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Tyner v. Kershaw County

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

December 4, 2017

Angela Tyner, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Joey Matthew Tyner, Plaintiff,
v.
Kershaw County; Kershaw County Sheriff's Office; Southern Health Partners; and Charles Bush, M.D., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MERRY GORDON BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case was removed from the Kershaw County Court of Common Pleas on August 11, 2017. (Dkt. No. 1.) On August 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 8); Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion (Dkt. No. 12; Dkt. No. 13). A telephonic hearing was held on the motion on November 29, 2017. (Dkt. No. 22.) For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned recommends granting Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 8).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed the instant action against Defendants Kershaw County; Kershaw County Sheriff's Department; Kershaw County Detention Center (the “Detention Center” or “KCDC”); Southern Health Partners; and Charles Bush, M.D. in the Kershaw County Court of Common Pleas on August 11, 2016. (See Dkt. No. 1-4.)[1] As noted above, one year later, on August 11, 2017, the instant action was removed to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. (See Dkt. No. 1.) Shortly before the instant action was removed--on July 7, 2017--Plaintiff filed an action in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina against Michael Alston, Linda Bradshaw, Officer Brooks, James Butler, Ruth Covington-Leitner, Officer Davis, John Durant, Chene Graham, Evelyn Rabon, Peggy Spivey, Marlon Stukes, Ervin Whack, and Officer Chevonne Workman. (See generally Dkt. No. 1 in Civ. A. No. 2:17-cv-01790-BHH-MGB.) Both of these lawsuits arise out of the death of Joey Matthew Tyner (“Mr. Tyner” or the “Decedent”) at the Kershaw County Detention Center. (See generally Dkt. No. 1-5 in 2:17-cv-02131-BHH-MGB; Dkt. No. 1 in 2:17-cv-01790-BHH-MGB.)[2]

         In the case sub judice, Plaintiff brings “negligence/gross negligence” as well as survival and wrongful death claims against Defendants Kershaw County; Kershaw County Sheriff's Department; and Charles Bush, M.D. (See generally Dkt. No. 1-5.) Plaintiff alleges that she “(as the wife) is the duly appointed Personal Representative of the Estate of Joey Matthew Tyner, having been so appointed by the Kershaw County Probate Court” on November 3, 2014. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Southern Health Partners “had a contractual relationship with the Kershaw County Detention Center, Kershaw County, and/or Kershaw County Sheriff's Office[] to provide medical care and services to detainees/inmates located at and in the custody of the [Kershaw County] Detention Center.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Dr. Bush “was acting individually, as an independent contractor, and as a servant, agent, or employee of Southern Health Partners, Inc.” and that “a doctor/patient relationship existed” between Dr. Bush and the Decedent. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5.)

         Plaintiff further alleges that the Decedent had “a history of drug and alcohol abuse/addiction, ” and he “had a number of health and mental health issues to include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and high blood pressure.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff alleges as follows:

9. The decedent's pattern of substance abuse, combined with his chronic mental illnesses, le[d] to multiple arrests. Those arrests further exacerbated the decedent's depression and triggered suicidal ideations. In fact, records received from Kershaw County reflect multiple references to the decedent's history of suicide attempts. Additionally, Medical Screening forms prepared by Southern Partners on July 12, 2013 and May 30, 2013 specifically refer to the decedent's long-standing mental health problems including on July 12th: “6 years ago--suicide attempt, 1-1/2 years ago-hung self. . .”. The Kershaw County Detention Center Mental Health Referral Form dated July 12, 2013 describes the decedent as “depressed, anxious, talks constantly about previous suicide attempts. . .”. The Medication Administration Forms obtained from Kershaw County include prescriptions for the period February 2012 through November 2013 to include Citalopram (anti-depressant), Hydroxyzine (anxiety), Lexapro (anxiety and major depression disorder), Celexa (anxiety), Divalproex (treatment for manic phase of bipolar disorder), and Valporic Acid (bipolar disorder). The medical records obtained from SCDC chronic[le] the decedent's long interaction with jail personnel for treatment of his mental health problems. Specifically, his history of previous suicide attempts are reflected in the records no fewer than 16 times. These records were available to the Defendants upon his admission to the Detention Center on July 9, 2014.

(Am. Compl. ¶ 9.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on July 9, 2014, the Kershaw County Sheriff's Office arrested the Decedent and transferred him to the Kershaw County Detention Center. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) According to Plaintiff, by that time, the Decedent “had been drinking heavily and using drugs for at least the 24 hours prior, ” and “[b]ased upon his physical and mental condition upon presentation, he should have been taken directly to the hospital for examination and treatment before ever being taken to the Detention Center.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that, upon the Decedent's arrest, the Decedent “was clearly under the influence of alcohol and drugs, ” and “[i]t seems very likely that any police officer, correctional officer and/or jail medical personnel who came into contact with the decedent following his arrest on July 9, 2014 (with any training or experience whatsoever) should have easily been able to tell that the decedent was extremely impaired.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 12.)

         Plaintiff alleges that upon his arrival at the Detention Center, and despite his “long medical history that was noted to include bipolar disorder, PTSD, anxiety, alcohol intoxication, and drug abuse, the decedent was not referred to a mental health physician for a proper mental health evaluation, ” and the Decedent was not placed on suicide watch. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff contends “the failure of jail personnel and Southern Health Partners staff to recognize that the decedent presented with a mental health emergency; that the decedent was a threat to himself; and that the decedent needed to be properly evaluated and examined at this time at a mental health facility by a mental health specialist were all . . . gross deviations from the acceptable standard of medical care.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff states,

[T]he failure of the jail and Southern Health Partners staff to provide the decedent with proper and emergent medical care including referring him to a mental health specialist, or to consider and implement voluntary/involuntary commitment was a gross deviation in the acceptable standard of medical care. At a minimum, if released into KCDC custody, the failure of jail and Southern Health Partners staff to order that the decedent be placed on suicide watch . . . was a gross deviation in the acceptable standard of care. Such failure . . . contributed to the overall deterioration of the decedent's mental illness that eventually led him to kill himself on July 13, 2014.

(Am. Compl. ¶ 20.)

         Plaintiff alleges that “[b]ased upon the improper intake/medical screening performed by KCDC, the decedent was improperly classified and sent to an unsupervised cell by himself, not on suicide watch.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff further alleges that the “policies and procedures of the Detention Center required that regular cell checks on each inmate be performed at least once every thirty (30) minutes, ” and “video footage produced by the Detention Center clearly show[s] officers and other Detention Center employees failing to perform the checks as required and at different times than what is shown on the handwritten cell check logs.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff alleges the Decedent was found hanging in his cell “by the very sheet provided to him by the correctional staff.” (Am. Comp. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff states, inter alia, “The combined failure of all the Defendants to recognize the decedent's ongoing, emergent and immediate need of medical and mental care from July 9, 2014 through July 14, 2014 was a gross deviation in the acceptable standard of care that contributed directly to the decedent's pain, suffering and untimely ...


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