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Bailey v. Kerns

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

June 5, 2013

AMANDA BAILEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
JOEL KERNS, Sheriff of Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, in his official capacity, Defendant-Appellee.

(D.C. No. 6:11-CV-00264-JHP) (E.D. Okla.)

Before KELLY, Circuit Judge, PORFILIO, Senior Circuit Judge, and HOLMES, Circuit Judge.


Paul J. Kelly, Jr. Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Amanda Bailey, a former detainee at the Pittsburg County jail, appeals from a district court order granting summary judgment to defendant Sheriff Joel Kerns on an official-capacity claim she asserted against him under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Ms. Bailey had sought to hold Sheriff Kerns, and through him the County, responsible for the failure of jail staff to provide or obtain medical care for an infection that ultimately led to the amputation of her right arm. We affirm for substantially the reasons explained by the district court.


Most of the material facts are not in dispute. Where the parties' versions of events diverge, we must, of course, view the evidence in the light most favorable to Ms. Bailey, the non-moving party. Porro v. Barnes, 624 F.3d 1322, 1325 (10th Cir. 2010). While our ultimate focus is on the liability of Sheriff Kerns, who did not personally participate in the events involving Ms. Bailey's brief detention at the jail, a proper analysis of his indirect liability requires an understanding of the actions of jail personnel who did personally interact with Ms. Bailey.

First, some general features of the jail's operation should be clarified. The jail does not have a staff physician. The only full-time medical professional is Nurse Doris Barlow, who is present from eight to five o'clock during the week. During the relevant time period, a physician's assistant visited on Wednesdays, though that has since been discontinued. Nurse Barlow examines inmates and dispenses medication. Jail staff may provide over-the-counter medicine, but for more serious matters arising when Nurse Barlow is not there, the jail administrator must be contacted. Treatment by physicians is handled through an arrangement with a nearby hospital, as the jail's written standards explain: "The McAlester Regional Hospital and the Ambulance Service provide this facility with the necessary medical services to inmates and department personnel on an as needed basis. Due to the close proximity to this facility, medical care is less than five minutes away and available to use twenty-four hours a day." App. at 231. An intake medical screening, involving observation and verbal questioning, is done when an inmate first arrives and "[i]f the need is indicated by the medical screening, the prisoner will be transported to the McAlester Hospital Emergency Room, and will be examined by a qualified licensed medical doctor." Id. at 227. The final decision whether a medical condition warrants transportation of an inmate to the hospital (by jail transport or ambulance) is made by the jail administrator, although prison staff may order an inmate taken to the hospital if immediate care is deemed necessary, id. at 216, 512-13.

Admission into the Jail Sunday Night

Ms. Bailey was arrested and brought to the jail after midnight on Sunday, January 3, 2010. Her right arm was in a splint. She told intake officer Leann Drake that she had been treated (under an alias) at the McAlester Hospital emergency room earlier that evening for a fracture. Officer Drake marked the "yes" box on the jail medical questionnaire in answer to the question "Does Inmate have any visible signs of trauma, illness, obvious pain or bleeding, requiring immediate emergency or doctor's care?" App. at 162 (adding explanatory note indicating "broken left arm"). This did not, however, prompt an immediate (return) trip to the hospital for Ms. Bailey. The questionnaire refers in the disjunctive to "immediate emergency" care or "doctor's" care, and Officer Drake explained at her deposition that checking the "yes" box does not necessarily mean anything must be done right away, though if an immediate need for care is evident, it is addressed.

Ms. Bailey insists she also indicated that she had been given prescriptions for a pain reliever and an antibiotic at the emergency room. Yet the questionnaire's boxes for current medications and prescriptions were marked "no." Id. at 163, 164. Officer Drake testified that Ms. Bailey denied having any prescriptions, but, as noted above, we must credit Ms. Bailey's version of these events for purposes of summary judgment. Ms. Bailey contends she complained of pain and repeatedly asked to be taken to the emergency room during her first night in the jail, but officers on duty just told her the nurse would be seeing her and could bring her something for pain.

Interaction with Nurse Barlow on Monday

Nurse Barlow first saw Ms. Bailey early Monday while doing her morning rounds. Ms. Bailey told her about going to the emergency room the previous day and receiving the prescriptions for pain medication and antibiotics. Ms. Bailey did not have the prescriptions with her, so Nurse Barlow said she would get Ms. Bailey some over-the-counter pain medication and check into the prescriptions. Upon learning that the prescriptions were obtained under a false name, Nurse Barlow said she could not fill them. She told Ms. Bailey that a physician's assistant would visit the jail on Wednesday and that, if Ms. Bailey were still there, the situation could be resolved then. Nurse Barlow, who knew Ms. Bailey was being held for a Texas offense and had a court hearing that day (at which she waived extradition), explained that she normally waits to see what happens at court to determine how she needs to proceed with a detainee, since some are discharged or transferred. In any event, she testified that notwithstanding Ms. Bailey's complaints of pain and swelling and the knowledge that medication prescribed for her had not yet been obtained, she did not think Ms. Bailey's condition was serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room on Monday. When she left for the day, she just told jail staff they could provide Ms. Bailey over-the-counter pain medication.

Worsening Condition Monday Night

Ms. Bailey's condition worsened through the afternoon and evening. She continued to complain of pain and swelling, but jail staff gave her nothing more than over-the-counter medication. In the meantime, Texas authorities contacted the jail to say they had found a suicide note written by Ms. Bailey, prompting staff to move her to a room designed for observation of suicidal detainees. During the night she became feverish, dizzy, and nauseous, vomited ...

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