Bays et al v. Montmorency, County of et al
OPINION and ORDER Staying Case Pending Appeal. Signed by District Judge Robert H. Cleland. (SBur)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
BARBARA BAYS, et al.,
Case No. 15-10534
MONTMORENCY, COUNTY of, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER STAYING CASE PENDING APPEAL
In its Opinion and Order Resolving Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment, the
court granted summary judgment to all Defendants save Defendant Nurse Donna
Sigler. (Dkt. # 55.) The court found that, viewing the record in the light most favorable to
Plaintiffs, a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant Sigler had acted with
deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s clearly established right to receive requested,
necessary medical care. Accordingly, the court determined that Defendant Sigler was
not entitled to qualified immunity. (Id. at Pg. ID 1427.) Defendants have appealed this
determination. (Dkt. # 59.)
Before the court is Defendants’ Motion for Stay of Proceedings During Appeal.
(Dkt. # 62.) Plaintiffs filed a response, (Dkt. # 63), to which Defendants replied, (Dkt. #
64). During an informal telephone conference, held January 11, 2017, the court asked
Defendants to submit a supplemental more clearly stating the issue on appeal.
Defendants filed their supplement, (Dkt. # 65), and Plaintiffs replied, (Dkt. # 66.) The
court has reviewed the briefs and finds a hearing unnecessary. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2).
The power to stay proceedings ordinarily lies within the sound discretion of the
trial court. F.T.C. v. E.M.A. Nationwide Inc., 767 F.3d 611, 626-28 (6th Cir. 2014).
However, a denial of a motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity is
immediately appealable, English v. Dyke, 23 F.3d 1086, 1089 (6th Cir. 1994), and trial
courts are obliged to stay proceedings when Defendants properly appeal the trial court’s
denial of qualified immunity, Kennedy v. City of Cleveland, 797 F.3d 297, 299 (6th Cir.
1986). Because qualified immunity is an entitlement to “immunity from suit rather than a
mere defense to liability[,]” this rule applies even when the court’s denial is based on the
existence of material fact disputes, as it is here. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 52627 (1985). In essence, if Defendants’ appeal is based on an “abstract issue of law
relating to qualified immunity,” then Defendants are entitled to a stay of proceedings
pending the outcome of their appeal. Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 312 (1996)
(noting that “typically, the issue [on appeal is] whether the federal right allegedly
infringed was ‘clearly established’”) (quoting Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 316
(1995)) (internal quotation marks omitted).)
In its summary judgment order, the court determined, “[t]he Sixth Circuit has
clearly established that if a prisoner asks for and needs medical care — including
general ‘psychological help’ — it must be supplied, and failure to do so may constitute
deliberate indifference in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.” (Dkt. # 55, Pg. ID
1417 (quoting Danese v. Asman, 875 F.3d 1239, 1244 (6th Cir. 1989) (internal
quotation marks omitted).) The court then explained that to show a 14th Amendment
violation based on deliberate indifference, “Plaintiffs must prove that, objectively, Bays
had a ‘serious medical need’ and that, subjectively, each individual Defendant had ‘a
sufficiently culpable state of mind’ with respect to his condition.” (Id. at Pg. ID 1418
(quoting Johnson v. Karnes, 398 F.3d 868, 874 (6th Cir. 2005)).) In setting out the
“sufficiently culpable mental state” prong, the court relied on Gunther v. Gastineta, 561
Fed. Appx. 497, 502 (6th Cir. 2014), to find that the relevant question was whether
Defendant Sigler “inferred a substantial risk of harm” to Bays and “disregarded that
risk.” (Dkt. # 55, Pg. ID 1420.)
From the court’s reading of Defendant’s supplemental brief, Defendant intends to
argue that the court erred in its determination that the relevant inquiry for whether
Defendant Sigler had a “sufficiently culpable mental state” is whether she inferred a
“substantial risk of harm” to Bays resulting from his mental health issues rather than
whether she inferred a substantial risk of suicide. In its order, the court explicitly rejected
Defendants argument, reasoning:
“Inmates with mental health issues can present a serious risk of harm
even if they are not suicidal. For instance, a delusional inmate could
believe that he had the ability to fly, run through walls, or dodge bullets.
Such an inmate, though not suicidal, would have mental health issues that
posed a serious risk to his health. . . . Importantly, Plaintiffs do not allege a
failure to screen for suicide risk but a failure to provide requested — and
needed — treatment for severe mental health issue. Bays’s eventual
suicide is not the basis of the alleged constitutional violation, but a result
(Dkt. # 55, Pg. ID 1421.) The court finds that whether it applied the correct standard in
determining that there was sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue of fact is an
“abstract issue of law relating to qualified immunity” within the meaning of Behrens, 516
U.S. at 312.
Second, Defendants seek to appeal the court’s conclusion that Defendant
Sigler’s course of conduct could be found to be such cursory or woefully inadequate
treatment as to amount to not treatment at all. (Dkt. # 65, Pg. ID 1507-08.) As the court
has already determined that Defendants’ primary argument raises an “abstract issue of
law relating to qualified immunity[,]” it need not address Defendants’ second argument.
See Kirby v. Duva, 530 F.3d 475, 480-81 (holding that the Sixth Circuit “may simply
ignore defendants’ attempts to dispute plaintiffs’ version of the facts, ‘obviating the need
to dismiss the entire appeal for lack of jurisdiction’”) (quoting Estate fo Carter v. City of
Detroit, 408 F.3d 305, 310 (6th Cir. 2005)). Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Stay of Proceedings During Appeal
(Dkt. # 62) is GRANTED. The case is STAYED pending the resolution of Defendant
Sigler’s interlocutory appeal.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court is directed to
ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSE this case for statistical purposes only. Nothing in this
order or in the related docket entry shall be considered a dismissal of this matter. Upon
receipt of a motion to lift the stay following the appeal, the court may order the Clerk to
reopen this case.
/s/ Robert H. Cleland
ROBERT H. CLELAND
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: February 8, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was mailed to counsel of record
on this date, February 8, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
S/Shawna C. Burns
Case Manager and Deputy Clerk
Q:\Cleland\JUDGE'S DESK\C1 ORDERS\15-10534.BAYS.stay.appeal.TLH.wpd
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