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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In Estate of Nicholas D. Rice v. Correctional Medicial Services (ND Ind., Lozano), an 84-page opinion, Circuit Judge Rovner writes:

Nicholas D. Rice died in the Elkhart County Jail in December 2004, nearly fifteen months after he was booked at the jail pending trial on a charge of attempted bank robbery. Rice was known to suffer from schizophrenia, and shortly before his death a judge had found him incompetent to stand trial. Although he was seen by mental health professionals while he was being detained, Rice frequently refused to take his prescribed medications, cooperate with medical personnel at the jail, eat his meals, or bathe himself. He was briefly hospitalized at psychiatric and other medical facilities on several occasions during the period of his confinement, and at the time of his death he was awaiting placement at a state psychiatric facility pursuant to the judge’s finding of incompetence. Rice died as a result of psychogenic polydipsia (excessive water drinking), which is a disorder known to manifest in a minority of persons with schizophrenia. Following Rice’s death, his parents, representing his estate (the “Estate”), filed suit in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging among other things that jail officials and medical personnel had deprived Rice of due process by exhibiting deliberate indifference to his declining mental and physical condition. The district court entered summary judgment against the Estate on its section 1983 claims, finding in part that correctional and medical personnel had not consciously disregarded Rice’s medical needs and that the ultimate cause of his death was not reasonably foreseeable to them. Estate of Rice ex rel. Rice v. Correctional Med. Servs., No. 06 C 697, Opinion & Order, 2009 WL 1748059 (N.D. Ind. June 17, 2009) (Miller, J.). The Estate then filed a second federal suit, invoking the court’s diversity jurisdiction, in which it reasserted the state wrongful death claims that the judge in the first suit had dismissed without prejudice after disposing of the federal claims. The judge in the second suit dismissed that case on the basis of collateral estoppel, reasoning that his colleague’s finding as to the foreseeability of the cause of Rice’s death precluded recovery on any of the state claims. Estate of Rice ex rel. Rice v. Correctional Med. Servs., No. 09 C 319, Order (N.D. Ind. May 17, 2010) (Lozano, J.) (unpublished). The Estate appeals both judgments. On review of the record, we conclude that a material dispute of fact precludes summary judgment on one of the Estate’s section 1983 claims: that his conditions of confinement were inhumane. We also conclude that the district court erred in dismissing his state claims. We therefore affirm in part and reverse in part.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 20, 2012 02:02 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions