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Peterson v. Foster

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

August 31, 2016



          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.

         1. INTRODUCTION

         On June 20, 2016, each of the defendants filed motions for summary judgment on the plaintiff's, Erick V. Peterson's (“Peterson”), claims against them, including briefs in support, statements of fact, and other documentary evidence. (Docket #71 to #102). On July 27, 2016, Peterson filed responsive memoranda, statements of fact, and affidavits.[1] (Docket #116 to #126). On August 10, 2016, the defendants Dennis Richards (“Richards”) and Julie Gussel (“Gussel”) filed reply documents.[2] (Docket #127 to #133). The defendants Brian Foster (“Foster”), J. Zwiers (“Zwiers”), and M. Alsteen (“Alsteen”) filed their own reply documents on August 12, 2016. (Docket #134 to #136). The motions are now fully briefed and, for the reasons stated below, they will be granted.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides the mechanism for seeking summary judgment. Rule 56 states that the “court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A “genuine” dispute of material fact is created when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         3. RELEVANT FACTS

         The Court will provide a brief timeline of events, then address each of the defendants' roles therein. In accordance with the standard of review, the facts and inferences therefrom are construed in Peterson's favor.[3] Given the voluminous factual briefing, the Court limits its discussion of the facts to those relevant to its holdings.

         3.1 Peterson's Stay in Columbia County Jail

         Prior to March 7, 2014, Peterson was incarcerated at Green Bay Correctional Institution (“GBCI”).[4] The medical staff at GBCI prescribed several medications for Peterson, including three different laxatives. Peterson was transferred to Columbia County Jail (the “Jail”) on March 7, 2014, for a court appearance. When he arrived there, he complained that his laxatives were not brought with him. He spoke with Jail staff and a nurse, Gussel, about the issue. The Jail staff and Gussel offered him non-prescription laxatives for purchase, but Peterson refused to pay and demanded his prescribed medications. From that time until March 10, 2014, Peterson apparently reiterated his complaints about being provided his prescribed laxatives. Peterson was returned to GBCI on March 10, 2014. At no time during his stay at the Jail was he provided with his prescription laxatives.

         3.2 Foster

         Foster became the warden of GBCI on March 23, 2014. (Docket #136 at ¶ 9).[5] Thus, he had no direct role in the events in question.

         3.3 Zwiers

         Zwiers was the Health Services Manager at the time of the Jail incident. Id. at ¶ 5. Zwiers was on sick leave for almost ten months prior to February 2014 and, when she returned, she did so on a half-time basis. Id. at ¶ 7. As the Health Services Manager, she had no direct involvement in packing inmate medications for transfer. Id. at ¶ 23. With regard to the Jail incident, Zwiers was never told that Peterson was missing his laxatives and was not otherwise aware that he did not have them. Id. at ¶¶ 37, 44.

         On August 28, 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections instituted DAI Policy 500.80.15 (the “Policy”), which required nurses to pack all of an inmate's medications when they were transferred. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. Prior to the Policy, the practice at GBCI was for inmates to pack their non-controlled medications, while the nurses would pack the controlled medications. Id. at ¶ 22. Zwiers had no role in implementing the Policy because she was on sick leave at the time. Id. at ¶ 28.

         3.4 Richards

         Richards is the sheriff of Columbia County. (Docket #128 at ¶ 2). He is not involved with the day-to-day operations of the Jail. Id. at ¶ 95. Richards does not supervise disbursement of inmate medication at the Jail. Id. at ¶ 97. With respect to the Jail incident, he never had contact with Peterson or made any decisions regarding his medical care. Id. at ¶ 98.

         3.5 Alsteen

         Alsteen is a nurse at GBCI. (Docket #136 at ¶ 4). Alsteen was trained in accordance with GBCI's pre-Policy practice that inmates were to pack their own non-controlled medications. Id. at ¶¶ 24-25. Thus, on March 6, 2014, prior to Peterson being transferred, she packed only his controlled medications, not his laxatives or any other non-controlled medications. Id. at ¶¶ 30-33. Alsteen believed Peterson would bring those medications himself. Id. at ¶ 34. She was not aware of the Policy at the time. Id. at ¶ 35.

         Alsteen did not work at GBCI from March 7 to 9, 2014. Id. at ¶ 36. She was not told that Peterson was missing any medications or was having constipation problems. Id. at ¶¶ 37-38. During the Jail incident, Alsteen had no knowledge that Peterson would be without his laxatives. Id. at ¶ 44. She understood that even if medications were missing, facilities such as the Jail would either provide them or notify the home prison. Id. at ...

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