Scott v. Clarke (P)

This is a six-year-old Eighth Amendment class action concerning the long-term failure to provide adequate medical care to inmates at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women. After years of litigation, the parties reached a detailed settlement agreement, approved by the court. On the plaintiffs’ motion for contempt, the court finds that the defendants have breached the settlement agreement and will enter an injunction to enforce its terms.

The court cannot grant through relief via contempt because the final judgment order did not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(d). If ever a case evinced forfeiture of a Rule 65(d) argument, it would be this one, but the court is bound by clear statements from the 4th Circuit that Rule 65 is mandatory. Therefore, the court enforces the settlement agreement under traditional contracting principles.

The defendants are in violation of eight of the 22 standards of medical care governing the Center and set out in the settlement agreement. The deadline to comply with these standards came years ago. Women at the Center have died in the months and years after approval.

The Settlement Agreement does not set an Olympic bar for Defendants. It does not require FCCW to be the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins Hospital. Instead, the Settlement Agreement simply imposes very basic medical standards and tasks that will bring medical care to an adequate level, something that has been and continues to be absent in significant respects….

The Court finds those standards are clear enough that Defendants should easily have known that what has transpired at FCCW is unacceptable under the agreement. No reasonable person could read the Settlement Agreement and think that it was permissible, e.g.: for Andrea Nichols to wait three years for a colonoscopy while cancer rotted her body and invaded her liver; or for a medical prison to lack ready access to emergency medical equipment; or for nurses to fail to (and even not know how to) reorder medications; or for extreme chest pain, wheezing, and excessive weight changes to go uncharted and unexamined by a doctor.

The court will craft its own injunctive order that tailors the relief in light of its findings; the parties may seek reconsideration under Rule 59(e).

Scott v. Clarke (P), No. 3:12cv36, Jan. 2, 2019. WDVA at Charlottesville (Moon).

Categories: U.S. District Court - Western District of Virginia

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