Kovari v. Brevard Extraditions, LLC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
Citation461 F.Supp.3d 353
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 5:18-cv-0070
Parties Edward KOVARI, Plaintiff, v. BREVARD EXTRADITIONS, LLC, et al., Defendant.
Decision Date18 May 2020

Glenn Schlactus, Pro Hac Vice, Jia Cobb, Pro Hac Vice, Lila Rebecca Miller, Pro Hac Vice, Orly Tamar May, Pro Hac Vice, Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC, Washington, DC, Jeffrey Edward Fogel, Jeffrey E. Fogel Law Office, Charlottesville, VA, for Plaintiff.

Adam D. Perrelli, Pro Hac Vice, DeCaro, Doran, Siciliano, Gallagher & DeBlasis, LLP, Bowie, MD, Christopher Stanislaw Dadak, Jeremy Ethridge Carroll, Guynn, Waddell, Carroll & Lockaby, P.C., Salem, VA, James Scot Liskow, DeCaro, Doran, Siciliano, Gallagher & DeBlasis, LLP, Fairfax, VA, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Michael F. Urbanski, Chief United States District Judge This matter is before the court on objections filed by defendant Brevard Extraditions, LLC, Prisoner Transportation Services of America, LLC, and Prisoner Transportation Services, LLC's (collectively "Brevard") Motion to Exclude Dr. Susi Vassallo, ECF No. 174; Brevard's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 175; Brevard's Motion to Exclude Trial Testimony of Eric L. Clark, ECF No. 179; and Plaintiff Edward Kovari's Motion to Exclude Testimony of Charles Hildebrand, ECF No. 182. The matters have been fully briefed, the court heard argument on all pending motions on March 10, 2020. The matters are ripe for resolution.

After a thorough review of the applicable law and substantial materials filed in this case, the court DENIES Brevard's motion for summary judgment as to all claims except for intentional infliction of emotional harm and declaratory relief, which the court GRANTS. The court DENIES Brevard's motion to exclude Dr. Susi Vassallo. The court further GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Brevard's motion to exclude the testimony of Eric L. Clark and Kovari's motion to exclude the testimony of Charles Hildebrand, and strictly confines the scope of their testimony as outlined herein.

I. BACKGROUND

This case encompasses several constitutional and state tort law claims brought by Kovari against the two private prisoner transport companies hired for his extradition, their parent holding company, and six John Doe defendants representing the drivers involved in the transport, challenging the allegedly "extreme and inhumane conditions" of his multi-day transport from Virginia to Texas. Compl., ECF No. 1, at 1.

A. FACTUAL SUMMARY

Kovari alleges physical and emotional injuries arising out of his seventeen (17) day transport from Winchester, Virginia to Houston, Texas for the prosecution of a false theft charge that was ultimately dismissed. Def. Mot. Sum. J., ECF No. 177, at 2; Pl. Opp. Mot., ECF No. 193, at 4. Kovari was arrested on September 2, 2016 outside of a Sheetz gas station and ultimately extradited to Houston, Texas where he faced outstanding charges for the theft of a vehicle. Frederick County General District Court Records, ECF No. 177-1. Until the time of his transport, September 12, Kovari was booked in Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center ("Northwestern Regional"). Northwestern Regional Records, ECF No. 177-3.

There, Northwestern Regional staff completed a Booking Report for Kovari as a part of their routine intake process. Business Record Declaration, ECF No. 194-5, at 2-3. This form is completed for all inmates and is a prerequisite to seeing a medical professional at the facility. Id. Kovari stated that he told staff that he had been diagnosed with hypertension

, was pre-diabetic, was morbidly obese at over 400 pounds, that he had a history of hospitalization for heart issues, and that he takes prescription medication for his hypertension

. Kovari Dep., ECF No. 194-2, at 127:22-128:21, 134:18-135:2; see also Winchester Medical Center Records, ECF No. 194-6 (confirming the aforementioned diagnoses, indicating medication for hypertension was prescribed, chronicling hospitalizations for cardiac issues). The completed form records his age, relevant medical history such as prior treatment for substance abuse, a history of heart disease or hypertension, his status as a pre-diabetic, and the identification of "other medical/dental problems." ECF No. 193-5, at 2-3. The form reflects that Kovari was "Referred to Medical" based on his responses. Id. Brevard does not acknowledge the content of this form, alleging that "[t]here are no records from Northwestern Regional indicating Plaintiff ever requested or received any medication or medical care while in custody there." ECF No. 177, at 4.

Next, Nurse Johnny Tillman, a member of the medical staff at Northwest Regional, completed an Admission Screening form that was intended to record underlying medical conditions or concerns an inmate articulates during processing. Northwestern Regional Admission Form, ECF No. 177-3. No underlying medical conditions were recorded on this form. The parties dispute the extent to which the form Tillman completed accurately reflected the information Kovari provided during his medical interview. Brevard alleges that Kovari denied having any underlying medical condition or taking any prescription medications. ECF No. 177, at 3. Kovari contends he reiterated the same information to Tillman that he had told Northwestern Regional staff during his booking. Kovari Dep., ECF No. 194-2, at 134:1-135:10. Tillman recorded Kovari's weight as 463 and his blood pressure as 168/92, Admission Form, ECF No. 194-7, which is elevated. ECF No. 193, at 2; see also Tillman Dep., ECF No. 194-8 (admitting the blood pressure is elevated), Vassallo Report, ECF No. 194-9, at 5. Kovari claims he took medication for his hypertension

for the duration of his time at Northwestern Regional, approximately eight (8) days. Kovari Dep., ECF No. 194-2, at 80:20-81:5, 131:13-132:15, 135:11-14; Prisoner Transportation of America Receipt, ECF No. 194-11 (checking the box that Kovari was picked up with medication and property); Caruso Dep., ECF No. 194-12, at 90:11-13. Brevard denies that Kovari received medical attention or medication. ECF No. 177, at 4.

Harris County hired Brevard,1 a private extradition company, to transport Kovari from Winchester, Virginia to Houston, Texas. Harris County Contract, ECF No. 194-14. On September 12, 2016, Kovari was picked up by Brevard employees Mark Nahrstedt and Pedro Cuneo from Northwestern Regional. Trip Log, ECF No. 177-5. Pursuant to their standard pick up process, Nahrstedt filled out a Prisoner Medical Information document, which does not reflect any information about Kovari's alleged underlying medical conditions existing at the time of transport; however, it does reflect that Kovari had been hospitalized for heart monitoring months earlier and that he was picked up with medication. Prisoner Medical Information, ECF No. 177-7. Brevard claims that Kovari denied having any medical conditions. ECF No. 177, at 4. Kovari claims that he did communicate his hypertension

, hospitalizations, and need for medication, but that the information was not recorded and that he was not given an opportunity to review the form before being asked to sign it. Kovari Dep. ECF No. 194-2, at 70:6-72:7. The parties dispute whether Cuneo and Nahrstedt received the required Medical Authorization for Transport form when they picked up Kovari at Northwest Regional, but Brevard admits they have been unable to locate any such form despite claiming they did receive it. Def. Resp. to RFA, ECF No. 194-21.

That same day, the van suffered a tire blowout and damage to the van's cooling system, which caused the transport to halt on the side of the road for a few hours while the issue was addressed. ECF No. 177 at 4. Kovari recalls that it was a hot day, over 80 degrees, and that passengers were not permitted to leave the van while the issue was resolved. ECF No. 193, at 16. During this incident, local officers arrived at the scene to offer help, during which time passengers were permitted to exit the vehicle and use the restroom. Id. Kovari claims that drivers only permitted this at the behest of the local officers, but at the March hearing, Brevard said that the hesitation to allow passengers out of the van was born out of security concerns.

The parties dispute the specific route taken during the course of Kovari's transport, but agree that the total trip took 17 days, including about 120 hours of driving time. ECF 177, at 2; ECF 193, at 4. Kovari claims that he spent the 120 driving hours in the back of the van, in a compartment Brevard refers to as the "cage." PTS Manual (June 2016), ECF No. 194-29, at 59. He claims that the cage was segmented into compartments only 30 inches wide, divided by a 79-inch metal wall dissecting the space. He said each section had a metal bench without cushions or seatbelts. ECF No. 193, at 5. Photographs show that Brevard installed seatbelts after the transport in question. Lewis Decl., ECF 194-30, at 2. Photographs, ECF No. 194-32. During the transport, Kovari was further restrained by shackles on his wrists and ankles, which he claims caused pain and swelling. Kovari Dep., ECF No. 194-2, 64:21-65:12. Cuneo claims that, recognizing Kovari's size, he used special "king kong" restraints, the largest they had. Cuneo Dep., ECF No. 177-11, 132:7-20. Kovari complained about the pain to his drivers during the transport. Id. He shared his bench with other passengers during his transport, but the parties dispute the maximum number of passengers in the van at any given time.

At times, the transport van would stop at secure facilities for the night. ECF No. 177, at 5-6. However, Kovari alleges that on seven (7) different occasions, the van drove through the night. ECF No. 193, at 7. He claims that the van regularly went over six (6) hours without stopping for a restroom break, and on one instance may have gone over fourteen (14) hours without a break. Id. See also Lee Decl., ECF No. 194-25, at 28 (...

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