Tittle v. Jefferson County Com'n, No. 91-7054

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore TJOFLAT, Chief Judge, FAY, KRAVITCH, HATCHETT, ANDERSON, EDMONDSON, COX, BIRCH, DUBINA, BLACK and CARNES; COX; KRAVITCH; ANDERSON
Citation10 F.3d 1535
Docket NumberNo. 91-7054
Decision Date06 January 1994
PartiesJessie Leon TITTLE, As Administrator of the Estate of Stephen Warren Tittle, Plaintiff-Appellant, Rebecca Alexander, as Administratrix of the Estate of Tom Harrell, Plaintiff-Intervenor-Appellant, v. JEFFERSON COUNTY COMMISSION, David Orange, John Katopodis, Reuben Davis, Jim Gunter, Chris McNair, Jefferson County, Defendants-Appellees. Giattina, Fisher & Co., Architects, Inc., Defendant,

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10 F.3d 1535
62 USLW 2484
Jessie Leon TITTLE, As Administrator of the Estate of
Stephen Warren Tittle, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Rebecca Alexander, as Administratrix of the Estate of Tom
Harrell, Plaintiff-Intervenor-Appellant,
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY COMMISSION, David Orange, John Katopodis,
Reuben Davis, Jim Gunter, Chris McNair, Jefferson
County, Defendants-Appellees.
Giattina, Fisher & Co., Architects, Inc., Defendant,
No. 91-7054.
United States Court of Appeals,
Eleventh Circuit.
Jan. 6, 1994.

Page 1536

Clarence L. McDorman, Birmingham, AL, for R. Alexander.

Jeffrey W. Bennitt, Kizer & Bennitt, Birmingham, AL, for Jessie Leon Tittle.

Charles S. Wagner, Jeffrey M. Sewell, Jefferson County Attorney's Office, Birmingham, AL, for defendants-appellees.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Before TJOFLAT, Chief Judge, FAY, KRAVITCH, HATCHETT, ANDERSON, EDMONDSON, COX, BIRCH, DUBINA, BLACK and CARNES, Circuit Judges.

COX, Circuit Judge:

Stephen Tittle and Tom Harrell committed suicide by hanging themselves in the Jefferson County Jail. Jessie Leon Tittle brought this 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 action as personal representative of the estate of Stephen Tittle, against Jefferson County, Alabama, alleging that the County violated Stephen Tittle's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Rebecca Alexander, as personal representative of the estate of Tom Harrell, intervened in the action, alleging that the County also violated Tom Harrell's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs contend that the County is responsible for the suicide deaths of Stephen Tittle and Tom Harrell. More specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the County violated the decedents' constitutional rights because the County failed both to correct its defectively designed jail cells and to provide for sufficient screening of inmates for suicidal tendencies. 1

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The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs appealed. A panel of this court affirmed the district court's ruling as it relates to the plaintiffs' claim that the defendants failed to properly train the deputies responsible for screening inmates for suicidal tendencies, but reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment on the claim that those responsible for maintaining the jail were aware of a dangerous condition in the cells that created a strong likelihood that inmates would attempt, and likely succeed at, suicide. Tittle v. Jefferson County Comm'n, 966 F.2d 606 (11th Cir.1992). We vacated the panel opinion and granted rehearing en banc. Tittle v. Jefferson County Comm'n, 986 F.2d 1384 (11th Cir.1993). We now affirm the district court in all respects.

I. FACTS 2

A. Stephen Tittle

On October 25, 1988, Birmingham police arrested Stephen Tittle for robbery. After Tittle was charged, authorities took him to the Jefferson County Jail. Jail personnel admitted Tittle according to standard procedures. Pursuant to those procedures, the medical personnel examined Tittle. In addition, a deputy sheriff filled out a form that included questions regarding a prisoner's suicidal tendencies. If a prisoner's answers demonstrated suicidal tendencies, the jail personnel were to place that prisoner in the medical ward of the jail for constant supervision. During Tittle's screening, he answered that he had never been under the care of a psychiatrist, had never attempted suicide, was not dependent on drugs or alcohol, was not using street drugs, and had no serious illness or injury. (R.1-62 at 5.) The deputy noted that Tittle exhibited no abnormal or unusual behavior. Based on the results of his screening, jail personnel placed Tittle in the general population of the jail.

In the early morning of October 28, 1988, a deputy observed Tittle sitting on the bunk in his cell. Approximately forty minutes later, that deputy checked Tittle's cell again and realized that Tittle was hanging from a bar across the window of the cell by a strip of bed sheet tied around his neck. The deputy could not enter the cell because he did not have an emergency key. He called for help, and personnel from the control room opened the cell. Paramedics were summoned, but they were not able to revive Tittle. Later, an inmate in the cell next to Tittle's reported that he had heard a gasping sound from Tittle's cell earlier that night. The coroner's report confirmed that Tittle had died approximately four hours before he was discovered.

B. Tom Harrell

On February 10, 1989, after being charged with violating the terms of his parole, Tom Harrell was placed in the Jefferson County Jail. He was screened under the same procedures as Tittle. He was examined by the jail health service. The deputy who filled out the questionnaire for Harrell reported that Harrell had never been under the care of a psychiatrist nor attempted suicide, was not dependent on alcohol or drugs, was not taking any medication prescribed by a physician and had no serious illness or injury. (R.1-62 at 19.) The deputy noted that Harrell exhibited no abnormal or unusual behavior. Harrell was placed in the general population of the jail.

A deputy found Harrell dead in his cell on February 18, 1989. Harrell had hanged himself using a bed sheet and the bar across the window of his cell. The deputy on duty had seen Harrell alive approximately forty minutes earlier. The deputy who found Harrell could not enter the cell because he did not have an emergency key. Control room personnel opened the door to the cell. The jail

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medic administered CPR until paramedics arrived. The paramedics were unable to revive Harrell, and they pronounced him dead eighteen minutes after the deputy discovered him hanging from the pipe in the cell window.

Contrary to what Harrell reported to the screening deputy, he had been under the care of a psychiatrist and had previously attempted suicide. In addition, Billy Cox reported by affidavit that he had been a friend of Harrell's since childhood and that he knew Harrell at the time of Harrell's prior suicide attempt. Cox said that Harrell had called him while Harrell was incarcerated at the Jefferson County Jail. According to Cox, when Harrell called him, he seemed upset and would "start talking crazy like he did before when he tried to commit suicide." (R.2-105 at 8.) Cox also said that he called the jail the week that Harrell committed suicide and told someone at the jail that Harrell had previously attempted suicide and that the deputies should watch him carefully because Harrell might again try to kill himself. (Id.)

C. Suicide Prevention Policy

At the time of Tittle's and Harrell's suicides, Sheriff Mel Bailey used a written manual, which included a chapter on suicide prevention, as an aid in training the deputies employed at the jail. The manual also included written policies concerning the admission of psychotic prisoners and suicide prevention. The Sheriff required each deputy to take and pass a test on the entire manual. Additionally, the Sheriff had in place the screening system employed by the deputies who processed Tittle and Harrell. Moreover, prisoners were subjected to a medical examination before entering either the medical ward or the general population. According to Errol Hall, the medical examiner at the jail, any deputy who receives a complaint regarding a psychological problem of any prisoner must call that complaint to the attention of someone on the medical staff, who must then evaluate the inmate. (Hall Deposition, R.2-102 at 18.)

D. Jail Construction

Construction of the Jefferson County Jail was a joint project of the Sheriff's Department and the County. During the construction planning, representatives of the County attended several meetings in which the construction of the windows in the cells was discussed. (See R.2-99-Exh. 6 at p 12 (Minutes of Meeting, April 15, 1982).) The minutes of the meetings offered by the plaintiffs do not contain any discussion of the possibility of suicide by use of the pipe in cell windows.

E. History of Suicide Attempts and Suicides

Captain Latta of the Sheriff's Department, who is in charge of daily operation of the jail, recorded the suicides and attempted suicides occurring between October 1987 and December 1989 in the jail. (Latta Deposition, R.2-103 at 11.) Captain Latta kept records in an endeavor to determine whether the jail had a serious problem with suicides. (Id.) The record is silent on the question of whether any County representative knew, prior to Harrell's suicide, about any of the suicide attempts or suicides.

Captain Latta's records show that between October 19, 1987, and February 18, 1989, the date of Harrell's suicide, there were twenty-seven suicide attempts and two suicides in the jail, including Tittle's. (R.2-99-Exh. 2.) Tittle and the other inmate who committed suicide before Harrell hanged themselves. The record does not reveal whether the individual who committed suicide before Tittle used the pipe in the cell window to hang himself.

II. ISSUE ON APPEAL

The plaintiffs contend that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the County. We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Hoffman v. Allied Corp., 912 F.2d 1379, 1383 (11th Cir.1990). On review, we are bound by the same standards that governed the district court on the summary judgment motion below. Earley v. Champion Int'l Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.1990). Any factual

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disputes must be resolved in favor of the nonmoving parties. Barnes v. Southwest Forest Indus., 814 F.2d 607, 609 (11th Cir.1987).

III. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

The plaintiffs contend that (1) the County's policies of inadequate screening for suicidal tendencies and inadequate supervision, (2) the County's provision of convenient tools that could be used for suicide, and (3) the County's...

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182 practice notes
  • Glover v. Gartman, No. CIV 11–0752 JB/LAM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 27 septembre 2012
    ...likely to use to commit suicide—whether those be razor blades, nooses, or horizontal pipes,” Tittle v. Jefferson County Com'n, 10 F.3d 1535, 1543 (11th Cir.1994), on the current state of the law, the Court cannot say that handing razor blades to a detainee to shave and leaving him to do so—......
  • Vinson v. Clarke County, Ala., No. Civ.A. 95-0819-RV-M.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • 17 juin 1998
    ...confinement, no liability can result in the absence of deliberate indifference to those conditions. See Tittle v. Jefferson County Comm'n, 10 F.3d 1535, 1539 (11th Cir.1994) (finding that failure to prove deliberate indifference in this context would be fatal to a plaintiff's case). Indeed,......
  • Estate of Rowell v. Walker Baptist Med. Ctr., Civil Action No. 5:11-CV-3439-RRA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • 30 janvier 2013
    ...detainees. See Marsh v. Butler County, 268 F.3d 1014, 1024 n.5 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc) (citing Tittle v. Jefferson County Commission, 10 F.3d 1535, 1539 n.3 (11th Cir.1994) (en banc) (in turn citing Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977)). The proper constitutional basis for claims of d......
  • Brewer v. City of Daphne, No. Civ.A. 97-0159-S.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Alabama
    • 28 janvier 1999
    ...a defendants's actions or inaction," there can be no deliberate indifference to an inmate's safety. Tittle v. Jefferson County Comm'n, 10 F.3d 1535, 1540 (11th Cir.1994) (en banc) (internal question marks and citations omitted). More importantly, "[s]upervisory officials are not liable unde......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
182 cases
  • Glover v. Gartman, No. CIV 11–0752 JB/LAM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 27 septembre 2012
    ...likely to use to commit suicide—whether those be razor blades, nooses, or horizontal pipes,” Tittle v. Jefferson County Com'n, 10 F.3d 1535, 1543 (11th Cir.1994), on the current state of the law, the Court cannot say that handing razor blades to a detainee to shave and leaving him to do so—......
  • Vinson v. Clarke County, Ala., No. Civ.A. 95-0819-RV-M.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • 17 juin 1998
    ...confinement, no liability can result in the absence of deliberate indifference to those conditions. See Tittle v. Jefferson County Comm'n, 10 F.3d 1535, 1539 (11th Cir.1994) (finding that failure to prove deliberate indifference in this context would be fatal to a plaintiff's case). Indeed,......
  • Estate of Rowell v. Walker Baptist Med. Ctr., Civil Action No. 5:11-CV-3439-RRA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • 30 janvier 2013
    ...detainees. See Marsh v. Butler County, 268 F.3d 1014, 1024 n.5 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc) (citing Tittle v. Jefferson County Commission, 10 F.3d 1535, 1539 n.3 (11th Cir.1994) (en banc) (in turn citing Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977)). The proper constitutional basis for claims of d......
  • Brewer v. City of Daphne, No. Civ.A. 97-0159-S.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Alabama
    • 28 janvier 1999
    ...a defendants's actions or inaction," there can be no deliberate indifference to an inmate's safety. Tittle v. Jefferson County Comm'n, 10 F.3d 1535, 1540 (11th Cir.1994) (en banc) (internal question marks and citations omitted). More importantly, "[s]upervisory officials are not liable unde......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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