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Taylor v. State

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 25, 2017

Kristi Taylor, Plaintiff,
State of Kansas, Department of Corrections; Corizon Health, Inc.; and Sam Cline, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.



         In July 2014, plaintiff Kristi Taylor was working as a charge nurse in the Hutchinson Correctional Facility when she was sexually assaulted by an inmate. After an extended leave of absence, she returned to work and was terminated approximately two months later. She filed this lawsuit against defendants asserting that her employer, Corizon Health, Inc., terminated her employment on the basis of her disability (post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the assault) and failed to accommodate her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), as amended by ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. She further asserts that defendant Kansas Department of Corrections (“KDOC”) discriminated against her on the basis of her disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). Finally, she contends that the KDOC and defendant Sam Cline violated her Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights based on a theory of state-created danger. This matter is presently before the court on defendants' motions for summary judgment (docs. 82, 84). As explained below, both motions are granted.

         I. Facts

         The following facts are uncontroverted, stipulated in the pretrial order, or related in the light most favorable to plaintiff as the nonmoving party. Defendant Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) operates a number of correctional institutions in the State of Kansas, including Hutchinson Correctional Facility (HCF). At all relevant times, defendant Sam Cline was the warden at HCF. Defendant Corizon Health, Inc. has contracted with KDOC to provide health services to the inmates in KDOC's custody. Plaintiff Kristi Taylor is a registered nurse who was employed by Corizon as a charge nurse from January 1, 2014 through July 14, 2015.

         Inmates at HCF are provided “sick call” slips that they may submit to the clinic when they have a need to be seen by a nurse. After reviewing the slips, a nurse will call over to the inmate's cell block and ask that the inmate be sent to the clinic. General population inmates (regardless of whether they are maximum, medium or minimum custody inmates) are then given a pass to travel to the on-grounds clinic by themselves. Inmates are only escorted to the clinic if they are in segregation. As a normal practice, KDOC stations two correctional officers on duty within the clinic at HCF-one at the officer's station on the “medical side” of the clinic and one at the officer's station on the mental health side of the clinic. An officer stationed in the clinic will maintain the officer's station overlooking the waiting room where the inmates sit and wait to be seen as well as make rounds through the clinic at least once an hour.

         In November 2013, inmate Steven Stumpner was transferred to HCF, with Warden Cline's approval, from another facility after he violently attacked a female staff member at that facility. Warden Cline did not alert the staff at HCF that inmate Stumpner was being transferred because of an attack on a female staff member, but there is no evidence that he normally would notify staff members about such information or that any policy required him to do so. When he arrived at HCF, inmate Stumpner was placed into segregation as a result of the attack. Inmates placed into HCF's segregation unit remain there until the Segregation Board releases that inmate into the general population. The Segregation Board makes this determination based on an inmate's activity and demeanor, along with input from security personnel and Corizon's mental health staff. At some point, the Segregation Board released inmate Stumpner into the general population. Warden Cline has the authority to extend an inmate's stay in segregation, but he did not extend inmate Stumpner's stay. Although a Corizon employee had flagged inmate Stumpner as a “no Female Contact” inmate in the inmate's medical file, a computer “upgrade” deleted that designation and plaintiff was not aware of the designation. It is uncontroverted that Warden Cline had no knowledge that Corizon had designated inmate Stumpner as a “No Female Contact” inmate in his private medical file. Neither the KDOC nor HCF maintains that type of designation for inmates.

         On July 17, 2014, inmate Stumpner was called to the medical clinic for a sick-call visit. Plaintiff, unaware of any “no female contact” designation, was alone with inmate Stumpner inside an examination room within the clinic. Inmate Stumpner sexually assaulted plaintiff. It was the first assault of a Corizon nurse at HCF in thirteen years. At the time of the assault, the officer stationed in the clinic was making rounds in the back of the clinic away from the room in which plaintiff was conducting her examination. While the examination room was equipped with a panic or alarm button, plaintiff was unable to reach the alarm during the attack because inmate Stumpner was positioned between plaintiff and the alarm. He was criminally charged with rape and aggravated sexual battery by the Reno County District Attorney and he ultimately entered a plea to a reduced charge of attempted rape. As a result of the assault, plaintiff sought and received mental health treatment through Corizon's workers' compensation carrier from Dr. Molly Allen, a psychologist. Dr. Allen diagnosed plaintiff with and treated plaintiff for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Dr. Allen released plaintiff to return to work in mid-April 2015, but plaintiff did not return to work until May 14, 2015-a leave of absence of approximately 10 months. She returned to the same position she occupied prior to the assault.

         On or about July 1, 2015, one of plaintiff's co-workers was attacked by an inmate in the clinic. Plaintiff was frustrated that the inmate was not immediately transferred out of HCF to another correctional facility and she voiced that frustration to her supervisors. Shortly thereafter, the inmate was transferred to the segregation unit but, on July 9, 2015, a determination was made to return the inmate to the clinic for medical treatment and monitoring. Plaintiff and the rest of the nursing staff were upset about the inmate returning to the clinic. On that same day, plaintiff told Debra Lundry, her supervisor, that her PTSD symptoms had flared in light of the inmate's return to the clinic and that she needed to go home. Ms. Lundry advised plaintiff that she could leave for the day. Later that day, according to Corizon, multiple people advised Ms. Lundry that plaintiff had suggested that the inmate was “faking” his condition and that the nursing staff would refuse to take care of him because no one wanted to enter his cell. Defendant Corizon alleges that plaintiff told her subordinates on the nursing staff that if they did not want to treat the inmate, Corizon would “not do anything to them” if they said that they were sick and went home. Plaintiff denies telling this to the nursing staff but concedes that she told one of her co-workers, who was feeling ill and was contemplating leaving anyway, that she did not think Corizon would fire him if he was sick and went home.

         Ms. Lundry relayed these reports to Warden Cline. Based on his conversation with Ms. Lundry, Warden Cline issued an admittance restriction against plaintiff. An admittance restriction, also known as a “gate stop, ” restricts an individual from entry to the HCF facilities. Thereafter, Corizon terminated plaintiff's employment based on the gate stop and plaintiff's alleged refusal to treat the inmate and encouraging others not to treat the inmate.

         Additional facts will be provided as they relate to the specific arguments raised by the parties in their submissions.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         “Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, other discovery materials, and affidavits demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Water Pik, Inc. v. Med-Systems, Inc., 726 F.3d 1136, 1143 (10th Cir. 2013) (quotation omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A factual issue is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Water Pik, Inc., 726 F.3d at 1143 (quotation omitted). “The nonmoving party is entitled to all reasonable inferences from the record; but if the nonmovant bears the burden of persuasion on a claim at trial, summary judgment may be warranted if the movant points out a lack of evidence to support an essential element of that claim and the nonmovant cannot identify specific facts that would create a genuine issue.” Id. at 1143-44.

         III. Disability Claims Against Corizon

         In the pretrial order, plaintiff asserts claims for disability discrimination against defendant Corizon under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), Pub. L. No. 110-325, 122 Stat. 3553. According to plaintiff, Corizon terminated her employment on the basis of her disability and failed to accommodate plaintiff's request for an accommodation. Corizon moves for summary judgment on these claims.

         A. ...

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