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McCaa v. McKown

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 15, 2016

RANDY MCCAA, Plaintiff,



         1. INTRODUCTION

         On November 1, 2016, the deadline for filing dispositive motions in this matter, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment as to all of the plaintiff Randy McCaa's (“McCaa”) claims. (Docket #31 at 3 and #60). On November 22, 2016, McCaa filed his own motion for summary judgment, a brief in support of forty-seven pages, and proposed findings of facts numbering over three-hundred paragraphs. (Docket #66, #67, and #68). McCaa also filed a response to the defendants' statement of facts, but failed to cite any evidence when attempting to dispute any facts, at best stating “dispute” and making a reference to “plaintiff[‘s] brief.” (Docket #71).

         McCaa has been informed of the requirements of the Federal and Local Rules regarding summary judgment at least twice; by attachments to the Court's trial scheduling order, and by the defendants' own summary judgment motion. (Docket #31 and #60).[1] He has chosen to ignore those rules by filing a summary judgment motion well beyond the deadline set by the Court, greatly exceeding the page limitation on briefs, including over double the maximum allotment of statements of fact, and failing to cite any evidence in support of his disputes of fact. These infirmities cannot be overlooked.

         As to McCaa's putative summary judgment motion, it must be rejected outright as being filed beyond the deadline and without seeking the Court's leave. His response to the defendants' statement of facts must also be ignored. Though the Court is required to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's filings, it cannot act as his lawyer; the Court cannot and will not delve through all of McCaa's submissions in this case to find the evidence that appropriately supports each attempted dispute. Indeed:

A district court is not required to “wade through improper denials and legal argument in search of a genuinely disputed fact.” Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000). And a mere disagreement with the movant's asserted facts is inadequate if made without reference to specific supporting material. Edward E. Gillen Co. v. City of Lake Forest, 3 F.3d 192, 196 (7th Cir. 1993). In short, “[j]udges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs.” United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991). Smith's summary-judgment materials were woefully deficient in either responding adequately to the defendants' statement or in setting forth additional facts with appropriate citations to the record. As such, Smith's purportedly good intentions aside, the district court did not abuse its discretion in deeming admitted and only considering the defendants' statement of material facts.

Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). This Court would offer a similar analogy: it is not an archaeologist, made to sift through McCaa's filings hoping to piece together clues to the evidence behind his legal positions.

         Like Smith, no matter McCaa's intentions, his utter failure to comply with the rules of procedure means that the Court has no choice but to disregard entirely most of his summary judgment filings. It will deem the defendants' facts undisputed for purposes of deciding the motion. However, the Court will generously review McCaa's brief itself, despite it being substantially overlong, and consider legal argument contained therein.[2] With this framework, the Court will address each of McCaa's claims in turn.

         2. ANALYSIS

         McCaa was permitted to proceed on five claims of deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment. (Docket #53 at 2-3). Four are related to his self-harming behavior on various dates from December 2013 to August 2015. Id. The remaining claim is for failing to obtain medical assistance for him after a particular self-harming incident in May 2014. Id. at 2. The defendants seek summary judgment as to each of these claims. (Docket #60).

         To state a claim for a violation of constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must prove that: 1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The defendants do not dispute that they acted on the color of state law.

         They do, however, argue that they were not deliberately indifferent to McCaa's self-harming activities or his medical needs, and thus that their conduct did not violate his Eighth Amendment rights. To show deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must prove that “(1) [she] had an objectively serious medical condition; (2) the defendants knew of the condition and were deliberately indifferent to treating her; and (3) this indifference caused her some injury.” Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010).

         With respect to self-harming or suicidal behavior, the Court of Appeals holds that suicide satisfies the “serious medical condition” element. Pittman ex rel. Hamilton v. Cnty. of Madison, Ill., 746 F.3d 766, 775 (7th Cir. 2014). The Collins court provides further relevant instruction:

Where the harm at issue is a suicide or attempted suicide, the second, subjective component of an Eighth Amendment claim requires a dual showing that the defendant: (1) subjectively knew the prisoner was at substantial risk of committing suicide and (2) intentionally disregarded the risk. [Matos ex. rel. Matos v. O'Sullivan, 335 F.3d 553, 557 (7th Cir. 2003)]; see also Estate of Novack ex rel. Turbin v. County of Wood, 226 F.3d 525, 529 (7th Cir. 2000) (defendant must be aware of the significant likelihood that an inmate may imminently seek to take his own life and must fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the inmate from performing the act).
With respect to the first showing, “it is not enough that there was a danger of which a prison official should have been aware, ” rather, “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Estate of Novack, 226 F.3d at 529 (emphasis added). In other words, the defendant must be cognizant of the significant likelihood that an inmate may imminently seek to take his own life. Id.; [Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 737 (7th Cir. 2001)] (issue is whether the defendant was subjectively “aware of the substantial risk that [the deceased prisoner] might take his own life”). Liability cannot attach where “the defendants simply were not alerted to the likelihood that [the prisoner] was a genuine suicide risk.” Boncher ex rel. Boncher v. Brown County, 272 F.3d 484, 488 (7th Cir. 2001).
[As to the second showing], [d]eliberate indifference requires a showing of “more than mere or gross negligence, but less than the purposeful or knowing infliction of harm.” Matos, 335 F.3d at 557; Estate of Novack, 226 F.3d at 529. We have characterized the required showing as “something approaching a total unconcern for [the prisoner's] welfare in the face of serious risks.” Duane v. Lane, 959 F.2d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 1992). To establish deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must present evidence that an individual defendant intentionally disregarded the known risk to inmate health or safety. Matos, 335 F.3d at 557. A defendant with knowledge of a risk need not “take perfect action or even reasonable action[, ] ... his action must be reckless before § 1983 liability can be found.” Cavalieri v. Shepard, 321 F.3d 616, 622 (7th Cir. 2003).
[In sum, ] [t]he deliberate indifference standard imposes a “high hurdle” for a plaintiff to overcome.

Collins v. Seeman, 462 F.3d 757, 761-62 (7th Cir. 2006). As shown below, with respect to each alleged incident of deliberate indifference, McCaa cannot overcome this hurdle.

         2.1December 11, 2013[3]

         On December 11, 2013, Dr. Kimberly McKown (“McKown”) was conducting routine wellness checks for prisoners on “observation status.” “Observation status” is used, inter alia, to help protect suicidal prisoners from themselves, and involves regular meetings with medical professionals and near-constant staff observation. McKown contacted McCaa that morning. She observed him masturbating and told him to stop, which he did. McCaa complained to McKown about the mental health treatment he was receiving at the institution and reported that it was causing him to have suicidal thoughts. McCaa stated he had been thinking about cutting himself but denied any immediate plan to do so. He also stated he had nothing in his cell he could use to cut himself with.

         McKown discussed the future with McCaa, including his plans to operate a business after his release from prison. McKown offered to get McCaa a book to help him cope while waiting to be seen by a primary clinician. McCaa stated he was unsure if he wanted a book because of his low reading level, and McKown stated she would attempt to find something easy for him to read. Later that day, another doctor saw McCaa after he was reportedly scratching his arm, causing minor cuts and bleeding. She ordered that he be placed in mechanical restraints for the rest of the day to stop that behavior.

         These facts defeat both of the Collins showings. First, not only was McKown not aware of a risk that McCaa would hurt himself, he specifically disclaimed an immediate intent to do so or possession of any tool to facilitate that behavior. Second, McKown's discussion with McCaa showed concern for his mental state falling well below recklessly disregarding his safety. McCaa claims that McKown should have placed him in restraints immediately, but at the time she saw him, he had not harmed himself and stated that he had no imminent desire to do so. That the other doctor placed him in restraints after she observed self-harming activity ...

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