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Hoyt v. Gilden

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

January 10, 2017

ANDREW M. HOYT, Plaintiff,
BOBBIE JO GILDEN, Defendant.[1]

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge

         Plaintiff Andrew Hoyt brought this lawsuit against six correctional officers and a nurse working at the Dane County Jail, claiming that they each violated his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated there in September 2014. All defendants moved for summary judgment, filing two separate motions, but plaintiff has since settled his claims of excessive force with the six officers. This leaves plaintiff's claim against the nurse, defendant Bobbie Jo Gilden, in which he alleges that she failed to properly examine, diagnose and treat his injured hand.

         Although defendant Gilden submitted briefs, proposed findings of fact and evidence in support of her motion for summary judgment, plaintiff has not filed anything in response. As a result, and in the absence of evidence on the record clearly contradicting defendant Gilden's proposed factual findings, I treat them as undisputed. See Preliminary Pretrial Conference Order (entered December 10, 2015), dkt. #17, at 14 (“A fact properly proposed by one side will be accepted by the court as undisputed unless the other side properly responds to the proposed fact and establishes that it is in dispute.”). I also note that besides appearing for his deposition, plaintiff has largely failed to participate in discovery. When defendants earlier moved to compel production and then to dismiss for lack of prosecution, plaintiff declined to respond to those motions as well (despite being given extra time to do so). Plaintiff has thus done little to advance his own case.

         Having reviewed the record as it stands, I now evaluate plaintiff's remaining claim on its merits. For the reasons explained in more detail below, I am granting defendant Gilden's (unopposed) motion for summary judgment because the undisputed facts show as a matter of law that she did not violate plaintiff's Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to provide him medical treatment. From defendant Gilden's proposed findings of fact, and the evidence on the record, I find that the following facts are not subject to genuine dispute.


         At all times relevant to this case, defendant Bobbie Jo Gilden was a registered nurse employed with Correct Care Solutions, LLC and stationed at the Dane County Jail. There, she was responsible for responding to inmates' medical requests, assessing their complaints and performing appropriate physical examinations. She was also sometimes required to perform general well-being assessments of inmates to confirm that they did not suffer from a serious condition warranting immediate emergency medical care. Defendant Gilden was not authorized to order diagnostic tests such as X-ray exams, but if in her clinical judgment an inmate required one, she would contact the on-call jail physician, who could order such a test if appropriate. Dft. Gilden's PFOF, dkt. #55, ¶¶ 13-18.

         On September 9, 2014, plaintiff Andrew Hoyt turned himself in to the authorities at the Dane County Jail after violating the terms of his extended supervised release from a prior criminal conviction. Plaintiff was under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time, and he had a known history of mental illness, including numerous incidents of self-harm, which led jail staff to place him in a segregated cell block. When he woke up on the morning of September 10, plaintiff began experiencing an apparent psychotic episode in which he says he was hearing voices and screaming in his head, which continued throughout the events of the day. Id. at ¶¶ 6-8.

         Later that morning, plaintiff began acting erratically and causing a disturbance. He used the toilet to flood his cell and the common area with sewage water, and he smeared feces on cell block surveillance cameras. He resisted orders to calm down and stop this behavior, and eventually several officers entered his cell to extract him. They wrestled him to the ground and used force to hold him there. They eventually placed him in handcuffs and then into a restraint chair in order to safely extract him from the cell. Id. at ¶¶ 9-12. (In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that the officers struck him and used excessive force at various points during this struggle, and that he suffered injuries to his head, legs, and hand as a result. In particular, plaintiff alleged that one of the officers stomped on his left hand, causing serious injury and severe pain. The officers maintained that plaintiff was resisting and that they used only as much physical force as was necessary to restrain and safely extract him.)

         Once plaintiff was placed securely in the restraint chair, with his arms and legs strapped down, several officers brought him into an administrative cell. (A surveillance camera in the cell was recording and a copy of that tape, with visual video footage but no accompanying audio, was submitted by defendant Gilden with her summary judgment materials. The video footage corroborates and provides supplemental detail to defendant Gilden's proposed findings of fact.) The officers spoke to plaintiff for about a minute before defendant Gilden entered the cell. She checked the restraints on plaintiff's legs and arms, briefly left the cell, then returned and examined plaintiff's foot, ankle and lower leg area before exiting the cell again. About two minutes later, defendant Gilden returned with some medical supplies, which she used to clean abrasions on his right ankle or lower leg area. She then exited the cell again, and the officers began undoing the upper straps on the restraint chair and the handcuffs behind plaintiff's back. Once plaintiff's arms and hands were free, the officers strapped his wrists securely back to the arms of the restraint chair. Then all of the officers except for one left the cell, and defendant Gilden reentered.

         With help from the remaining officer, defendant Gilden examined both of plaintiff's hands and wrists, with particular focus on his left hand. She pressed and had plaintiff flex and wiggle his hand and fingers, while plaintiff appeared to be speaking to her and the officer and exhibiting no obvious signs of significant pain. Defendant Gilden confirmed that plaintiff's hand was not disfigured, had proper capillary refill, and had proper mobility. She concluded that he had a possible contusion on his left hand, but that there was no fracture or other serious injury that warranted an X-ray or other diagnostic testing. She informed plaintiff of her conclusion and told him to contact medical staff if his condition worsened. Defendant Gilden and the officer then left the cell and closed the door, leaving plaintiff alone in the restraint chair.

         Nearly two hours later, several officers returned to the cell, released plaintiff from the restraint chair and removed it from the cell. Plaintiff got up and began pacing around the cell. During this time he casually examined his right ankle and left hand several times. He removed his own clothes and put on new pants and a new shirt that were given to him through the opening in the cell door, using both hands to do so. He leaned on various parts of the cell interior with both hands, and moved about freely without any obvious signs of debilitating pain. He was provided a meal, which he took and ate using both hands. Soon after, he was given an ice pack, which he set down beside him on his bed as he continued to eat his meal and pace around some more. After finishing his meal several minutes later, clearing his plate and trash, and using the toilet and sink, all with the apparent use of both hands, plaintiff lay down on the bed and placed the ice pack on his left hand. Dft. Gilden's PFOF, dkt. #55, ¶¶ 19-27; see also dkt. #71 (Cell 623A Surveillance Video); dkt. #57 (Ryan M. Wiesner Decl.); dkt. #59 (Andrew Hoyt Dep. Test. Tr., at pp. 104-114).

         Plaintiff submitted a medical request that same day, complaining that the injury to his left hand was still swollen and very painful, even though he had been icing it all day. He was examined by a nurse or other jail personnel, who determined that he could move his hand without difficulty. Plaintiff did not complain about his hand to anyone else for the remainder of his stay at the jail. On the following day, September 11, 2014, he was transferred from the Dane County Jail to the Sturtevant Transitional Facility. (Plaintiff alleges that he immediately notified personnel at the Sturtevant facility about his injured hand and that a week later medical staff there performed an X-ray, which confirmed that he had fractured the third metacarpal bone in his left hand, and placed his hand in a cast.) Dft. Gilden's PFOF, dkt. #55, ¶¶ 28-34.


         Defendant Gilden is entitled to summary judgment if she has shown that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As the moving party she bears the initial burden to make that showing, while plaintiff has the ultimate burden of persuasion to prove his claim at trial. To defeat defendant Gilden's motion for summary judgment, plaintiff must offer enough evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find that she violated his ...

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