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Shelton v. McLeod County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 1, 2018

Michael Paul Shelton, Plaintiff,
McLeod County, McLeod County Jail, Sheriff Scott Rehmann, John Doe, Jane Does #1-2, and Various Unknown Corrections Officers, Doctors, and Nurses, Defendants.



         The matter comes before the undersigned on Defendants McLeod County, McLeod County Jail, Sheriff Scott Rehmann, John Doe, Jane Does #1-2, and Various Unknown Corrections Officers, Doctors, and Nurses' (collectively, “Defendants”) Motion for Dismissal and/or Summary Judgment (“Dispositive Motion”) [Doc. No. 33]. This matter was referred for the resolution of pretrial matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1 for a Report and Recommendation. See (Order of Reference) [Doc. No. 45]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Defendants' Dispositive Motion be granted and that this case be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Shelton's Amended Complaint asserts that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights.[1] (Am. Compl. at 8-9). The central premise of Shelton's Amended Complaint is that McLeod County jail staff ignored Shelton's medical records in their possession and failed to prescribe sufficient doses of Xanax.[2] Specifically, Shelton alleges that he experienced cruel and unusual punishment relating to Defendants' medical indifference when they-on four separate occasions in February 2014, August 2014, October 2014, and December 2014-denied him Xanax for his Tourette's Syndrome, causing Shelton to undergo rapid withdrawal symptoms.[3](Id. ¶¶ 28-36). As a result, Shelton alleges that he experienced “severe panic attacks, seizures, auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and extreme anxiety.” (Id. ¶ 35). Furthermore, Shelton alleges that his seizures caused “additional physical injuries, such as a broken foot.” (Id.). Shelton seeks an award of undisclosed “compensatory and punitive damages for his severe emotional and mental distress, embarrassment, humiliation, pain and suffering, ” in addition to “costs, disbursements, and attorneys' fees incurred in bringing and prosecuting this action.” (Id. at 9).

         After the close of discovery, Shelton's counsel moved to withdraw. See (Mot., “First Mot. to Withdraw”) [Doc. No. 29]; see also (Pretrial Scheduling Order) [Doc. No. 28 at 1] (stating “[a]ll fact discovery [of] any kind shall be commenced in time to be completed by” August 1, 2017). The Court deferred ruling on the First Motion to Withdraw because Shelton's counsel had provided insufficient information under the Local Rules. See (Order Dated Oct. 5, 2017) [Doc. No. 30]. Soon thereafter, Defendants filed their Dispositive Motion and Shelton's counsel filed a Notice of Motion and Motion to Withdraw from Representation (“Second Motion to Withdraw”) [Doc. No. 38]. The Court stayed the briefing of the Defendants' Dispositive Motion pending resolution of the Second Motion to Withdraw. See (Text Only Order Dated Nov. 22, 2017) [Doc. No. 46].

         After a hearing before the undersigned, the Second Motion to Withdraw was granted. See (Minute Entry Dated Jan. 8, 2018) [Doc. No. 47]; (Text Only Order Dated Jan. 8, 2018) [Doc. No. 48]. Later, the Court also issued a briefing schedule for Defendants' Dispositive Motion. (Text Only Order Dated Jan. 19, 2018) [Doc. No. 49] (establishing that Shelton must respond to Defendants' Dispositive Motion on or before February 19, 2018). Shelton's Motion for Appointment of Counsel (“Motion to Appoint Counsel”) [Doc. No. 50] followed. The Court denied Shelton's Motion to Appoint Counsel. See (Order Dated Jan. 29, 2018) [Doc. No. 51]. In particular, the Court stated that it

is sensitive to Shelton's apprehension regarding his pro se status in this matter. That being said, the Court concludes that appointment of counsel is not warranted under the circumstances. Specifically, the factors espoused in [Phillips v. Jasper County Jail, 437 F.3d 791, 794 (8th Cir. 2006)] do not suggest that the Court or Shelton “will substantially benefit from the appointment of counsel.” See Plummer[ v. Grimes, 87 F.3d 1032, 1033 (8th Cir. 1996)]. Critically, Shelton received the benefit of counsel in crafting his Amended Complaint and throughout the discovery process. Thus, Shelton cannot show continued benefit of representation with respect to his ability to investigate the facts. Discovery is closed and the record is what the record will be, regardless of whether the Court appoints new counsel in this matter.

(Id. at 4). Shelton did not file a timely response to the Defendants' Dispositive Motion. Instead, almost two months after the time in which he could timely respond, Shelton submitted a collection of exhibits that show medical expenses for various drugs including Xanax, Nefazodone, Lorazepam, and Diazepam. (Exs., “Shelton's Exs.”) [Doc. No. 52]. The only explanation that accompanied the exhibits was included in a cover letter, in which Shelton asserted “[t]hese are my prescription records. Please submit this as evidence in my case. A copy has already been sent to the defending attorney.” (Cover Letter) [Doc. No. 52-1]. The exhibits show that Shelton had a gap in his Xanax prescription from July 24, 2014, until November 24, 2014. See (Shelton's Exs. at 2).[4]

         Defendants assert that Shelton's Amended Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim for a number of reasons: (1) Shelton's medical history suggests that he did not have a serious medical need for Xanax; (2) the unnamed parties have not been served and must be dismissed; (3) McLeod County Jail is not subject to suit; and (4) Shelton did not assert any individual capacity claims-and because there is no individual liability-Shelton cannot bring claims under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). (Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 12-19). With respect to summary judgment, Defendants argue that they were not indifferent to Shelton's medical needs. See (id. at 12-13, 21-28). To that end, Defendants assert that they gave him medication as instructed by a physician to help Shelton with medically identifiable concerns and that treatment was based on the physician's medical discretion. (Id. at 23-26). In support of their Dispositive Motion, Defendants filed twenty-four exhibits, including probation reports, some of Shelton's medical records, and medical administrations records for Shelton while at the McLeod County Jail. See (Exs. 1-24, Attached to Aff. of Jason M. Hiveley) [Doc. Nos. 36-1 to 36-24].

         The probation reports show that prior to each of the alleged incidents, Shelton was incarcerated for alcohol-related incidents. See (Ex. 1 at 3) (describing the various violations including unlawful blood alcohol levels and failure to complete a halfway house protocol). The medical records also suggest medical professionals were concerned with Shelton's prescription drug use. See (Ex. 3) (notes from an August 2007 appointment where the physician stated Shelton “clearly uses meds without discretion or regard to MD's orders”). The medical records further demonstrate that medical professions were concerned with Shelton's mixing of Xanax with alcohol. See, e.g., (Ex. 24) (stating “of significant concern, is [Shelton's] admission of drinking alcohol in combination with his Xanax” and that Shelton rebuked attempts at discussing “how dangerous this is”). The medical records also evidence situations in which Shelton told physicians that he “do[es]n't go through withdrawal from [X]anax” and that seizures he has had in the past could not be attributable to Xanax withdrawal. See (Ex. 5 at 2). But see (Ex. 19 at 4) (stating that Shelton has a history of “Xanax/benzodiazepine withdrawal seizures”). Finally, the record shows that Shelton declined Chlordiazepoxide during his February 2014 incarceration, which “may also be used to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.” See Chlordiazepoxide Hydrochloride (Oral Route), Mayo Clinic, (last updated Mar. 1, 2017); see also (Exs. 15-17) (medical inmate notes and refusal of treatment release forms).

         During his incarnation in February of 2014, Shelton was provided with step-down doses of Xanax. See (Ex. 10) (Shelton's medication record while incarcerated in February 2014); (Ex. 11) (Shelton's health complaint form complaining of reduced Xanax doses); see also (Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 6-7) (describing the manner in which Shelton was administered Xanax during his February 2014 incarceration). Prior to his incarceration in August of 2014, Shelton attempted suicide by overdosing on Xanax and consuming alcohol. See (Ex. 19 at 2-3). Consequently, given Shelton's medical history, medical professionals apparently prescribed Thorazine (aka “Chlorpromazine”), discontinuing Shelton's Xanax prescription. See (Ex. 20 at 2); see also (Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 8) (Shelton's Exs. at 2) (showing no Xanax prescription from July 24, 2014 until November 24, 2014). With respect to his time in the McLeod County Jail in August of 2014, the medication administration records demonstrate that he was not given Xanax during his August stay, but was given Thorazine. See (Ex. 21 at 2-5). During his incarceration in October of 2014, he was not provided Xanax. See (Ex. 22 at 2). Shelton was also not provided with Xanax during his December 2014 incarceration, although he appears to have obtained a new prescription for it. See (Ex. 23 at 2); (Shelton's Exs. at 2).


         A. Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(6)

         1. Legal Standard

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable ...

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