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Johnson v. Cramer

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 30, 2016

JOHN M. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
RON D. CRAMER, Defendant.


          LYNN ADELMAN District Judge

         John M. Johnson, who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. I allowed him to proceed on a claim against Ron D. Cramer in his official capacity as the Eau Claire County Sheriff. Official capacity claims against municipal officials are, in effect, claims against the municipal body itself. Walker v. Sheahan, 526 F.3d 973, 977 (7th Cir. 2008). As such, to avoid confusion, unless I am discussing actions performed specifically by Cramer, I will reference plaintiff’s claim as being against Eau Claire County (the “County”) rather than against Cramer.

         Plaintiff claims that the County approved of Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc. (“CHC”), providing inadequate medical care to prisoners. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on January 21, 2016. He argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because plaintiff “cannot substantiate that [the] County had any unconstitutional policy, practice or procedure in place with respect to medical treatment.” (Docket #36 at 1.) For the reasons discussed in this decision, I grant defendant’s motion and dismiss this case.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS[1]

         Cramer has been the elected sheriff of the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Department since 1996. Plaintiff has been incarcerated at the Jail for various periods from February 5, 2013, to July 14, 2014.

         Since 2010, inmate medical and mental health services at the Jail have been provided pursuant to a contract between the County and Health Professionals, Ltd., which later became CHC. The 2013 and 2014 contracts between the County and CHC included the services for an on-call nurse or physician twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, and on-site medical care and evaluation by a physician for one hour per week. The 2013 contract also provided for nursing services and mental health services including a registered nurse for twenty-four hours per week, a licensed practical nurse for thirty-four hours per week, a health care unit administrator for forty hours per week, a Masters-level social worker for five hours per week, a Bachelors-level social worker for twenty hours per week, and a nurse practitioner for five hours per week. In 2014, in addition to the nursing and health care administrator services provided in 2013, the County increased its mental health services to forty hours per week.

         The County has established policies and procedures relating to medical care, including procedures regarding inmate access to medical treatment. At the time of booking, inmates are informed of the procedure to access medical care. Inmates have access to the rule book via the TurnKey Corrections Kiosk and must acknowledge that they read it before they are able to access the kiosk for other purposes such as canteen, messages, etc. Plaintiff agrees that policies and procedures exist; however, he notes that they are inadequate. He also states that inmates are initially held in holding cells, during which time they have no access to the kiosk.

         In 2013 and 2014, if an inmate was in need of non-emergency care, that inmate would fill out an inmate medical request form, which would then be evaluated by the CHC nursing staff. CHC nurses and/or the physician would determine what course of action was necessary, including whether the inmate should be examined by a nurse or physician. Jail staff were involved in the evaluation of medical care requests only in emergency situations that required immediate medical attention.

         As Sheriff, Cramer is aware of the overall operations of the Jail, but he is not intimately involved in its day-to-day operations. Cramer generally does not review or approve medical requests, nor does he respond to or investigate all complaints about medical care. According to Cramer, he never reviewed or responded to any requests for medical treatment submitted by plaintiff. Cramer also denies personally participating in any decision as to plaintiff’s medical care, including which treatment or medications he should receive. Cramer states that his contact with plaintiff was limited to responding to a few appeals plaintiff filed regarding various issues. Cramer explains that, when deciding an appeal, he generally conducts an investigation, which may include a review of records and/or discussion with relevant personnel. Based on his investigation of plaintiff’s complaints, he understood that plaintiff was being seen and evaluated by medical personnel on a regular basis, his medications were being reviewed and evaluated on a regular basis, and he was not being denied any medically necessary examinations or surgeries.

         Cramer states that he was not aware of any prior specific instances that demonstrated that correctional officers were not allowing inmates to access medical care. In addition, he states that he was never aware of, nor did he approve of, any policy, practice, or procedure that condoned inadequate medical care being provided to inmates.

         Cramer also states that, after the County contracted with CHC for medical services, officials consistently tried to evaluate and improve the medical and mental health services offered to inmates. On a weekly basis, Jail medical staff, mental health staff, and supervisory or administration staff would meet to discuss the overall health care services within the jail. These discussion would include the overall health care system, specific issues that arose, and improvements that should be made. Plaintiff agrees that these meetings occurred, but he states that no changes were ever made.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is required where “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When considering a motion for summary judgment, I take the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and may grant the motion only if no reasonable ...

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