Villegas v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville

Decision Date04 March 2013
Docket NumberNo. 11–6031.,11–6031.
Citation709 F.3d 563
PartiesJuana VILLEGAS, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. The METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE and Davidson County, Defendant–Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit


ARGUED:Allison L. Bussell, Department of Law of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Phillip F. Cramer, Sherrard & Roe, PLC, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee. ON BRIEF:Allison L. Bussell, Kevin C. Klein, Department of Law of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Phillip F. Cramer, John L. Farringer IV, William L. Harbison, Ryan T. Holt, Sherrard & Roe, PLC, Nashville, Tennessee, Elliott Ozment, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee. Paul W. Ambrosius, Trauger & Tuke, Nashville, Tennessee, George E. Barrett, Barrett Johnston, LLC, Nashville, Tennessee, Farah C. Diaz–Tello, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, New York, New York, Alexa Kolbi–Molinas, ACLU Foundation, New York, New York, Eric Schnapper, Maureen Howard, University of Washington School of Law, Seattle, Washington, Rebecca S. Jones, Seattle, Washington, for Amici Curiae.

Before: CLAY, GIBBONS, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.

CLAY, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which GIBBONS, J., joined. WHITE, J. (pp. 581–84), delivered a separate dissenting opinion.


CLAY, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Juana Villegas brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming violations of her Eighth Amendment rights (made applicable to pretrial detainees through the Fourteenth Amendment) as a result of her being restrained and shackled prior to and following giving birth while in the custody of law enforcement authorities employed by Defendant Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to Plaintiff as to liability on both her shackling and denial-of-breast-pump claims. The case went to trial only on damages, and the jury awarded Plaintiff $200,000. For the reasons that follow, we REVERSE the district court's grant of summary judgment to Plaintiff and REMAND for further proceedings.


Plaintiff Juana Villegas's saga began on July 3, 2008 when her car was stopped by Berry Hill, Tennessee police officer Tim Coleman. At the time of the stop, Plaintiff was nine months pregnant. When Plaintiff failed to produce a valid driver's license, Coleman arrested Plaintiff and transported her to the jail operated by the Davison County Sheriff's Office (“the jail”).1 Once there, a jail employee, working as an agent of the United States through Immigration and Customs Enforcement's 287(g) program, see8 U.S.C. § 1357(g), inquired into Plaintiff's immigration status and determined that Plaintiff was not lawfully in the United States. Due to her illegal status, a detainer was placed on Plaintiff, which meant that federal immigration officials would delay taking any action until after resolution of Plaintiff's then-pending state charges. After being unable to post bond, Plaintiff was, as a result of the immigration detainer, classified as a medium-security inmate.

Plaintiff was held in the jail from Thursday, July 3, 2008 until late on Saturday, July 5, 2008. At 10:00 p.m. on July 5, 2008, Plaintiff informed a jail guard that her amniotic fluid (or “water”) had “broke” and that she was about to have her baby. Plaintiff was transported to the jail infirmary where a nurse confirmed that Plaintiff's water had broken and summoned an ambulance to take Plaintiff to Nashville General Hospital (the “Hospital”). For transportation in the ambulance, Plaintiff was placed on a stretcher with her wrists handcuffed together in front of her body and her legs restrained together. According to Defendant Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, because hospitals are “conducive to security breaches including escape,” medium-security inmates at hospitals remain shackled until they return to jail. (R. 79, Decl. of Richard Stalder, at PID# 680.) Two male officers (Matthew Barshaw and Thomas Farragher) accompanied Plaintiff in the ambulance to the Hospital with Barshaw riding in the front seat and Farragher in the back with Plaintiff. Barshaw questioned his supervisor about the leg restraints because “what if all of a sudden the baby started [and it] took more time to unrestrain these restraints in the back of the ambulance.” (R. 86–1, Dep. of Matthew Barshaw, at PID# 845.)

Upon arriving at the Hospital, Farragher removed Plaintiff's shackles at the request of Hospital staff so that Plaintiff could change into a hospital gown. Barshaw and Farragher remained in the room with Plaintiff with their backs turned as she changed, and after she finished, they again restrained her. Shortly after Plaintiff arrived at the Hospital, officer Brandi Moore arrived to relieve Barshaw and Farragher. Farragher informed Moore that Plaintiff was a “medium-security inmate” with a “hold” or “detainer” in her file and gave Moore a “charge sheet,” indicating Plaintiff's name, charge, and custody level. After Farragher and Barshaw left, Moore removed Plaintiff's handcuffs but kept one of Plaintiff's legs restrained to the hospital bed.

At some point during Moore's shift, Moore overheard Hospital staff talking to a doctor about a “No Restraint Order” but claims that she never received such an order from the Hospital. Additionally, Moore admitted to having been told by a nurse that she “shouldn't put leg irons on [Plaintiff],” but the conversation ended there. At 11:20 p.m., a Hospital doctor signed a physician's order stating: “Please remove shackles,” and this order was placed in Plaintiff's hospital file, though never specifically given to any officer. (R. 78–7, Pl.'s Hospital Records: 7/5/08, at PID# 672.) Moore was relieved by officer David Peralta at 11:00 p.m. on June 5th and told Peralta to “be prepared for a no restraint order.” (R. 93, Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts, at PID# 1725.).

Shortly after the shift change, Peralta removed Plaintiff's restraints. According to hospital records, when the shackles were removed, Plaintiff had only dilated to 3 centimeters (“cm”). Plaintiff did not become dilated to 4 cm, a point that Defendant contends is medically relevant, until 11:45 p.m. It was around this time that Plaintiff also first requested pain medication, which she received in the form of an epidural. Plaintiff gave birth without any complications at approximately 1:00 a.m. on July 6, 2008—roughly two hours after Peralta removed her shackles. Plaintiff remained unshackled until shortly before Peralta's shift ended at 7:00 a.m., when he re-restrained Plaintiff to the bed at one of her ankles. Plaintiff was never handcuffed postpartum.

At the time of Plaintiff's discharge from the Hospital, Defendant did not allow Plaintiff to take the breast pump that the Hospital staff had provided her. Defendant justified this based on safety concerns, and that under its policy, it did not consider a breast pump to be a “critical medical device,” which would have allowed Plaintiff to take it back to the jail.

In March 2009, Plaintiff filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee asserting various claims against Defendant. 2 Following discovery, Plaintiff and Defendant cross-moved for summary judgment. On April 27, 2011, the district court granted Plaintiff's partial summary judgment motion on the basis that Defendant was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs by shackling her while she was in labor and postpartum and denying her a breast pump on her release from the Hospital. See generally Villegas v. Metro. Gov't of Davidson Cnty., 789 F.Supp.2d 895 (M.D.Tenn.2011). The case proceeded to a trial on damages, and after a three-day trial, the jury awarded Plaintiff $200,000. Defendant timely appealed, invoking this Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

I. Deliberate Indifference

Plaintiff raises two claims alleging that Defendant violated her rights. First, she claims that by shackling her while she was in labor and postpartum, in the manner it did, Defendant was deliberately indifferent to her need to be unrestrained during this time. Second, Plaintiff claims that by denying her a breast pump, Defendant was deliberately indifferent to her medical needs. The district court granted Plaintiff summary judgment on both claims.

A. Standard of Review

We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, Ventas, Inc. v. HCP, Inc., 647 F.3d 291, 324 (6th Cir.2011), applying the same standards as the district court. Nartron Corp. v. STMicroelecs., Inc., 305 F.3d 397, 403 (6th Cir.2002). Summary judgment is appropriate “if the if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits, ‘show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact’ such that ‘the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.’ Ventas, 647 F.3d at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). “A genuine issue of material fact exists when there are ‘disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit.’ V & M Star Steel v. Centimark Corp., 678 F.3d 459, 465 (6th Cir.2012) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). In reviewing a summary judgment decision, this Court views the facts and all inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment was entered. Bell v. United States, 355 F.3d 387, 392 (6th Cir.2004).

B. General Principles

“The Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners from the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.’ Barker v. Goodrich, 649 F.3d 428, 434 (6th Cir.2011) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 89 L.Ed.2d 251 (...

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