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Godwin v. Health

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

April 10, 2017

KIMBERLY M. GODWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON HEALTH, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SONJA F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This action is before the Court on Defendant Corizon LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 22) and Plaintiff's response in opposition (Doc. 28, 29). Upon careful review of the motion, briefs, supporting materials and the applicable case law, the Court concludes that no material facts are in controversy and that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Background

         The evidence submitted by the parties shows that Defendant Corizon LLC (“Corizon”) has a contract with the Alabama Department of Corrections (“ADOC”) to provide health care related services to inmates incarcerated within Alabama state correctional facilities. (Doc. 22-2 at 23). Plaintiff Kimberly M. Godwin (hereinafter “Plaintiff” or “Godwin”) worked as a nurse for Corizon at various correctional facilities from approximately September 2009 to April 29, 2014. (Doc. 22-2 at 4, 6; Doc. 28-1 at 5-7).

         In November 2011, Plaintiff was terminated by Corizon on the ground that she had not worked for the company in over ninety days. (Doc. 28-1 at 6). In 2012, Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge alleging discrimination based on her age and race (Caucasian). The charge ultimately resulted in a negotiated settlement whereby Plaintiff was reinstated by Corizon on May 14, 2012 to work at Fountain Correctional facility. (Doc. 22-2 at 5, 7, 17, 19).

         From December 2013 through early February 2014, Godwin sought and was approved for intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) as a result of her contracting the flu and then pneumonia. (Doc. 22-2 at 8, 26-27). Beginning February 6, 2014 through April 28, 2014, Godwin was away from work on FMLA leave.[1] (Doc. 22-2 at 26-27).

         Prior to Godwin taking her FMLA leave in February 2014, Darrell LeGrand (“LeGrand”), an inmate at Fountain, completed a sick call request form on January 27, 2014, in which he asked to see a doctor and get his medication prescription renewed. (Doc. 22-2 at 9-10, 31-32, 43, 53). Corizon policy requires that, when an inmate fills out a sick call request form and requests to see a physician, the on-call nurse must assess the inmate (including taking the inmate's vital signs) prior to the inmate being seen by a physician. (Doc. 22-2 at 25, 47, 53-54). Corizon policy further requires that, when performing a physical on an inmate in response to a sick call request, the nurse must remove the inmate from his cell and take him to a screening room or other designated area for the physical examination. (Doc. 22-2 at 37, 47, 53, 58). Corizon policy prohibits a nurse from obtaining an inmate's vital signs at the cell or through the prison cell door for reasons of privacy and security. (Doc. 22-2 at 34, 37, 47-48, 53, 58). Corizon policy, and Fountain prison regulations, also require that an ADOC officer accompany any nurse who enters the segregation unit to remove an inmate from his cell in order to perform a medical assessment of that inmate. (Doc. 22-2 at 25, 48, 53).

         On January 28, 2014, inmate LeGrand submitted a written medical grievance to Corizon stating that, on January 27, 2014, nothing had been done in response to his sick call request. Inmate LeGrand stated: “Nurse Goodin (sic) was working 3-11 shift and claim she did an assessment on me. I'm stating that Nurse Godwin never did any assessment on me. I was never asked [nor] was I taken out of my cell.”[2] (Doc. 22-2 at 31, 65, 67).

         Upon receiving LeGrand's medical grievance, Corizon began an investigation into the incident. (Doc. 22-2 at 32, 54, 67). The investigation was led by Director of Nursing Kevin Baugh and Health Services Administrator Katherine Gibson.[3] (Doc. 22-2 at 23, 26, 54). In her capacity as Health Services Administrator, Gibson was the highest ranking Corizon employee at Fountain. She oversaw the entire healthcare unit at Fountain, including the nursing and day-to-day operations of the Fountain healthcare facilities. (Doc. 22-2 at 23-24). Kevin Baugh was the Director of Nursing at Fountain from August 2013 until approximately August 2014. (Doc. 22-2 at 52). As Director of Nursing, all of the nursing staff at Fountain reported to him. (Id.).

         Corizon began its investigation into inmate LeGrand's medical grievance by pulling the sick call log, [4] LeGrand's medical chart, and the nursing encounter tool for LeGrand, which was dated January 27, 2014, and signed by Godwin. (Doc. 22-2 at 32-33, 36). Corizon also pulled the ADOC logs for January 27, 2014, which did not reflect that a sick call was made. (Doc. 22-2 at 36). The ADOC logs showed that ADOC Correctional Officer Larry Brooks was on duty during the same time period, and therefore would have been the officer assigned to accompany Godwin had she gone into the segregation unit to take LeGrand's vital signs. (Doc. 22-2 at 36, 55-56, 61-62). It is undisputed that whenever a nurse has to go into the segregation unit, the nurse must be accompanied by an ADOC officer. (Doc. 22-2 at 10).

         Gibson discussed the matter with the warden at Fountain. Thereafter, the warden gave Gibson a statement from Officer Brooks, who confirmed that he was on duty on January 27, 2014, that he had accompanied Godwin on her rounds in the segregation unit on that day, and that Godwin did not perform any type of medical assessment on inmate LeGrand. (Doc. 22-2 at 56, 61-62).

         Thereafter, Director of Nursing Baugh interviewed Officer Brooks directly. He again confirmed that Godwin did not take inmate LeGrand's vital signs and did not perform any kind of medical or physical assessment on LeGrand either at cell door or in the screening room per Corizon policy.[5] (Doc. 22-2 at 55-56, 61-62).

         Corizon also reviewed the security camera footage for the lobby in the segregation unit for January 27, 2014. It revealed that inmate LeGrand was not removed from his cell by Godwin in order to take his vital signs, as required by Corizon's policies governing medical assessments on inmates. (Doc. 22-2 at 34-35, 37, 47, 54-55, 58). According to Plaintiff, Officer Canon, not Officer Brooks, accompanied her to the segregation unit on January 27, 2014, while she performed the medical assessment on inmate LeGrand through the cell door. (Doc. 22-2 at 10-11). Per Plaintiff, she did not remove inmate LeGrand from his cell or take him to the screening room or any other designated assessment area. Instead, she completed the entire medical assessment (including taking his oxygen saturation rate, blood pressure, and temperature) through the door of the inmate's cell as he stuck his arm out of the cell. (Doc. 22-2 at 10).

         As a result of its investigation, Corizon concluded that Godwin had failed to perform a medical assessment of inmate LeGrand and had fraudulently completed LeGrand's medical chart to cover up that fact. (Doc. 22-2 at 30-31, 58, 69). On February 21, 2014, Health Services Administrator Gibson and Director of Nursing Baugh recommended to Corizon's corporate office that Godwin be terminated. (Doc. 22-2 at 69).

         On March 10, 2014, Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge alleging that she had been discriminated against by two Corizon nurse supervisors who were African American.[6] (Doc. 22-2 at 71). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that one of the African American supervisors yelled at her, and two African American co-workers physically assaulted her; yet, Corizon failed to take any action. (Id.) She further asserted that the other African American supervisor assigned her more patients than her African American co-workers because of her race. (Id.)

         At the recommendation of Health Services Administrator Gibson and Director of Nursing Baugh, and upon approval from Corizon Human Resources, Plaintiff was terminated on April 29, 2014, the day she returned from her FMLA leave.[7] (Doc. 22-2 at 4, 30-31, 40, 69). On October 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed another EEOC charge alleging that she had been terminated for filing previous EEOC charges and because she was disabled. (Doc. 22-2 at ...


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