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Khan v. Southern Health Partners

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

October 29, 2019

Aaron Shah Khan, Plaintiff,
Southern Health Partners, Deputy Wilson, Deputy McDuffie, Sgt. Bradly, Lt. Eric Riddel, Nurse NFN Shellie, Deputy Craig Hallett, Deputy Timmerman, Nurse NFN Angel, Brandi Galloway, Sherry Hammick, Dr. NFN Williams, Deputy Gibson, Nurse NFN Robyn, Deputy Arthurs, Deputy Merrick, Deputy Cobb, Deputy Roberts, Lt. Butts, Lt. Hettich, Lt. Bowman, Lt. Clamp, Cpl. Brodus and Cpl Buggs, Defendants.



         This action has been filed by the Plaintiff, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1]Plaintiff, who at the time this case was filed was a pretrial detainee at the Aiken County Detention Center (ACDC), [2] alleges violation of his constitutional rights by the named Defendants.

         The Detention Center employee Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P., on March 20, 2019. As the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, a Roseboro Order was entered by the Court on March 21, 2019, advising Plaintiff of the importance of a dispositive motion and of the need for him to file an adequate response. Plaintiff was specifically advised that if he failed to adequately respond, the Defendants' motions may be granted. The remaining medical Defendants then filed their own motion for summary judgment on March 22, 2019, and a second Roseboro Order was entered by the Court on March 25, 2019. After Plaintiffs mail was returned as being undeliverable, a Report and Recommendation for dismissal for failure to prosecute was entered on April 20, 2019. However, after a response in opposition to the motions for summary judgment was received on May 6, 2019, the undersigned vacated that Report and Recommendation.

         The Defendants' motions are now before the Court for disposition.[3]

         Background and Evidence

         Plaintiffs claims involve allegedly improper medical care he received in the period May - August 2018 while he was incarcerated at the ACDC. Plaintiff alleges in his verified Complaint[4] that on or about May 16, 2018 the Defendant Nurse Shellie came by to administer night time meds, and when he swung his legs around to get out of his bunk he heard a slight popping/snapping noise. Plaintiff alleges that about two hours later his left leg began hurting. Plaintiff alleges that the following day (May 17th), early in the morning hours, he took four ibuprofen tablets that he had purchased from the canteen, and later informed the Defendant Deputy Wilson (while he was making his routine rounds) that he was in severe pain and could not stand or move his left leg. Plaintiff alleges that Wilson then contacted medical and/or the shift supervisor (the Defendant Lt. Riddel), who (along with the Defendants Sgt. Bradly and Deputy McDuffie) took him to medical in a wheelchair. Plaintiff alleges that after a “very brief examination”, Nurse Shellie told him that he had probably pulled or strained a muscle and gave him an ibuprofen tablet.

         Plaintiff alleges that later that morning he had Deputy Wilson call in for a walker so he could go to the bathroom. Plaintiff alleges that Lt. Riddel and Sgt. Bradly brought him a walker so he could use the bathroom, and then (after he had used the bathroom) removed the walker from his cell. Plaintiff alleges that a little later he was sitting on his bunk “in an uncomfortable upright position”, when he fell to the floor while trying to hit the call button (which was located on an adjacent wall). Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Wilson (who he assumes heard him fall) called in a medical emergency, following which Riddel, Bradly and Nurse Shellie all came to his cell. Plaintiff alleges that Nurse Shellie checked his vitals and then spoke to Lt. Riddel, and that when Plaintiff asked Riddel if he could be helped off the floor, Riddel told him that the nurse had instructed him to leave Plaintiff on the floor because he might have a torn muscle, and moving him might worsen the damage.[5] Plaintiff alleges that Riddel and Bradly then took two mats off of the bunk bed and placed them on the floor. Plaintiff alleges that about twenty minutes later, during “count”, he asked Defendant Deputy Hallett if he would help him get off the floor, but that Hallett informed the Plaintiff that he had been instructed to leave him on the floor. However, Hallett also informed Plaintiff that he would call medical to come check on him again. Plaintiff alleges that after no one had come after about thirty minutes, he began to bang on his cell door and yell “at the top of my lungs”, but that Hallett did not return for about an hour to inform him that the Defendant MTA[6]Brandi Galloway was on the way Plaintiff alleges that Galloway “finally showed up” about thirty minutes later (9:30 a.m.), examined his left leg, and told Plaintiff she would call the physician and get back to him.

         Plaintiff alleges that later that day, at about 2:15 p.m., he asked Deputy Hallett if he could leave his cell for his daily one hour recreation and also so he could try calling his family. Plaintiff alleges that after his cell door was opened, he proceeded to “crawl” from his cell to the D-Max telephone, where he called his mother and asked her to ask for medical help for him. Plaintiff alleges that about fifteen minutes later, he called his mother back and was told that someone in medical had informed her that Galloway was with the Plaintiff at that “very moment”, which was untrue. Plaintiff alleges that he then “crawled” back to his cell and asked the Defendant Deputy Timmerman (who was giving Hallett a break) to close his cell door. Plaintiff alleges that about forty five minutes later (at 3:30 p.m.) Galloway “finally” came back to his cell and informed him that she had spoken to the physician. She then administered another eight hundred mg. Ibuprofen tablet and gave Plaintiff a bag of ice (which Plaintiff states “greatly helped”).

         Plaintiff alleges he also asked Galloway if he could get help getting off the floor, and that she said yes and left his cell. Plaintiff alleges that he then received his dinner tray around 4:15 p.m., but was told by Deputy Hallett that he would have to wait until “count” at 6:00 p.m. before he could get help to get Plaintiff up off the floor. Plaintiff alleges that at 6:15 p.m. Hallett finally helped get him off the floor, replaced his mattresses, and got him back on his bunk. The walker was also placed back in the cell at that point. Plaintiff complains, however, that during the 9:00 p.m. nurses “med-run” he did not receive a muscle relaxer (flexeril 10 mg) he was supposed to be receiving because they were out of the drug, which was a “recurring” problem.

         Plaintiff alleges that the following morning he was again given some ice by Nurse Galloway while receiving his morning meds. Plaintiff alleges that around three thirty that afternoon, he asked the Defendant Deputy Gibson to call medical and ask when he could see the doctor, and that around 4:00 p.m. Gibson informed him that he would see the doctor that day. Plaintiff alleges that shortly thereafter (around 4:20 p.m.) he was “wheel-chaired” to medical and saw the ACDC physician (the Defendant Dr. Williams), who performed a “very brief” examination and diagnosed Plaintiff with a pulled or strained iliofemoral ligament. Plaintiff alleges the physician ordered ice for his leg and stated that heat should be applied to the affected area Saturday and Sunday mornings, which Plaintiff alleges “never occurred”. Plaintiff further alleges that he asked Nurse Galloway for eight hundred milligrams (presumably of ibuprofen) to be administered to him twice a day and Tylenol once a day, and that although she agreed, that also “never occurred”. Plaintiff also alleges that he received no ice, ibuprofen, or Tylenol from Nurse Shellie during the 9:00 p.m. med run that evening.

         Plaintiff alleges that early the following morning (now May 19), at about 1:30 a.m., the Defendant Deputy Arthurs brought him an ice pack (per Nurse Shellie). However, during the 8 to 9 a.m. morning med run, Plaintiff complains he got no ibuprofen, and that the Defendant Nurse Angel told him “she had no idea how to get [him] heat for the leg injury”. Plaintiff alleges that around noon he asked the Defendant Deputy Roberts to notify the Defendant Nurse Robyn that he wanted some ibuprofen and ice for the “increasing” pain in his leg, and that he continued to ask Deputy Roberts for ice for his leg over the course of the afternoon, but that around 5:00 p.m. Roberts informed him that the delay was due to them being unable to contact or reach Galloway to verify that ice had been prescribed for his leg injury. However, Plaintiff also alleges (contradicting his earlier statement in his Complaint) that the Defendant Nurse Robyn had brought ice to his cell that afternoon at around 3:45 p.m. Plaintiff further alleges that he had called his mother earlier that afternoon to complain and to ask that she call the medical department about his lack of medical care and treatment, and that when Nurse Robyn brought him his ice she was “noticeably upset” and told Plaintiff he would be charged with harassment if his family continued to call medical complaining about Plaintiff's medical treatment.

         Plaintiff alleges that at 12:00 a.m. on Sunday morning (May 20th), he asked the Defendant Deputy Arthurs to call Nurse Shellie to inquire about getting some more ice, and that shortly thereafter she said she would bring it. Plaintiff complains that at 1:00 a.m. he asked Arthurs where his ice was, and was informed that the nurse was on the way. However, Plaintiff complains that Arthurs did not finally bring him his ice pack until 1:30 a.m.[7] Plaintiff also alleges that from May 18 to May 31 the Defendant Galloway had agreed to give him ibuprofen two times a day and Tylenol once a day for his leg pain, but that he was only given this medication once. Plaintiff then alleges that on either May 31 or June 14, around 4:30 p.m., he was taken to medical for a followup visit for his left leg complaints, at which time the doctor gave him a steroid injection and ordered ice for the next two days in the morning.

         Plaintiff also alleges that about 9:00 a.m. on June 7 he spoke to Galloway about receiving some meds, and that at about 8:30 a.m. on July 2 he was taken from the Detention Center to the Carolina Musculoskelatal Institute for outside medical care, where he was seen by Dr. Kevin Ard. Plaintiff alleges that this visit was for a review of a separate complaint he had about neck/back pain, but that he asked the Defendant Deputy Cobb (who was transporting him) if he could also get his leg injury checked while he was there, but that Cobb said “no”. Plaintiff alleges that he was given two steroid injections, was prescribed Zanaflex, three times a day, and was scheduled for an MRI. Plaintiff alleges that after he was returned to the Detention Center he informed Galloway what Dr. Ard had prescribed, and that Galloway told him she could only get the Zanaflex filled twice a day (or 2 then 1 pill a day, in either format).[8]

         Plaintiff alleges that on July 9 he put in for a sick call asking Galloway to come see him to discuss the next step regarding his leg injury, but that she never came. However, between July 9 and July 13 he did speak to Galloway and she informed him that on his next outside medical visit (follow up) he could get both his neck/back and leg looked at. Plaintiff alleges that on July 15 he submitted a grievance regarding not receiving his Zanaflex pills. Plaintiff also alleges that he was taking Gabapentin for his back/neck pain, but when that drug was discontinued, as of July 23, 2018 he had never received a replacement medication. Plaintiff alleges that on July 23 he sent the Defendant Lt. Butts an inquiry concerning a request he had made, but that Butts responded back to him on July 24 that he had not “found the time yet” to sit down with the Defendant Lt. Bowman to discuss his request.[9] Plaintiff alleges that thereafter, on August 5, 2018, he submitted two grievances concerning the medical department continuing to fail to provide appropriate medical care for his left leg injury, and for the Defendants Bowman, Hettich, Riddel and Butts failing to properly answer his grievances. Plaintiff requests monetary damages against the individual Defendants, as well as injunctive relief including more training for staff and improve medical responses/practices. See generally, Plaintiff's Complaint.

         In support of summary judgment in the case the Detention Center employee Defendants have submitted an affidavit from Nick Gallam, who attests that he is the Administrator of the Aiken County Detention Center, where he is responsible for the day to day operations of the Detention Center. Gallam attests that Plaintiff was detained at the ACDC beginning January 4, 2018 following his arrest on a charge of armed robbery, and that Plaintiff was transferred from the Detention Center to the South Carolina Department of Corrections on March 15, 2019.[10] Gallam attests that the medical staff and personnel at the jail are not employees of the Sheriff or the jail, and are not under his supervision. Further, at no point was Plaintiff denied access to medical treatment during his period of Detention at the ACDC. Gallam has attached to his affidavit true and accurate copies of the Plaintiff's Inmate file (Exhibit A) and medical records (Exhibit B). See generally, Gallam Affidavit, with attached Exhibits.

         The medical Defendants have provided an affidavit from the Defendant Brandi Galloway, as well as a copy of Plaintiff's medical records. Galloway attests that she is a Registered Nurse employed by the Defendant Southern Health Partners, Inc. as the MTA at the Aiken County Detention Center, where her job is to provide nursing care to detainees/patients and coordinate the medical department. Galloway attests that the Defendant Nurse Shellie is Shellie Donaldson, who formerly worked as a nurse in the medical department at the Detention Center, and that her last day of work was July 8, 2018. Galloway further attests that the Defendant Sherry Hammick's correct name is Sue Hammock, and that she filled in as a nurse on an as needed basis at the Detention Center on three occasions in 2018 - February 7, March 8, and March 27. Galloway attests that the Defendant Nurse Robyn is Roben Wolfe, who is no longer a nurse at the Detention Center. Galloway attests that the Defendant Nurse Angel's correct name is Angel Reed, and that she is the Medication Technician at the Detention Center. In this position, Reed passes out medications that have been prescribed to inmates during MedPass, which is twice a day. Galloway attests that the Defendant Dr. Williams is Dr. Robert Williams, who is the Medical Director at the Detention Center. Galloway attests that Dr. Williams provides treatment to detainees and oversees the care provided by the nurses. Galloway attests that neither she nor any of the nurses in the medical department can prescribe medication or change dosages of a medication that has been prescribed. Galloway further attests that all of the employees in the medical department are employed by Southern Health Partners, not by Aiken County or the Detention Center, and that these individuals' only role is to provide health services. They do not have involvement in any other matters at the Detention Center.

         Galloway attests that Plaintiff was detained at the Detention Center from January 4, 2018 to approximately March 15, 2019. Galloway attests that during his time at the Detention Center Plaintiff regularly complained about pain in his neck and back. Galloway attests that shortly after he arrived, Plaintiff advised medical that he had a degenerative neck/back condition which caused chronic pain, and also that he had sleep apnea. Galloway attests that they initially provided Plaintiff with prescription strength ibuprofen for pain, and also gave him an order allowing for him to have a c-pap machine for his sleep apnea. Further, when Plaintiff continued to complain of neck and back pain, Dr. Williams ordered Naproxen for him, and then provided Plaintiff with Tylenol until the Naproxen order had arrived. However, Galloway attests that shortly after receiving the Naproxen, Plaintiff advised that it was not working and that he was still experiencing pain. Plaintiff requested Gabapentin (Neurontin) instead, saying that he had previously taken this medication and that it helped, so Dr. Williams ordered Gabapentin for the Plaintiff and also added Cyclobenzaprine (a muscle relaxant, also know as Flexeril) to Plaintiff's medical list. Galloway attests that medical also issued a request for Plaintiff to receive a second mat for his bed in order to make him more comfortable. Even so, over the following months Plaintiff continued to complain and ask that his dosages be increased. Galloway attests that in response Dr. Williams made several modifications to Plaintiff's dosages as he deemed appropriate in an effort to address Plaintiff's continuing pain complaints. They also requested records of prior care from Plaintiff's outside physician to learn more about his condition, and these records revealed prior knee and neck issues.

         Galloway attests that in the early hours of May 17 medical was called to Plaintiff's cell, where he was found on the floor. Plaintiff stated that he had heard a “pop” when he had tried to get out of his bed, and was experiencing intense pain in his thigh/groin area. Galloway attests that Plaintiff was checked by the nurse and provided with some prescription strength ibuprofen. He was also monitored throughout the next day and given ice packs and then warm compresses for the area. Galloway attests that Dr. Williams examined Plaintiff the next day (May 18) and determined ...

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