United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
HONORABLE RONALD B. LEIGHTON JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on the following Motions:
Plaintiff Peggy Johnson's Motion for partial summary
judgment [Dkt. #100]; Defendant Healthcare Delivery and Aimee
Wagonblast's Motion for Summary Judgment [Dtk. #105]; and
Defendant Mason County's Motion for Summary Judgment
[Dtk. #118]. The case arises from Jimi Johnson's suicide
at the Mason County Jail in April 2013. Plaintiff
Peggy Johnson is Jimi's grandmother.
Johnson was mentally ill, suffering from schizoaffective
disorder, schizophrenia, and psychosis. Peggy claims Jimi had
a heightened risk of self-harm and suicide consistent with
these conditions. When Jimi was first incarcerated at Mason
County, in August 2012, Peggy claims she “called
everyone she could think of” to alert the jail that
Jimi was a risk, and that he should be watched. Jimi was
released after three months and was soon hospitalized as
suicidal and having psychotic hallucinations. He was referred
to Defendant Behavioral Health Resources, who determined that
he was not eligible for involuntary detention and released
him to Peggy. Jimi attempted suicide in late October and was
involuntarily detained at BHR's in-patient center. He
remained there until November 6, 2012. In December, he again
attempted suicide and was again hospitalized, where he was
continually reported to be suicidal. Nevertheless, because of
his criminal history, BHR released him to Peggy rather than
sending him to an in-patient mental health care facility.
was arrested and incarcerated again in January 2013. Mason
County did a medical assessment and determined that he was
likely on drugs. Peggy again sought to inform everyone she
could about Jimi's mental health problems and his
repeatedly denied being suicidal, though the Jail Mental
Health Professional did not chart her contact with him. While
he was in jail, Jimi reported trouble sleeping, hearing
voices, and anxiety to employees of defendant Healthcare
Delivery Systems, a private entity hired by Mason County to
provide medical and psychological care to its inmates. An HDS
employee, Melanie Figueredo, met with him on February 1. Over
the next month, HDS reviewed Jimi's records to determine
whether he should be given the anti-psychotic drug Haldol.
HDS did not obtain Jimi's records from his doctor, Dr.
Cavendish, until March 4. Cavendish informed HDS that
Jimi's “basic mental state was psychotic and
suicidal, ” whether or not he was
“dabbling” in illegal drugs. Defendant
Wagonblast, ARNP (another HDS employee) reviewed Jimi's
records and met with him on March 11. Jimi told Wagonblast
that he had a plan to hang himself, and his records confirmed
that he was suicidal and psychotic. Nevertheless, she
discontinued his Haldol prescription, and prescribed Zoloft
early April, Jimi's condition deteriorated and he
assaulted another inmate. He was moved to a maximum security
cell, where, according to Peggy, other inmates could hear his
cries for help. Peggy claims that Jimi received no meaningful
help for his mental illness at the jail. Peggy saw Jimi at a
court appearance on April 22 and could see that he was in a
mental health crisis, and continued to try to warn the jail
of that fact. She claims her efforts were ignored. That
night, he hung himself.
sued the County and its employees, Behavioral Health
Resources and Marsha Weaver, and Healthcare Delivery Systems
and Aimee Wagonblast, asserting §1983 (Eighth Amendment)
and negligence claims.
Mason County defendants seek summary judgment, arguing that
Peggy cannot meet her obligation to prove jail staff actually
knew of an excessive risk to Jimi's safety, and that they
acted (or failed to act) in deliberate disregard of that
known risk. They emphasize that Jimi denied suicidal
thoughts. They also argue that the individual defendants
(jail personnel) are entitled to qualified immunity, and that
Jimi's municipal liability (Monell) claim fails
because Peggy cannot establish that Jimi's injuries were
caused by a Mason County policy or practice.
Wagonblast also seek summary judgment. They argue that there
is no evidence that HDS or Wagonblast were deliberately
indifferent to Jimi's medical needs.
seeks partial summary judgment. She claims Wagonblast's
expert, Kimberly Pearson, RN, is not qualified as a matter of
law to opine about the standard of care for an ARNP. Thus,
she claims, Wagonblast does not have any evidence that her
conduct met the applicable standard of medical care as a
matter of law.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is proper “if the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In determining whether an issue of fact
exists, the Court must view all evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in that party's favor. Anderson Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986); Bagdadi v.
Nazar, 84 F.3d 1194, 1197 (9th Cir. 1996). A genuine
issue of material fact exists where there is sufficient
evidence for a reasonable factfinder to find for the
nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The
inquiry is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is
so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of
law.” Id. At 251-52. The moving party bears
the initial burden of showing that there is no evidence which
supports an element essential to the nonmovant's claim.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
Once the movant has met this burden, the nonmoving party then
must show that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. If the nonmoving party
fails to establish the existence of a genuine issue of
material fact, “the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 323-24.
Mason County's Motion is Denied.
County's defense to Peggy's Eighth Amendment claim is
primarily that Jimi denied he was suicidal. It claims that
individual defendants, Hilyard and Haugen, had only limited
involvement with Jimi and thus cannot have been a cause of
any constitutional violation. At the same time, they argue
that the County cannot be liable because Peggy can point to
no policy, practice or custom leading to Jimi's suicide.
Curiously, they do not address, at all, the ample evidence in
the record that jail personnel, mental health professionals,
and other inmates were aware ...