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Cleveland v. Bell

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 13, 2019

LILLIAN BELL, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana

          Before Southwick, Willett, and Oldham, Circuit Judges.

          Andrew S. Oldham, Circuit Judge:

         Paul Cleveland's survivors sued a prison nurse named Lillian Bell under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly violating his Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court denied qualified immunity to Nurse Bell. We reverse.


         Paul Cleveland was seventy-two years old when he was detained at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on September 19, 2014. Upon entering the Prison, Cleveland completed a health assessment. According to the assessment, Cleveland had a host of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, and peripheral artery disease. During his two months at the Prison, Cleveland received medication for his conditions and had numerous visits with medical staff regarding a variety of health issues.

         On the morning of November 10th, Cleveland received emergency medical treatment after he became dizzy and nauseated in the bathroom and fainted. Nurse Ebony White checked his vital signs, treated him for a cut on the back of his head, and put him on a list to see the next available doctor. In the late afternoon, Cleveland said he was "going to pass out." Nurse White visited Cleveland, and Cleveland said he felt dizzy when sitting up or walking long distances. Cleveland demanded to go to the hospital for evaluation and said he wanted "pain medication to knock him out." He reported no chest pains or shortness of breath. Nurse White told Cleveland that he did not exhibit any signs of acute distress, so he would not be sent to the emergency room. Instead, Cleveland would be placed on the list to see the next available doctor for further evaluation.

         The nurses brought Cleveland back to the "medical tank," where patients with health issues are kept for observation by medical staff. Nurse White wrote in her notes that Cleveland was "very argumentative" while he was in the medical tank and was banging on the windows. Cleveland was eventually moved from the medical tank to a single cell.

         On November 11th, at around 5:54 p.m., Nurse Bell went with Officer Richard Camp to Cleveland's cell to give him his medication. Cleveland was lying in bed, and Nurse Bell told him to get a cup of water so he could take his pills. Cleveland said that he was too weak to get up. Nurse Bell told Cleveland "to stop playing and come get your medication . . . there is nothing wrong with you." But Cleveland said that he couldn't get up. Nurse Bell left and said she would come back after completing her "pill call" with the other inmates.

         Around 8:42 p.m., Nurse Bell returned and asked Officer Camp how Cleveland was doing. Camp said he "seems to be sleeping" but had been turning around in his bed and occasionally hit the wall with his fist. Nurse Bell said "okay" and returned to the medical department. Her notes in Cleveland's medical chart indicate that she completed a high-priority "[l]ockdown/trusty sick call" at 11:53 p.m. But to Officer Camp's knowledge, Nurse Bell did not visit Cleveland again to give him his medicine.

         At around 2:32 a.m. on November 12th, Officer Camp saw that Cleveland had defecated on himself and his mattress. Officer Camp called Officers Jasmyn Cage and Larry Turner to supervise the cleanup of Cleveland and his cell. The officers told Cleveland to "get up off the floor and come to the bars to be handcuffed so that his cell could be cleaned out." But Cleveland continued to lie on the floor and said that he was "tired." The officers entered Cleveland's cell, removed his dirty mattress and jumpsuit, and allowed staff to clean his cell. Cleveland received a clean jumpsuit, but he declined a chance to use the shower.

         During the cleanup, Officer Cage called Nurse Bell. Officer Cage told her that Cleveland was lying "on the floor and talking about [how] he was tired and he couldn't get up." Nurse Bell said she thought he was "faking" and was "trying to get back in the infirmary."

         After the call, Officer Camp continued to make his rounds in the Prison. According to his written report, every time he passed by Cleveland's cell, Cleveland "would rollover [sic] or move." If he did not see Cleveland move, he would talk to Cleveland. Officer Camp didn't hold a conversation with Cleveland but would call his name and make sure "he either moved or every now and then . . . would answer." Officer Camp paid "extra attention to Mr. Cleveland because of what had occurred." A deputy had advised Officer Camp to keep an eye on Cleveland because Cleveland had just come back from the medical department.

         At 4:05 a.m. on November 12th, Officer Camp passed out food to inmates. As he gave the inmates their trays, he made sure they were awake. When Officer Camp went to Cleveland's cell, he noticed Cleveland was unresponsive. He had seen Cleveland just five or ten minutes ...

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