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Patient A v. Vermont Agency of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Vermont

October 23, 2015

PATIENT A, Plaintiff,
v.
VERMONT AGENCY OF HUMAN SERVICES, VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH, PAUL DUPRE, COMMISSIONER OF DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH, in his individual and official capacity, CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, and ANDREW PALLITO, COMMISSIONER OF DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANT CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 47)

GEOFFREY W. CRAWFORD, District Judge.

Plaintiff Patient A has filed suit against the Vermont Agency of Human Services ("AHS"); Vermont Department of Mental Health ("DMH"); Paul Dupre, Commissioner of DMH; Correct Care Solutions ("CCS"); Vermont Department of Corrections ("DOC"); and Andrew Pallito, Commissioner of DOC. He alleges that he suffered psychological and physical injuries during his incarceration from August 13, 2013 through April 3, 2014. In particular, he alleges that he was mistreated during his incarceration at Southern State Correctional Facility ("SSCF") - a state prison in Springfield, Vermont. His claims concern the conditions under which he was held, especially his long stay in solitary confinement, and the lack of appropriate medical care while he was isolated from contact with others.

Patient A claims that CCS-the company which contracts with DOC to deliver medical and mental health care to inmates-committed medical malpractice. CCS has moved for summary judgment on this claim. A hearing on the Motion was held on September 10, 2015. Filing of post-hearing memoranda was completed on September 15, 2015. For the reasons stated below, CCS's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

I. Facts

The following facts are drawn from the complaint, the parties' statements of undisputed material facts, and from the parties' exhibits. The facts are undisputed unless noted otherwise.

Patient A has a history of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (Asperger Type), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"). (Doc. 55-9 at 17.) He was incarcerated at Northeast Regional Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury, Vermont on August 13, 2013 for an alleged parole violation. (Doc. 1 at 3.) Shortly after he was incarcerated, DOC designated Patient A as a "seriously functionally impaired" inmate. ( Id. )

On August 30, 2013, DOC transferred Patient A to SSCF where it maintains a special unit for prisoners with psychological problems. ( Id. ) CCS contracts with DOC to provide physical and mental health care in this setting as well as elsewhere in the Vermont prison system. (Doc. 55-8.) During his time at SSCF, Patient A spent much of his time in segregated confinement. (Doc. 1 at 3-4; doc. 47-1 at 1.) His condition "dramatically worsened." (Doc. 1 at 5.)

Patient A experienced severe mental health issues in February 2014. (Doc. 55-10 at 2; doc. 55-2 at 2.) SSCF incident reports document his paranoia, self-harming behavior, and descent into "some kind of mental break down" as early as February 8, 2014. (Doc. 55-10 at 2-7.) CCS progress notes reveal that Patient A suffered from hallucinations and paranoia. ( Id. at 8-15.) He refused medication and some meals because he believed they were poisonous; he banged on his cell door and screamed loudly; and he reported hearing voices coming through a vent. ( Id. )

DOC and CCS recognized that Patient A needed inpatient psychiatric care, and he was placed on a waiting list for a bed in a psychiatric hospital. (Doc. 47-1 at 2.) Despite his condition, Patient A remained isolated in a cell for approximately twenty-three hours a day, went as long as ten days without seeing a mental health worker, and only saw a psychiatric nurse practitioner twice and a psychiatrist once. (Doc. 55-2 at 3.) On April 4, 2014, he was transferred to Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center ("GMPCC") in Morrisville, Vermont.[1] (Doc. 1 at 3; doc. 55-9 at 2.)

Upon admission to GMPCC, Patient A was examined and diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, not otherwise specified. (Doc. 55-9 at 2-3.) This diagnosis was subsequently specified as Schizophreniform disorder. ( Id. at 5.) According to GMPCC records, Patient A exhibited delusional thinking, disorganized speech, and "persecutory ideas." ( Id. at 2-3.) Patient A reported having been "tortured in corrections, " stating that corrections officers threw darts at him as he slept. ( Id. at 2.) He stated he was awaiting the receipt of one trillion dollars-which he subsequently amended to $37 trillion-that he was owed as a result of winning a sports bet. ( Id. ) Patient A also reported that corrections staff put "wires in my head, metal wires, " which spoke messages to him as a torture device. ( Id. ) He reported that he lost thirty pounds while incarcerated, although his BMI was recorded as normal. ( Id. at 4.)

At GMPCC Patient A began taking his medications as prescribed and his condition improved significantly. ( Id. at 4-5.) His mood improved, he began thinking more clearly, and he stopped hearing voices. ( Id. ) On June 13, 2014, GMPCC began planning Patient A's discharge into the community. ( Id. at 6.)

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the court "shall grant 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). A factual dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must cite to "particular parts of materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "If the party moving for summary judgment demonstrates the absence of any genuine issue as to all material facts, the nonmoving party must, to defeat summary judgment, come forward with evidence that would be sufficient to support a jury verdict in its favor." Burt Rigid Box, Inc. v. Travelers Prop. Cas. Corp., 302 F.3d 83, 91 (2d Cir. 2002). "[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Redd v. N.Y. Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 173-74 (2d Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The burden is on the moving party to show that it is entitled to summary judgment. Huminski v. Corsones, 396 F.3d 53, 69 (2d Cir. 2005). The non-moving party receives the benefit of favorable inferences drawn from the underlying facts. Hayes v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Corr., 84 F.3d 614, 619 (2d Cir. 1996). However, allegations that are "conclusory and unsupported by evidence of any weight" are insufficient for the non-moving party to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Smith v. Am. Express Co., 853 F.2d 151, 154-55 (2d Cir. 1988).

III. Medical Malpractice Claims

Vermont has codified the elements of medical malpractice at 12 V.S.A. ยง 1908. A. plaintiff bringing a claim of ...


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