Walker v. Mohiuddin, 19-3070

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtMURPHY, Circuit Judge.
Citation947 F.3d 1244
Parties Shermaine WALKER, individually and as administrator of the estate of Marques Davis, deceased; Kathleen ForsytH, as Guardian Ad Litem of I.D.F., Plaintiffs - Appellees, v. Sohaib MOHIUDDIN, M.D., Defendant - Appellant, and Corizon Health, Inc., formerly known as Correctional Medical Services; Paul Corbier, M.D.; Karl Saffo, M.D.; Heather Ungeheur, APRN; Nancy Ciskey, APRN; Rhonda Durant, APRN; Debra Lundry, RN; Jennifer Helus, RN; Sarah Mendoza ; Barbara Dickerson, RN; Karen Dennis, RN; Kelly French, RN; Jennifer Vest, RN; John or Jane Doe 1, Medical Director; John or Jane Doe 2, Health Services Administrator; John or Jane Doe 3, Director of Nursing, Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 19-3070,19-3070
Decision Date14 January 2020

Eric Turner, Foulston Siefkin LLP, Overland Park, Kansas (Thomas L. Theis, Foulston Siefkin LLP, Topeka, Kansas, with him on the briefs), for Defendant - Appellant.

Kyle McRae (Leland F. Dempsey on the brief), Dempsey & Kingsland, P.C., Kansas City, Missouri, for Plaintiffs - Appellees.

Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, MURPHY, and CARSON, Circuit Judges.

MURPHY, Circuit Judge.


Marques Davis was an inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility ("HCF") from June 2016 until his death in April 2017. During the course of his confinement, Davis suffered from constant neurological symptoms, the cause of which went untreated by HCF medical personnel. When he eventually died from Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis

, Davis’s brain was so swollen the upper part was forced downward into the lower part (i.e., tonsillar herniation ). Davis’s estate ("the Estate") brought federal and state law claims against Corizon Health, Inc. ("Corizon") and numerous health care professionals who interacted with Davis during his incarceration. One such medical professional, Dr. Sohaib Mohiuddin, filed a qualified-immunity-based motion to dismiss the Estate’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim. The district court denied the motion, concluding the complaint set out a clearly established violation of Davis’s right to be free from deliberate indifference to the need for serious medical care. Mohiuddin appeals, asserting the district court erred in determining the complaint’s conclusory and collective allegations state a valid Eighth Amendment claim as to him. Upon de novo review, this court concludes the complaint does not state a valid deliberate indifference claim as to Mohiuddin. Thus, exercising jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291,1 we reverse the denial of Mohiuddin’s motion to dismiss and remand the matter to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

A. Factual Background

In 2010, Davis was sentenced to serve time in the Kansas penal system. He was transferred to HCF in June 2016. Prior to his arrival at HCF, Davis was a healthy twenty-seven-year-old man. During Davis’s incarceration at HCF, the Kansas Department of Corrections contracted with Corizon to provide medical care for inmates. Mohiuddin was a Corizon employee assigned to HCF.

In July and August 2016, Davis began experiencing numbness in his feet, weakness in his right leg, and severe mid-back pain. He reported his symptoms to numerous unnamed Corizon healthcare providers.2 A Corizon doctor determined Davis’s symptoms were caused by his blood pressure medication and discontinued the medication.

During September 2016, Davis made approximately twelve visits to HCF’s medical unit concerning numbness in his feet, weakness of his right leg, severe mid-back pain, and an increasing difficulty in walking. Healthcare providers prescribed Tylenol

and ordered a lumbar x-ray, but noted Davis appeared to be malingering.

In October 2016, Davis made eight visits to the medical unit for the same symptoms. Doctor Karl Saffo noted Davis’s muscle weakness and numbness in his feet.

Saffo’s notes indicate he was going to seek approval for "EMG studies" of Davis’s lower extremities. During that same period, a nurse documented the need for an MRI referral. Neither an MRI nor "EMG studies" took place during October.

In November 2016, Davis visited HCF’s medical unit five times for the same symptoms. During this month, Davis received "EMG studies" of his lower extremities and a neurology consultation. Davis’s EMG results were documented as normal.

In December 2016, Davis visited HCF’s medical unit eight times as his symptoms continued to worsen. In addition to his previous symptoms, Davis complained of pain, numbness, and itching in his arms that radiated from his elbows to his fingertips. He also told healthcare providers that "it feels like something is eating my brain." Davis requested an MRI.

In January 2017, Davis made four visits to HCF’s medical unit. Corizon healthcare providers continued to give him Tylenol

in response to his complaints. After Davis passed out on January 19, he was placed in HCF’s infirmary. Corizon healthcare providers placed Davis on prednisone for ten days without documenting any diagnosis. Davis remained in the infirmary until February 14th. During this time, healthcare providers prescribed Tylenol and constipation medicine. Healthcare providers also continued to document their beliefs Davis was faking illness. On February 5th, Corizon medical personnel documented that they would seek a neurology consultation. Davis never received such a consult.

On February 21st, Davis returned to the medical unit for a follow-up visit. Corizon healthcare providers documented that an EKG done during the visit was abnormal and that a neurology consult request was not approved. Two days later, a corrections officer brought Davis to the medical unit. Medical personnel documented that Davis was "dizzy and unsteady on his feet" and had trouble tracking with his eyes, sluggish pupillary reaction, and erratic eye movement. On February 27th, Davis was placed in the infirmary for dizziness, but was discharged the next day.

In March 2017, Davis’s condition continued to decline. He made seven additional visits to the medical unit. He continued to suffer from numbness in his feet, weakness of his right leg, severe mid-back pain, an increasing inability to walk, numbness in his hands, dizziness, vision problems, and migraines. During this time period, however, numerous healthcare providers continued to document Davis was faking his symptoms. On March 25, nurse Nina Morales saw Davis for an emergency visit. She documented that Davis "also reports dizziness, balance disturbances, and decreased vision to right eye. Fingers to hands are stiff and bend in abnormal directions. Arms shake uncontrollably." Davis was, nevertheless, released from the infirmary. Later that night, Davis was again admitted to the infirmary after he was found lying on the floor outside his cell. Health Care providers gave Davis Tylenol

and documented his dizziness and that his "whole body is shaking." On March 26th, Davis’s condition worsened further. In addition to all his previous symptoms, he began acting erratically and uncharacteristically. He needed assistance using the toilet and began urinating in cups and his water pitcher. Because of his bizarre behavior, he was moved to an isolation cell within the infirmary. Through either mistake or fabrication, "Corizon healthcare providers documented [Davis’s] brain MRI came back as ‘normal’ and that a neurology consult had been ordered." In fact, at this point in time, Davis had never received an MRI of his brain.

During the remainder of March and the beginning of April 2016, Davis’s condition continued to worsen. He frequently urinated and defecated on himself and made no attempt to clean up. He became increasingly confused, as he began slurring his speech, talking incoherently, and drinking his own urine. By this time, he also noticeably lost weight and was eating only small portions of his meals. "Corizon healthcare providers continued to dismiss [Davis’s] complaints as fake, but ordered a neurology consult ‘ASAP.’ " A Neurology consult was eventually scheduled for June 22, 2017, but Davis died before it could take place.

Davis finally received an MRI of his brain on April 11, 2017. The MRI indicated a wide-spread infection throughout Davis’s brain and evidence of tonsillar herniation

. Davis was not immediately hospitalized after the results of his MRI. Instead, Corizon healthcare providers moved him back to his isolation cell within the infirmary. The only paragraph of the complaint that specifically mentions Mohiuddin, paragraph 145, states as follows:

After Decedent [Davis’s] abnormal April 11, 2017 MRI, Defendants Paul Corbier, M.D., [Mohiuddin], and Karl Saffo, M.D., were deliberately indifferent to his rights under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in that said defendants failed and refused to order immediate hospitalization in light of a life threatening, serious medical need.

On April 12th, at 12:25 p.m., Davis went into cardio-pulmonary arrest. Corizon healthcare providers began administering CPR at 12:42 and notified emergency medical services. Davis was taken to a local hospital, where he died the next day. A brain CT at the hospital before Davis’s death showed dramatic tonsillar herniation

. According to the complaint, given the dramatic swelling of the brain, "[t]here was no hope of recovery for Davis." An autopsy eventually revealed advanced Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis involving the lungs, liver, kidney, and brain.

B. Procedural Background

The Estate filed suit against, inter alia, Mohiuddin. Count IV of the Estate’s complaint, which invoked 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserted Mohiuddin and others were deliberately indifferent to Davis’s serious medical needs and failed to provide essential medical care and treatment. Mohiuddin moved to dismiss Count IV of the complaint on the basis of qualified immunity. In particular, citing this court’s decision in Robbins v. Oklahoma , 519 F.3d 1242, 1246-50 (10th Cir. 2008), Mohiuddin asserted that, after discounting the collective...

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