United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
events which form the basis of this action are truly tragic.
Plaintiff's decedent, Sheneque Proctor was at a Bessemer
hotel and consumed Xanax, cocaine, and methadone. As a
result, she died of a drug overdose. What is even more tragic
is that Proctor, a young woman and a mother, died alone in a
jail cell, yet another victim of a destructive drug abuse
epidemic gripping our nation and its communities. Defendants
are five jailers who were working at the Bessemer City jail
on the night and morning in question. Plaintiff has asserted
a deliberate indifference to serious medical need claim
against them pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. # 36 at
matter is before the court on the Motion for Summary Judgment
filed by Defendants Goodwin, Jones, Tamper, Caram, and Burch
(collectively “Defendants”). (Doc. # 43). The
motion is fully briefed. (Docs. # 43, 50, 51). Faced with the
tragedy of Proctor's death, and the claims asserted in
this case which followed it, the court evaluates the
liability of the individual Defendants under the prevailing
constitutional standards for deliberate indifference claims.
Relevant Background and Facts
November 1, 2014, Bessemer police were dispatched to the
Economy Inn in Bessemer. (Doc. # 44-1 at p. 2). They had
received a report of a female causing a disturbance.
(Id.). When officers arrived at the Economy Inn,
they encountered Proctor. (Id.). Proctor was upset
because she had been staying at the Economy Inn and money of
hers had gone missing. (Id.). An officer offered to
write a report for theft (or loss) of the money, but Proctor
refused, and only became “louder and more irate.”
(Id.). Officers warned Proctor that if she did not
calm down she would be arrested for disorderly conduct.
officers informed Proctor that the Economy Inn wanted her off
its premises, Proctor “got in the officers'
faces” and continued yelling about her money.
(Id.). At that point, an officer grabbed
Proctor's arm to pull her back from the other officers.
(Id.). When Proctor pulled away and started
flailing, the officers put her under arrest, put her in
handcuffs, and walked her to the back seat of a police
cruiser to take her to jail. (Id.). Proctor slipped
out of her handcuffs twice during the ride to the jail.
the arresting officers arrived at the jail, they opened the
back door of the police cruiser to speak to Proctor.
(Id. at p. 3). Proctor refused to cooperate with the
officers, and instead tried to get out of the car and walk
past the officers. (Id.). One of the officers
deployed a burst of OC spray in Proctor's face.
(Id.). Only then were the officers able to handcuff
Proctor again. (Id.). Because Proctor refused to
walk from the police cruiser to the jail, the officers
carried her into the jail and handcuffed her to the jail
bench. (Id.). After carrying Proctor into the jail,
one of the arresting officers, Officer Kinderknecht, returned
to the police cruiser and found a small bag of marijuana on
the back seat along with Proctor's phone and jewelry.
Officer Kinderknecht deployed his OC spray while attempting
to subdue Proctor, he completed an OC Spray Interview Form.
(See Doc. # 44-3). The form requires the officer who
deployed the OC spray to read certain instructions to the
individual who was sprayed with the OC spray. (Id.).
As directed by the form, Officer Kinderknecht gave the
following instruction to Proctor:
OC is non-toxic and the effects will dissipate in a short
time. The effects of OC may however, mask or cover other
medical conditions, including overdoses of certain drugs.
(Id.). Officer Kinderknecht also instructed Proctor
I am going to ask you (4) questions for your safety. Not
answering my questions, withholding information, or giving
false o[r] misleading answers could delay medical treatment
and may seriously jeopardize your health and safety.
(Id.). Then, Officer Kinderknecht asked Proctor,
“[a]re you currently under the influence of, or have
you taken cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates, PCP, opiates,
heroin, or alcohol within the last eight (8) hours?”
(Id.). Proctor refused to answer this question.
(Id.). He then asked Proctor, “[d]o you have
heart problems, lung problems, diabetes, high blood pressure,
or any other serious medical conditions?”
(Id.). Again, Proctor refused to answer. Officer
Kindknecht suspected that Proctor was under the influence of
some substance, but he did not witness Proctor take any
drugs. (Doc. # 44-2 at pp. 20, 50).
Goodwin, as a member of the “B-Watch, ” began her
shift at 2:00 p.m. on November 1, 2014. (Doc. # 44-6 at p.
31). When she arrived at the jail, approximately ten minutes
before her shift was to begin, Goodwin saw the arresting
officers struggle to place handcuffs on Proctor in the
jail's parking lot. (Id. at pp. 31-32). When
Goodwin entered the jail to start her shift, Proctor was
handcuffed to the jail bench outside the jail bars.
(Id. at p. 32). As part of the intake process,
Goodwin tried to obtain certain information from Proctor,
including her name. (Id. at p. 33). However, Proctor
cursed and spat at the police officers and jail staff and
refused to give her name. (Id. at pp. 33-37).
Proctor calmed down enough that Defendants Goodwin and
Mullins were able to take her handcuffs off. (Id. at
p. 36). From there, Goodwin and Mullins led Proctor to the
back of the jail where she cleaned up and dressed out in a
jail uniform. (Id. at pp. 36-38).Goodwin then took
Proctor to a single person cell. (Id. at pp. 44-45,
49; Doc. # 44-7, Jail Surveillance Video at 13:22:26).
Goodwin took Proctor to this cell because Proctor had been
combative when she came to the jail, and Goodwin did not want
Proctor to cause any trouble with the other inmates.
(Id.). Goodwin believed that Proctor was high on
some drug based on her behavior, but Proctor did not appear
unsteady on her feet and her speech was normal. (Id.
at pp. 49-50).
after Goodwin placed Proctor in her cell, another inmate
called out to Goodwin and said that Proctor was “ready
to talk.” (Id. at p. 117). At that point,
Goodwin let Proctor out of her cell. (Id.; Doc. #
44-7, Jail Surveillance Video at 13:37:38). Proctor
apologized for how she had behaved and asked to use the
phone. (Id.). Goodwin told Proctor that she could
use the phone once she had been booked in. (Id.).
Proctor complied with the booking process, and Goodwin took
Proctor's picture and recorded her personal information.
Proctor had been booked in, she made a phone call to her
mother in which she asked her mother to bond her out, asked
about her baby, and mentioned that she had been sprayed by
the arresting officers. (Id. at pp. 145, 148).
During her booking and phone call, Proctor was cooperative
and did not seem “out of it.” (Id. at p.
148). After Proctor's phone call, Goodwin returned
Proctor to her cell. (Id. at p. 142; Doc. # 44-7,
Jail Surveillance Video at 14:00:45).
next interacted with Proctor at 4:44 p.m., when she entered
Proctor's cell to serve her dinner. (Id. at p.
100; Doc. # 44-7, Jail Surveillance Video at 15:44:57).
Goodwin entered Proctor's cell to find Proctor sitting on
the side of her bed, with her back hunched over and her head
in her hands. (Doc. # 44-7, Jail Surveillance Video at
15:44:57). Apart from breathing, Proctor did not otherwise
move or respond to Goodwin's entry into her cell.
(Id.). Goodwin walked over to Proctor and touched
her on the left shoulder. (Id. at 15:45:06). While
she continued breathing, Proctor did not respond.
(Id.). Goodwin then tugged twice at Proctor's
left shoulder. (Id. at 15:45:08-14). While
Proctor's head and torso moved slightly from the force of
the tug, she did not otherwise respond to Goodwin's
attempts to rouse her. (Id.). Goodwin grabbed
Proctor by both shoulders and laid her down on the bed.
(Id. at 15:45:14-27). Goodwin then lifted one of
Proctor's legs off of the floor and placed it on the bed
in a laying position. (Id. at 15:45:27-40). Again,
while Proctor continued to breath, she did not make any other
response to Goodwin's efforts to lay her down in her bed.
(Id.). An inmate stood near the doorway of
Proctor's cell during this interaction, and appeared to
watch Goodwin attempt to rouse Proctor and subsequently lay
her in her bed. (Id. at 15:45:00-40). After laying
Proctor down, Goodwin briefly left her cell and returned to
place a cup on Proctor's food tray, which Goodwin had
placed on a piece of furniture near the foot of Proctor's
bed. (Id. at 15:50:25-36).
entered Proctor's cell again at 5:39 p.m. to check on
her. (Id. at 16:39:18). At that time, Goodwin walked
through Proctor's cell to the head of her bed to check on
Proctor. (Id. at 16:39:20-28). Proctor was in the
same position in which Goodwin had left her - lying down with
her right leg hanging over the side of the bed.
(Id.). Goodwin did not testify that she observed
Proctor move her body (outside of the typical movement
associated with breathing), but the jail's surveillance video
shows Proctor move her left arm slightly in an upward
direction while Goodwin stood over her. (Id. at
16:39:26, 30). Goodwin entered Proctor's cell two more
times, at 8:38 p.m. and 9:27 p.m. to check on her.
(Id. at 19:38:45; 20:27:54-29:03). On both
occasions, Proctor was in the same position as she had been
since Goodwin first placed her on her bed, and, apart from
her breathing, did not move when Goodwin entered the room.
(Id.). During her check of Proctor which began at
9:27 p.m., Goodwin retrieved a blanket and covered Proctor
with that blanket. (Id. at 20:28:04-58).
was breathing each time Goodwin checked on her. (Doc. # 44-6
at pp. 59, 103, 104, 111, 153). Moreover, at some point
during Goodwin's shift, Proctor began
snoring. (Id. at p. 67). Proctor's
snoring was loud, and she was still snoring when Goodwin left
at the end of her shift. (Id. at p. 72). At some
point during Goodwin's shift, one of the inmates told
Goodwin that Proctor stated she had been taking Xanax bars.
(Id. at p. 69).
Jones first encountered Proctor around the start of his
shift, at 2:00 p.m. on November 1, 2014. (Doc. # 44-4 at pp.
12-13). Around that time, Jones was standing with another
correctional office, Sergeant Mullins. (Id. at p.
10). Mullins brought Proctor from the outside bench into the
jail. (Id. at pp. 10-11). Mullins asked Proctor if
she had been taking anything -- an apparent reference to
drugs -- and Jones heard Proctor answer that she had taken
“everything.” (Id. at pp. 12-14). Jones
then heard Mullins ask if Proctor wanted medical assistance.
(Id. at pp. 60-61). Proctor responded that she did
not, and that she just needed to use the phone. (Id. at
“appeared to be irate and uncooperative” during
the course of this interaction. (Id. at p. 25).
However, her behavior was not otherwise out of the ordinary,
and she did not appear to Jones to be high or having any
difficulty with her balance. (Id. at pp. 13-15, 18,
31). Jones next observed Proctor when she came out of her
cell to use the telephone, and he noted that Proctor had
calmed down and appeared “good to go” at that
time. (Id. at p. 61).
only other interaction with Proctor came during jail checks.
He performed one jail check on the female side of the
jail. (Id. at pp. 11, 20; Doc. # 44-5).
During this check, Jones looked into Proctor's cell.
(Id. at p. 11). He saw that she was breathing, and
that her chest and stomach were rising up and down.
(Id.). Moreover, he heard Proctor snoring during
this jail check. (Id. at p. 20).
Tamper assisted with booking Proctor into the jail. (Doc. #
44-10 at p. 20). At that time, Proctor was angry.
(Id. at pp. 20-21). During the booking process,
Tamper did not know that Proctor had been sprayed with OC
spray. (Id. at p. 21). As part of the booking
process, Tamper completed a Bessemer Police Department
medical questionnaire form. (See Doc. # 44-11).
Tamper asked Proctor a series of medical questions, and both
Tamper and Proctor signed the bottom of the form using an
electronic pad. (Id.; Doc. # 44-10 at p. 23). When
asked whether she was using any street drugs, Proctor only
indicated that she was using “weed.” (Doc. #
did not perform any jail checks of Proctor's cell during
his shift on November 1, 2014. (See Doc. # 44-5).
However, Tamper did observe Proctor on the video monitor on
one occasion. (Doc. # 44-10 at p. 20). At that time, Proctor
was lying down and appeared to be asleep. (Id. at
pp. 20, 45). Tamper left the jail when his shift ended at
10:00 p.m. (Id. at p. 16).
member of the C-watch, Defendant Caram began her shift at
10:00 p.m. on November 1, 2014. (Doc. # 44-12 at p. 13). When
Caram began her shift, she spoke with Goodwin. (Id.
at p. 14; Doc. # 44-6 at p. 129). At that time, Goodwin
informed Caram that “there was a female in [cell]
¶ 2 that came in combative and was upset most of the
shift.” (Doc. # 44-12 at p. 14). Moreover, Goodwin told
Caram that an inmate had previously informed her that Proctor
had supposedly taken Xanax and that she (Goodwin) had been
keeping an eye on Proctor during her shift. (Doc. # 44-6 at
performed checks on the female side of the jail at 11:30
p.m., 12:17 a.m., 12:53 a.m., 2:00/1:00 a.m., 2:22 a.m., and
2:51 a.m. (See Doc. # 44-5). Caram heard Proctor
snoring at various times throughout the night, but could not
recall a specific time when she last heard Proctor snoring.
(Doc. # 44-12 at pp. 37-39). Caram did not try to wake or get
a response out of Proctor during the jail checks.
(Id. at pp. 71-72). Unless she notes a “reason
to be concerned, ” Caram does not attempt to wake up
inmates who are asleep until breakfast. (Doc. # 44-12 at pp.
Caram was serving breakfast, she called out Proctor's
name, but Proctor did not answer her. (Id. at p.
24). At that point, Caram entered Proctor's cell, and
called her name out again a few more times. (Id.;
Doc. # 44-7, Jail Surveillance Video, 4:04:55). When Proctor
did not respond, Caram shined her flashlight on Proctor's
chest to see if Proctor was breathing. (Id.). Caram
could not see if Proctor's chest was moving, so she moved
her shirt to see if she could see any movement from her skin.
(Doc. # 44-12 at p. 24). Seeing no movement, Caram called for
paramedics, who arrived on the scene at 4:11 a.m.
(See Doc. # 44-13). Proctor was pronounced dead at
the scene. (Doc. # 44-9 at p. 9). The coroner determined that
Proctor died of a polydrug overdose of methadone, cocaine,
and alprazolam (Xanax). (Id. at pp. 9-10).
member of C-watch, Defendant Burch began his shift at 10:00
p.m. (Doc. # 44-14 at p. 17). Burch performed jail checks on
the female side of the jail at 10:25 p.m., 11:00 p.m., 12:53
a.m., 1:53 a.m., and 3:37 a.m. (See Doc. # 44-5).
Around 4:00 a.m., Burch went to serve breakfast. (Doc. #
44-14 at pp. 25-26). He placed Proctor's tray in her
window where she could access it and yelled out to Proctor to
inform her that it was breakfast time. (Id. at p.
26). When Proctor did not respond, Burch told Caram that he
knocked on the Proctor's cell and did not get a response.
(Id.). From there, Caram went to check on Proctor.
(Id.). During his shift, Burch was not aware that
Proctor had ingested any drugs. (Id. at pp. 31,
Summary Judgment Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which
it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(c) requires the non-moving party to
go beyond the pleadings and -- by pointing to affidavits, or
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and/or admissions on
file -- designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. See Id. at 324.
substantive law will identify which facts are material and
which are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts
about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved
in favor of the non-movant. See Allen v. Bd. of Pub.
Educ. For Bibb Cty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1314 (11th Cir.
2007); Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112,
1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine, “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is
not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.
See Id. at 249.
faced with a “properly supported motion for summary
judgment, [the non-moving party] must come forward with
specific factual evidence, presenting more than mere
allegations.” Gargiulo v. G.M. Sales, Inc.,
131 F.3d 995, 999 (11th Cir. 1997). As Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., teaches, under Rule 56(c) a
plaintiff may not simply rest on her allegations made in the
complaint; instead, as the party bearing the burden of proof
at trial, she must come forward with at least some evidence
to support each element essential to her case at trial.
See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “[A] party
opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment
‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of
[her] pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”
Id. at 248 (citations omitted).
judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to make
a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “Summary judgment may be
granted if the non-moving party's evidence is merely
colorable or is not significantly probative.”
Sawyer v. Southwest Airlines Co., 243 F.Supp.2d
1257, 1262 (D. Kan. 2003) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S.
the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not
himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
“Essentially, the inquiry is ‘whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law.”
Sawyer, 243 F.Supp.2d at 1262 (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52); see also LaRoche
v. Denny's, Inc., 62 F.Supp.2d 1366, 1371 ...