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Williams v. Mercer

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 27, 2018




         THIS MATTER comes before the court upon Defendants Donna Guyett and Ricky Mercer's (the “State Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment (#62), Mr. Williams's Response (#68), and the State Defendants' Reply (#74).[2]

         In Mr. Williams' response, he states that he “will no longer pursue claims against Mr. Mercer.” Thus, the Court deems Mr. Williams to voluntarily dismiss all claims against Mr. Mercer and the Court considers only the remaining claims against Ms. Guyett.


         Mr. Williams brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, and the Court exercises jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1367.


         The following facts are undisputed unless attributed otherwise, and treated in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.

         The events underlying this case date to May 2015, when Mr. Williams was incarcerated at the Colorado Department of Corrections' (CDOC) Fremont Correctional Facility (FCF), in Cañon City, Colorado. He was then 72 years old and had Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and a history of cardiac illness including bypass surgery in 2005, a pacemaker, and multiple prior heart attacks. In this lawsuit, he alleges that he suffered a series of transient ischemic attacks (“TIA”s) or “warning strokes, ” followed by an ischemic stroke (also known as a cardiovascular accident or “CVA”), and that he was denied timely medical treatment including transfer to a hospital by the Defendants, all of whom were medical providers at FCF.

         On May 12, 2015, at approximately 1:00 p.m., Mr. Williams walked into the FCF medical clinic and was seen by Ricky Mercer, a registered nurse employed by CDOC. Also present was Trudy Sicotte, a nurse practitioner employed by CDOC contractor Supplemental Health Care (“SHC”). Mr. Williams reported that he had experienced dizziness and left arm numbness beginning about fifteen minutes before, that his cellmate had indicated his speech was slurred, and that he was afraid he was having a stroke. Mr. Mercer examined Mr. Williams, but observed no current or continuing symptoms. Mr. Williams was told to return to the clinic later that day for further evaluation. When he did so, he reported that was still feeling dizzy but had not had further numbness or slurred speech. Mr. Mercer evaluated Mr. Williams further, then returned him to his cell with instructions to report new or worsening symptoms to the medical clinic.

         Mr. Williams returned to the clinic the next morning, May 13, 2015. He was seen by Roy D. Havens, a physicians' assistant employed by SHC. Mr. Havens documented that Mr. Williams had returned to the clinic “as a follow up from an episode from what appears to be a TIA, ” but was then “doing bet[t]er, ” and should be checked again in about a week. Later that day, first responders were called to Mr. Williams's cell and transported him back to the clinic, where he was again seen by Mr. Mercer and Mr. Havens. He reported that beginning around 3:00 p.m, “he had begun having stroke symptoms again, ” including left arm numbness, slurred speech, and difficulty walking. Mr. Mercer kept him in the clinic for approximately 2 hours for observation, during which time Mr. Mercer did not observe further objective symptoms other than an increase in Mr. Williams's blood pressure. Mr. Williams was returned to his cell and directed to return the next day for re-evaluation and possible referral for a carotid artery ultrasound and pacemaker check.

         Mr. Williams was returned by wheelchair to the clinic shortly after 8:00 a.m. on May 14, 2015, reporting “symptoms of a stroke.” He was examined by Jodi Johnson, who observed that Mr. Williams had an unsteady gait and slight left side limp, as well as weaker grip with his left hand, but also that his vital signs were within normal limits and he had no facial drooping. After consulting with the charge nurse, Ms. Johnson had Mr. Williams wait in the clinic for a “provider” to arrive, namely, Mr. Havens. Mr. Havens arrived at approximately 9:26 a.m. and evaluated Mr. Williams, charting he had “been seen many times for similar symptoms of num[b]ness and weakness of the left arm and slurred speech. He has been confused and his gait is unsteady, [h]is vitals h[a]ve been stable. This a.m. he is unable to use his left arm and his hand has no dexterity. I will try to get him to [the hospital] today.” Approximately two hours later, Mr. Havens saw and evaluated Mr. Williams again, charting that he “has been seen several times in the last few days and 3 times in the past 48 hours with symptoms of CVA or TIA. He has slurred speech mental confusion and loss in use of his left arm and hand. He has a pacemaker which he has had for several years. Last pacer check is not known to the inmate but his chart shows it was done in Jan. 2015. He is diabetic and is very poorly controlled. I would like to get him evaluated.” Mr. Havens also noted Mr. Williams should be seen at the hospital for an ultrasound. He prepared an additional report at approximately 12:31 p.m., repeating the same information and noting his concern that Mr. Williams might have carotid artery lesions.

         At approximately 2:22 p.m., Defendant Donna Guyett, a CDOC registered nurse, prepared an entry in Mr. Williams' medical records recapping his earlier evaluations by Ms. Johnson and Mr. Havens, and indicating that Mr. Havens had given a verbal order for Mr. Williams to use a wheelchair. Mr. Williams was again returned to his cell.

         The next day, at approximately 12:46 p.m., Ms. Guyett saw Mr. Williams for re-evaluation. She noted he was experiencing left-sided weakness and difficulty walking, had a facial droop and was unable to move the left side of his face, had been biting the inside of his mouth, was “minimally” able to move his arm, was dragging his left foot and slurring his words. Ms. Guyett arranged to have Mr. Williams transported to a hospital by van. He remained in the hospital for eleven days, until May 26, 2015. Hospital discharge notes reflect that on admission he was not considered a candidate for tissue plasminogen activator or “tPA” - a medication that, if used promptly after a stroke event, can reduce the extent of permanent damage -- “due to [the] length of time from event.” The same records state that “a CT scan confirmed a [right middle cerebral artery] embolic stroke with left-sided residual, ” and hospital records dated May 21, 2015 note that Mr. ...

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