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Quillens v. Cutler

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

May 9, 2019




         Before the Court are Plaintiff Bernell Jackson Quillens's complaint [#1], Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [#32], brief in support [#33] and appendix [#34], Plaintiff's response [#36], and Defendants' reply [#38]. Plaintiff filed his complaint pro se and paid the full filing fee for this case. The Court subsequently appointed counsel to represent Plaintiff.


         At the time he filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff was confined in the Hays County Law Enforcement Center. Plaintiff alleges in July 2016, while in the Hays County Jail, he notified jail personnel he had a cyst on his foot. Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to the Gillespie County Jail for housing and then returned to the Hays County Jail. After filing a grievance regarding the lack of medical treatment for his cyst, Plaintiff was allegedly told there was nothing that could be done and he would have to wait until he was released from jail. Plaintiff alleges surgery for his cyst, that later turned out to be cancer, was delayed until May 2017. Plaintiff sues Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler, Gillespie County Sheriff Buddy Mills, and Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Freytag. He seeks damages in the amount of $1.6 million.

         Defendants move for summary judgment. Initially, they argue Plaintiff's claims brought against them in their official capacities are barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. Alternatively, they argue Hays County and Gillespie County are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff cannot establish either county had an official policy, custom, or practice that caused the alleged constitutional violation. Defendants also assert their entitlement to qualified immunity. They argue Defendants did not fail to treat Plaintiff, Plaintiff's medical treatment was objectively reasonable, and they were not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs.

         Plaintiff responds genuine issues of material fact exist precluding summary judgment. Specifically, Plaintiff contends the declaration that “There is nothing more we can do” reflects a policy, custom or widespread practice at Hays County. Plaintiff counters there were many reasonable options for Hays County, including getting him to a physician or hospital without undue delay. Plaintiff argues Hays County's deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs resulted in a significant delay in treatment, unnecessary pain and suffering, serious bodily harm, physical impairment, and disfigurement. With respect to Gillespie County, Plaintiff responds Gillespie County has a practice of transferring a prisoner known to be in need of surgery to another jail irrespective of the seriousness of the medical condition. Plaintiff contends his transfer to Hays County delayed a necessary surgery resulting in substantial harm. Plaintiff asserts Sheriffs Cutler and Mills can be held individually liable for implementing the policies and practices. Plaintiff denies the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         A court will, on a motion for summary judgment, render judgment if the evidence shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Eason v. Thaler, 73 F.3d 1322, 1325 (5th Cir. 1996); Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1059 (1992). When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported, an adverse party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Ray v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 63 F.3d 429, 433 (5th Cir. 1995); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.

         Both movants and non-movants bear burdens of proof in the summary judgment process. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The movant with the burden of proof at trial must establish every essential element of its claim or affirmative defense. Id. at 322. In so doing, the moving party without the burden of proof need only point to the absence of evidence on an essential element of the non-movant's claims or affirmative defenses. Id. at 323-24. At that point, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to “produce evidence in support of its claims or affirmative defenses . . . designating specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. The non-moving party must produce “specific facts” showing a genuine issue for trial, not mere general allegations. Tubacex v. M/V Risan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir. 1995).

         In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the Court should view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment and indulge all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. The Fifth Circuit has concluded “[t]he standard of review is not merely whether there is a sufficient factual dispute to permit the case to go forward, but whether a rational trier of fact could find for the non-moving party based upon the evidence before the court.” James v. Sadler, 909 F.2d 834, 837 (5th Cir. 1990) (citing Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586)). To the extent facts are undisputed, a court may resolve the case as a matter of law. Blackwell v. Barton, 34 F.3d 298, 301 (5th Cir. 1994).

         B. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         Defendants contend the claims brought against them in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The Eleventh Amendment generally divests federal courts of jurisdiction to entertain suits directed against states. Port Auth. Trans-Hudson v. Feeney, 495 U.S. 299, 304 (1990). The Eleventh Amendment may not be evaded by suing state agencies or state employees in their official capacity because such an indirect pleading remains in essence a claim upon the state treasury. Green v. State Bar of Texas, 27 F.3d 1083, 1087 (5th Cir. 1994).

         The claims brought against the defendants in their official capacities are directed at Hays County and Gillespie County, not the State of Texas. As such, Eleventh ...

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