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Bell v. Prison Healthcare LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 10, 2015

BRITTNE A BELL, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Rebeca Lynn Allred, Plaintiff;


L. SCOTT COOGLER, District Judge.

Before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Prison Healthcare, LLC. (Doc. 69.) Also pending is a motion to strike filed by that Defendant. (Doc. 72.) For the reasons stated below, the motion for summary judgment is due to be denied and the motion to strike is due to be denied as moot.

I. Background

Brittne Bell ("Bell"), the daughter of decedent Rebecca Allred ("Allred"), brings this suit alleging that Defendant Prison Healthcare, LLC's ("PHC") unconstitutional deliberate indifference caused her mother's death. Shelby County contracted with PHC to provide medical services to the Shelby County Jail, where Allred was incarcerated shortly before her death.

On May 13, 2011, Allred was arrested for failure to pay a tag fine and placed in the Shelby County Jail. During intake, an inmate medical screening was conducted by a correctional officer, and a nurse recorded the medications on Allred's person at the time of her arrest.

By the morning of May 15, 2011, Allred was sick enough that it concerned her fellow inmates who asked Christy Feenker ("Feenker"), a fellow inmate who was a nurse, to check on her because she had spent much of the previous night suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. Feenker checked on Allred and saw that she was disoriented, had a high temperature, and seemed dehydrated. Feenker pushed the call button to notify the staff about Allred's condition. Despite informing the staff, no medical personnel came to the pod until the evening "pill call, " where medications were administered to inmates. At pill call Feenker spoke to nurse Harvey Willard ("Willard"), and informed him of her concerns. Willard left the pod and returned later with a temperature strip to take Allred's temperature. Feenker explained that it was difficult to get Allred standing up in her condition, but Willard ordered them to do so.

Willard took Allred's temperature with the strip and found that Allred had a fever. Willard therefore moved Allred to the medical unit, where he charted at 9:45 P.M. that Allred had a temperature of 100.4 and complained of an earache. (Doc. 70-4 at 1.) He noted that Allred stated that she was bitten by a tick a few days before, and had a small puncture wound on the back of her neck without any redness, swelling, or rash. ( Id. ) Willard moved Allred to Room 113 for observation. Willard checked on Allred again approximately two hours later, at which time Allred was asleep.

On the morning of May 16, 2011, Willard checked on Allred again. He charted that she now had a temperature of 99.6, and indicated that she was not feeling well but made no specific complaints. ( Id. ) Allred was offered breakfast and fluids but refused them. At approximately 7:30 A.M. that day, Nurse Richard Robinson ("Robinson") checked on her. Allred's temperature was 98.2 at that time, and Robinson had her transferred back to general population as she no longer had a fever. According to a late entry made in the nurse's notes after Allred's death, that evening Allred was found lying under the telephone in her pod. An inmate helped Allred stand up and return to her bed, while another inmate informed the nurse that Allred was not feeling well, and took a sick call slip for her to fill out.

Before lunch on May 17, 2011, Allred's roommates again sought out Feenker to check on Allred. Feenker did so and found her unresponsive, and summoned a guard. Feenker informed the guard of Allred's condition and asked him to get a nurse, which the guard left to do. While waiting for the guard to return with medical help, Feenker called her husband and urged him to call 911 or the sheriff and ask them to send emergency help for Allred, and then called Dustin Allred to warn him of his mother's condition.

At approximately 12:50 P.M., Nurse Robinson was called by the guards to Allred's pod to check on her. He found her lying in bed and unresponsive. Robinson and several correctional officers created a make-shift gurney from bedsheets and moved Allred to a wheelchair, which they used to transport her to the medical unit. Upon examination in the medical unit, Robinson noted Allred's vitals and placed her in a room for observation. While under observation, Allred did not undergo any diagnostic tests nor was she treated with any medicine. According to Nurse Diana Shirley ("Shirley"), who also served as health administrator at Shelby County Jail, this was because medication can sometimes mask symptoms, so the medical staff wanted to observe Allred before providing her with any additional medical treatment.

While under observation, Allred began to rock back and forth in bed and foam at the mouth. Robinson and Shirley attempted to administer intravenous fluids, but were both unsuccessful in making five attempts at five different locations on her body. During this time, Shirley called Dustin Allred in response to multiple calls he had made to the jail concerning his mother. Shirley charted that during the call, she informed Dustin Allred about his mother's condition, and was informed that his mother was a "known IV drug abuser." (Doc. 70-4 at 2.)

Shirley then called to have Allred taken by ambulance to Shelby Baptist Medical Center. She also telephoned the Shelby Baptist Emergency Room to advise them of Allred's condition, and during that telephone call described Allred as "the boy who cried wolf, " possibly because she had confused her with another inmate or former inmate who frequently claimed to be sick. Allred was pronounced dead at Shelby Baptist the following morning. Her autopsy listed a final diagnosis of "acute massive hepatocellular necrosis" and "acute broncopneumonia, " with the cause of death listed as "liver failure." (Doc. 70-14 at 2.)

Bell filed her complaint against PHC and several other Defendants on September 17, 2012. Over the course of litigation, all the Defendants save PHC were dismissed. The only remaining claim is against PHC for violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. On March 13, ...

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