Chaney v. Cradduck et al
OPINION AND ORDER finding as moot 80 Motion in Limine; finding as moot 81 Motion in Limine; finding as moot 83 Motion in Limine; finding as moot 90 Motion for Writ of Habeas Corpus ad testificandum and granting 91 Motion for Reconsideration. See order for specifics. Signed by Honorable Timothy L. Brooks on May 1, 2017. (tg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JAMES W. CHANEY, JR.
CASE NO. 5:14-CV-5352
SHERIFF KELLEY CRADDUCK;
LIEUTENANT J. MARTINEZ;
DR. ROBERTO SAEZ, Southern Health Partners;
NURSE AMBER GOFF, Southern Health Partners;
JOHN DOE DEPUTY;
CATERING BY MARLINS d/b/a
CBM MANAGED SERVICES; and
NURSE TYRANNY RAY
OPINION AND ORDER
Currently before the Court is a Motion for Reconsideration and Clarification (Doc.
91) filed by Plaintiff James W . Chaney, Jr. on April 21 , 2017. The Motion asks the Court
to reconsider its Order (Doc. 85) sua sponte vacating its previous August 17, 2016 Order
(Doc. 62) adopting the Summary Judgment Report and Recommendation (Doc. 61)
("Summary Judgment R&R") filed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark E. Ford . Alternatively,
Chaney's Motion asks the Court to clarify that its prior dismissal of certain of his claims
was without prejudice , and to allow him leave to file an amended complaint reasserting
those claims. The Court held a pre-trial conference in this matter on April 26 , 2017, during
which it took oral argument on the pending Motion . At the conclusion of oral argument,
the Court announced its intent to grant the Motion , in the sense that it would reconsider
its ruling , not in the sense that it would necessarily grant the relief requested in the Motion.
The Court has now reconsidered its Order (Doc. 85), and finds for the reasons discussed
below that the most appropriate course of action is to allow Chaney leave to file an
This suit began when Chaney filed his Original Complaint (Doc. 1) on November
14, 2014 , and then filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 9) on January 27 , 2015. The
Amended Complaint brings claims against several employees of Benton County,
including jail guards at the Benton County Detention Center ("BCDC") and County Sheriff
Kelley Cradduck, in their individual and official capacities (the "Benton County
Defendants"). It also named a John Doe doctor-later identified as Roberto Saez-along
with Nurses Amber Goff and Tyranny Ray, all of whom are employees of Southern Health
Partners ("SHP"). SHP contracts with Benton County to provide medical services at
BCDC . Chaney named these Defendants (the "Medical Defendants") in their official and
individual capacities as well. Finally, the Amended Complaint names Catering by Marlins
("CBM"), a catering company that contracts with Benton County to provide food services
The claims listed in Chaney's Amended Complaint are wide ranging , spanning
from allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement, to physical and verbal abuse,
to constitutionally deficient medical care . On March 23 , 2015, the Medical Defendants
filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 15), arguing that Chaney's official-capacity claims against
them were subject to Rule 12(b )(6) dismissal. On September 1, 2015, U.S . Magistrate
Judge Mark E. Ford entered a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 41) (the "Dismissal
R&R") advising the Court that the Med ical Defendants' Motion should be granted , and the
official-capacity claims against them dismissed . Chaney did not object to the Dismissal
R&R, and the Court accordingly entered an Order (Doc. 43) adopting it on October 9,
2015 . See Thomas v. Arn , 474 U.S. 140, 149-153 (1985) (suggesting several times that
a district court judge need not review a magistrate's R&R when it is not objected to ).1
The case progressed until January of 2016 , when all three groups of DefendantsCBM , the Medical Defendants, and the Benton County Defendants-filed Motions for
Summary Judgment (Docs. 50 , 53 , 56). On July 19, 2016 , Magistrate Judge Ford issued
the Summary Judgment R&R (Doc. 61 ). The Summary Judgment R&R advised that the
Benton County Defendants' Motion should be granted , and the claims against them
should be dismissed with prejudice ; that CBM 's Motion should be granted , and the claims
against it should be dismissed with prejudice ; and that the Medical Defendants' Motion
should be denied .
In discussing the Medical Defendants' Motion, the Summary Judgment R&R first
found that genuine issues of material fact prevented summary judgment on Chaney's
individual-capacity claims against them . Issues of fact existed , Magistrate Judge Ford
explained , as to whether the Medical Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to
Chaney's serious medical needs when they refused to provide him with narcotic pain
medication following his hernia surgery, despite the surgeon 's prescription for such
Thomas v. Arn , 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985) ("[Section 636(b)(1)(C)] does not on its face
require any review at all , by either the district court or the court of appeals, of any issue
that is not the subject of an objection ."); id. ("Petitioner first argues that a failure to object
waives only de nova review, and that the district judge must still review the magistrate's
report under some lesser standard. However, § 636(b)(1 )(C) simply does not provide for
such review."); id. at 150 ("It does not appear that Congress intended to require district
court review of a magistrate's factual or legal conclusions , under a de nova or any other
standard , when neither party objects to those findings. "); id. at 153 ("It seems clear that
Congress would not have wanted district judges to devote time to reviewing magistrate's
[sic] reports except to the extent that such review is requested by the parties or otherwise
necessitated by Article Ill of the Constitution .").
medication , and to treat Chaney's TMJ. See Doc. 61 , pp. 23-26. Then , the Summary
Judgment R&R went on to address Chaney's official-capacity claims against the Medical
Defendants, despite having previously discharged these claims in the Dismissal R&R.
I also believe there is a question of fact as to whether the policy is
unconstitutional. Official-capacity liability under 42 U.S.C . § 1983 occurs
when a constitutional injury is caused by 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. Plaintiff may prevail on his official
capacity claims by identifying a policy that constitutes deliberate
indifference. I believe there is a genuine issue of fact as to whether the
across-the-board policy of not provid ing narcotic pain medication evidences
deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of the Plaintiff.
Id. at 26 (quotations and alteration omitted) . Neither party objected to the Summary
Judgment R&R, so the Court entered an Order (Doc. 62) adopting it on August 17, 2016.
On September 9, 2016 , the Court entered a Case Management Order (Doc. 63)
providing for a period of discovery and setting a trial date during the Court's May 1, 2017
term . On October 7, 2016 , Magistrate Judge Ford entered an order appointing counsel to
Chaney, who had been proceeding pro se. Thereafter, the parties proceeded with
discovery, and on March 29 , 2017, filed their required pre-trial disclosures. These filings
prompted the Court to begin its trial preparation process, starting with a thorough review
of the record . This , in turn , led the Court to discover the aforementioned inconsistency
between the Dismissal R&R and the Summary Judgment R&R regarding Chaney's
official-capacity claims against the Medical Defendants.
On April 12, 2017, the Court reconciled this inconsistency by sua sponte vacating
its previous Order (Doc. 62) adopting the Summary Judgment R&R, and instead declining
to adopt the portion of the Summary Judgment R&R discussing Chaney's official-capacity
claims against the Medical Defendants. This sua sponte Order (Doc. 85) had the effect
of clarifying that only Chaney's individual-capacity claims, and not his official-capacity
claims, would proceed to trial. However, believing that the parties had conducted
discovery assuming that his official-capacity claims were still alive , and convinced that
those claims were meritorious , Chaney filed the instant Motion for Reconsideration and
Clarification (Doc. 91) on April 21 , 2017 .
The Court's review of this Motion led it to discover two more glitches with the
Dismissal R&R and the Summary Judgment R&R. Some explanation of law is necessary
to contextualize these problems . Just as "[a] suit against a government officer in his official
capacity is functionally equivalent to a suit against the employing governmental entity,"
Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home , 627 F.3d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 2010), when a
government contracts with a third-party to fulfill a constitutional duty, official-capacity
claims against the third-party's employees are treated as claims against the third-party
itself. See Cannady v. Cradduck, 2016 WL 4432704, at *1-*2 (W.D. Ark. Aug. 18, 2016)
(finding that official-capacity claims against employees of SHP "are treated as claims
against SHP" because "Benton County has contracted with SHP to provide healthcare to
County prisoners"). To sustain an official-capacity claim against such an entity, a plaintiff
"must show that there was a policy, custom , or official action that inflicted an actionable
injury. " Johnson v. Hamilton , 452 F.3d 967, 973 (8th Cir. 2006) (involving a§ 1983 claim
against a prison medical provider); Sanders v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 984 F.2d 972 , 97576 (8th Cir. 1993) ("[A] corporation acting under color of state law will only be held liable
under § 1983 for its own unconstitutional policies." ). Thus, Chaney's official-capacity
claims against the Medical Defendants are "functionally equivalent" to alleging that their
employer, SHP, had "a policy, custom , or [took an] official action" that deprived him of
constitutionally adequate medical care. Veatch , 627 F.3d at 1257; Johnson , 452 F.3d at
The Dismissal R&R, however, errantly stated that Chaney's official-capacity claims
against the Medical Defendants "are treated as claims against Benton County," instead
of SHP. (Doc. 41 , p. 3 (emphasis added)). In one sense , this statement of law can
generously be reconciled by noting that a governmental unit, such as Benton County,
may also be held liable for its contractors' unconstitutional policies. See Crooks v. Nix,
872 F.2d 800 , 803-04 (8th Cir. 1989) ("Even though defendants have contracted with
CMS to furnish medical services this does not provide absolute immunity against a
prisoner's claim where prison policies are alleged to contribute to the denial of proper
medical and dental care ." ); Prosser v. Nagaldinne , 2011 WL 250999 , at *9 (E.D . Mo. Jan.
26 , 2011) ("The failure of medical contractors to provide adequate or proper pain
medication can support a claim of deliberate indifference against prison supervisors. "). 2
What is important for present purposes, though, is that the Dismissal R&R's reference to
Benton County creates uncertainty about whether Magistrate Judge Ford determined that
Chaney's claim failed by not plausibly alleging that SHP had an unconstitutional policy,
or that Benton County had an unconstitutional policy. This uncertainty is further
compounded by the Summary Judgment R&R. In discussing "the across-the-board policy
of not providing narcotic pain medication ," Magistrate Judge Ford does not specify whose
policy he is referring to-SHP's or Benton County's. (Doc. 61 , p. 26).
The Court makes no determination at this time as to whether Crooks is analogous to the
instant case , whether Prosser is analogous and persuasive, and ultimately whether
Benton County may be held liable for SHP's allegedly unconstitutional actions. These
questions are not now properly before the Court.
These uncertainties are highly relevant because Chaney's Amended Complaint,
broadly construed , makes out an official-capacity claim against Sheriff Cradduck, a
Benton County Defendant, for failing to provide constitutionally adequate medical care.
See Doc. 9, p. 15 ("Sheriff Cradduck . .. is responsible for the medical staff ensuring that
it provides adequate medical care to inmates . . .. ").But this official-capacity claim against
Sheriff Cradduck was not specifically addressed by the Summary Judgment R&R,
creating the possibility that he was dismissed from this lawsuit without having all of the
claims against him (or, in effect, against Benton County) substantively adjudicated.
Because Benton County could be liable for its own allegedly unconstitutional policy, or
perhaps the allegedly unconstitutional policy of its contractor SHP , this oversight is
potentially prejudicial to Chaney.
With this background and explanation in mind , the Court has three options to
resolve the problems with the R&Rs . First, it can adopt the tack taken by its sua sponte
Order (Doc. 85) and allow the case to proceed to trial only on Chaney's individual-capacity
claims against the Medical Defendants. Second , it can allow the case to proceed to trial
on Chaney's individual- and official-capacity claims against the Medical Defendants,
either by vacating its Order (Doc. 43) adopting the Dismissal R&R, or by granting Chaney
leave to file an amended complaint asserting those claims. Third , it can delay the trial and
grant Chaney leave to file an amended complaint bringing his individual- and officialcapacity claims against the Medical Defendants , and re-asserting his official-capacity
medical claim against Sheriff Cradduck.
The Court believes the third option is the most prudent for two primary reasons .
First, it is the only solution that effectively alleviates the taint of the R&Rs . One
manifestation of the R&Rs' problems was that Chaney and the Medical Defendants
conducted discovery and prepared for trial with understandable confusion over whether
the official-capacity claims were alive. Another is that Chaney was deprived of his
opportunity to conduct discovery with Benton County, an opportunity that may also be
meaningful to the Medical Defendants if the official-capacity claims against them are
permitted to proceed. Allowing Chaney to assert the aforementioned claims against
Sheriff Cradduck and the Medical Defendants, providing the parties an additional
discovery period , and permitting a subsequent round of dispositive motion practice,
negates these problems.
Second , the Court's other options would be unfairly prejudicial to Chaney. True
enough , Chaney should have objected to both R&Rs, and his former prose status did not
absolve him of the responsibility to do so. But the Medical Defendants also should have
objected to the Summary Judgment R&R, and their failure to do so evens the equities
when weighed against Chaney's failure. The Court thus turns to the prejudicial effects of
including or not including Chaney's official-capacity claims against the Medical
Defendants at trial , and finds that it would unfairly prejudice Chaney to prohibit the claims.
This is so , primarily, because were the Court reviewing the question de nova, it would
agree with the Summary Judgment R&R and find that genuine issues of material fact exist
as to the claims-a conclusion the Court did not have the record information necessary
to reach at the time of its sua sponte Order.
Courts in the Eighth Circuit have previously held that a policy of not prescribing
narcotic pain medication to inmates can constitute deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs. See McAdoo v. Martin, 2017 WL 1091348, at *7 (Mar. 21 , 2017) (Hickey,
J.) (finding that a policy of denying pain medication to inmates without exercising medical
judgment constituted deliberate ind ifference , and collecting cases); Tatum v. Helder, 2017
WL 707499 , at *8 (W.D. Ark. Feb . 1, 2017) (Wiedemann , M.J .), R&R adopted without
objection by the undersigned, 2017 WL 706622 (W .D. Ark. Feb . 22 , 2017) ("I believe there
are genuine issues of material fact as to whether SHP had a policy, practice, or custom
of not prescribing narcotic pain medication to inmates at the WCDC. "); Strahan v. Rottnek,
2015 WL 249448 , at *5 (E .D. Mo. Jan . 20 , 2015) ("Because Dr. Rottnek's policy was
applied to plaintiff without any medical determination regarding plaintiff's medical need for
narcotic prescription medication for his chronic pain , the policy had the effect of denying
plaintiff medical treatment. "); see a/so Grawcock v. Hodges , 2012 WL 3245977 , at *7-*9
(N .D. Ind . Aug . 6, 2012) (denying summary judgment because genuine issues of material
fact existed as to whether either jail or medical provider had policy of restricting narcotic
In the instant case, Chaney testified that Nurse Goff informed him that narcotics
are not allowed in the BCDC . (Doc. 91-2 , p. 114). In her deposition, Nurse Goff denied
the existence of such a policy. (Doc. 91-3 , p. 18). However, she also read from a post-op
medical form completed by another SHP employee who indicated that Chaney was given
Tylenol for pain "due to inmate status." Id. Nurse Ray stated that SHP doesn't "typically
give narcotics at the jail ," because "it's a low narcotic facility." (Doc. 91-4 , p. 7). Taken
together, these deposition excerpts create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether
Chaney was denied narcotic pain medication due to a policy of denying such medication ,
rather than an exercise of independent medical judgment. 3
This brings the Court next to Chaney's official-capacity claim against Sheriff
Cradduck, which was never substantively adjudicated by the Summary Judgment R&R.
Not including this claim at trial would also be unfairly prejudicial against Chaney. As an
initial matter, it is at least conceivable that Benton County could be liable for SHP's
allegedly unconstitutional policy. See supra at 6. Beyond that, there is substantial
uncertainty in this case about whether it was BCDC or SHP (or neither) that had an
allegedly unconstitutional narcotics custom or policy. Take, for example, Nurse Ray's
Well , that phrase "low narcotic facility," where does that come from?
Because you don't want to say no narcotic because that's an absolute.
Right. But in other words, is that something that would be determined by the
Okay. So it's not like the sheriff's policy; is that what you 're saying?
I'm not 100 percent on that. I don't know.
Oh , so that was something specific to SHP?
I don't know.
(Doc. 91-4, p. 7). Given this uncertainty, proceeding to trial without Benton County would
create substantial confusion for the jury and lead to material gaps in Chaney's evidence .
It seems to the Court that the current evidence would consist of witnesses shrugging their
shoulders as to whether BCDC had a policy or custom of denying inmates narcotic
medication without exercising medical judgment. Furthermore , Benton County's absence
Discovery conducted subsequent to this Order may change this finding , and the Court
does not pre-judge the merits of any future motions for summary judgment filed by the
would be unfairly prejudicial to the Medical Defendants. If the jury were to find that BCDC
did have an unconstitutional policy, the Medical Defendants may be held liable for
damages which , in whole or in part, the jury would have otherwise attributed to Benton
The Court does recognize that bringing Benton County back into this case after it
was dismissed in August of 2016 will cause it prejudice. But providing an additional
discovery period and giving it the opportunity to move for summary judgment on the sole
remaining claim against it will mitigate much , if not all , of the unfairness of the prejudice.
Furthermore , to whatever extent unfair prejudice may remain , it is outweighed by the
unfair prejudice that would fall on the other parties if Benton County were not made a
party to this case.
For these reasons , the Court will clarify that its previous dismissal of Chaney's
official-capacity claims against the Medical Defendants was without prejudice , and allow
him leave to file an amended complaint consistent with the restrictions outlined below. By
separate order, the Court will amend its sua sponte Order (Doc. 85) to add that it declines
to adopt the Summary Judgment R&R insofar as it applies to the official-capacity medical
claim against Sheriff Cradduck. Finally, the Court will find moot the pending Motions in
Limine (Doc. 80 , 81 , 83) and the pending Motion for Writ of Habeas Corpus ad
testificandum (Doc. 90) .
For the aforementioned reasons , Chaney's Motion for Reconsideration and
Clarification (Doc. 91) is GRANTED. On reconsideration , the Court CLARIFIES that its
previous dismissal of Chaney's official-capacity claims against the Medical Defendants
was without prejudice . It further affords Chaney leave to file a second amended complaint,
consistent with the following:
1. Chaney's second amended complaint shall be limited to his individual- and officialcapacity claims against the Medical Defendants , and his official-capacity medical
claim against Sheriff Cradduck.
2. Should Chaney choose , he may substitute Benton County as the formally named
party, rather than Sheriff Cradduck. 4
3. Chaney shall file his second amended complaint within 7 DAYS from the entry of
Because Sheriff Cradduck was previously dismissed from this case, Chaney shall
comply with Fed . R. Civ. P. 4 in effecting service , or obtaining a waiver of service , from
Sheriff Cradduck or Benton County. Chaney should effect service, or obtain a waiver, as
promptly as possible . The Court encourages Sheriff Cradduck I Benton County to answer
Chaney's second amended complaint as promptly as possible .
Once Sheriff Cradduck I Benton County answers Chaney's second amended
complaint, the Court will enter a revised case management order scheduling a brief
discovery period limited in scope to the official-capacity claims against the Medical
Defendants and Sheriff Cradduck I Benton County. The revised case management order
will also allow the parties an opportunity to move for summary judgment on the officialcapacity claims.
Finally, the Clerk of Court is directed to mark Docs. 80, 81 , 83, and 90 as MOOT.
In allowing Chaney to make this change, the Court notes that Sheriff Cradduck is no
longer the Sheriff of Benton County. As the official-capacity claim against Sheriff
Cradduck is effectively a claim against Benton County itself, the Court believes that
substituting the formally-named parties will make no substantive difference, but may
provide for a cleaner record.
IT IS SO ORDERED on
this ~ day of ~
S DISTRICT JUDGE
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