United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
ADELMAN, District Judge.
plaintiff, Justin Burroughs, currently resides at the
Wisconsin Resource Center (WRC). He filed this lawsuit
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and was granted leave to
proceed on his claim that defendant Dr. Jose Alba was
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when he
prescribed medication without informing plaintiff of the
potential side effects. Before me now is defendant's
motion for summary judgment.
relevant facts are taken from “Defendant's Reply to
Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Proposed Findings
of Fact” (ECF No. 28) and “Defendant's
Response to (ECF No. 25) Plaintiff's Additional Proposed
Findings of Fact” (ECF No. 29).
has been diagnosed with mood disorder secondary to post
traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder
and has been housed at WRC for mental health treatment since
March 17, 2015. Defendant has been employed by the Wisconsin
Department of Health Services as a psychiatrist at WRC since
2005. Since approximately 2007, and at all times relevant to
this lawsuit, defendant was one of plaintiff's treating
16, 2013, defendant saw plaintiff at plaintiff's request.
Plaintiff stated that he was feeling relatively well but that
he had feelings of low-grade depression and was having some
suicidal thoughts and violent dreams. Defendant advised
plaintiff that the medication prazosin could be helpful in
treating these symptoms. Defendant says that he then told
plaintiff that, because prazosin is a high blood pressure
medication, plaintiff could experience side effects from
taking it, including dizziness, fainting, and falling.
Plaintiff denies that defendant told him about potential side
effects. Defendant then asked a nurse, who was present for
the appointment, to check plaintiff's blood pressure,
which was normal. Finally, defendant prescribed plaintiff 2
mg of prazosin to be taken at night, in order to reduce the
risk of plaintiff experiencing side effects during the day.
Defendant planned to reassess the dosage after two weeks.
took his first dose of prazosin that day. Later that evening,
he fainted and fell, sustaining injuries to his face, neck,
is entitled to summary judgment if it shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To survive a
motion for summary judgment, a non-moving party must show
that sufficient evidence exists to allow a jury to return a
verdict in its favor. Brummett v. Sinclair Broad. Grp.,
Inc., 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2005). For the
purposes of deciding this motion, I resolve all factual
disputes and make all reasonable factual inferences in favor
of the non-moving party. Springer v. Durflinger, 518
F.3d 479, 483-84 (7th Cir. 2008).
the only disputed fact is whether defendant informed
plaintiff that fainting is a known side effect of prazosin.
For the sake of deciding this motion, I assume that he did
not. The question then is whether the evidence that plaintiff
presents would allow a reasonable jury to find that
defendant's “conduct demonstrate[d]
‘deliberate indifference to [plaintiff's] serious
medical needs'” in violation of the Eighth
Amendment. Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1369
(7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 104 (1976)). For Eighth Amendment deliberate-indifference
claims, there is an objective element (that the
“medical need be sufficiently serious”) and a
subjective element (“that the official act with a
‘sufficiently culpable state of mind'”).
Id. (first citing Langston v. Peters, 100
F.3d 1235, 1240 (7th Cir. 1996); then citing Cooper v.
Casey, 97 F.3d 914, 916 (7th Cir. 1996); then quoting
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); and
then citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298
(1991)). The parties agree that, for the sake of deciding
this motion, the risk of fainting is an objectively serious
medical condition, so I will focus my analysis on the
satisfy the subjective element of a deliberate-indifference
claim, the plaintiff must show “that the prison
official knew of ‘a substantial risk of harm to the
inmate and disregarded the risk.'” Edwards v.
Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 831 (7th Cir. 2007) (first quoting
Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005);
and then citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). But,
“in the context of medical professionals, . . . medical
malpractice, negligence, or even gross negligence does not
equate to deliberate indifference.” Johnson v.
Doughty, 433 F.3d 1001, 1012-13 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing
Dunigan ex rel. Nyman v. Winnebago County, 165 F.3d
587, 592 (7th Cir. 1999)).
claim fails because a reasonable jury could not find, based
on the evidence presented, that defendant disregarded the
risk of harm to plaintiff from fainting as a side effect of
taking prazosin. Defendant's conduct demonstrates that he
considered and attempted to mitigate the risk by checking
plaintiff's blood pressure before prescribing prazosin;
putting plaintiff on a low dose for two weeks; planning to
reassess the dose after the first two weeks based on how
plaintiff was responding to it; and prescribing the
medication to be taken at night to minimize the risk that
plaintiff would faint during the day, when plaintiff was more
likely to be on his feet and, therefore, to suffer harm from
fainting. Defendant's failure to warn plaintiff about the
potential side effects of prazosin was, at most, negligent
and is not enough on its own, in light of the circumstances,
to allow a reasonable jury to find in plaintiff's favor.
Defendant is, therefore, entitled to summary judgment.
IT IS ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 19) is GRANTED. The Clerk of ...