WYOMING GUARDIANSHIP CORPORATION, as guardian and conservator of Linda Gelok, Appellant (Plaintiff),
WYOMING STATE HOSPITAL; STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH; and PAUL MULLENAX, Appellees (Defendants).
from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Joseph
B. Bluemel, Judge
Representing Appellant: Henry F. Bailey, Jr. and Douglas W.
Bailey of Bailey|Stock|Harmon|Cottam|Lopez, LLP, Cheyenne,
Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Bailey.
Representing Appellees: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Daniel E. White, Deputy Attorney General; Jackson M.
Engels, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr.
DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE [*] , FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.
Linda Gelok is an involuntarily committed incompetent person
who was injured after being left unattended for 25 hours at
the Wyoming State Hospital. On her behalf, Ms. Gelok's
guardian and conservator, Wyoming Guardianship Corporation,
sued the Wyoming State Hospital (WSH); the Wyoming Department
of Health (Department); and Paul Mullenax, WSH Administrator,
in his official and individual capacities, alleging
negligence and violation of her constitutional rights under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court found the
negligence action time-barred and dismissed it. It also found
that the WSH, the Department, and Mr. Mullenax in his
official capacity were entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity and dismissed the constitutional claims against
them. Finally, it found that Mr. Mullenax was entitled to
qualified immunity in his individual capacity and dismissed
the constitutional claim against him. We affirm in part and
reverse in part.
We rephrase and reorganize Ms. Gelok's issues on appeal:
1. Do the notice and filing requirements of the Wyoming
Governmental Claims Act extend the medical malpractice
statute of limitations in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-3-107?
2. Did Ms. Gelok's Complaint allege sufficient facts to
state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983?
At the time of the incident giving rise to this appeal, Ms.
Gelok was a sixty-two-year-old woman who had been diagnosed
with schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia,
and borderline intellectual functioning. She had spent
many years at various mental health institutions, including a
significant amount of time at the WSH. On February 23, 2015,
WSH staff found her sitting in the hospital's dayroom
with her neck kinked awkwardly. When approached, she stated,
"I'm going to die, you're going to let me
die." She was anxious, trembling, breathing rapidly, and
reeked of urine. As staff members attempted to lift her from
her chair to walk her to the hospital's "OT
room," they noticed numerous ants crawling on her foot.
During a physical examination, WSH staff found dried blood on
Ms. Gelok's visibly swollen feet, ants crawling on dark
red abrasions on her feet and ankles, and insect bites. A WSH
nurse practitioner diagnosed her bleeding abrasions as a
"rash" and prescribed her prednisone.
[¶4] When Wyoming Guardianship Corporation became aware
of the situation, it ordered that Ms. Gelok be taken to
Evanston Regional Hospital (ERH). At ERH, hospital staff
placed Ms. Gelok on oxygen, diagnosed her with a urinary
tract infection, and treated her abrasions. When Ms. Gelok
returned to WSH, she had a poor appetite, displayed paranoid
delusions, was described as "despondent," and
complained of pain around her wounds.
Later investigation revealed that Ms. Gelok had been sitting
in nearly the same position on the couch in the dayroom for
approximately 25 hours. During that time, no one gave her
food or water, took her to the bathroom, changed her, or took
her to bed. Hospital staff had done some cursory
"checks" into the dayroom, but none of them noticed
Ms. Gelok until maintenance staff requested that she be moved
so they could work on the television. Investigators noticed
food on the floor in several areas of the hall and observed
that the dining room area floor was very dirty with food and
possibly human feces. Hospital staff confirmed that the
hospital had an ongoing ant-infestation problem.
On May 12, 2016, Ms. Gelok presented a notice of claim to the
appropriate governmental entities, in compliance with Wyo.
Stat. Ann. § 1-39-113. On June 10, 2016, she filed a
claim with the Wyoming Medical Review Panel, as required by
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 9-2-1518. The panel dismissed the
claim on August 11, 2016. Ms. Gelok filed her Complaint in
the district court on August 9, 2017, asserting claims for
negligence and for violation of her right to safe and humane
living conditions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district
court granted the State's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to
Dismiss, and Ms. Gelok filed a timely Notice of Appeal.
I.Do the notice and filing requirements of the Wyoming
Governmental Claims Actextend the medical
malpractice statute of limitations in ...