United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
December 9, 2016, Defendants State of New Mexico Department
of Corrections (“DOC”), Taracina Morgan, and
Herman Gonzales (collectively, “Defendants”)
filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Memorandum
Brief in Support (ECF No. 63). The Court, having considered
the motion, briefs, evidence, and applicable law, concludes
that issues of genuine material fact exist for resolution by
a jury that precludes granting Defendants summary judgment or
qualified immunity. The Court will therefore deny
Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND 
Isaha Casias was committed to the custody of the DOC for a
term of incarceration of two years and six months on June 10,
2013. Defs.' Mot., Undisputed Fact (“UF”)
¶ 1, ECF No. 63. On June 13, 2013, Plaintiff was taken
for intake into the DOC to Central New Mexico Correctional
Facility (“CNMCF”)/Reception and Diagnostic
Center (“RDC”). Id. UF ¶ 2.
11, 2013, Plaintiff and other inmates were handcuffed,
shackled with leg irons, and loaded into a van at 6:00 a.m.
at RDC. Pl.'s Resp. UF ¶ A, ECF No. 70. Plaintiff
was transported by van from RDC to the Western New Mexico
Correctional Facility in Grants, arriving around 8:00 a.m.,
where the inmates were taken out of the van and brought into
the intake area holding cells while Correction Officers
Morgan and Gonzales picked up one more inmate. Id.
UF ¶ C; Dep. of Taracina Morgan 51:21-25, ECF No. 82-1.
the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants,
Defendants transported the inmates to the Penitentiary of New
Mexico in Santa Fe (“PNM South”) and arrived at
11:30 a.m. See Pl.'s Resp. UF ¶ C,
Transportation Officer Daily Log at 2, ECF No. 70-1. It was
very hot that day and was becoming uncomfortable in the van
by the time it stopped at PNM South, as there were no windows
in the back of the van and the air conditioning did not work
well. Aff. of Isaha Casias ¶ 5, ECF No. 70-6. At PNM
South, Defendant Gonzales turned off the van and went inside
to pick up another inmate while Defendant Morgan stayed with
the inmates in the van. Id. ¶ 6. Defendant
Morgan opened the back van doors while they waited, but even
with the doors open, the inmates were hot and sweating.
Id. ¶¶ 7-8. After one of the van doors
blew closed, several inmates complained to Defendant Morgan
about the heat, asking her to let them out until Defendant
Gonzales returned, but she refused, telling them to shut up,
“stop bitching, ” and that children could handle
more than what they were complaining about. Id.
¶¶ 8-9. Defendant Gonzales returned to the van with
two more inmates, and the van departed PNM South at
approximately 12:30 p.m. Pl.'s Resp. UF ¶ I, ECF No.
transport van arrived at PNM North a few minutes later,
sometime between 12:31 p.m. and 12:35 p.m. See
Def.'s Mot. UF ¶ 6; Pl.'s Resp. UF ¶ I;
Transportation Officer Daily Log at 2, ECF No. 70-1.
Defendant Herman Gonzales drove the van between CNMCF and PNM
North. Def.'s Mot. UF ¶ 5, ECF No. 63. After the van
arrived at PNM North to pick up another inmate, Defendant
Gonzales turned off the van and both Defendants Gonzales and
Morgan got out of the van and went into the facility at the
same time. See Pl.'s Resp., Ex. 3 (Telephonic
Interview Tr. of Tarracina Morgan dated Aug. 5, 2013) at 5-7,
ECF No. 70-3, and Ex. 4 (Interview Tr. of Herman Gonzales
dated Aug. 5, 2013) at 10-13, ECF No. 70-4; Aff. of Isaha
Casias ¶ 12, ECF No. 70-6. Once in the building,
Defendant Morgan told Defendant Gonzales, “Wait in here
for the inmate. I'm going to go get the file.”
Pl.'s Ex. 4 at 12, ECF No. 70-4.
turning off the van, there was no air conditioning
circulating in the back of the van and all the windows and
doors were closed. Aff. of Isaha Casias ¶ 12, ECF No.
70-6. After 10-15 minutes, the inmates began to panic because
it had become unbearably hot in the van, so much so that
Plaintiff felt like he was being cooked alive and their paper
jumpsuits were completely soaked in sweat and the inside of
the metal cage began to drip with their sweat. See
Id. ¶¶ 13-15. Plaintiff blacked out and when
he regained consciousness, the other inmates were yelling,
screaming, whistling, and shaking the van in a desperate
attempt to get the attention of somebody inside the facility.
Id. ¶ 16. Inmates were begging for their lives,
and Plaintiff was likewise scared he would die, and he
blacked out a second time. Id. Inmates were left in
the van without air conditioning for approximately 40
minutes. See Aff. of Derek Douglass ¶ 7, ECF
Luis Archuleta took an inmate to the van to put him in for
transport, and when he opened the van door, an inmate fell
off the bench to the floor, twitching, and he looked like he
was having a seizure. Interview Tr. of Luis Archuleta
12:2-13:16, ECF No. 70-11. Sergeant Archuleta called medical
and reported, “Inmate in the van having a
seizure.” Id. 12:21-23. Corrections Officer
Michael Petta observed a second inmate falling and the
officers caught him and pulled him out. Interview Tr. of
Michael Petta 6:2-25, ECF No. 70-12. One inmate looked like
he was having seizures, and the other was out of it.
Id. When Defendant Gonzales returned to the
transport van, the inmates were complaining about the heat,
so he asked the Sally Port Officer to help him get the
inmates out of the van. Defs.' Mot. UF ¶ 8, ECF No.
63. An officer picked up Plaintiff and carried him into the
facility because he could not walk on his own. Aff. of Isaha
Casias ¶ 19, ECF No. 70-6. Plaintiff's body was
shaking or convulsing uncontrollably. Id. ¶ 18.
Petta ran to the Health Care Unit to inform Dr. Kimberly
Birch that inmates were seizing in the transport van, and Dr.
Birch responded in less than one minute. Def.'s Mot. UF
¶¶ 9-10, ECF No. 63; Def.'s Ex. G, ECF No.
63-7. Dr. Birch evaluated the inmates and determined that
none of them were seizing, but a couple inmates were
lethargic and were having involuntary muscle convulsions
caused by heat exhaustion and/or dehydration. See
Def.'s Mot. UF ¶ 11, ECF No. 63; Dep. of Kimberly
Birch, MD 13:2-14, 30:4-31:5, 32:4-19, ECF No. 70-9. Dr.
Birch admitted that she could not rule out whether an inmate
seized or lost consciousness before her arrival. Dep. of Dr.
Birch 30:4-31:5, ECF No. 70-9. Dr. Birch also observed that
the inmates were pale and profusely sweating so that their
clothes were stuck to them, and two of the inmates needed
significant assistance out of the van. Id. 12:4-20.
Birch assessed Plaintiff and determined he had either
dehydration or heat exhaustion. Defs.' Mot. UF
¶¶ 13, 15, ECF No. 63. Plaintiff was given water to
drink. Aff. of Isaha Casias ¶¶ 20, ECF No. 70-6. He
felt dizzy, light-headed, and nauseous; he had a bad
headache; and he felt pain in his lower back and wrist caused
when he almost fell out of the van. Aff. of Isaha Casias
¶¶ 20-21, ECF No. 70-6. Dr. Birch initially
recommended that the two inmates stay for observation. Dep.
of Dr. Birch 18:1-4, ECF No. 70-9. Defendants, however,
objected and said they could not leave them behind. Aff. of
Isaha Casias ¶ 22, ECF No. 70-6. Plaintiff said he did
not want to get back on the van. Id. ¶ 23. Dr.
Birch told Defendants to make sure the inmates stayed cool
and had plenty of water to drink and she directed someone on
her staff to call the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility
(“GCCF”) in Santa Rosa to make sure medical saw
the inmates. Dep. of Dr. Birch 20:11-21:23, ECF No. 70-9.
inmates were evaluated by the medical staff and were then
placed back on the van headed for the GCCF in Santa Rosa and
then to Lea County Correctional Facility (“LCCF”)
in Hobbs. Defs.' Mot. UF ¶ 12, ECF No. 63. The van
left PNM North around 1:22 p.m. Id. UF ¶ 6.
Medical staff had a short time to evaluate the inmates before
they left. Compare Id. with Aff. of Derek Douglass
¶ 7, ECF No. 70-7. Between PNM North and the GCCF,
Defendant Gonzales again drove the transport van. Def.'s
Mot. UF ¶ 5, ECF No. 63.
inmates were not allowed fluids in the van during the
transport. Dep. of Taracina Morgan 88:21-25, ECF No. 70-14.
Plaintiff vomited in the van on the way to GCCF and felt
extremely ill. Aff. of Isaha Casias ¶ 24, ECF No. 70-6.
Defendant Morgan called ahead to GCCF to inform the staff
they needed medical, water, and sack lunches when they
arrived. Dep. of Tarracina Morgan 95:13-24, ECF No. 82-1.
the van arrived at GCCF at 3:30 p.m., medical staff met the
van. Pl.'s Resp. UF ¶ V, ECF No. 70. Plaintiff
showed Defendant Morgan his vomit and asked her if he could
see medical, but Defendant Morgan responded,
“What's done is done, ” and refused to let
him see medical. Aff. of Isaha Casias ¶ 25, ECF No.
70-6. The inmates were given sack lunches in the GCCF holding
cell, but Plaintiff was only able to get a small sip of water
because there was only one water fountain and it was
impossible to push the button to drink while wearing the
handcuffs, so another inmate held the button while they all
took turns drinking. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff told
Defendant Morgan he was unable to get anything to drink in
the holding cell, so she gave him a small child-sized juice
box. Id. Defendants loaded the inmates back into the
van without anything more to drink and they left for Hobbs at
around 4:00 p.m. Id.; Pl.'s Resp. UF ¶ X,
ECF No. 70.
Morgan drove the van from GCCF. Defs.' Mot. UF ¶ 5,
ECF No. 63. They arrived at LCCF at around 7:25 p.m.
Pl.'s Resp. UF ¶ X, ECF No. 70. Upon arrival,
Plaintiff immediately asked to see medical, but Defendant
Morgan tried to downplay the incident and indicated that the
other inmates were lying and that nothing happened. Aff. of
Isaha Casias ¶ 27, ECF No. 70-6. Plaintiff eventually
received medical and mental health treatment at LCCF.
Id. ¶ 29. ...