Jones v. Pramstaller

Decision Date04 May 2012
Docket NumberNo. 1:09–cv–392.,1:09–cv–392.
Citation874 F.Supp.2d 713
PartiesYvette JONES, Personal Representative of the Estate of Raymond E. Jones, Deceased, Plaintiff, v. George PRAMSTALLER, Nancy Martin, Honorable Paul L. Maloney Kathleen Salazar, Michael Wilkinson, Tamerla Hamilton, Renee A. Vanhouten, David Vanarsdale, Sherri Castenholtz, and Badawi Abdellatif, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Michigan

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Named Expert: Dr. Jerry Walden

Kenneth D. Finegood, Kenneth D. Finegood PLC, Southfield, MI, for Plaintiff.

Kevin R. Himebaugh, James T. Farrell, MI Dept. Attorney General (Corrections), Lansing, MI, Randall Alan Juip, Anthony D. Pignotti, Brian J. Richtarcik, Mark Gregory Reynolds, The Juip Richtarcik Law Firm, Detroit, MI, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT BADAWI ABDELLATIF'S MOTION FOR ORDER DISQUALIFYING PLAINTIFF'S EXPERT WITNESS

PAUL L. MALONEY, Chief Judge.

Before the court is Defendant Badawi Abdellatif's motion to disqualify Plaintiff's expert, Dr. Jerry Walden, under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993) and Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. (ECF No. 176.) Defendant argues that Dr. Walden is not qualified as an expert and that his opinion regarding the proximate cause of Mr. Jones's death is neither relevant nor reliable. While the court finds that Dr. Walden's long medical career qualifies him to opine on the proximate cause of Mr. Jones's death, and that such an opinion would be both relevant and helpful to the jury, it must nonetheless bar Dr. Walden's testimony. The record shows that Dr. Walden's opinion is based on nothing more than the mere assumption that Mr. Jones likely would have survived had he received hospital care sooner. Dr. Walden presents no basis for such an assumption, neither in the medical literature nor in his personal experience. Because Plaintiff has not shown that this opinion is based on “reliable principles and methods” that have been “reliably applied ... to the facts of the case,” Dr. Walden's testimony must be excluded. Fed.R.Evid. 702.

I. Background11. Factual Background

On September 26, 2007, Raymond E. Jones died of viral meningoencephalitis. Mr. Jones, a prisoner at the Ernest Brooks Facility, under the control of the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), had first begun complaining of a strange dizziness 28 days earlier, on August 29, 2007. This suit concerns the treatment and care that Mr. Jones received during those four weeks, alleging that defendants' actions make them liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Michigan Wrongful Death Act, and the tort doctrines of gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

No one corporation or governmental department is entirely responsible for providing health care to Michigan prisoners. Instead, several different entities provide services at various points in the process. The MDOC itself employs Registered Nurses (“RNs”) who provide direct care for prisoners, but it has contracted out part of its health-care duties to Defendant Correctional Medical Services (“CMS”). CMS employs doctors, either as employees or as independent contractors, to care for prisoners directly. Both CMS and the MDOC also rely on outside hospitals to provide care, presumably that which they are unable or ill-suited to provide. This case is at least partly about the precise responsibilities and actions of each of these entities, and the roles that each played in Mr. Jones's death.

Raymond Jones first complained of dizziness on August 29, 2007. He told prison staff that he was getting dizzy when he closed or rubbed his eyes, turned his head, or stood up. (Medical Record, ECF No. 154, Ex. 1 at 1–2.) He was evaluated by MDOC-employed registered nurses over the next several days, but his problems continued. Mr. Jones's symptoms soon worsened, and he began reporting ear pain, eye sensitivity, nausea, and an inability to walk. ( Id. at 3–11.)

Mr. Jones continued to bring his complaints to the prison medical staff over the next 13 days, while his symptoms continued to trouble him. He informed nurses that, among other things, he couldn't see out of one eye because of the dizziness, he had been throwing up for at least two days, and he had a pain in his right ear that he rated a five out of ten. ( Id. at 12.) On September 8, he was taken to Health Services in a wheelchair, showing a high temperature and high blood pressure. ( Id. at 13–14.)

During this time, other inmates began to get concerned about Mr. Jones's health. One man, Troy Reinstra, contacted his mother about Mr. Jones's health problems and asked her if she would get in contact with Doug Tjapkes, a prisoner advocate with Humanity for Prisoners, about getting Mr. Jones some medical care. ( See Reinstra Dep., ECF. No. 154, App'x, at 12–17; Reinstra Aff., ECF No. 154, Ex. 10.) Mr. Jones's bunkmate, Jesse Hawkins, and Kenneth Mazurek, another inmate at the facility, also signed affidavits testifying to Mr. Jones's deteriorating condition. ( See Hawkins Aff., Mazurek Aff., ECF No. 154, Ex. 10.)

Despite these symptoms, Mr. Jones was not seen by a doctor until September 11, almost two weeks after he first complained of dizziness. Dr. Abdellatif, who was employed by CMS, examined Mr. Jones and assessed him as having [u]nexplained headaches[,] double vision[,] and dizziness with loss of balance,” as well as high blood pressure. (Medical Record, ECF No. 154, at 19.) Dr. Abdellatif noted the need to rule out “brain pathology,” and he ordered Mr. Jones sent to the emergency room for further evaluation. ( Id.) Dr. Abdellatif testified at deposition that he did not call the hospital to advise them regarding Mr. Jones's status or symptoms. (Abdellatif Dep., ECF No. 154, App'x, at 67–68.) Nor do the records show that Mr. Jones's medical records were sent with him to the emergency room. ( See Buchanan Dep., ECF No. 154, App'x, at 57.)

Mr. Jones's symptoms remained when he returned from the hospital later that day. (Medical Record, ECF No. 154, Ex. 1 at 22.) When Dr. Abdellatif saw him again the next day, Mr. Jones again showed high blood pressure, as well as a 5–pound weight loss in the last 24 hours. ( Id.) Mr. Jones told Dr. Abdellatif that he had a CT scan at the hospital and that the results were normal, but Dr. Abdellatif did not contact the hospital to obtain the actual test results. ( Id. at 25; Abdellatif Dep., ECF No. 154, App'x, at 78–79.) After this examination, Dr. Abdellatif ordered Mr. Jones returned to the emergency room. (Medical Record, ECF No. 154, Ex. 1, at 24–25.) While Dr. Abdellatif testifies that he talked to the emergency room this time about Mr. Jones's situation, there is a discrepancy between the prison's medical records, which state that he did talk to the emergency room, and the version of the records provided to the emergency room, which does not contain any such notation. ( Compare id. at 25–26; with Hospital Record, ECF No. 154, Ex. 8.) Further, the emergency room doctor does not recall any conversation with Dr. Abdellatif, or indeed, any other prison physician, about admitting a prisoner to the hospital. (Evans Dep., ECF No. 154, App'x, at 47–54.) Nor do the hospital records include any information regarding such a call, as would be required by hospital policy. ( See id. at 48.)

Again, Mr. Jones was sent to the emergency room, and again, he was returned that day. (Medical Record, ECF No. 154, Ex. 1, at 26–28.) Dr. Abdellatif did not see Mr. Jones when he returned. Instead, an MDOC nurse examined Mr. Jones, who stated that he was “scared.” ( Id. at 31.) Mr. Jones told the nurse that the right side of his face was numb and that he felt like he was floating. His right eye was “asymmetrical and wandering,” and Mr. Jones was unable to swallow his own saliva. ( Id.) The nurse consulted with another prison's hospital and was ordered to send him to the emergency room for a third time. ( Id.)

This time, Mr. Jones went to a different ER. He was again returned to the prison shortly thereafter. Dr. Abdellatif evaluated Mr. Jones the next day, September 13. Mr. Jones was still exhibiting symptoms, and his blood pressure was now up to 173/119. He was “unsteady on [his] feet” and claimed that he couldn't swallow and “need[ed] water bad.” ( Id. at 37.) Dr. Abdellatif prescribed some medicines and ordered that Mr. Jones be given a bottom bunk and a liquid diet. ( Id. at 34–35.)

The next day, September 14, Dr. Abdellatif contacted the hospital and arranged for Mr. Jones to be admitted. ( Id. at 40–41.) At the hospital, Mr. Jones was diagnosed with viral meningoencephalitis, an inflammation of the brain and meninges, the membranes covering the central nervous system. He remained at the hospital until September 26, when he died.

2. Procedural History

Plaintiff Yvette Jones (Plaintiff) filed the present suit as personal representative of Mr. Jones's estate, naming as defendants Correctional Medical Services (“CMS”), which has contracted to provide health care to MDOC prisoners; Craig Hutchinson, regional medical director of CMS; Badawi Abdellatif, M.D., a doctor who provided Mr. Jones with medical care under contract with CMS; and a number of MDOC employees. Based on Defendants' respective roles in Mr. Jones's death, Plaintiff claimed damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Michigan Wrongful Death Act, and the tort doctrines of gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

On Defendants' motions for summary judgment, this court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against CMS and Hutchinson. (ECF No. 192.) The court also dismissed Plaintiff's gross-negligence claim against Dr. Abdellatif, but allowed her Section1983 claim to proceed against him. ( Id.)

While these motions were pending, Dr. Abdellatif filed the present motion asking this court to disqualify Plaintiff's expert, Dr. Jerry Walden, under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579,...

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