United States District Court, D. New Mexico
AIMEE BEVAN, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Desiree Gonzales, deceased, Plaintiff,
SANTA FE COUNTY, 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.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Molly
Archuleta's Motion for Summary Judgment (Motion for
Summary Judgment), filed April 15, 2016. (Doc. 164).
Plaintiff filed a response on May 17, 2016, and Defendant
Molly Archuleta (Archuleta) filed a reply on June 22, 2016.
(Docs. 176 and 204). Having considered the Motion for Summary
Judgment, the accompanying briefing, and the relevant
evidence, the Court grants the Motion for Summary Judgment,
in part, as described below.
Facts Relevant to the Motion for Summary
case involves, in part, whether Desiree Gonzales received
adequate medical care while incarcerated at the Santa Fe
Youth Development Program (YDP). Just 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.
employed Archuleta as a registered nurse. (Doc. 164-1) at 2,
depo. at 6. Archuleta was not at the YDP on the night of
Gonzales' incarceration because physical nursing coverage
had ended for the evening. Id. at 3, depo. at 12. No
medical personnel were present at the YDP that night.
Gonzales was booked into the YDP, Defendant Matthew Edmunds
(Edmunds), a YDP staff member, called Archuleta. Id.
at 8, depo. at 60. Edmunds informed Archuleta that Gonzales
had been hospitalized at St. Vincent Hospital for a heroin
overdose about two hours previously and had been administered
Narcan. Id. at 12; (Doc. 176-5) at 2, transcript at
36. Edmunds advised Archuleta of Gonzales'
“state” which Edmunds described as (1) “not
in a normal state of mind, ” (2) “groggy”
eyed, and (3) having “slurred”
speech. (Doc. 142-8). Archuleta later admitted
that Edmunds' description of Gonzales'
“state” would have been “red flags”
to her. (Doc. 176-5) at 3, transcript at 37.
further told Archuleta that St. Vincent Hospital medically
cleared Gonzales to go to the YDP. (Doc. 164-1) at 12.
Edmunds observed that the medical clearance noted “A
& O” and asked Archuleta what “A &
O” means. Id. Archuleta explained that
“A & O” means alert and oriented.
Id. Archuleta then asked Edmunds if Gonzales was
alert and oriented. Id. He responded,
“Yes.” Id. Archuleta, nonetheless,
instructed Edmunds to have Gonzales “sleep in a
‘boat' either in the dayroom or in the
horseshoe” so that staff could check on her and monitor
her breathing. Id. Archuleta also told Edmunds to
call her if staff had any concerns. Id.
three hours after this call, the YDP administrator called
Archuleta to inform her that Gonzales was unresponsive and
that 911 had been called. Id. By the time Archuleta
arrived at the YDP, paramedics were already rendering aid to
Gonzales. Id. at 13.
testified at her deposition that YDP accepts medically
cleared juveniles, but will send juveniles to the hospital if
they appear to be under the influence of drugs. (Doc. 204-1)
at 3, depo. at 42-43. Archuleta was aware that “opiates
can cause respiratory depression” and had instructed
YDP staff to check for respiratory depression by determining
if a resident is breathing. (Doc. 176-2) at 3, depo. at
54-55. Archuleta acknowledged that breathing is necessary to
maintaining life. Id. at 4, depo. at 54. She further
testified that YDP staff receive first aid and CPR training,
but she did not testify that the staff involved with the
incident at issue had, in fact, received such training. (Doc.
164-1) at 7, depo. at 45.
addition to the above factual evidence, both Plaintiff and
Archuleta present expert evidence with respect to the
constitutional claims addressed in this Motion for Summary
Judgment. Expert evidence, however, is not necessary to
decide whether summary judgment is appropriate as to those
claims. Instead, the claims focus on whether Archuleta had a
culpable mind, a subjective inquiry involving whether
Archuleta acted with deliberate indifference. See Powell
v. Shah, 618 F.App'x 292, 296 (7th Cir. 2015)
(holding that where “the only issue in this case was
whether the doctors had a ‘sufficiently culpable state
of mind' … the court accurately recognized [it] as
a subjective inquiry that did not require an
expert….”) (citations omitted); Campbell v.
Sikes, 169 F.3d 1353, 1371 n. 22 (11th Cir.1999)
(finding that expert's affidavit does not support finding
of deliberate indifference, which is subjective inquiry).
Accordingly, the Court does not consider the expert evidence.
The Complaint for Wrongful Death (Complaint) (Doc. 1) at
a removed lawsuit in which Plaintiff is suing Archuleta in
her individual capacity as a nurse. Plaintiff brings the
following claims against Archuleta 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.
Count Three of the Complaint, Plaintiff brings a New Mexico
Tort Claims Act (NMTCA) negligence and wrongful death claim
against Archuleta for failing to provide Gonzales with
adequate medical care. (Doc. 1) at 15, ¶ 82. Plaintiff
specifies that NMSA 1978, § 41-4-12 waives immunity from
suit under the NMTCA. Id. at ¶ 80. Section
41-4-12 provides waiver of immunity “when law
enforcement officers cause wrongful death through the
deprivation of rights, privileges and immunities secured by
the U.S. Constitution or New Mexico Constitution.”
moves for summary judgment on all claims against her and
asserts qualified immunity as to the Section 1983 claims.
Plaintiff opposes the Motion for Summary Judgment in its
Standard of Review
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).
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 immunity. Id. “This is a
heavy burden.” Carabajal v. City of Cheyenne,
Wyoming, 847 F.3d 1203, 1208 (10th Cir. 2017).
Court must grant qualified immunity unless the plaintiff
demonstrates “(1) that the official violated a
statutory or constitutional right, and (2) that the
right was ‘clearly established' at the time of the
challenged conduct.'” Quinn v. Young, 780
F.3d 998, 1004 (10th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v.
al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735 (2011)). “[I]n order
for the law to be clearly established, there must be a
Supreme Court or Tenth Circuit decision on point, or the
clearly established weight of authority from other courts
must have found the law to ...