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Moran v. Summers

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

April 11, 2017

JOSE MORAN, Plaintiff,
TYLER SUMMERS, in his individual capacity, and CITY OF PFLUGERVILLE, Defendants.



         BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and specifically Defendants City of Pflugerville and Officer Tyler Summers' Motion to Dismiss [#28], Plaintiff Jose Moran's Response [#39] in opposition, and Defendants' Reply [#40], as well as Officer Summers' Motion for Summary Judgment [#29] and the City's Motion for Summary Judgment [#30], Moran's Consolidated Response [#38] in opposition, and Defendants' Consolidated Reply [#42] in support.[1] Having reviewed the documents, the governing law, and the file as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and orders.


         This case involves Section 1983 claims for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, as well as claims for violations of the rights secured by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act (RA). The crux of Plaintiff Jose Moran's suit is his claim that Officer Tyler Summers denied him medical care when he failed to check Moran into the emergency room subsequent to his arrest, after which Moran wandered outside, into the street, and was struck by a hit-and-run driver.

         At approximately 7:32 p.m. on September 3, 2013, Moran was involved in a single-car collision near 1600 Settlers Valley Road in Pflugerville, Texas. Summers' Mot. Summ. J. [#29-1] Ex. A (Summers Decl.) ¶ 3.[3] Several officers responded to the accident, including Officer Summers of the Pflugerville Police Department. Id. Officer Summers investigated the scene of the accident and spoke with Moran, who informed Officer Summers he was diabetic. Resp. [#38-3] Ex. 2 (Police Dept. Records) at 19-20; id. Ex. 7 (Summers Dep.) at 36:6-11. EMS personnel on the scene offered Moran treatment and transport to the hospital, but he refused treatment three times. Summers' Mot. Summ. J. [#29-1] Ex. E (EMS First Response Records) at 147.

         According to Moran, at the time of the accident, he had not taken his insulin in three days[4] and, in fact, was on his way to pick up his insulin from the pharmacy when the accident occurred. Id. Ex. 1 (Moran Decl.) ¶¶ 8-10. Moran was diagnosed with type II diabetes in 1996 and is aware that when he fails to take insulin, his blood sugar rises. Id. ¶ 3. When his blood sugar is too high, he "get[s] confused, " has trouble "standing upright, " and "walking in a straight line." Id. ¶ 6. Moran testified that when he is in this condition, he has trouble "thinking clearly" and taking care of himself, so he will generally ask a friend to help him seek medical attention. Id. ¶¶ 6-7.

         Moran further admitted to Officer Summers that he had one beer around 4:30 p.m. that afternoon. Police Dept. Records at 19. He advised Officer Summers that because of his diabetes, one beer "was too much for him." Id. Suspecting Moran of driving while intoxicated, Officer Summers asked Moran to perform two field sobriety tests. Id. The parties dispute whether Moran actually performed these tests. Resp. [#38] at 3. Moran contends he informed Officer Summers he could not do the field sobriety tests "because of [his] diabetes." Moran Decl. ¶ 11. According to Officer Summers' report, however, Moran performed two field sobriety tests and exhibited several signs of intoxication. Police Dept. Records at 19-20. Officer Summers then asked Moran if alcohol was a factor in the collision, and Moran stated it probably was. Id. at 20. The parties agree that Officer Summers then took Moran into custody and informed Moran he was under arrest for driving while intoxicated. Id.; Moran Decl. ¶ 13. Officer Summers then transported Moran to the Travis County jail. Id.

         Officer Summers and Moran arrived at the jail at 9:04 p.m. Summers' Dash Cam at 21:04:05. Around 11:00 p.m., Nurse Cathy Garcia evaluated Moran and determined his blood sugar was 435. Resp. [#38-3] Ex. 13 (Garcia Decl.) ¶6. Garcia testified that a normal blood sugar level for someone without diabetes is between 70 and 110. Id. ¶ 10. She further testified that because Moran's blood sugar of 435 seemed comparatively high, there were moderate ketones present in his urine, and Moran appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, Garcia believed Moran's medical condition was unstable and therefore refused to book him as an inmate. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Accordingly, Garcia directed Officer Summers to take Moran to the emergency room in Brackenridge Hospital for treatment. Id. at ¶ 11.

         During the short car ride from the jail to the hospital, Officer Summers maintained a conversation with Moran, wherein he told Moran he had two choices: Officer Summers could either accompany Moran to the hospital and then return him to the jail, or Officer Summers could release Moran in order to receive the medical attention he needed. Summers' Dash Cam at 23:24:55. When Officer Summers asked Moran if he would refuse treatment at the hospital, Moran replied he would not. Id. at 23:25:34. Moran expressly stated,

I'm not going to refuse the treatment. I mean I'm fully, fully knowledgeable guy so I'm not going to refuse anything. For real. For real. And I am glad that you understand me how my situation is and you're willing to take me to the hospital to be checked out for medical issues. I don't refuse anything.

Id. at 23:25:30-23:26:15.

         In his deposition, Officer Summers testified he believe Moran had sobered up since his initial arrest and could describe his medical needs to the hospital staff. Summers' Mot. Summ. J. [#29-1] Ex. F (Summers Dep.) at 93:17-23. Officer Summers further believed that if it were an emergency situation, Garcia would have called an ambulance to take Moran to the hospital. Id. at 31:24-32:9.

         Moran, however, maintains he was not lucid during this car ride, and in fact, does not remember this conversation with Officer Summers or the ensuing "rambling soliloquy, " wherein Moran talked about needing a police escort to pick up his things from his wife's house the following day. Moran Decl. ¶ 17. At his deposition, Moran explained he has never been married. Resp. [#38-3] Ex. 14 (Moran Dep.) at 28:19-21. In support of Moran's contention that he was disoriented during the car ride, Moran points to his hospital medical records, which reveal that twenty minutes after Moran was dropped off at the hospital, his blood alcohol level was still .09. Summers' Mot. Summ. J. [#29-1] Ex. C (Brackenridge Records) at 106.

         At 11:29 p.m., Officer Summers and Moran arrived at the hospital. Summers' Dash Cam at 23:29:58. The parties agree Officer Summers left the hospital at 11:32 p.m.-just over two minutes after he arrived-and during that time, Officer Summers exited the vehicle, assisted Moran out of the car, removed his handcuffs, and retrieved Moran's possessions from the trunk of his car. Moran Decl. ¶ 18; Summers Dep. at 38:13-39:23; Summers Dash Cam at 23:30:15. At this point the parties' stories diverge. According to Officer Summers, he expressly told Moran he was released from custody before walking Moran up ten stairs and through a door to the entrance of the emergency room, where he saw Moran speak with a hospital staff member. Summers Dep. at 40:4-42:4. He then returned to his car and drove away. Moran, however, maintains that Officer Summers did not tell him he was released from custody and simply instructed Moran to "go check yourself in." Moran Decl. ¶¶ 20-21. Thus, according to Moran, Officer Summers did not escort Moran inside the emergency room, nor did he tell any medical provider of Moran's condition. Id. ¶ 21.

         Moran previously testified that after Officer Summers dropped him off, he entered the emergency room and spoke with a woman at the front desk. Summers' Mot. Summ. J. [#29-1] Ex. D (Moran Dep.) at 155:11-16. He did not tell anyone at the emergency room he was diabetic. Id. at 170:25-171:1. Moran took a seat in the lobby and waited approximately fifteen to twenty minutes. Id. at 156:6-8. Moran then told a nearby patient to save his seat and walked outside to "get some fresh air." Moran Decl. ¶ 24. Moran contends this is the last thing he remembers before waking up in the hospital. Id. Although Moran waited in the lobby for some time, "no one at Brackenridge ever knew Moran had arrived, had extremely high blood sugar, and needed medical treatment." Resp. [#38] at 8.

         Shortly before midnight, Moran was hit by a hit-and-run driver. Id. Ex. 4 (Austin Police Department Records) at 68. EMS records reveal Moran was found in the middle of the road on the opposite side of the hospital, "unconscious . . . [and] bleeding from a severe laceration to the front of his head." Id.; Summers' Mot. Summ. J. [#29-1] Ex. H (EMS Second Response Records) at 197. He was transported back to the hospital. EMS Second Response Records at 197.

         On intake at the hospital, a Hemoglobin A-lc test was conducted, which provides a 2-3 month average of blood sugars. Brackenridge Records at 46. According to Moran's physicians' records, the goal of a Hemoglobin A-lc test is to achieve a reading below 7.0. Id. at 46. Moran's Hemoglobin A-lc on the night he was admitted to the hospital was 14. Id. at 106. As noted above, Moran's blood alcohol concentration was 0.09. Id. Moran was not released from the hospital until September 19, 2013. Id.

         On September 1, 2015, Moran filed a lawsuit against Officer Summers in his individual capacity, the City, and Seton Family Hospitals (Seton). See Compl. [#1]. Subsequently, the Court granted Moran's motion to dismiss his claims against Seton with prejudice. See PL's Agreed Mot. Dismiss [#12]; Order of Nov. 10, 2015 [#13]. In his complaint, Moran alleges Officer Summers violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by being deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. Compl. [#1] ¶¶ 30-35. As to the City, Moran contends it violated his constitutional rights by "fail[ing] to train officers that patients in custody must be admitted to the hospital, not merely left on the curb at the hospital." Id. ¶ 38. Moran further claims the City intentionally discriminated against Moran in violation of the ADA and RA by failing to provide him with reasonable accommodations, "such as admission to or monitoring at the hospital when his blood sugar was dangerously high." Id. ¶ 46.

         Defendants separately moved for summary judgment. Officer Summers argues the Court should grant summary judgment in his favor because he is entitled to qualified immunity, while the City contends summary judgment is warranted because no policy or practice was adopted with deliberate indifference to Moran's clearly established constitutional rights. See Summers' Mot. Summ. J. [#29] at 16; City's Mot. Summ. J. [#30] at 7-12. These motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe for the Court's consideration.


         I. ...

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