Hefner v. McMinn County, Tennessee et al
MEMORANDUM. An Order shall enter signed by District Judge Curtis L Collier on 9/28/11. (JGK, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
ERIC C. HEFNER,
MCMINN COUNTY, TENNESSEE,
and SHERIFF STEVE FRISBIE, in his
individual and official capacity as the
Sheriff of McMinn County, Tennessee,
Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier
Before the Court is Defendants’ McMinn County, Tennessee and Sheriff Steve Frisbie
(collectively, “Defendants”) motion for summary judgment (Court File No. 10). Plaintiff submitted
a response to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Court File No. 15), and Defendants
submitted a reply brief (Court File No. 20).1 For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT IN
PART Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Court File No. 10) and DISMISS Plaintiff’s 42
U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Defendant Frisbie in his official capacity. All other claims brought by
Plaintiff will proceed to trial.
Plaintiff filed a motion for extension of time to submit his response to Defendants’ motion
for summary judgment (Court File No. 13). Defendants subsequently submitted two motions for
extension of time to file their reply brief (Court File Nos. 18, 19). Neither party objected to the
requests for additional time. Accordingly, the Court will GRANT Plaintiff’s motion for extension
of time (Court File No. 13) and Defendants’ two motions for extension of time (Court File Nos. 18,
19). Plaintiff’s response brief, Defendants’ reply brief, and all supporting documents will be deemed
part of the record.
On June 23, 2009, Plaintiff was arrested and charged with possession of Schedule VI drugs
for resale, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, and possession of legend drugs without
a prescription (Court File No. 12-4 (“Inmate Record”), at pp. 2-3). Plaintiff was booked into the
McMinn County Detention Facility that evening. Plaintiff’s personal property receipt states
Defendant arrived with a medic alert necklace identifying Plaintiff as a diabetic as well as a diabetic
test kit (Hefner Dep. pp. 16, 26; Inmate Record p. 13). Further, Plaintiff asserts his diabetic
medication was in his vehicle, which was searched at the time of his arrest (Hefner Dep. pp. 16, 2122). Although Plaintiff presumably believed his medication was taken to the jail (Hefner Dep. pp.
28, 32, 39), Defendants assert they did not receive Plaintiff’s medication and note that no
medications were listed on Plaintiff’s personal property receipt (Inmate Record p. 13).
As part of the intake process, Plaintiff participated in a medical screening (Inmate Record
pp. 4-5; Court File Nos. 12-1, 16-2 (“Hefner Dep.”), p. 28).2 During the screening, Plaintiff informed
an officer or nurse that he had Type Two Diabetes and provided the names of his medications (id.).
Plaintiff also signed a form acknowledging the following:
It is my understanding that if I am sick while I am incarcerated in this facility, I
should tell the on-duty officer who will give me a medical request form on which I
can write my problem. This form will be referred to the nurse on duty.
(Inmate Record p. 5). Plaintiff alleges that, while being screened, he told an officer that he needed
to test his sugar (Hefner Dep. p. 28). According to Plaintiff, his request was ignored (id.).
While in custody, Plaintiff avers he made a request to test his blood sugar and to take his
Both Plaintiff and Defendants submitted selected portions of Plaintiff’s deposition. To
minimize confusion, the Court will treat these submissions as one document and cite to it
medicine every time jail personnel passed by, which he states was approximately every three to four
hours (id. at 28, 36, 41). Plaintiff claims his requests were ignored each time. Further, Plaintiff
asserts he was never presented with a form to complete when he made his requests for medical
assistance (id. at 39).
Plaintiff cannot recall the names of any of the officers or jail personnel that he encountered
(id. at 38). Moreover, he admits he had no contact with Sheriff Steve Frisbie during his time in jail
(id. at 38-39). Although Plaintiff states he could not remember exactly how long he was at the
McMinn County Detention Facility, intake records show Plaintiff was booked the evening of June
23, 2009, and made bond and was released on June 24, 2009 (Hefner Dep. pp. 32-34, Inmate Record
Post-release, Plaintiff was treated by Dr. David Huffman of University Diabetes and
Endocrine Consultants (Court File No. 16-1 (“Huffman Dep.”), p. 6). Although Plaintiff cannot
remember the exact time period, he claims Dr. Huffman has been treating his diabetes for
approximately four or five years (Hefner Dep. p. 14). Huffman testified that he saw Plaintiff on June
26, 2009, and diagnosed Plaintiff as having “stress-related deterioration and glucose control,
possibly accompanied by an interruption of his medication” (Huffman Dep. p. 6). Huffman also
opined that a causal relationship might exist, “at least in part,” between Plaintiff’s complications
and the interruption of his medical therapy (Huffman Dep. pp. 11-12).
Defendants have a contract with Doctors Hospital of McMinn County, LLC for the provision
of medical services to its inmates (Court File No. 12-8). As part of the contract, the jail’s medical
coverage allows for a full-time nurse, a part-time nurse, and a doctor who sees patients at least once
a week (id.). The Inmate Handbook provides the following guidance as it pertains to medical care
Shortly after admission to McMinn County Detention Facility you will
receive a health history screening and exam by the detention facility nurse.
This is performed to identify any conditions requiring treatment and to detect
the presence of any communicable diseases.
Pre-existing, non life-threatening conditions will be treated at inmate’s
expense. If you are on any medications that need to be dispensed daily, they
will need to be brought to the facility for verification. . . .
The McMinn County Detention Facility is only responsible for providing
emergency medical care. McMinn County does not provide medical care to
correct pre-existing medical problems or conditions caused by life long
neglect of your physical condition. Only emergency, life threatening medical
conditions will be treated.
All population inmates on medication will receive their medicine at times
designated by the medication runs.
Sick call is held in clinic area two to three days weekly, excluding weekends
and holidays. Inmates should sign up for sick call at breakfast, fill out a sick
call sheet and turn it [in to] the unit officer before 9:00 AM. These will be
picked up by medical personnel.
All inmates signing up for sick call must provide their name and the nature
of the complaint on the form provided. . . .
Anyone having an emergency medical problem before or after sick call
should report this to the unit officer. Arrangements will be made by the
officer and medical staff for evaluation and treatment.
(Court File No. 12-7, pp. 12-15). Defendants also maintain a policy and procedure manual for the
McMinn County Detention Facility detailing other rules that must be adhered to by jail personnel
(See Court File No. 12-6).
On June 23, 2010, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendants in this Court pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (Court File No. 1). Plaintiff alleges Defendant McMinn County, Tennessee and
Defendant Frisbie violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to receive adequate medical care as a
pretrial detainee. Plaintiff’s claims include a cause of action against Defendant Frisbie in his
individual and official capacity, and he alleges Defendant Frisbie was deliberately indifferent to
Plaintiff’s medical condition and “implicitly authorized, approved, and knowingly acquiesced in the
[alleged] [un]constitutional conduct” (Court File No. 1, ¶¶ 11, 12). Plaintiff further alleges municipal
liability against Defendant McMinn County on the grounds that “(1) the policies and/or customs of
McMinn County, Tennessee was the moving force behind the violation of Plaintiff’s federal
constitutional rights, (2) Defendant Frisb[ie] is the final policy maker of McMinn County, Tennessee
relative to medical care and treatment in the McMinn County Jail, (3) Defendant McMinn County,
Tennessee was deliberately indifferent to the training of jail staff relative to the medical care and
treatment of inmates, and (4) Defendant McMinn County, Tennessee ratified the actions of the jail
staff regarding the lack of medical care and treatment of Plaintiff . . . .” (id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff seeks
compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988,
and any other relief granted by the Court.
Defendants have now moved for summary judgment in this matter (Court File No. 10).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment is proper when “the movant shows that 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).
The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003).
The Court should view the evidence, including all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986); Nat’l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis, Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001).
To survive a motion for summary judgment, “the non-moving party must go beyond the
pleadings and come forward with specific facts to demonstrate that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). Indeed, a “[plaintiff] is not entitled
to a trial on the basis of mere allegations.” Smith v. City of Chattanooga, No. 1:08-CV-63, 2009 WL
3762961, at *2, *3 (E.D. Tenn. Nov. 4, 2009) (explaining the Court must determine whether “the
record contains sufficient facts and admissible evidence from which a rational jury could reasonably
find in favor of [the] plaintiff”). In addition, should the non-moving party fail to provide evidence
to support an essential element of its case, the movant can meet its burden of demonstrating no
genuine issue of material fact exists by pointing out such failure to the court. Street v. J.C. Bradford
& Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989).
At summary judgment, the Court’s role is limited to determining whether the case contains
sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). If the Court concludes a fair-minded jury could not return
a verdict in favor of the non-movant based on the record, the Court should enter summary judgment.
Id. at 251-52; Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir. 1994).
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Plaintiff brings suit against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To survive a motion
for summary judgment for a § 1983 claim, the plaintiff must reveal a genuine issue of material fact
exists showing “1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States
and 2) the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law.” Johnson v. Karnes,
398 F.3d 868, 873 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 194 (6th Cir. 1995)
(internal quotations omitted). In a suit against a municipality, the issue, similarly, is whether the
plaintiff has been deprived of a constitutional right and whether the municipality is responsible for
the violation. Cash v. Hamilton Cnty. Dep’t of Adult Prob., 388 F.3d 539, 542 (6th Cir. 2004).
The Court will consider each of Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Frisbie and Defendant
McMinn County in turn.
Sheriff Steve Frisbie
Plaintiff brings suit against Defendant Frisbie pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in both his
official and individual capacity. A suit against an officer in his official capacity is construed as a suit
against the governmental entity. Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
Thus, the claims against Defendant Frisbie in his official capacity will be construed as claims against
McMinn County, and Plaintiff’s § 1983 action against Defendant Frisbie in his official capacity is
With regard to Plaintiff’s § 1983 action against Defendant Frisbie in his individual capacity,
Defendant asserts the defense of qualified immunity. Courts typically employ a two-part test to
determine whether qualified immunity will apply. First, a court must consider whether, when viewed
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, “the facts alleged show the officer’s conduct violated a
constitutional right.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001) (citing Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S.
226, 232 (1991)). It must also consider “whether the violation involved a clearly established
constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known.” Peete v. Metro. Gov’t of
Nashville & Davidson Cnty., 486 F.3d 217, 219 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). This second
inquiry looks closely at the particular context of the case rather than asking whether a right was
clearly established “as a broad general proposition.” See Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201.3 The plaintiff
bears the burden of showing a defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity. See Wegener v. City
of Covington, 933 F.2d 390, 392 (6th Cir. 1991). Since the failure of either prong is dispositive in
favor of the defendant, the Court may address either prong of the test first. See Pearson v. Callahan,
555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009)
Plaintiff avers Defendant violated his “clearly established federal constitutional rights as a
pretrial detainee to adequate medical treatment” (Court File No. 1). The Eighth Amendment
prohibits prison officials from the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,” which includes
“deliberate indifference” to the “serious medical needs of prisoners.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 104 (1976) (citation omitted). The protections provided to post-conviction inmates under the
Eighth Amendment also extend to pretrial detainees under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 812 (6th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). A cause
of action for denial of medical care has both an objective and subjective component. Blackmore v.
Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2005). For the objective component, the inmate must
show that a “sufficiently serious” medical need existed. Id. (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 834 (1994)). The subjective component requires a showing that the prison official was
“deliberate[ly] indifferen[t]”; that is, he had “a sufficiently culpable state of mind,” Brown v.
Recent Sixth Circuit case law provides a third line of inquiry to the traditional two-part test:
“whether the plaintiff has offered sufficient evidence to indicate that what the official allegedly did
was objectively unreasonable in light of the clearly established constitutional rights,” Peete, 486
F.3d at 219. However, regardless of whether a court applies the two-part or three-part test, “the
essential factors considered are [ ] the same.” Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 494 n.4 (6th Cir. 2009).
Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 867 (6th Cir. 2000) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834).
Here, a reasonable factfinder, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, could
find Defendant Frisbie violated Plaintiff’s constitutional right to obtain medical care and, therefore,
should not receive qualified immunity. Beginning with the objective standard, to show a medical
condition is “substantially serious” the plaintiff must demonstrate “he [was] incarcerated under
conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. at 867 (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834).
“[A] medical need is objectively serious if it is ‘one that has been diagnosed by a physician as
mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the
necessity for a doctor’s attention.’” See Blackmore, 390 F.3d at 897. Alternatively, when a
prisoner’s medical need is not obvious, “the seriousness of a prisoner’s medical needs ‘may also be
decided by the effect of delay in treatment.’” See id. (emphasis omitted); see also Garretson v. City
of Madison Heights, 407 F.3d 789, 797 (6th Cir. 2005) (observing the “objectively serious”
requirement was met where a diabetic inmate whose medical condition required regular insulin
injections failed to receive such treatment, and he was subsequently admitted to the hospital for
emergency treatment and remained for several days); Taylor v. Boyd, No. 06-2412-JPM-dkv, 2008
WL 3852184, at *11 (W.D. Tenn. Aug. 15, 2008) (finding deliberate indifference by prison officials
who denied an inmate with asthma his inhaler despite repeated requests, and the inmate suffered an
asthma attack four days later).
Plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to
whether he suffered from a “substantially serious” medical condition. First, during Plaintiff’s
medical screening at McMinn County Detention Facility, Plaintiff alerted prison officials that he had
Type II diabetes and was taking medication for his condition (Inmate Record p. 5, Hefner Dep. p.
28). It is commonly known that Type II diabetes must be diagnosed by a licensed physician and
generally treated with medication. Here, Plaintiff asserts Dr. David Huffman diagnosed him with
Type II diabetes, prescribed medication, and provided treatment for approximately four or five years
prior to the incident involving Defendants (Hefner Dep. p. 14). These facts alone would likely be
sufficient to establish Plaintiff was suffering from an “objectively serious” medical condition.
However, even if Plaintiff’s condition was not “obvious,” the effect the delay of medical treatment
had on Plaintiff might raise a genuine issue of material fact as to the seriousness of Plaintiff’s
condition. Dr. Huffman states that he treated Plaintiff on June 26, 2009, approximately two days
after Plaintiff’s release from jail, and diagnosed Plaintiff with having “stress-related deterioration
and glucose control, possibly accompanied by an interruption of his medication” (Huffman Dep. p.
6).4 Although Plaintiff would need to present additional evidence at trial to show, inter alia, the
extent of the effects of the delay especially in light of the fact that Plaintiff was only denied his
medication for approximately one day (that is, the alleged length of Plaintiff’s stay in jail), the
evidence presented thus far, taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, would satisfy the objective
For the subjective component, Plaintiff must establish Defendant was deliberately indifferent
to his medical condition. The deliberate indifference standard “entails something more than mere
negligence;” yet, it is well established “it is satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for
Defendants’ motion for summary judgment requests that this Court dismiss Plaintiff’s
lawsuit if his counsel failed to provide an expert opinion on whether Plaintiff had a serious medical
need and whether Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s medical needs (Court File
No. 10). Plaintiff’s doctor, David Huffman, was subsequently deposed, and this evidence was
presented along with Plaintiff’s response to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Therefore,
the Court finds Defendants’ argument for dismissal on this grounds is now moot.
the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm with result.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 835 (1994). However, the prison official “must both be aware of facts from which the
inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the
inference.” Id. at 837.
It is well established that a defendant’s liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 cannot be based
solely on the doctrine of respondeat superior. Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999).
To establish supervisory liability, the Sixth Circuit requires plaintiffs to show a direct causal link
between the acts of the subordinate and the supervisory defendant. Hays v. Jefferson Cnty., 668 F.2d
869, 872 (6th Cir. 1982) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370-71 (1976)). This necessitates that
there “be a showing that the supervisor encouraged the specific incident of misconduct or in some
way participated in it.” Taylor v. Michigan Dep’t of Corr., 69 F.3d 76, 81 (6th Cir. 1996) (quoting
Bellamy v. Bradley, 729 F.2d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1984). “At a minimum, a § 1983 plaintiff must show
that a supervisory official at least implicitly authorized, approved or knowingly acquiesced in the
unconstitutional conduct of the offending subordinate.” Id. But see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, 129
S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (“In a § 1983 suit or a Bivens action—where masters do not answer for the
torts of their servants—the term “supervisory liability” is a misnomer. In the context of determining
whether there is a violation of clearly established right to overcome qualified immunity, purpose
rather than knowledge is required to impose Bivens liability on the subordinate for unconstitutional
discrimination; the same holds true for an official charged with violations arising from his or her
Here, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds Plaintiff
has raised a triable issue of fact as to Defendant Frisbie’s conduct. Plaintiff does not assert
Defendant had any direct personal involvement in Plaintiff’s medical care at McMinn County
Detention Facility (Hefner Dep. p. 38). Rather, Plaintiff claims Defendant Frisbie knowingly
implemented a policy that did not provide for the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions, and
the implementation of that policy led to the violation of Plantiff’s clearly established constitutional
right (Court File No. 15). The policy at issue in the Inmate Handbook reads in pertinent part:
The McMinn County Detention Facility is only responsible for providing emergency
medical care. McMinn County does not provide medical care to correct pre-existing
medical problems or conditions caused by life long neglect of your physical
condition. Only emergency, life threatening medical conditions will be treated.
(Court File No. 12-7, p. 13). Plaintiff argues that this policy resulted in him not receiving treatment
for a pre-existing medical condition--Type II diabetes--which led to complications post-release. He
explains that, during his medical screening, he told the jail official he needed to “test his sugar” and
was ignored (Court File No. 28). Further, while in detention at McMinn County Detention Facility,
Plaintiff alleges he made several requests for his medication and diabetic test kit, and was ignored
each time (Hefner Dep. p. 28, 36, 41). Finally, despite his many requests, Plaintiff asserts he was
never even given a medical request form to fill out regarding his medical concerns. Although
Defendants have presented several policies and procedures to demonstrate McMinn County has a
constitutional healthcare program, the Court finds it is certainly plausible that the policy regarding
pre-existing conditions may have influenced the conduct of prison officials towards Plaintiff, which
may have placed Plaintiff at risk of substantial harm.
The issue here, however, is whether Defendant Frisbie implicitly authorized the harm to
Plaintiff by implementing a policy that he should have known would create a substantial risk of
harm to the class of persons affected by a pre-existing condition. In Young ex rel Estate of Young
v. Martin, the estate of a former prisoner brought a § 1983 action against the director of a state
department of corrections alleging the director was aware a health service policy exposed inmates
to excessive risks of harm and the director disregarded that risk by implementing the policy. F.
App’x 509, 514 (6th Cir. 2002). The director had no direct personal involvement in the plaintiff’s
care. Id. Nonetheless, the Sixth Circuit denied qualified immunity on the grounds that the director
“ at least implicitly approved” the conduct of his subordinates by setting forth a policy “with only
minimal standards of health care for inmates with chronic or long-term serious illnesses knowing
that in doing so he was creating a substantial risk of harm to inmates.” Id. at 515.
Although the facts of the present case are not analogous to Young ex rel Estate of Young, the
Sixth Circuit’s analysis of the director’s conduct is useful in considering the culpability of Defendant
Frisbie. Here, Plaintiff has highlighted language in the Inmate Handbook that appears to grant
minimal care to inmates with pre-existing conditions. Such a policy could create an inference that
those inmates would be placed at a substantial risk of harm; yet, the policy was still implemented
and placed in the Inmate Handbook.
Further, Plaintiff cites to portions of Defendant Frisbie’s deposition testimony in a previous
trial in which Defendant purportedly acknowledges problems with the policy. In particular, Plaintiff
highlights portions of Defendant’s testimony where Defendant acknowledges that he wrote the
aforementioned paragraph contained in the Inmate Handbook, and at a later point, acknowledges
from a policy standpoint, that the department may not treat a person if they came in with diabetes
and their condition was not life threatening (Frisbie Dep. pp. 88, 115). Because Plaintiff has not
provided the Court with the complete transcript nor details about the factual background and holding
of the case, the Court would be amiss to place too much weight on this testimony. Nevertheless,
viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds Plaintiff has submitted sufficient
evidence to create a triable issue of fact as to whether Defendant Frisbie implicitly authorized a
policy that violated Plaintiff’s constitutional right to medical care as a pretrial detainee. The Court
will allow Plaintiff to proceed to trial on the § 1983 claim against Defendant in his individual
Plaintiff also brings a § 1983 action against Defendant McMinn County alleging Defendant
implemented a policy that was the “moving force” behind the violation of Plaintiff’s rights and that
Defendant was deliberately indifferent to the training of jail staff as it pertained to the medical care
and treatment of inmates (Court File No. 1). “[I]t is when execution of a government’s policy or
custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to
represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under §
1983.” Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). There must be a direct causal link
between the municipality’s policy and the alleged constitutional violation. Doe v. Claiborne Cnty.,
103 F.3d 495, 508 (6th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff has the burden to “show that the unconstitutional
policy or custom existed, that the policy or custom was connected to the [municipality], and that the
policy or custom caused [the] constitutional violation.” Napier v. Madison Cnty., 238 F.3d 739, 743
(6th Cir. 2001). The municipality will only be liable if the decisionmaker possessed final authority
to create the policy related to the action at issue. Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 481
Further, a plaintiff can show that a municipality’s failure to train or supervise its employees
demonstrates deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom officers will have contact,
such that it effectively constitutes a government custom or policy. City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S.
378, 388 (1989). However, to do so, the plaintiff must “demonstrate that the municipal action was
taken with ‘deliberate indifference’ as to its known or obvious consequences.” Stemler v. City of
Florence, 126 F.3d 856, 865 (6th Cir. 1997). “[D]eliberate indifference is a stringent standard of
fault, requiring proof that a municipal actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of his
action.” Id. (quoting Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 410 (1997)).
Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, a reasonable factfinder could conclude
Defendant McMinn County is subject to municipal liability. Plaintiff alleges the policy concerning
treatment of pre-existing medical conditions is unconstitutional. The policy states, in pertinent part,
Defendant will “not provide medical care to correct pre-existing medical problems or conditions
caused by lifelong neglect of the physical condition. Only emergency, life threatening medical
conditions will be treated” (Court File No. 12-7, p. 13). Although Defendant has submitted several
policies and procedures that, taken as a whole, may demonstrate McMinn County has a
constitutional healthcare program, Plaintiff has established a genuine issue of material fact as to
whether constitutional violations could emerge from such a policy. Further, as previously noted,
Plaintiff has presented evidence of Defendant Frisbie admitting authorship of the policy in his
position as sheriff (Frisbie Dep. pp. 88, 108). Finally, Plaintiff argues this policy was the “driving
force” behind Defendant McMinn County’s violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights (Court File
No. 17). Plaintiff presents deposition testimony from his physician, David Huffman, who testified
Plaintiff’s health problems post-release may have been causally related, at least in part, to an
interruption in his medication (Huffman Dep. pp. 10-11). Although admittedly Plaintiff will need
to provide more support for his position to prevail on this claim, particularly as it relates to any
claim that Defendant has failed to train or supervise its employees so as to amount to “deliberate
indifference,” an argument for which Plaintiff provides no direct support, Plaintiff has presented
sufficient evidence overall to proceed to trial. Therefore, the Court will DENY Defendants’ motion
for summary judgment as it pertains to Plaintiff’s claim of municipal liability.
In sum, the Court will GRANT IN PART Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Court
File No. 10) and DISMISS Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Defendant Frisbie in his
official capacity. All other claims brought by Plaintiff will proceed to trial.
An Order shall enter.
CURTIS L. COLLIER
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE