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Giles v. Conmed HealthCare Management, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 20, 2017

NORRIS GILES, Plaintiff,
v.
CONMED HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT, INC. and DR. CARLA ANTOLA, Defendants.

          Ethan Levi, Jesse Merrithew, and Noah Horst, Levi Merrithew Horst PC, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Lindsey H. Hughes and Jamie Edward Valentine, Keating Jones Hughes PC, Of Attorneys for Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael H. Simon, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Norris Giles (“Plaintiff”) brings this suit against Defendants Conmed Healthcare Management, Inc. (“Conmed”) and Dr. Carla Antola (“Dr. Antola”) (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging two claims: deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) and professional medical negligence. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment against both claims. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. The Court grants summary judgment against Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim, but Plaintiff may proceed on his negligence claim.

         STANDARDS

         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Clicks Billiards Inc. v. Sixshooters Inc., 251 F.3d 1252, 1257 (9th Cir. 2001). Although “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment, ” the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position [is] insufficient . . . .” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 255 (1986). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Coos County Jail (the “Jail”) from February 28, 2013, to March 27, 2013. During his incarceration, Plaintiff was under the medical care of Dr. Antola and other medical staff also employed by Conmed. Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the facts are as follws.

         When Plaintiff first arrived at the jail on February 28, he believed that he was suffering from food poisoning. ECF 45-1 at 9:15-18. Dr. Antola first examined Plaintiff on March 1. ECF 41-2 at 1. Plaintiff told Dr. Antola that he had abdominal pain and nausea, was vomiting, and had experienced no bowel movements except for blood for the past two days. ECF 41-1 at 5; ECF 41-2 at 1. In her notes for that examination, Dr. Antola wrote that Plaintiff suffered from diabetes, which had been uncontrolled for many years. ECF 41-2 at 1. Dr. Antola made a differential diagnosis of “gastroparesis versus food poisoning versus bowel obstruction.” ECF 41-2 at 1. Dr. Antola placed Plaintiff on diet of clear liquids for three days. ECF 41-2 at 1.

         Between March 1 and March 7, Plaintiff was housed in the Jail's general population. See ECF 41-5 at 1-3. On March 5, Plaintiff sent a health services request, also called a “kite, ” complaining of “severe stomach pains” and vomit that smelled like feces. ECF 41-3 at 2-3. Dr. Antola responded to the kite by extending Plaintiff's liquid diet indefinitely, explaining “when we treat you for your condition . . . you become upset and throw your food away. . . . I don't think you are as sick as you claim to be.” ECF 41-3 at 2. On March 6, Plaintiff signed a refusal of treatment form, declining his prescribed liquid and diabetic diets. ECF 41-4 at 1. Plaintiff stated that he was refusing treatment because his prescribed diet did not give him “enough to eat.” ECF 41-4 at 1.

         On March 7, Plaintiff complained of dizziness while eating or even seeing food. ECF 41-5 at 3. Plaintiff was transferred to the booking unit at the Jail for medical observation, where he remained until March 12. ECF 41-5 at 6. On March 8, Plaintiff had his second visit with Dr. Antola. ECF 41-2 at 5. Plaintiff complained of constipation and dizziness after eating. ECF 41-2 at 5. Dr. Antola told Plaintiff that his symptoms were likely due to his high blood sugar levels; Dr. Antola suggested that Plaintiff stick to his diabetic diet and remain on medical lockdown until his blood sugar was below 200. ECF 41-2 at 5. Plaintiff became agitated and called the medical staff, including Dr. Antola, “quacks.” ECF 41-2 at 5. Plaintiff signed another refusal of treatment form, expressly refusing the “[n]on-insulin diabetic diet” and “blood glucose checks.” ECF 41-4 at 2. On March 11, Plaintiff apologized to Nurse Marjory Hausler (“Nurse Hausler”) for his behavior during his March 8 appointment. ECF 41-2 at 6.

         During the early morning of March 12, Plaintiff sent a kite complaining about the kinds and amount of food being sent to him on his diabetic meal trays. ECF 41-8 at 4-5. Dr. Antola replied in writing:

Foremost you need to understand this is a jail not a hotel with room service. Your diabetic diet has been accommodated to the best of the jail capabilities-you also keep contradicting yourself regarding the diet-you told us you “know” they serve the same food on regular and diabetic trays-now you are saying the opposite-Now you say you are starving; before you were nauseated. Please keep your story straight so we can help you better in your medical needs.

         ECF 41-8 at 4. Later that day of March 12th, Dr. Antola saw Plaintiff for the third time. In her medical notes for this examination, Dr. Antola wrote that Plaintiff was not “constant with his history.” ECF 41-2 at 7. During her deposition, she explained that the fact that Plaintiff was “changing his story about his symptoms might mean that he's exaggerating his symptoms.” ECF 41-1 at 9. Dr. Antola noted that Plaintiff was “rude” and “argumentative, ” called medical staff “quacks, ” and made “quacking” noises directed at the staff. ECF 41-5 at 6. Dr. Antola advised Plaintiff to continue his regular blood sugar testing and released Plaintiff back into the general Jail population, where he remained for the rest of his time in custody. See ECF 41-1 at 9; ECF 41-5 at 6.

         Dr. Antola did not personally examine Plaintiff again until March 26, although she continued to oversee his care. See ECF 45-8 at 28:19-29:13. Between March 12 and March 26, Plaintiff repeatedly complained to medical and Jail staff about his prescribed diabetic diet and blood sugar testing. Plaintiff also continued to complain about his symptoms, including, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and uncontrollable diarrhea.

         On March 14, Plaintiff requested to be removed from his diabetic diet. ECF 41-2 at 8. An Emergency Medical Technician (“EMT”) then spoke with Plaintiff, who apologized and said he actually did want to stay on the special diet. ECF 41-2 at 8. Plaintiff also sent a kite stating, “I want to say that I am sorry to the whole entire medical staff for all the mean-foul and evil words that has [sic] come out of my mouth.” ECF 41-3 at 8.

         On the afternoon of March 15, Nurse Hausler noted that Plaintiff's blood sugar was in the “target” range. ECF 41-2 at 9. After being in “the yard, ” where he had access to commissary foods, Plaintiff complained to staff of abdominal pain. ECF 41-2 at 9. Nurse Hausler concluded that when Plaintiff was in the general population he would complain of various ailments that would then improve when he was in medical isolation. ECF 41-2 at 9. While consulting with Dr. Antola about these ...


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