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Bevan v. Santa Fe County

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 31, 2017

AIMEE BEVAN, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Desiree Gonzales, deceased, Plaintiff,
SANTA FE COUNTY, MARK CALDWELL, in his official capacity, MARK GALLEGOS, in his individual capacity, GABRIEL VALENCIA, Youth Development Administrator, Individually, MATTHEW EDMUNDS, Corrections Officer, individually, JOHN ORTEGA, Corrections Officer, MOLLY ARCHULETA, Corrections Nurse, Individually, ST. VINCENT HOSPITAL, and NATHAN PAUL UNKEFER, M.D., Defendants.


         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Mark Gallegos' Motion for Summary Judgment (Motion for Summary Judgment), filed on February 18, 2016. (Doc. 133). Plaintiff, the personal representative of the estate of Desiree Gonzales, filed a response on March 6, 2016, and Defendant Mark Gallegos (Gallegos) filed a reply on March 21, 2016. (Docs. 138 and 147). Having considered the Motion for Summary Judgment, the accompanying briefs, and relevant law, the Court grants the Motion for Summary Judgment, and will dismiss, with prejudice, the claims against Gallegos as well as Defendant Mark Caldwell (Caldwell). A. Background

         1. Facts Relevant to the Motion for Summary Judgment[1]

         This case involves, in part, whether Desiree Gonzales received adequate medical care while incarcerated at the Santa Fe Youth Development Program (YDP). Prior to Gonzales' incarceration at the YDP, Gonzales had been treated for a heroin overdose and medically cleared for incarceration at the YDP. It is undisputed that Gonzales experienced respiratory distress while at the YDP and eventually stopped breathing. See St. Vincent Emergency Physician Report (Doc. 145-2) at 1, 3, and 4 (Gonzales “would stop breathing & gasp for air, ” made “gurgling noises, ” had “difficulty breathing, ” complained to her mother of chest pain, and finally stopped breathing altogether). It is also undisputed that when Gonzales stopped breathing and became nonresponsive YDP staff called 911. Id. at 3-4. Several hours later, Gonzales died at St. Vincent Hospital. Id. at 4. The Office of the Medical Investigator determined that the cause of death was “Toxic effects of heroin.” (Doc. 145-4) at 1.

         At the time of this incident, Gallegos was the warden of the Santa Fe adult detention facility. (Doc. 133-1) at 3, depo. at 6. Gallegos did not oversee the YDP, but had some interactions with the YDP such as cross trainings and networking meetings. (Doc. 133-2) at 1-2, depo. at 9, 11, and 13. Gallegos was not involved with any of the policies or procedures at the YDP. Id. at 1, depo. at 11. Caldwell, on the other hand, oversaw the YDP and supervised Rene Fernandez, the interim YDP director. Id. at 1, depo. at 10-12. Caldwell was also Gallegos' deputy warden at the adult detention facility. Id. at 1, depo. at 10.

         Shortly after Gonzales was taken by ambulance from the YDP to St. Vincent Hospital, the Santa Fe County public safety director, Pablo Sedillo, asked Gallegos to meet him at the YDP to provide assistance and support. Id. at 2, depo. at 13-14. Gallegos did not know about Gonzales or any of the details surrounding the incident until he went to the YDP on the night of the incident. Id., depo. at 14. At the YDP, Sedillo gathered information about the incident while Gallegos listened and saw where Gonzales had slept. (Doc. 138-1) at 3-6. Fernandez then asked Caldwell and Gallegos to review the incident statements written by YDP staff to ensure that they were “clear and concise and correct.” Id. at 7, depo. 38-39.

         Gallegos observed that the incident statements contained poor penmanship and grammatical errors. Id. at 7, depo. 39-40. He wrote “Rejected” on incident statements written by Defendants John Ortega and Gabriel Valencia. (Doc. 138-2) at 1 and 3. Gallegos also wrote on Ortega's incident statement remarks such as “Who What When Where Why How” and “Action Taken.” (Doc. 138-2) at 1. Additionally, Gallegos wrote on the incident statements submitted by Ortega, Valencia, and Esmeralda Coronado specific questions about the incident such as “What did you do?” “Describe foggy?” “Dressed out by whom?” “What concerns did you have?” and “Did she appear under the influence?” Id. at 1, 3, and 5. Ortega, Valencia, and Coronado responded to Gallegos' comments by submitting amended incident statements. Id. at 2, 4, and 6. Gallegos did not tell Ortega, Valencia, and Coronado to change any information in the incident statements that could be harmful to Defendant Santa Fe County. (Doc. 138-1) at 7, depo. at 40.

         After Gonzales' death, Sedillo and Gallegos attended a critical incident debriefing. Gallegos spoke generally about following policy and procedures, training, better documentation, and identifying unusual behaviors which require contacting “Medical.” (Doc. 138-4) at 3-4, transcript at 47 and 52. Sedillo spoke about the need for a protocol for transferring patients from the hospital to the YDP and the need for training. Id. at 2, 5-6, transcript at 46, 65, and 67.

         Coronado testified at her deposition that she did not receive training on what to look for when a resident was intoxicated with drugs or how to help such a resident. (Doc. 138-5) at 2, depo. at 13. She also did not receive training on the use of Narcan or naloxone. Id. at 3, depo. at 14.

         2. The Complaint for Wrongful Death (Complaint) (Doc. 1) at 4-19

         Plaintiff originally sued Gallegos in his official and individual capacities. (Doc. 1) at 5, ¶ 8. Subsequently, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d), [2] Caldwell, in his official capacity, was automatically substituted for Gallegos, in his official capacity. (Doc. 197) at 7. Because the official capacity claims against Caldwell are the same as those previously brought against Gallegos, the Court will address the official capacity claims against Caldwell in the context of this Motion for Summary Judgment. Of course, the claims against Gallegos, in his individual capacity, still stand.

         Pertinent to the claims against Gallegos, in his individual capacity, and now Caldwell, in his official capacity, Plaintiff brings the following claims in Count One of the Complaint: (1) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Fourteenth Amendment due process claim; (2) a Section 1983 Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim; and (3) a cruel and unusual punishment claim under the New Mexico Constitution, Article II, Section 13. Plaintiff alleges in Count One that Gallegos, presumably in his individual capacity, was deliberately indifferent to Gonzales' serious medical needs by inappropriately accepting Gonzales at the YDP and then denying her medical care. (Doc. 1) at 11 and 13, ¶¶ 54 and 62. Plaintiff also alleges that the deliberate indifference is “demonstrated by the cover-up that occurred immediately after” Gonzales was found unresponsive at YDP. Id. at 13, ¶ 63. Plaintiff maintains that “the supervisor” ordered YDP “officers to change their story” to avoid responsibility for Gonzales' death. Id. at 13, ¶ 66. This cover-up allegedly included the YDP officers “giving false information to medical providers” and falsifying records after Gonzales became unresponsive and died. Id. at 13, ¶¶ 66 and 67. Plaintiff asserts that the official capacity claims involve the YDP “Acting Warden's” failure to provide adequate staff, adequate training, and appropriate policies for medical screening and monitoring of inmates. Id. at 11, ¶ 57.

         In Count Two of the Complaint, Plaintiff brings Section 1983 claims against Defendant Santa Fe County. In Count Three of the Complaint, Plaintiff brings a New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA) negligence and wrongful death claim against Gallegos for failing to provide Gonzales with adequate medical care and for the manner in which he operated the YDP.[3] Id. at 15, ¶¶ 82 and 83. It is unclear whether Plaintiff brings Count Three against Gallegos only in his individual capacity.

         Gallegos moves for summary judgment on all claims against him and asserts qualified immunity as to the Section 1983 individual capacity claims. Plaintiff opposes the Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety.

         B. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party shows “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). Once the moving party meets its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dep't, 717 F.3d 760, 767 (10th Cir. 2013). A dispute over a material fact is “genuine” only 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). The Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Tabor v. Hilti, Inc., 703 F.3d 1206, 1215 (10th Cir. 2013).

         When a defendant moves for summary judgment on the basis of a qualified immunity defense, the Court “still view[s] the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolve[s] all factual disputes and reasonable inferences in its favor.” Estate of Booker v. Gomez, 745 F.3d 405, 411(10th Cir. 2014). Unlike other affirmative defenses, the plaintiff bears the burden of overcoming the defense of qualified ...

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