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Doss v. Sweetman

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 30, 2016

ERIC SWEETMAN, et al., Defendant.


          Hon. Pamela Pepper United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Timothy Steven Doss, who is representing himself, is incarcerated at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI). On June 24, 2015, the court entered an order allowing the plaintiff to proceed on deliberate indifference and excessive force claims. Dkt. No. 10. On December 28, 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 21. On January 8, 2016, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 27. Both motions are now fully briefed. The court will deny the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, grant the defendants' motion in part, defer ruling on one defendant's motion, and set deadlines for the parties to take further action.

         I. FACTS [1]

         During the events involved in this case, the plaintiff was a prisoner incarcerated at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI). He is suing former and current staff members at GBCI. At the times relevant to this lawsuit, defendant Brian Foster was the warden (Dkt. No. 54 ¶2); defendants Cathy Francois, Ryan Baumann and Jay VanLanen were supervisors in the Program Segregation building (Id. at ¶3); defendant Jeananne Zwiers was the health services manager (titled Nursing Supervisor 2) (Id. at ¶4); defendants Onie Walker and Eric Sweetman were correctional sergeants (Id. at ¶5); and defendant Alan Potts was a correctional officer (Id.).

         The plaintiff suffers from sickle cell anemia, which is a condition that causes red blood cells to form into a crescent shape, like a sickle. Dkt. No. 51 ¶18. The sickle-shaped red blood cells break apart easily, causing anemia. Id. Sickle red blood cells live only ten to twenty days instead of the normal 120 days. Id. The damaged sickle red blood cells also clump together and stick to the walls of blood vessels, blocking blood flow. Id. This can cause severe pain and permanent damage to the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, bones and spleen. Id.

         Patients with sickle cell disease may develop severe pain anywhere in their body, and severe pain is an emergency condition called sickle cell crisis. Id. ¶19. Treatment of sickle cell crisis may include: opioid pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics for infection, oxygen, and/or intravenous or oral fluids. Id. ¶20.

         The plaintiff was transferred to GBCI on January 3, 2014, and sickle cell disease was listed as a significant illness on his transfer screening form. Id. ¶21. Dr. Sauvey (not a defendant), a physician at GBCI, implemented a plan of care with Dr. Warren (not a defendant), a hematologist at Green Bay Oncology who treats the plaintiff. Id. ¶22. Dr. Warren outlined the plaintiff's plan of care after each of the plaintiff's appointments. Id. ¶23. Although correctional officers were not given written documents from the plaintiff's medical files, they were advised via a posted handwritten note that the plaintiff has a significant chronic condition and they should contact health services immediately with any medical complaints from the plaintiff. Id. ¶23, 25.

         A. April 6, 2014

         On April 6, 2014[2], the plaintiff was transported to the emergency room following an episode of sickle cell crisis. Id. ¶37, 38. When an inmate is transported to an off-site hospital for medical treatment, GBCI provides supervision of the inmate (called a “vigil”). Id. ¶31. Staff assigned to supervise an inmate during a vigil provide constant monitoring of the inmate at all times. Id. A minimum of two security staff are assigned for supervision when the inmate is in a segregated status (regardless of classification) or when an inmate has a maximum classification. Id.

         In addition, security restraints may be applied when necessary to protect staff, hospital personnel, and the public. Id. ¶36. A security supervisor must authorize increased restraints, although when time does not permit a correctional officer to obtain prior approval, a supervisor may approve their use after the restraints are applied. Id. One form of increased restraint is the Bandit, an electronic control device that is a commercially-manufactured tool approved to be used by trained staff. Id. ¶35. The Bandit is attached to the inmate with Velcro straps. Id. Correctional staff are trained to place the device on an inmate's forearm or calf. Id.

         VanLanen authorized the placement of the Bandit on the plaintiff's leg for the April 6 transport. Id. ¶38. Sweetman states that, as he tried to place the Bandit on the plaintiff's bare leg, the plaintiff pulled his leg away. Id. ¶39. Sweetman ordered him not to pull his leg away, and the plaintiff asked to speak with a supervisor. Id. VanLanen arrived, and informed Sweetman that the Bandit should be placed over the plaintiff's pants, rather than on his bare skin. Id. ¶40. Sweetman states that he had been trained to place the Bandit on the bare leg, but he complied with VanLanen's instructions. Id.

         The plaintiff states that Sweetman became angry and said to the plaintiff, “Next time, do what I say and talk to a white shirt later.” Id. ¶41. Sweetman disputes this characterization. Id. He states that he told the plaintiff that he should have spoken to VanLanen prior to the plaintiff's departure to the hospital given that he would be checked by VanLanen at that time anyway, so there was no reason for the plaintiff to disobey Sweetman's direct order not to pull his leg away. Id. He also told the plaintiff that if he failed to follow direct orders, he could be written up for a conduct report. Id.

         The plaintiff states that Sweetman was angry that the plaintiff had talked to VanLanen, so Sweetman over-tightened the Bandit straps. Dkt. No. 54 ¶35. The plaintiff complained the Bandit straps were too tight. Dkt. No. 51 ¶42. Sweetman states the health services nurse and VanLanen both checked the straps and determined that Sweetman had properly applied them. Id. When the plaintiff mentioned to VanLanen that the straps were tight, VanLanen told him that they felt tight because the plaintiff was kneeling, and they would not feel tight once he stood up. Id. ¶44. Once he stood up, the plaintiff did not complain to VanLanen about the straps, nor did the plaintiff ever complain that the straps were causing him pain. Id. Sweetman explains that he would not have been at liberty to loosen the straps without permission from a security supervisor. Id. ¶42.

         B. July 5, 2014

         The plaintiff alleges that on July 5, 2014, at about 8:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., he began to experience excruciating pain, nausea, dizziness, and feeling as if he was about to pass out. Dkt. No. 54 ¶23. The plaintiff states that he recognized the symptoms as on-coming sickle cell crisis. Id. In line with his healthcare plan, the plaintiff contacted a correctional officer via his cell's intercom system and asked that the officer notify health care services staff. Id.

         The plaintiff states that Officer Vang (not a defendant) answered the call at 9:00 a.m. and noted in the logbook “sickle cell hurts bad.” Id. According to the plaintiff, Vang then notified Sweetman, and indicated in the logbook that he'd done so. Id.

         According to the plaintiff, when an inmate reports a medical emergency via the cell intercom, the correctional officer answering the call is to notify the staff member assigned to the cell range, who should investigate the nature of the medical emergency. Id. If a medical emergency is confirmed, the staff member should notify the sergeant and remain at the cell to monitor the situation. Id. The sergeant then should notify the line supervisor and, if necessary, health services staff. Id.

         When no one arrived and his condition worsened, the plaintiff indicates that he informed another inmate (Dennis Mix) that he felt faint, and he asked the inmate to press his emergency call button. Id. The plaintiff again reported that he was having difficulties at about 9:15 a.m. Id. The plaintiff then became dizzy and fell unconscious, hitting his head on the wall behind him. Id. Sweetman never reported to the plaintiff's cell to follow up on the plaintiff's call.

         According to another inmate, Potts arrived at the plaintiff's cell at about 11:15 a.m. to distribute meal trays to inmates. Id. The inmate told the plaintiff that Potts saw him lying on the floor but he did not get help. Id. Instead, Potts taunted the plaintiff, and when he received no ...

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