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Cooper v. County of Monroe

United States District Court, Second Circuit

December 4, 2013

COUNTY OF MONROE et al., Defendants.

Christina A. Agola[1] WNY Civil Rights, LLC, Brighton, NY, for plaintiff.

James M. Skelly, Esq., Marks, O'Neill, O'Brien, Doherty and Kelly, P.C., New York, NY, for defendants.


CHARLES J. SIRAGUSA, District Judge.


Plaintiff Rodney Cooper ("Plaintiff"), a former pretrial detainee at the Monroe County Jail ("the Jail"), commenced this action against the County of Monroe, Monroe County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn ("the Sheriff"), and various members of the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment arising out of his medical care while he was held at the Jail on July 12, 2007.

Plaintiff's amended complaint advances claims against the Sheriff, in his individual capacity, and the County of Monroe. See Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl."), ECF No. 47. The third-party defendants in this action, Nurse Deborah Watts ("Watts" or "Nurse Watts"), Correctional Medical Services, and Corizon, Inc., have been terminated pursuant to a stipulation of dismissal entered on September 5, 2012. ECF No. 53. Accordingly, the claims remaining on this motion for summary judgment are limited to the alleged constitutional violations on the part of the County of Monroe and the Sheriff.

Defendants now move for summary judgment seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's amended complaint on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that an official policy, custom, or practice led to a violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights;

(2) Plaintiff does not establish a constitutional deprivation regarding his medical care at the Jail; and (3) Plaintiff fails to state a cause of action against the Sheriff in his individual capacity for failure to train and supervise. Def. Mem., ECF No. 58-1, at 4-14. Plaintiff has opposed the motion, submitting a response to Defendants' statement of undisputed facts, an attorney declaration with exhibits, and a memorandum of law. ECF No. 64.

For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' motion is granted in part, and denied in part.


The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted, and viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee who was arrested and detained at the Jail on July 12, 2007. The County of Monroe is a municipal corporation organized and existing by, through and under the laws of the State of New York. Patrick O'Flynn is the elected Sheriff of Monroe County and is in charge of the operation and administration of the Monroe County Sheriff's Department. The Undersheriff supervises the bureau chiefs for each department at the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, including the police bureau, jail bureau, staff services, civil bureau, and court security, and reports directly to the Sheriff.

During the relevant time period, Monroe County had a contract with a private medical services provider, Correctional Medical Services, Inc. ("CMS"), which involved medical services and care to detainees and inmates at the Jail. CMS staff members were trained through their employment with CMS and professional licensure, and no medical training was supervised or performed by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Watts Dep. 68:18-69:23 (attached as Ex. E to Defendants' motion papers, ECF No. 58-8). Complaints regarding medical treatment of inmates would be handled by the jail bureau, and, if serious issues arose that affected the entire inmate population or if an inmate died at the facility, the Sheriff would be advised. Harling Aff. ¶¶ 6-7 (attached as Ex. T to Defendants' motion papers, ECF No. 58-23). "It was in the sound discretion of CMS to evaluate pre-trial detainees, and determine the appropriate medical care of inmates." Harling Decl. ¶ 25.

Plaintiff was arrested by Rochester Police on July 12, 2007, and charged with harassment. He was handcuffed and taken to the Jail, where he was booked and placed in a holding cell. While he was at the Jail awaiting arraignment, Plaintiff was briefly released from his cell to make a telephone call. In the booking area, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with another inmate, Bruce Miles, who struck Plaintiff in the face and caused him to fall to the ground. Deputies at the Jail immediately assisted Plaintiff, bringing him to the nurses' station for evaluation and treatment.

On the evening of the incident, Nurse Watts was the CMS employee assigned to the booking area. Watts routinely worked the evening shift in the booking department of the Jail between 2004 and 2008, and was working the night of July 12, 2007. Her duties included taking initial medical evaluations of arraigned inmates, performing emergency medical treatment and evaluations of arraigned and un-arraigned inmates, and responding to emergencies. The form she used for screening was provided by her employer, not the jail. Watts Dep. 31:13-23.

After evaluating Plaintiff's injuries, Watts filled out an Inmate Treatment Form. She reported that Plaintiff complained of headache and dizziness, had bleeding from the gums, and had a swollen "goose egg" on his left temple. Watts gave Plaintiff Tylenol® and ice for his face. Watts Dep. 35:12-21. Plaintiff, however, testified that Watts further determined that he suffered from a broken jaw. Pl. Vol. 1, Ex. A (Cooper 50-H Tr.), ECF No. 64-4, at 21. Watts testified that Plaintiff did not require transport to the hospital, as the severity of his injuries did not require it. Watts Dep. at 36, 77-78.

Watts had passed an examination to become a licensed practical nurse in around 1988. Id. at 7:22-23. Watts was licensed by the State of New York in 1990 as a Registered Nurse and possesses an associate's degree in nursing from the Erie Community College in Buffalo, New York. Watts Dep. 6:6-10. She worked for CMS for two years at the Monroe County Jail. Id. 9:2-8. Previously, from 2004 until 2008, she worked at the jail for Correctional Medical Care. Id. 9:15-20. Prior to 2004, Watts was a Registered Nurse at Rochester General Hospital. Id. 10:5-12. In 2002 or 2003, she worked for Unity Health in Rochester for about a year as a Registered Nurse. Id. 10:16-11:1. Before that, she worked at the former Genesee Hospital in Rochester for about three years, also as a Registered Nurse. Id. 11:2-12.

With respect to the issue of hospital transport, Watts testified that if an unarraigned inmate needed further medical attention, she would inform the Jail deputies, who would then call the City of Rochester for a transporter to the hospital. Watts routinely called for transport while working at the Jail, and, in the event an inmate needed emergency medical treatment, she was able to obtain transportation for that inmate. Watts Dep. at 50-51, 59-60. Plaintiff disputes this, since he claims he requested emergency care and was not provided transportation to the hospital. Cooper Decl., ECF No. 64-3, ¶ 6; Cooper 50-H Tr. at 21, 47.

Pursuant to the policies and procedures at the Jail, if an un-arraigned inmate needed emergency medical care, an agreement was in place with the City of Rochester whereby the Rochester Police would be responsible for transporting an injured inmate to the hospital. In practice, medical staff would notify a deputy, who would contact the Rochester Police to return to the Jail to transport the inmate. Watts, as the nurse who evaluated Plaintiff at the time of his incident, was the only medical professional who determined whether Plaintiff required further treatment. Watts Dep. 59:23-60:6; 77:20-78:9. Watts was asked at her deposition whether she would note whether an inmate was asking for further medical treatment, and she responded that she would not. When asked why, she responded, "[b]ecause they all asked." Id. 63:21-24. Watts also stated that she would only send an inmate for additional treatment if she thought he needed it. Id. 64:10-11. Watts further testified that typically the jail had two nurses on duty during the night shift throughout her tenure at the Monroe County Jail. Watts Dep. 17:6-14. She also stated that she had no independent recollection of treating Plaintiff. Watts Dep. 42:24-43:1.

The day after the incident, Plaintiff was arraigned and subsequently released. Upon his release, Plaintiff sought treatment at Highland Hospital where it was ...

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