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Graham v. Church

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

January 20, 2015

Catherine Graham,
v.
Stephen A. Church, Superintendent, Rockingham County Department of Corrections; Unknown Employees of the Rockingham County Department of Corrections; Rockingham County Department of Corrections, [1]

ORDER NO. 2015 DNH 013.

LANDYA McCAFFERTY, District Judge.

While being transported from the Rockingham County House of Corrections ("HOC" or "the jail") to the Plaistow District Court, Catherine Graham had a seizure and suffered injuries. In her original complaint, Graham sought to recover damages for her injuries from: (1) Steven Church, superintendent of the Rockingham County Department of Corrections ("DOC"); (2) unknown employees of the DOC ("unknown DOC employees"); and (3) the DOC itself. She asserts two federal constitutional claims through the vehicle of 42 U.S.C. § 1983[2] and two claims under the common law of New Hampshire. Before the court are Church's motion for judgment on the pleadings, to which plaintiff does not object, and plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her complaint, to which defendants do object. For the reasons that follow, Church's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is denied.

I. Background

Unless otherwise indicated, the facts in this section are drawn from Graham's original complaint. On March 14, 2011, Graham's father telephoned the Hampstead police to ask for assistance in transporting his daughter to the hospital because she was having an "alcoholic episode." At the time, she was under the care of a physician for alcohol dependence and depression.

Instead of taking Graham to the hospital, the officer(s) who responded to her father's call arrested her for violating bail conditions imposed in connection with an earlier alcoholrelated incident. The officer(s) then took Graham to the HOC.

When Graham was being held at the HOC, medical care at the jail was provided by PrimeCare, Inc. ("PrimeCare"), pursuant to an agreement with the DOC. See Mot. for Leave, Attach. 2 (doc. no. 12-2). On March 15, Graham: (1) signed a document informing her that medical care at the jail was provided by PrimeCare, see Def.'s Mem. of Law, Ex. A (doc. no. 15-2); and (2) went through a medical intake conducted by a PrimeCare nurse, and signed an acknowledgment form identifying PrimeCare as the provider of that service, see id., Ex. B (doc. no. 15-3).

From the HOC, Graham contacted her physician to tell him that she had been arrested. Her physician, in turn, twice contacted the jail to inform its staff that Graham was dependent on alcohol, had a history of alcohol-withdrawal seizures, and needed to take medication he had prescribed to prevent her from having violent seizures. Graham was never given any antiseizure medication by anyone at the HOC.

The day after Graham was arrested, Officer Leo Beauchamp of the Hampstead Police Department arrived at the HOC to transport Graham to the Plaistow District Court for arraignment. When Officer Beauchamp noticed that Graham was shaking and asked her about it, she told him that she was suffering from alcohol withdrawal. While he was driving Graham to the courthouse, Beauchamp heard her yell "Oh my God" three times and saw her lie down in her seat. He then pulled over and called for a rescue squad. While waiting for medical assistance, Officer Beauchamp and another officer saw Graham have a seizure. Once Graham's seizure abated, rescue-squad workers took her to Exeter Hospital.

During Graham's seizure, she suffered a broken leg which required surgery. That surgery involved the installation of a clamp that was screwed into her tibia. That hardware caused her significant pain, and her surgeon has told her that she may not be pain free, even after her hardware is removed.

This action followed. In her complaint, filed on March 7, 2014, Graham asserts claims for: (1) deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, in violation of the United States Constitution, against Church and unknown DOC employees (Count I); (2) failure to train and/or supervise, also in violation of the U.S. Constitution, against Church and unknown DOC employees (Count II); (3) breach of a special duty of care, under the common law of New Hampshire, against all four defendants (Count III); and (4) negligence, under New Hampshire common law, against all four defendants (Count IV). Graham's deliberateindifference claim asserts, in pertinent part:

One or more of the defendants was informed by the plaintiff's doctor, Greg R. Thompson, M.D., that her care required her to be provided with anti-seizure medication. If she was not provided with this medication, Dr. Thompson told one or more staff members at the jail, she would experience seizures.
Despite receiving this information from Dr. Thompson, the defendants failed to provide the plaintiff with the prescribed and needed medication.
The defendants' failure to provide the plaintiff her prescribed medication, after having been specifically warned of her needs by her doctor, constituted deliberate indifference and/or was objectively unreasonable conduct toward the plaintiff's medical needs.

Notice of Removal, Attach. A (doc. no. 1-1), Compl. ¶¶ 26-28. That is, the wrongful act underlying Graham's deliberateindifference claim is the failure of one or more defendants to provide her with anti-seizure medication despite knowing of Dr. Thompson's warning that she needed it.

II. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

In his motion for judgment on the pleadings, Church seeks the dismissal of all four claims against him. Graham does not object. Accordingly, Church's motion is granted, and all claims against him are dismissed. Thus, this case now consists of four claims asserted against unknown DOC ...


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