Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Med. Defs.' Reply") (Doc. 144)).

On August 10, 2020, Medical Defendants filed a related Motion to Strike, (Doc. 142), and Memorandum, (Med. Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Strike Affidavit of Michael Teal ("Med. Defs.' Mot. to Strike Br.") (Doc. 143)). Plaintiff responded on August 31, 2020, (Pl.'s Opp'n to Med. Defs.' Mot. to Strike ("Pl.'s Resp. to Mot. to Strike") (Doc. 153)), and Medical Defendants replied on September 2, 2020, (Reply in Supp. of Med. Defs.' Mot. to Strike ("Med. Defs.' Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Strike") (Doc. 156)).

On March 2, 2021, Medical Defendants filed a Motion for Relief from Local Rule 83.1(d)(2), (Doc. 169), which the court denied on March 3, 2021. (Doc. 170 at 2.) This court also ordered the parties to "stand down from the presently scheduled trial preparation deadlines," and ordered the Clerk to set a scheduling and status conference in this matter after April 1, 2021. (Id. at 1.) This court ordered that the trial not commenceon April 5, 2021, as scheduled, but instead, for a date at least 30 days thereafter. (Id.)

C. Factual Background

A majority of the facts are described here, but additional relevant facts will be addressed as necessary throughout the opinion. The majority of facts are not disputed, and any material factual disputes will be specifically addressed in the relevant analysis. The facts described in this summary are taken in a light most favorable to Plaintiff. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

Plaintiff was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, a heart condition, at birth. ((Ex. 8, Excerpts from the Dep. of David Ray Gunter ("Gunter Dep.") (Doc. 124-8) at 6.)1 To address the condition, Plaintiff's aortic valve was replaced with a mechanical heart valve ("MHV") when he was fifteen years old. (Id. at 7.) Because patients with an MHV have a higher risk for a blood clot compared to a person without an MHV, (Dep. of Virginia Glover Yoder ("Yoder Dep. Part II") (Doc. 172-1) at56), individuals with an MHV are treated with Coumadin,2 which thins their blood and reduces the risk of clotting, (Dep. of Virginia Glover Yoder ("Yoder Dep. Part I") (Doc. 172) at 78). At the same time, too much Coumadin can create a risk of bleeding, as thin blood lacks clotting factors. (Id.) Providers monitor a patient's "INR" level, which indicates the blood's bleeding time, thickness, and clotting factors. (See id. at 82.) A patient's INR can vary, and medical providers must monitor a patient's INR regularly and adjust their medication, as needed. (See id. at 77-78.) Through medication and monitoring, the goal of Coumadin therapy is to maintain a therapeutic INR level, which is defined as being between 2.5 and 3.5. (Ex. 6, Excerpts from the Dep. of Manuel Maldonado ("Maldonado Dep.") (Doc. 124-6) at 3.) A patient's diet, alcohol use, and smoking habits can affect a patient's INR level. (Yoder Dep. Part I (Doc. 172) at 117.)

Plaintiff has been taking Coumadin since he was 15 years old. (Gunter Dep. (Doc. 124-8) at 7.) At the time he was incarcerated at the Davie and Stokes County jails, Plaintiff was 37 years old. (See id. at 5.) Plaintiff typically took Coumadinonce per day in the evening. (See id. at 11.) In 2012, Plaintiff was being treated by Virginia Yoder, PharmD at the Coumadin Clinic in Forsyth County, but on May 29, 2012, Dr. Yoder discharged Plaintiff from the clinic for failing to show up for his appointments. (Doc. 124-11) at 2; see also Yoder Dep. Part II (Doc. 172-1) at 55-56.)

Dr. Yoder's general practice is to give patients a thirty-day prescription with two refills. (Yoder Dep. Part I (Doc. 172) at 135.) Plaintiff's prescribed dosage prior to his incarceration is not known but was likely 6 or 7 milligrams daily. (See id. at 144; Doc. 124-3 at 4.) After his discharge from Dr. Yoder's clinic, Plaintiff was able to use his Coumadin prescription from Dr. Yoder to obtain thirty 5 mg pills and thirty 1 mg pills on June 25, July 24, and August 23. (Doc. 124-12 at 2-3.) Consistent with Dr. Yoder's practice, Plaintiff's prescription expired after the August 23 refill. (Id.) On October 22, 2012, Plaintiff sought a refill of his 5 mg prescription, but it was denied because he was no longer a patient of the Coumadin Clinic where Dr. Yoder was a practitioner. (See Doc. 124-13 at 3.) On October 19, 2012, Plaintiff obtained thirty 1 mg pills of Coumadin from the pharmacy. (Doc. 124-12 at 4.)

Plaintiff was arrested on November 6, 2012, in Forsyth County on a bench warrant, and after one night at the Forsyth County jail, Plaintiff was transferred to the Davie County jail on November 7, 2012.3 At 8:00 a.m. on November 7, 2012, upon his arrival at Davie County jail, Plaintiff was screened by Defendant Jackson. (Doc. 124-1 at 6.) Plaintiff told Defendant Jackson that he...

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