McCollum v. Livingston

Decision Date03 February 2017
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 4:14-CV-3253
PartiesSTEPHEN MCCOLLUM, et al, Plaintiffs, v. BRAD LIVINGSTON, et al, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas

Plaintiffs Stephen McCollum and Sandra McCollum, individually, and Stephanie McCollum individually and as the independent administrator of the Estate of Larry Gene McCollum (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"). They allege that various Texas Department of Criminal Justice ("TDCJ") officials and employees promulgated and effectuated policies regarding the extreme heat in Hutchins State Jail, where McCollum was incarcerated, that violated the Eighth Amendment and led to McCollum's death from heat-related illness. Plaintiffs also claim that the TDCJ and the University of Texas Medical Department ("UTMB") violated the ADA and the RA in failing to accommodate McCollum. Plaintiffs seek damages against the TDCJ officials and employees, sued in their individual capacities under § 1983. Plaintiffs also seek damages and injunctive relief against TDCJ and UTMB.

McCollum died on July 28, 2011, and Plaintiffs filed their complaint on June 26, 2012 in the Northern District of Texas. (Doc. No. 1.) On November 10, 2014, the case was transferred to this Court. (Doc. No. 215.) Defendants have filed two motions for summary judgment, moving for dismissal on all claims. (Doc. Nos. 285, 288.) Plaintiffs responded (Doc. No. 297), and Defendants replied (Doc. Nos. 315; 324). Additionally, Plaintiffs filed a sur-reply to UTMB's reply. (Doc. No. 336.) Based on the motions, the responses, replies, and sur-reply; the more than 9,000 pages of exhibits filed by both parties; and the applicable law, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motions for summary judgment.

I. Background

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice operates 109 prisons in Texas, housing approximately 150,000 incarcerated men and women. (Doc. No. 288 at 18.) The majority of these prisons do not have air-conditioning in the inmate housing areas (Id. at 11), but all of the prisons have some areas that are air-conditioned. For example, all of the wardens' offices are air-conditioned, as are all of the regional directors' offices and the correctional officers' stations (known as "pickets"). (Doc. Nos. 305-14 at 61; 305-17 at 20.)

Heat stroke—the most common cause of hyperthermia—is a "medical emergency" in which "the body has lost its ability to dissipate heat and maintain a normal body temperature. . . . Shock and death may occur. . . ." (Doc. No. 285-1 at 171.) It is undisputed that five men died in 1998 from environmentally-caused hyperthermia while incarcerated in TDCJ facilities.1 Between 1999 and 2010, five more individuals are known to have died from hyperthermia or other heat-related illnesses while incarcerated in Texas prisons.2 In 2011, Texas experienced an"unprecedented" heat wave (Doc. No. 288 at 75), and ten more individuals died from hyperthermia. (Doc. Nos. 300-4 at 3, 21, 40; 300-5 at 12, 23, 31, 49; 300-6 at 12, 26, 40.) McCollum was the second individual to die of heat-related illness during the summer of 2011. (Doc. No. 300-2 at 2.)

A. The Organizational Structures

There is considerable disagreement among the parties regarding the roles played by TDCJ, UTMB, and other pertinent actors, as well as the limits of each actor's authority. Although this will be discussed further in different sections of this opinion, the Court will provide a general overview here.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is "an agency of the State of Texas responsible for the incarceration of convicted felons." (Doc. No. 285-1 at 11.) TDCJ has jurisdiction over the entire adult criminal justice system in the state of Texas, including probation and parole. (Doc. No. 288 at 21.)

The Correctional Managed Health Care Committee ("CMHCC") is a statutorily created committee "responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring the correctional managed health care services for offenders confined in institutions operated by TDCJ." (Doc. No. 285-1 at 8.) CMHCC is composed of two individuals from TDCJ, UTMB, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center ("TTUHSC"). Id. One of the two individuals from each agency must be a physician. Id. Three additional members of the committee are appointed by the Governor; two of these three members must be physicians. Id.

CMHCC has authority to contract for healthcare services "for and on behalf of the TDCJ." (Id. at 7.) The contract between TDCJ and CMHCC establishes that "[a]ll statewideHealth Services policies and procedures will be developed through a joint policy and procedure committee process that includes representatives of TDCJ, UTMB, TTUHSC and the CMHCC. . . The TDCJ Medical Director shall retain final approval authority for all statewide policies." (Id. at 14.) Regarding the quality of care delivered by UTMB and TTUHSC, the contract states that "TDCJ may require the health care providers to take corrective action if the care provided does not meet expectations . . . ." (Id. at 16.)

CMHCC contracted with UTMB and TTUHSC to provide direct patient care for men and women incarcerated in TDCJ facilities. UTMB, through its contract with CMHCC, provides direct patient care to approximately 78% of the men and women incarcerated in TDCJ facilities, including the men incarcerated in Hutchins State Jail. (Doc. No. 285 at 23.)

B. Hutchins State Jail

Hutchins State Jail ("Hutchins), where McCollum suffered the heat stroke that caused his death, is an "intake and transfer facility for all manner of felony offenders." (Doc. No. 288 at 36.) Hutchins also provided permanent housing for offenders convicted of lower-level state jail felony offenses. (Id.) Defendant Pringle was the Senior Warden of Hutchins in 2011. (Id.) Because Texas jails are required to be climate controlled, offenders transferred to Hutchins from state jails are not acclimated to extreme temperatures. Individuals who are not acclimated to heat are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. (Doc. No. 305-15 at 57; Doc. No. 285-1 at 172, CMHCC Policy Manual instructing correctional officers to acclimatize offenders working in conditions where apparent air temperature exceeds 90°F, and instructing officers to monitor non-acclimatized workers for signs of heat stress during the acclimatization period; Doc. No. 301-1 at 57, TDCJ Administrative Directive, requiring that offenders working in extreme heat "be exposed gradually to extreme temperature conditions").

Hutchins has primarily dormitory style housing. It is undisputed that in the days before his death, McCollum was housed in a dorm with 57 other men. (Doc. No. 297 at 27.) The dormitory windows are sealed shut, but an air handler was used for ventilation. (Doc. No. 288 at 37.) The dorms are not equipped with individual electrical outlets, so the inmates were not able to use personal fans. However, two large fans were mounted on the walls around the dormitory in addition to one large floor fan. (Id.)

The provision of water to the dormitories is a disputed issue in this case. Although Defendants contend that Warden Pringle ordered iced or chilled water to be distributed to the dorm areas "multiple times daily," Plaintiffs argue that, in fact, the water was often only delivered once a day, and was not adequately iced or chilled. (Doc. No. 324 at 21; Doc. No. 288 at 36.) Additionally, men incarcerated at Hutchins were to have "free and frequent access to the dorm showers while the dayrooms are open." (Doc. No. 288-14 at 43.) Neither party states what hours the dayroom was open in McCollum's dormitory. Defendants also maintain that Warden Pringle ordered that the water temperature for the showers be lowered to 95°F from 107°F. (Doc. Nos. 288 at 36; 305-16 at 57.)

C. McCollum's Death

Larry Gene McCollum ("McCollum") was 58 years old when he was convicted of forgery in McClennan County and sentenced to 12 months incarceration. (Doc. No. 285-2 at 59.) At 5'10" and 330 pounds, the parties agree that McCollum was morbidly obese.3 Additionally,McCollum had a history of hypertension. (Doc. No. 285 at 29.) While incarcerated in the McLennan County Jail, before his transfer to Hutchins, McCollum was prescribed an anti-hypertensive medication known as Clonidine. (Id. at 18.) Upon arrival at Hutchins on July 15, 2011, McCollum received an intake screening by a "certified medication aide" employed by UTMB. McCollum self-reported a history of diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and mental illness. Later that day, a physician assistant employed by UTMB substituted hydrochlorothiazide for clonidine to treat McCollum's hypertension.4

Hydrochlorothiazide is classified in the Correctional Managed Health Care Policy Manual as a diuretic, which acts as a "poikilothermic"—a drug that "disrupts the body's normal temperature regulating mechanisms"—and a "potentiator"—a drug that "potentiates" the effects of a poikilothermic. (Doc. No. 285-1 at 171, 175.) A diuretic is a drug that decreases blood pressure by removing water from the body, but increases a patient's risk of heatstroke by causing dehydration and impairing cooling. (Doc. No. 300-11 at 110.) Recognizing these risks, the Correctional Managed Health Care Policy Manual, which was to be followed by UTMB and TDCJ, advised that, "[i]n general, offenders on antipsychotic drugs should not be allowed to work or recreate in environments where the apparent air temperature is 95°F or higher. This restriction should also be considered for offenders who are on other drugs classified as . . . poikilothermics or potentiators . . . if they also have an underlying medical condition that placesthem at increased risk . . . Decisions about suitability of work assignments and recreation areas for these offenders will be made by facility medical staff." (Doc. No. 285-1 at 175....

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