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Estate of Martinez v. Taylor

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 31, 2016

ESTATE OF TANYA MARTINEZ; JUDY ARMIJO, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Tanya Martinez; ESAI MARTINEZ, a minor, by and through his grandmother, Judy Armijo; and ANGEL MARTINEZ, Plaintiffs,
KIRK TAYLOR, in his official capacity as Pueblo County Sheriff; CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE COMPANIES, INC.; CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE PHYSICIANS, P.C.; CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, LLC; MIKE WHITE, E.M.T., in his individual and official capacities; JENNIFER SCOTT, R.N., in her individual and official capacities; KIM MURRAY, L.P.N., in her individual and official capacities; NORMA MOWER, PA-C, in her individual and official capacities; DEPUTY CINDY GOMEZ, in her individual and official capacities; DEPUTY DEANA COOK, in her individual and official capacities; and DEPUTY ANNADENE LUCERO, in her individual and official capacities, Defendants.


R. Brooke Jackson Judge

This matter is before the Court on defendants Sheriff Kirk Taylor, Deputy Cindy Gomez, and Deputy Deana Cook’s motion to dismiss [ECF No. 28] and defendants’ motion to stay discovery [ECF No. 50]. Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is granted. The motion to stay discovery is denied as moot.


This claim arises out of the death of Ms. Tanya Martinez. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 1. Martinez died on June 3, 2013 while she was housed at the Pueblo County Detention Facility (PCDF). When she passed away, she was a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO). Id. at ¶¶ 1, 58. Martinez died from “an alcohol withdrawal related seizure” while she was in “lockdown” in a jail cell. Id. at ¶ 1. She was thirty-six years old. Id.

The Parties.

Plaintiffs are Martinez’s mother, Judy Armijo, who serves as the personal representative of her estate and Martinez’s two sons, Esai and Angel Martinez. Esai Martinez is a minor, and Armijo represents him. Id. at ¶ 12–14.

Plaintiffs name a number of defendants. Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc. (CHC) had a contract with Pueblo County to “provide medical services to inmates and detainees at the PCDF[.]” Id. at ¶ 16. CHC. “supervised and implemented” the medical services. Id. Correctional Healthcare Physicians, P.C. provided “physician assistant services” to PCDF inmates pursuant to a contract with defendant Norma Mower, PA-C. Id. at ¶ 17. In 2014 Correct Care Solutions, LLC acquired CHC. Id. at ¶ 18. The Court will collectively refer to these defendants as “CHC defendants.” At all relevant times, defendants Mike White, E.M.T.; Jennifer Scott, R.N.; Kim Murray, L.P.N.; and Norma Mower, PA-C were employees of the CHC defendants. Id. at ¶¶ 24–27.

Defendant Sheriff Kirk Taylor is Pueblo County’s sheriff and the “public figure responsible for Pueblo County Sheriff’s Department and the PCDF.” Id. at ¶ 21. At all relevant times, defendants Cindy Gomez, Deana Cook, and Annadene Lucero served as deputies at PCDF. Id. at ¶¶ 28–30. The Court collectively refers to Deputies Gomez, Cook, and Lucero as “deputy defendants.”

Martinez’s History of Alcohol Withdrawal.

“Alcohol withdrawal is a medical condition that occurs when an alcoholic reduces or stops the consumption of alcohol.” Id. at ¶ 39. Alcohol withdrawal is a “common condition that, when treated, rarely results in death[.]” Id. at ¶ 45. However, if it is “left untreated, or improperly treated . . . alcohol withdrawal can result in disastrous consequences, including seizures, strokes, and death.” Id. at ¶¶ 45, 46.

Martinez had a history of alcohol withdrawal. ECF No. 1 at 10. In May 2013 she was admitted to Parkview Medical Center for alcohol withdrawal. Id. at ¶ 47. On discharge from Parkview Medical Center, Martinez was diagnosed with “severe alcohol intoxication, alcoholic liver disease, and acute liver damage, and alcoholism.” Id. at ¶ 52. Martinez also dealt with “severe alcohol withdrawals” during previous incarcerations at PCDF. Id. at ¶ 54. PCDF deputies, medical personnel, and other inmates were aware of her history of alcohol withdrawal. Id. at ¶ 55.

Events of June 2, 2013.

On June 2, 2013 the Pueblo Police Department arrested Martinez and transported her to PCDF. Id. at ¶¶ 56–57. She was intoxicated, and Deputy Sheryld Lamas asked medical personnel to examine Martinez. Id. at ¶¶ 59–60. The initial medical screen occurred at 4:50 p.m., and Martinez stated “on the medical screen form that she had an alcohol problem.” Id. at ¶ 61. She also indicated that she had “previously experienced a stroke, dizziness or fainting spells, heart trouble or chest pain, and that she had recently been hospitalized.” Id. at ¶ 61. Nurse Kim Murray took her vital signs, but she did not inquire about Martinez’s recent hospitalization or alcoholism, and Nurse Murray “did not discuss alcohol withdrawal with Martinez.” Id. at ¶ 64. At this time, Martinez was still drunk, so she had yet to begin displaying the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Id. at ¶ 63. Detention center personnel then placed Martinez in an intake cell. Id. at ¶ 66.

No medical staff monitored Martinez until 10:02 p.m. when Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Michael White performed a second medical screen. Id. During EMT White’s examination, Martinez “had an odor of alcohol on her breath and person.” Id. at ¶ 66. EMT White took a second set of vitals, but because Martinez was still intoxicated, she had not started to show “acute withdrawal symptoms.” Id. at ¶ 67. EMT White did not begin any alcohol withdrawal protocol.[1] Id. at ¶ 75. Rather, he concluded that Martinez could join the general prison population. Id. at ¶ 82. Therefore, Deputy Lamas conducted the booking process. Id. at ¶ 86. Martinez was given a “risk score” to determine where she should be housed. Id. at ¶ 87. Her score was “five, ” meaning “that she should have been housed in Dorm A, ” but Deputy Lamas placed her on the 3C Wing, which is a “lockdown” floor. Id. at ¶¶ 88, 89–90. On a lockdown floor, “inmates are locked in their cells, ” and there is less staff monitoring than in the dorms. Id. at ¶ 90.

Before being moved to the 3C Wing, Martinez was held in a cell in the intake area. Id. at ¶ 91. No medical staff checked on her while she was in the holding cell. Id. at ¶ 96. Deputy Gomez “periodically checked on” Martinez during her time in the holding cell, but she had no specific training caring for an individual suffering from alcohol withdrawal. Id. at ¶¶ 92–93. Martinez told Deputy Gomez about her recent hospitalization for alcohol withdrawal and that her “liver levels” were heightened. Id. at ¶ 94. Martinez began to experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including shaking, while she remained in the holding cell. Id. at ¶ 95.

Events of June 3, 2013.

Around 4:21 a.m. on June 3, 2013, Deputy Gomez moved Martinez to the 3C Wing. Id. at ¶ 97. By that time, Martinez was displaying more significant symptoms, including nausea and continued shaking. Id. Deputy Cook was in charge of the 3C Wing that morning. Id. at ¶ 98. Like Deputy Gomez, Deputy Cook did not have any targeted training on caring for a person suffering from alcohol withdrawal. Id. at ¶ 99. Martinez asked Deputy Cook for her own cell “in case she started throwing up.” Id. at ¶ 98. Martinez also told Deputy Cook that she was “withdrawing from alcohol.” Id. Soon thereafter, Martinez began vomiting. Id. at ¶ 100. At some time “well after” Martinez started to vomit and approximately three hours after Martinez had been moved to the 3C Wing, Deputy Cook called medical to come check on Martinez. Id. at ¶¶ 101, 102.

Nurse Jennifer Scott arrived at 7:20 a.m., shortly after Deputy Cook called for medical assistance. Id. at ¶ 103. Nurse Scott took Martinez’s vitals, which “were significantly elevated” compared to her levels the night before. Id. at ¶ 106. Martinez’s vital signs “revealed an increasing severity of her withdrawal symptoms[.]” Id. at ¶ 107. In particular, her pulse rate was quite elevated at a rate of 135 beats per minute. Id. at ¶ 106. Martinez told Nurse Scott that she consumed a pint of liquor daily. Id. at ¶ 109. On “the Problem Oriented Record form, ” Nurse Scott noted that Martinez “was tremulous, gastrointestinal, had tremors of hands, and was in withdrawal.” Id. at ¶ 111.

Ten minutes later, at 7:30 a.m., Nurse Scott spoke with PA-C Mower about Martinez’s status, and PA-C Mower ordered Nurse Scott to administer Librium to Martinez. Id. at ¶ 117. Computer paperwork from June 3, 2013 shows that Martinez received an anti-nausea medication at 7:47 a.m. Id. at ¶ 118 n.1. Plaintiffs state that it is unclear whether Nurse Scott did give Librium to Martinez, but if she did, she did not provide it until 9:46 a.m, which is when Nurse Scott returned. Id. ¶¶ 118 n.1; 124. The computer records from 9:46 a.m. show that Nurse Scott administered folic acid, thiamin, prenatal vitamin, and vistaril. Id. at ¶¶ 118, 127. Much later, computer records were produced to investigators that show that Nurse Scott did administer Librium. Id. at ¶ 118. Nurse Scott found Martinez shaking so badly that she could not hold a cup of water. Id. at ¶ 124. Nurse Scott did not take another set of vitals before leaving. Id.

Over the next five hours, no medical staff visited Martinez. Id. at ¶ 128. Her vomiting ceased, but she “continued to experience other severe withdrawal symptoms during this five-hour period.” Id. at ¶ 129. She mostly remained on her cot and only got up to go to the bathroom. Id. At lunchtime, Deputy Cook helped Martinez unwrap her sandwich because Martinez’s hands were still shaking. Id. at ¶ 130. Deputy Cook also stopped by Martinez’s cell during her rounds to “make sure that [she] was still breathing.” Id. at ¶ 131. Around 2:52 p.m., Nurse Scott gave Martinez another dose of Librium. Id. at ¶ 136. Nurse Scott was with Martinez for “less than one minute[, ]” and she did not take her vitals. Id. at ¶ 137.

At approximately 3:00 p.m., Deputy Lucero took over Deputy Cook’s shift. Id. at ¶ 143. At that time, Martinez was still experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, and she had been “shaking for at least eleven hours.” Id. at ¶ 144. Deputy Cook told Deputy Lucero that Martinez had made frequent visits to the bathroom that day to vomit. Id. at ¶ 145. Martinez informed Deputy Lucero that she drank half a large bottle of liquor every day, and that she was experiencing bad alcohol withdrawal. Id. at ¶¶ 146–47. Deputy Lucero let Martinez use the restroom several times, and when Martinez got up to travel to the bathroom, she was “breathing hard, ” and the trip to the bathroom was “exhausting.” Id. at ¶ 148.

Deputy Lucero observed that Martinez’s hands began to cramp up, which Martinez described as “lobster hands” because they were “twisted and contorted.” Id. at ¶¶ 149–50. Deputy Lucero then called medical to come to 3C Wing. Id. at ¶ 151. She believed that Martinez was dehydrated and encouraged her to drink water. Id. at ...

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