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Doss v. Sweetman

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 12, 2017

ERIC SWEETMAN, et al., Defendant.



         Plaintiff Timothy Steven Doss, who is representing himself, is incarcerated at Wisconsin Resource Center. On June 24, 2015, the court entered an order allowing him 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 cross-motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 27.

         On September 30, 2016, the court entered an order denying the plaintiff's motion and granting the defendants' motion as to defendants Eric Sweetman, Brian Foster, Cathy Francois, Ryan Baumann, Jeanne Zwiers, Onie Walker, and Jay VanLanen. Dkt. No. 62. The court held in abeyance its decision on the cross-motions as to defendant Alan Potts. Id. The court ordered Potts to provide additional information to the court to assist it in making its decision. Id. Potts filed supplemental proposed findings of fact and a supplemental declaration on October 7, 2016. Dkt. Nos. 63, 64. The plaintiff filed his own declaration in response on November 14, 2016. Dkt. No. 67.

         Finally, the court also ordered that the plaintiff could file an amended complaint limited to the claims described in the order. Dkt. No. 62 at 18. The court allowed the plaintiff to do so in the interest of justice, because the plaintiff originally had named the wrong defendant (and potentially omitted others) as a result of relying on inaccurate information given to him by a prison official. Id. at 16-18. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on November 14, 2016. Dkt. No. 66.

         This decision resolves the cross-motions for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claim against Potts, and screens the plaintiff's amended complaint.


         A. The Relevant Facts [1]

         At all relevant times, defendant Alan Potts was a correctional officer at Green Bay Correctional Institution. (Dkt. No. 54 ¶2).

         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 10 to 20 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 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 note that the plaintiff has a significant chronic condition and they should contact health services immediately with any complaints from the plaintiff. Id. ¶23, 25.

         1. July 5, 2014

         The plaintiff alleges that on July 5, 2014, around 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 he 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. When no one arrived and his condition worsened, the plaintiff informed another inmate that he felt faint, and he asked the inmate to press his emergency call button. Id. At about 9:15 a.m., the plaintiff again reported that he was having difficulties Id. The plaintiff then became dizzy and fell unconscious, hitting his head on the wall behind him. Id.

         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 Potts did not get help. Id. Instead, Potts taunted the plaintiff, and when he received no response, Potts secured the trap door and continued distributing meal trays. Id.

         Potts states that he does not specifically recall the July 5, 2014 incident. Dkt. No. 63 ¶139. He explains that, generally, if he observes an inmate lying on the floor during meal time, he will attempt to get the inmate's attention Id. ¶140. He states that it is not uncommon for inmates to lie on the floor or not verbally respond to an officer. Id. If an inmate does not respond, Potts will ensure the inmate is breathing and will notify the unit sergeant. Id.

         Potts explains that, although he does not recall this specific event, if the plaintiff had been lying on the floor and not responding, Potts would have acted consistent with his training and would have looked for a rise or fall of his chest and/or body movement to ensure the plaintiff was breathing. Id. ¶141. Potts states that he likely would have finished feeding the rest of the wing as it would have taken only a few minutes to do so, then he would have informed the sergeant that the plaintiff was lying on the floor and not responding to Potts' verbal requests. Id. Potts asserts that ...

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