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Bevins v. Becker County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 31, 2019

COREY BEVINS, Plaintiff,


          Nancy E. Brasel United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Cory Bevins brings this lawsuit against two groups of defendants: the Becker County Defendants (Becker County, Minnesota; Becker County Jail, the Becker County Sheriffs' Department, an unknown Becker County Sheriff, Donald Nelson, John W. Freeman, Paula Peterson, and Randy Hodgson), and the St. Mary's Defendants (St. Mary's Regional Health Center and Innovis Health, LLC).[2] Bevins' claims arise from the medical treatment he received while being detained at Becker County Jail (“the Jail”). The Becker County Defendants and the St. Mary's Defendants moved for summary judgment [ECF Nos. 126, 120] and Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson, in a Report and Recommendation, recommended granting both motions. [ECF No. 180 (“R&R”) at 2.] For the reasons stated below, the Court grants both motions.[3]


         On January 14, 2014, Becker County police arrested, transported, and booked Plaintiff Cory Bevins at Becker County Jail. [ECF No. 129-1 at 94.] The arresting officer informed the Jail staff that Bevins was a heavy drinker and may experience withdrawal symptoms. [ECF No. 129-2 at 2.] The Jail staff observed Bevins, but Bevins argues he “was never checked on or even asked if he was ok. Not once did a guard open the door or trap to ask [him] if he was ok. After the 12 hours elapsed the guard opened the door and told [him] to cuff up. He was never asked if he was ok or if he thought he needed medical attention.” [ECF No. 157 at 1-2.]

         Over that 12-hour period, Bevins experienced worsening abdominal pain. [ECF No. 122-3 (“Bevins Dep.”) at 38:24-39:3.] Bevins was taken to St Mary's Regional Health Center (“the Hospital”) and admitted. (Id. at 36:20-37:20.) A doctor diagnosed him with alcoholic hepatitis and gastritis. (Id. at 40:10-41:2.) Bevins spent two days at the Hospital. (Id. at 37:05-38:01.) He was then discharged and prescribed four vitamins and an acid suppressant. [ECF No. 129-2 at 4.] The Jail filled Bevins' prescriptions the day after his discharge. (Id.) The Jail administers medication to inmates four times per day [ECF No. 129, ¶9] and Bevins took his medication every day for the next week, January 18, to January 25. [ECF No. 129-1 at 74-75.]

         On January 20, 2014, Bevins saw Dr. Pankaj Timsina at Essentia Health, who noted his symptoms were improving. [ECF No. 122-3 at 74.]. Then, two days after his appointment, Bevins submitted a Sick Call Request Form, stating he was experiencing severe side and stomach pain. (Bevins Dep. at 62:12-63:4.) Bevins called his mother from the Jail and told her the Jail had given him ibuprofen for the pain, that the medications prescribed after his hospitalizations had run out, and that he was waiting for them to be refilled. [ECF No. 133-1 at 2-3.]

         Two days later, a Jail nurse attempted to contact Dr. Timsina's office. (Bevins Dep. at 63:5-63:14.) The nurse spoke with Dr. Monica Pokharel the following day, who stated that the Jail could give Bevins one dose of Tylenol or ibuprofen if necessary and that if the pain continued, Bevins could return to the clinic. (Id. at 68:1-22.) Jail staff then noticed Bevins had vomited in his cell. (Id. at 79:18-80:18.) Bevins unsuccessfully attempted to hide the vomit and Jail staff noticed there was blood in his vomit. (Id.) Jail staff then took Bevins back to the Hospital where he stayed for several days. (Id. at 69:5-70:1.)

         Bevins met with Dr. Timsina for a follow-up appointment. [ECF No. 122-3 at 107.] Dr. Timsina amended Bevins' diagnosis to chronic pancreatitis and they discussed a treatment plan. (Id.) Bevins also met with a social worker several times at the Jail. [ECF No. 129-2 at 16-17.] He told the social worker that he was “feeling ‘helpless' and ‘hopeless' regarding his situation of incarceration.” (Id. at 16.) The social worker noted that Bevins may benefit from taking antidepressants. (Id. at 17.) Bevins also spoke with a nurse at the jail about his mental health. (Id. at 18.) He told the nurse he thought he had been prescribed an antidepressant. (Id.) The nurse contacted Dr. Timsina, who indicated Bevins had not in fact been prescribed an antidepressant. (Id.)

         A month later, Bevins submitted another Sick Call Request Form. (Bevins Dep. at 129:4-8.) He complained that the area above his lip was swollen and that he believed it was a spider bite. (Id. at 129:13-25.) A nurse at the jail found there was some “slight swelling” but no signs of infection or redness. (Id. at 130:13-17.) Bevins was authorized to receive ibuprofen four times a day and an ice pack for his face three times a day. (Id. at 130:18-23.) Jail staff then took Bevins to urgent care the following day. (Id. at 131:4-7.) Doctors diagnosed Bevins with cellulitis and prescribed him an antibiotic and pain medication, which Jail staff administered to him. (Id. at 135:4-25.) Over the next few weeks the swelling disappeared and the cellulitis fully resolved. In April 2014, Bevins was transferred to federal custody. (Id. at 155:6-20.)

         Bevins sued the St. Mary's and Becker County Defendants, alleging several constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 including: (1) deliberate indifference to medical needs; (2) a violation of procedural due process; (3) conspiracy to violate his constitutional rights, as well as a claim against Becker County for enacting unconstitutional policies, customs, and practices.[4] [ECF No. 24.] Bevins also brought state law claims for negligence and medical malpractice. Id. The St. Mary's Defendants and the Becker County Defendants moved for summary judgment. [ECF No. 120, 126.] In an R&R, Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson recommended granting the motions (R&R at 29) and Bevins submitted an Objection. [ECF No. 182 (“Bevins Obj.”)].


          If a party objects to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the Court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).[5] A court should grant summary judgment when “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. The moving party “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, ” and must identify “those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The nonmovant must then submit evidence of “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324 (citation omitted).

         I. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         The R&R recommends dismissing Bevins' federal complaints against the Becker County Defendants because Bevins failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (R&R at 14-18.) The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). “[D]ismissal is mandatory” when a plaintiff fails to exhaust his or her available administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit. Johnson v. Jones, 340 F.3d 624, 627 (8th Cir. 2003).

         In Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850 (2016), the Supreme Court defined “available” remedies under the PLRA as those “capable of use.” Id. at 1858. Administrative remedies are only “unavailable” when: (1) the process is a “dead end, ” with prison officials “unable or consistently unwilling” to provide relief; (2) the administrative scheme is “so opaque that it becomes, practically speaking, incapable of use”; or (3) prison officials thwart attempts at seeking remedies through “machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation.” Id. at 1859-60.

         The Becker County Grievance Procedure is listed in the Becker County Detention Facility Inmate Handbook. [ECF No. 129 at ¶3.] During Bevins' time at Becker County Jail, the Handbook was made available to all inmates in the facility's ...

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