Stockton v. Wake Cnty., No. 5:13–CT–3302–BO

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
Writing for the CourtTERRENCE W. BOYLE, United States District Judge
Docket NumberNo. 5:13–CT–3302–BO
Parties Tanya Stockton, Plaintiff, v. Wake County, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date24 March 2016

173 F.Supp.3d 292

Tanya Stockton, Plaintiff,
v.
Wake County, et al., Defendants.

No. 5:13–CT–3302–BO

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division.

Signed March 24, 2016


173 F.Supp.3d 296

John Kenneth Moser, Walter Thompson Comerford, Jr., Comerford & Britt, L.L.P., Winston-Salem, NC, for Plaintiff.

173 F.Supp.3d 297

Roger A. Askew, Scott Wood Warren, Claire Alise Hunter, Jennifer M. Jones, Caroline P. MacKie, Poyner Spruill LLP, Allison J. Becker, John W. Minier, Andrew C. Buckner, Yates, McLamb & Weyher, LLP, Carrie Elizabeth Meigs, Henry W. Gorham, J. Matthew Little, Leslie Price Lasher, Teague, Campbell, Dennis & Gorham, LLP, Raleigh, NC, J. Nicholas Ellis, Poyner & Spruill LLP, Rocky Mount, NC, for Defendants.

ORDER

TERRENCE W. BOYLE, United States District Judge

This case is brought by Tanya Stockton (hereinafter “plaintiff”) under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 ; the Fourteenth Amendment; North Carolina's wrongful death statute, N.C.G.S. § 90–211.11 et seq. ; and other statutory and common law for the alleged unlawful and unconstitutional, wilful and wanton conduct of defendants resulting in the death of her son Ralph Madison Stockton, IV (hereinafter “Stockton”) at the Wake County Detention Center (“WCDC”) on November 6, 2011. Compl. [D.E. 1–2] ¶¶ 61–117. Presently, there are four pending motions for summary judgment filed by different sub-groups of defendants.1 Mots. Summ. J. [D.E. 102, 104, 107, 109]. Plaintiff files responses in opposition to the motions [D.E. 116–119] and defendants filed replies [D.E. 132–136]. Additionally, on March 11, 2016, attorney Andrew Buckner filed an unopposed motion to withdraw as counsel for Dr. Umesi [D.E. 137]. As explained below, the court grants Wake County's motion for summary judgment solely as to count five of the complaint and Buckner's motion to withdraw, and denies the remaining motions.

Factual Allegations2

On November 5, 2011, at 1:00 p.m., Stockton and a friend entered Bagwell's C-stop convenience store in Raleigh. Compl. [D.E. 1–2] ¶ 21. The store clerk (a volunteer firefighter) observed that the two were impaired and called the Wake County Sheriff's Office to report a possible drunk driver. Id. Deputy Bruner (not a defendant) responded, pulled over Stockton's car after he left the store, and observed him to be nervous and shaking. Id. at ¶ 22. Stockton reported that he had a prescription pill problem that required methadone treatment.3 Id.

While Bruner returned to his patrol car, it is alleged that Stockton ingested a “myriad of medications contained in a
173 F.Supp.3d 298
thermos bottle.” Id. at ¶ 23. The deputy discovered that Stockton had an outstanding arrest warrant for underage drinking, asked to search the vehicle, and found a small quantity of marijuana. Id. Stockton took responsibility for the marijuana. Id.

Because of the store clerk's observations and his own, Deputy Bruner administered an alcosenser test which registered .00. Id. at ¶ 24. A citation for possession of marijuana was issued, and due to the outstanding warrant, Stockton was arrested by Deputy Walker, who had now arrived at the scene. Id. at ¶ 25. Deputy Walker transported Stockton to the WCDC. Id. While in transport to WCDC (about ten minutes away), Stockton fell asleep several times.4 Id.

At approximately 3:00 p.m., Stockton arrived at WCDC and was checked in by ... Officer Coley and Nurse Fitz, both of whom, it is alleged, should have recognized his impairment. Id. at ¶ 26–27. No further medical attention was rendered at this time, and Stockton was placed into a holding cell. Id. at ¶ 27–28. During the period of time in the holding cell and throughout the evening, Stockton displayed abnormal and erratic behavior. Id. at ¶ 28. Due to Stockton's behavior, Officer Coley moved Stockton into a private cell. Id. at ¶ 29. There, Stockton continued to display erratic behavior such as continuously summoning Coley and ... Officer Santelli and asking for instruction to operate the phone and asking to call his deceased father. Id.

Officer Santelli informed his supervisor, ... Sergeant Williams, that something was wrong with Stockton; Williams specifically instructed Santelli to do nothing; and, Santelli did nothing. Id. at ¶ 30. Officer Santelli did not personally report the observations to medical staff nor did he seek medical care for Stockton after such instruction. Id.

At 10:00 p.m., after being asked to check on Stockton due to his continued erratic behavior, defendant Nurses Anumudu and Hester observed Stockton through the glass, but neither nurse allegedly did anything more.5 Id. at ¶ 31.

In the holding cell, Stockton's behavior is alleged to have become increasingly erratic and confused. Id. at ¶ 32. Stockton attempted to place a call 16 times, 15 of which were to his mother; however, when his mother would attempt to accept the calls she was immediately disconnected. Id. At the same time, Stockton's mother made multiple calls to the WCDC.6 Id. at ¶ 33. She spoke to at least one nurse and one officer, defendant Officer Brown, explaining her son's history of drug use, that he was on a multitude of drugs, and that he required careful monitoring. Id.

At 10:15 p.m., Stockton was taken for a strip search and “dress out procedures,”
173 F.Supp.3d 299
wherein ... Officers Lowery and Mimms found him “spaced out” and “panicked.” Id. at ¶ 34. At approximately the same time, ... Sergeant Ransome observed Stockton and incorrectly identified Stockton as being intoxicated by alcohol. Id. Officer Lowery informed a nurse, alleged to be Nurse Anumudu, of Stockton's heroin use, and Officer Lowery requested that Stockton be medically screened. Id. The nurse told Officer Lowery that Stockton would be placed on the first floor for observation. Id. This was not done. No drug screen was performed and Stockton was not placed into an observation cell. Id. Stockton was placed into an overcrowded general population pod. Id.

At 11:30 p.m., Stockton was staggering and speaking incoherently. Id. at ¶ 35. Nine minutes later, at approximately 11:39 p.m., it is alleged that Nurse Anumudu medically screened Stockton. Id. She conducted the screening in less then three minutes. Id. Nurse Anumudu did not attempt to identify the intoxicating agents. Id. Stockton reported to Nurse Anumudu that he had been taking methadone. Id. On the Medical Screening Form, Nurse Anumudu noted “Heroin Protocol.” Id. On the Mental Health Screen form, Nurse Anumudu checked “yes” to the question “have you ever been in a hospital for emotional or mental health problems.” Id. Nurse Anumudu also referred Stockton to “psychologist/medical,” but this was not done.7 Id.

At 11:42 p.m., Stockton was placed in cell 1B05. Id. ¶ 36. At 12:17 a.m., defendant Officer McClain escorted Stockton to “the Green Pod.” Id. Stockton could not control his movements appropriately, “was not moving very well,” and Officer McClain had to help Stockton into the pod. Id. Stockton could hardly talk and did not know his name. Id. He appeared intoxicated and pale. Id. He was sweating, and he had difficulty breathing.8 Id.

Stockton was placed into a general population cell where several inmates observed Stockton's behavior and characterized him as “messed up,” “high,” and not breathing well when placed into the cell. Id. ¶ 37. Inmates were heard to state they thought Stockton was dying, and he sounded like he was choking. Id. Inmates informed detention staff that they believed Stockton needed medical attention. Id.

Stockton is alleged to have informed inmate Michael Wiles that he had ingested over forty prescription pills during the traffic stop. Id. ¶ 38. In turn, Wiles informed Officer McClain on at least three occasions that Stockton ingested a large quantity of pills, needed his stomach pumped, and required medical attention. Id. Officer McClain is alleged to have responded that Stockton was a junkie and was sleeping off his high. Id.

At 6:31 a.m., over fifteen hours after Stockton's arrival at WCDC, Officer McClain checked on Stockton as he lay
173 F.Supp.3d 300
on the floor of the overcrowded pod. Id. ¶ 39. No pulse was found, but he was warm to the touch. Id. At 6:40 a.m., 911 was called and at 6:47 a.m. EMC arrived. Id. At 7:14 a.m., on November 6, 2011, Stockton was pronounced dead. Id.

On November 7, 2011, Clay Nichols, M.D. (“Dr. Nichols”) with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed Stockton's autopsy. Id. ¶ 47. No significant anatomic finding was identified to account for Stockton's death. Id. An analysis of Stockton's blood showed that multiple drug levels were present including amphetamine, methadone, and benzodiazepines. Id. Dr. Nichols' concluded that Stockton died as the result of the combined toxic effects of multiple medications. Id.

The supervisory requirements for jails in North Carolina are set forth in 10A N.C.A.C. 14J.0601, and require, at a minimum, the direct observation of each inmate in person at least twice an hour, and a heightened requirement of four times an hour for an inmate who is intoxicated, or displaying erratic behavior, or who has a previous record of mental illness. 10A N.C.A.C. 14J.0601. Plaintiff contends that WCDC employees violated this policy in three ways. Firs[t], she asserts that from 12:43 a.m. to 6:31 a.m., the inmates in Green Pod
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9 practice notes
  • Doe v. United States, 1:17CV183
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 27 Marzo 2019
    ...and allege administrative and ministerial failures, not failures to furnish professional services. See Stockton v. Wake Cty., 173 F.Supp.3d 292, 308 (E.D.N.C. 2016) (citing 381 F.Supp.3d 610 Estate of Waters v. Jarman, 144 N.C. App. 98, 101-03, 547 S.E.2d 142, 144-46 (2001) ; Allen v. Cty. ......
  • Swanson v. Gaston Cnty. Sheriff's Office, 3:18-cv-86-FDW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • 24 Agosto 2018
    ...final policymaking authority on a particular topic. City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 123 (1988); Stockton v. Wake County, 173 F.Supp.3d 292 (E.D.N.C. March 24, 2016). "[T]he Eleventh Amendment does not bar a suit against a North Carolina sheriff in his official capacity...." H......
  • Anderson v. S. Health Partners, Inc., 4:20-cv-00095-M
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • 31 Enero 2022
    ...However, "[a] county may only be held liable for acts for which the county has final policymaking authority." Stockton v. Wake Cty., 173 F.Supp.3d 292, 303 (E.D. N.C. 2016) (quoting Parker v. Bladen Cnty., 583 F.Supp.2d 736, 739 (E.D. N.C. 2008)). State law governs whether a county has fina......
  • Wilson v. King, 1:22CV226
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 4 Abril 2022
    ...Plaintiff fails to allege adequate facts to support his claim either under North Carolina or Georgia state law. See Stockton v. Cty., 173 F.Supp.3d 292, 307 (E.D. N.C. 2016) (setting forth North Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 9(j) pleading requirements and stating that “[f| allure to comp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Doe v. United States, 1:17CV183
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 27 Marzo 2019
    ...and allege administrative and ministerial failures, not failures to furnish professional services. See Stockton v. Wake Cty., 173 F.Supp.3d 292, 308 (E.D.N.C. 2016) (citing 381 F.Supp.3d 610 Estate of Waters v. Jarman, 144 N.C. App. 98, 101-03, 547 S.E.2d 142, 144-46 (2001) ; Allen v. Cty. ......
  • Swanson v. Gaston Cnty. Sheriff's Office, 3:18-cv-86-FDW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • 24 Agosto 2018
    ...final policymaking authority on a particular topic. City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 123 (1988); Stockton v. Wake County, 173 F.Supp.3d 292 (E.D.N.C. March 24, 2016). "[T]he Eleventh Amendment does not bar a suit against a North Carolina sheriff in his official capacity...." H......
  • Anderson v. S. Health Partners, Inc., 4:20-cv-00095-M
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • 31 Enero 2022
    ...However, "[a] county may only be held liable for acts for which the county has final policymaking authority." Stockton v. Wake Cty., 173 F.Supp.3d 292, 303 (E.D. N.C. 2016) (quoting Parker v. Bladen Cnty., 583 F.Supp.2d 736, 739 (E.D. N.C. 2008)). State law governs whether a county has fina......
  • Wilson v. King, 1:22CV226
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • 4 Abril 2022
    ...Plaintiff fails to allege adequate facts to support his claim either under North Carolina or Georgia state law. See Stockton v. Cty., 173 F.Supp.3d 292, 307 (E.D. N.C. 2016) (setting forth North Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 9(j) pleading requirements and stating that “[f| allure to comp......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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