United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
F. MOORER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Robert DeFrancisco's
Motion for Summary Judgment or, In the Alternative, Motion to
Dismiss and Brief in Support Thereof (Docs. 189-190,
filed 10/3/19). Plaintiffs timely filed their response in
opposition and Defendant timely replied. See Docs.
careful review of all the written pleadings, motion,
response, reply, and the relevant law, the Court
GRANTS the motion for summary judgment filed
Defendant Robert DeFrancisco.
Parties, Jurisdiction, and Venue
Kim Ellis is the Personal Representative of the Estate of
Jeffrey West. She brought suit against several defendants for
causes of action that relate to the death of Jeffrey West.
The Complaint lists Plaintiff Estate of Jeffrey West and
Plaintiff Kim Ellis separately - though it appears that for
the purposes of the lawsuit they are a singular entity.
However, for the purposes of this Opinion the Court shall
refer to “Plaintiffs” as that is how the parties
do so in their pleadings and motions.
defendants listed in the Second Amended Complaint are as
• The Estate of John Vanlandingham - Dr. John
Vanlandingham was a medical doctor employed by the Escambia
County Jail. Wanda Vanlandingham is the personal
representative of the Estate of John Vanlandingham. For the
purposes of this opinion, they shall be collectively referred
to as “Defendant Vanlandingham.”
• Robert DeFrancisco, M.D. was a psychiatrist employed
at the Escambia County Jail. (“Defendant
• Defendant Marbra Chandler was a licensed practical
nurse (LPN) employed at the Escambia County Jail.
• Defendant Monica McCall a/k/a Monica Dunn was a nurse
employed at the Escambia County Jail. (“Defendant
• Defendant Denise R. Brantley a/k/a/ Denise Turner was
a nurse employed at the Escambia County Jail.
• Defendant Ronnesha Hodges was a nurse employed at the
Escambia County Jail. (“Defendant Hodges”)
• Defendant Stephen Wade Capps was a corrections officer
employed at the Escambia County Jail. (“Defendant
Court previously issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order
dismissing all defendants with the exception of Defendant
Robert DeFrancisco, M.D. See Doc. 186. However, to
provide context, the Court lists all defendants here.
District Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the
claims in this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331
(federal question jurisdiction) as Plaintiffs bring claims
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 for the state law claims
under the Ala Code § 14-6-19, the tort of outrage, and
the Alabama Medical Liability Act (Ala Code § 6-5-540).
parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and
there are adequate allegations to support both.
only question regarding jurisdiction is whether it ended with
the closure of the case on September 26, 2017 pursuant to the
Stipulation of Dismissal filed on September 22, 2017 followed
by the reopening on November 28, 2017. Docs. 31, 32, 35. The
Court will address this in detail in its analysis.
27, 2019 Jeffrey West (“West”) was arrested on
suspicion of property damage involving a telephone box and
taken to the Escambia County Jail. See Doc. 75 at
¶ 21-22. West remained there as a pretrial detainee.
While there, he became ill and his condition deteriorated
significantly. Id. at ¶ 24. According to the
second amended complaint, the medical report from the day he
was booked states “Inmate states he his [sic] bipolar
and thinks he has staph on the back of his left leg”
and nursing notes state West had a “large abscess on
the back of left thigh - with black center - with hard area
2x2in and surrounding redness 6x8in” and that she
removed a “large amount of thick green bloody
pus.” Id. at ¶ 25-26. Additionally,
Defendant Chandler provided West a Bactrim DS (antibiotic)
but did not refer him to any other provider.
29, Defendant Dunn noted a “very large amount of bloody
green drainage. Majority of (L) thigh red and hard” and
continued providing Bactrim DS. Id. at ¶ 29. At
no time did Defendant Vanlandingham examine the infection
“nor is there any indication that any nurse ever
discussed the infection with Dr. Vanlandingham.”
Id. at ¶ 33-34.
5, West complained of “severe pain all over, ”
back and stomach cramps, electricity running through his
hands and feed, “feels like burning, ” shaking
constantly, and “cannot quit” shaking.
Id. at ¶ 37. Defendant Turner gave him
ibuprofen. Id. at ¶ 38. The next day, West
still complained of pain and itching. The nurse contacted Dr.
DeFrancisco who told her to provide Librium and he would see
West in four days. Id. at ¶ 39. Only July 8,
West complained that his entire body tingled, and Defendant
Hodges' notes indicate that he was “slobbering when
talking. Voiced diarrhea x3 today” and complained of
black stools and vomiting. Id. at ¶ 42. Hodges
gave him ibuprofen. Id. at ¶ 43. Only July 8,
West filed a grievance complaining that he could not keep
food down, but Hodges closed the grievance the next day.
Id. at ¶¶ 44-45.
9, another lab draw was completed, and the results showed
high levels of monocytes/eosinophils (white blood cells) and
basophils. Id. at ¶ 46-48. Dr. Vanlandingham
was notified and he advised the nurse to “continue to
monitor for temp and any changes. To see Dr. DeFrancisco in
the morning.” Id. at ¶ 49. On July 10,
Dr. DeFrancisco saw West, noted complaints of “knots in
my tongue” and that West appeared lethargic to which he
prescribed Librium. Id. at ¶ 50.
10, 2015, a bond hearing was held and the court released West
on his own recognizance - though he was not ultimately
released from Escambia County jail until July 13, 2015.
Id. at ¶¶ 77-79.
11 at 3:10 a.m., Defendant Capps and Officer Percy Wheeler
noted that West vomited on himself. Id. at ¶
51. Defendant Chandler noted a “large amount of blood
dried secretion on face” and West complained of dry
mouth, a tooth was falling out, being cold, and was
“draw[n] up in fetal position.” She gave him
Gatorade. Id. at ¶¶ 52-53. Later that day,
she saw West spit out red liquid which he said was blood, but
she could not tell if it was blood or red Gatorade.
Id. at ¶¶ 54-55.
12, Chandler saw West again and found more yellow/green dried
secretion on face and nose and that he complained of being
very cold and feeling unwell. Notes later from the day
indicate Dr. Vanlandingham prescribed an antibiotic and
Imodium, but suspected West of faking. Id. at ¶
59. Later in the day Chandler gave more Imodium, but found
West lying in the fetal position with a “large amount
of thick green secretions” and the right eye was red
and mottled. Id. at ¶ 61.
early morning of July 13, West had urinated and defecated on
himself. Defendant McCall's notes reflect West had leg
pain and muscle weakness while he complained of hurting all
over. Nurse Clark told Dr. Vanlandingham she thought West
should go to the Emergency Room. Id. at 62.
his release from jail that same day, West immediately went to
the emergency room at D.W. McMillan Hospital. Id. at
¶ 79-80. West arrived at 9:20 a.m. and by 9:50 a.m. was
unconscious for a period of time. Id. at
¶¶ 63-64. Blood and urine results were abnormal and
significantly out of the normal range. Id. at
¶¶ 66-71. At 3:15 p.m., he was transported to
Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Florida. Id. at
¶¶ 82. Records show West was diagnosed with
rhabdomyolysis, seizures, renal failure, and dehydration and
that the specialty care required was beyond what D.W.
McMillan could handle. Id. at ¶ 83. All this
was done in the same day he was released from Escambia County
remained in the critical care unit at Baptist Hospital until
his death on July 31, 2015. He died from failure of multiple
organs and the listed cause of death was shock, acute
respiratory syndrome, and hypoxia. The autopsy further listed
complications of bronchopneumonia and pulmonary alveolar
injury. Id. at ¶¶ 90-95.
23, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their original complaint.
See Doc. 1. The original complaint lists as defendants
Sheriff Grover Smith, Escambia County, Jailers 1-5, Medical
Professionals 1-10, and Medical Company. Id. It was
filed around 38 days before the statute of limitations would
run on a § 1983 claim. In the Parties section,
Plaintiffs describe the Defendants as follows:
9. Defendant Escambia County is a legally organized county
and subdivision of the State of Alabama.
10. Under Alabama law, Escambia County retains responsibility
for maintaining a jail's physical facility and funding
the jail's operations.
11. Defendant Sheriff Grover Smith is the Sheriff of Escambia
County, Alabama. He operates the Escambia County Jail.
12. Defendant Jailers 1-5 are jailers: employees or
contractors of the Sheriff who had the ability to supervise,
control, and direct Mr. West's activities, and who had
the duty to ensure that he received adequate medical care and
13. Defendant Medical Professionals 1-10 are doctors, nurses,
technician, and other allied professionals, who had the duty
to provide Mr. West with adequate medical care, including
monitoring his condition, observing his condition, and
responding to his complaints. These Defendants also were in a
position to perform their duties.
14. Defendant Medical Company is a corporation that contracts
with the Sheriff, employs and controls the Defendant Medical
Professionals, supervises their activities, provides them
with training, and is responsible for their performance.
Doc. 1 at 3. In the Facts section, Plaintiffs describe the
following about the Defendants listed in paragraphs 12, 13,
19. Prior to his death, Mr. West explained that he had
complained to the Defendant Jailers and Medical Personnel of
his need for medical treatment, but was ignored
23. Despite his complaints, none of the Defendants did
anything to help Mr. West or see to his obvious, serious, and
urgent need for medical treatment.
24. Defendant Medical Personnel failed to provide any
25. Defendant Jailers were present in the jail but failed to
render any treatment.
Id. at 4.
in Count 1, Plaintiffs assert claims for deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs against Defendants
Jailers 1-5, Medical Professionals 1-10, and Medical Company.
Id. at 13. He generally states that they knew West
had serious medical needs and acted with deliberate
indifference to those needs and failed to provide or refused
to obtain medical treatment for West. Id. In Count
2, Plaintiffs assert against Defendants Escambia County,
Jailers 1-5, Medical Professionals 1-10, and Medical Company
a violation of Ala Code § 14-6-19, failure to attend to
a detainee's medical needs. Id. at 14-15. Count
3 asserts against Defendants Jailers 1-5, Medical
Professionals 1-10, and Medical Company a claim for failure
to intervene in violation of § 1983. Id. at
15-16. Count 5 asserts the Alabama tort of outrage against
Defendants Escambia County, Jailers 1-5, Medical
Professionals 1-10, and Medical Company. Id. at
17-18. Finally, in Count 6, Plaintiffs assert violations of
the Alabama Medical Liability Act (“AMLA”)
against Defendants Medical Professionals and Medical Company.
Specifically, it argues that Defendants Medical Professionals
1-10 and Medical Company breached the standard of care
required of them and were negligent in several respects.
Id. at 19.
Plaintiffs spent several pages/paragraphs describing the need
to sue certain defendants as fictitious - John Doe
defendants. Doc. 1 at 7-12. Plaintiffs stated that they made
repeated attempts to obtain documents and information from
the Sheriff's counsel to no avail. Further that the
Sheriff, the County, and their attorneys were aware of the
claims asserted in the case almost since the day West died