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Williams v. Stauche

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 15, 2017



          HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge.

         This order resolves the joint motion for summary judgment filed by defendants David Stauche, Maxwell Isaac, Alvin Burdick, and “Guard Ray,” dkt. no. 57, and defendant Megan Keefer’s renewed motion for summary judgment, dkt. no. 133.

         I. Procedural Background

         In its June 4, 2015 order screening the plaintiff’s complaint, the court concluded that the plaintiff was making two kinds of constitutional claims. Dkt. No. 13 at 7. First, he appeared to be claiming that two Kenosha County Jail guards subjected him to excessive force, and were indifferent to his serious medical needs. Id. Second, it appeared that the plaintiff was alleging that other Kenosha County guards, as well as a nurse there, had been deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff’s serious medical needs. Id. at 8. The court allowed the plaintiff to proceed on those claims as to defendants Stauche, Isaac, Burdick and “Guard Ray,” all guards at the Kenosha County Jail (“the Kenosha defendants”). The court also allowed him to proceed on his claim against the nurse, Megan Keefer. Id.

         Defendant Keefer filed her original motion for summary judgment on December 14, 2015, before she had access to the plaintiff’s medical records. Dkt. No. 48. Keefer later obtained the plaintiff’s medical records, and filed a renewed motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 133. Consequently, the court denied the December 2015 motion without prejudice on February 21, 2017. Dkt. No. 151. In coming to its decision, the court has considered the documents supporting Keefer’s original motion for summary judgment, dkt. nos. 49-51, the plaintiff’s sworn response, dkt. no. 54, and Keefer’s original reply brief, dkt. no. 71. The court also has reviewed Keefer’s renewed motion, dkt. no. 133, the plaintiff’s response materials, dkt. nos. 139-144, and Keefer’s final reply brief, dkt. no. 147.

         The Kenosha defendants filed their motion for summary judgment, along with supporting documents and evidence, on January 4, 2016. Dkt. Nos. 57-70. In an order entered March 14, 2016, the court directed the plaintiff to respond to this motion on or before May 16, 2016. Dkt. No. 78. The court received the plaintiff’s response briefs, declarations, and proposed findings of fact on March 24, 2016. Dkt. Nos. 81-88. Several of these documents, including the plaintiff’s sixty-page brief, reference 28 U.S.C. §1746, which gives evidentiary weight to the factual assertions they contain. After requesting an extension of time, the Kenosha defendants filed reply materials on April 20, 2016. Dkt. Nos. 96-105. The plaintiff then submitted surreply materials, dkt. no. 110, which the court agreed in its January 9, 2017 order to consider when evaluating the motion for summary judgment, dkt. no. 148.

         II. RELEVANT FACTS[2]

         On August 18, 2014, the plaintiff was transferred from the Racine County Jail to the Kenosha County Jail (Jail) for a court appearance scheduled to take place on August 19, 2014. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶9. The next day, after his court appearance, the plaintiff was transferred back to the Racine County Jail. Dkt. No. 49 at ¶3. The events alleged in the complaint took place during those two days.

         A. Booking

         Defendant Dave Stauche participated in booking the plaintiff into the Jail on August 18, 2014. Stauche indicates that when the plaintiff arrived in booking, he had with him ACE bandages and compression socks, the kind of “medical equipment” that had to be approved before an inmate could keep it. Dkt. No. 61 ¶3. Stauche says that his “practice” was to contact the medical department to ask about the status of approval for such equipment; he says he informed the plaintiff that the plaintiff could not keep his ACE bandages and compression socks with him, because they had not been approved. Id. In contrast, the plaintiff says that Stauche never contacted the medical department, and that there was no policy requiring approval for such equipment. Dkt. No. 74 at 1. The plaintiff says that he chose to give up his knee wraps, because he did not want to spend the next twenty-four hours in a holding cell, which is what Stauche told him would happen if he did not give up the wraps. Dkt. No. 81 at 4.

         The defendants assert that inmates are “informed of the procedures to access medical care” at the time of booking. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶12. The plaintiff disputes that “at the time of booking,” inmates “are informed of the procedures to access medical care.” Dkt. No. 81 at 3. The defendants state that “[j]ail rules and procedures . . . are posted in every housing unit of the Jail.” Dkt. No. 68 at ¶12. The plaintiff contends that jail rules and procedures were not posted in his housing unit between July 2013 and August 2014. Dkt. No. 81 at 3.

         After booking, the plaintiff was housed in Medical Ward 2, Bunk 5. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶18.

         B. Transport to X-Block

         At approximately 2:05 p.m., defendant Isaac received a telephone call from Nurse Autumn in the Health Services Unit (HSU). Id. at ¶18. Autumn told Isaac that the plaintiff was not approved to have a wheelchair in the housing unit; she said that the plaintiff was permitted a wheelchair only for long distances. Id. The plaintiff disputes that Isaac got a phone call from a nurse, dkt. no. 81 at 4, but the defendants submitted (as an exhibit to the affidavit of Marc Levin, the detentions commander for the jail) a video that shows Isaac on the telephone, dkt. no. 70 at clip 14E5798, and an e-mail from Nurse Autumn indicates that she had talked to a nurse at the Racine County Jail and confirmed that the plaintiff only needed a wheelchair for long distances, dkt. no. 101-1.

         Isaac indicates that after the call, Isaac informed the plaintiff that he would have to give up his wheelchair because it was not permitted by HSU, but the plaintiff said he could not walk without it. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶19. The plaintiff refused to give up his wheelchair unless he could get his “wraps” back. Id. at ¶¶19-22. When the plaintiff continued to refuse, Isaac ordered the plaintiff “to pack his property for movement to X-Block.” Id. at ¶23. The plaintiff says he had no property to pack. Dkt. No. 81 at 5. The plaintiff also believes that Isaac made him give up his wheelchair in retaliation for the plaintiff’s persistent and consistent requests for his ACE bandages and bedding. Id. at 4.

         Isaac radioed for additional officers to help him transport the plaintiff to X-Block. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶24. The plaintiff says Isaac never used his radio and that he used his phone instead, dkt. no. 81 at 5, but the video shows Isaac using the radio attached to his shirt, then making a telephone call, dkt. no. 70 at clip 14E5798.

         Officers Stauche and Mottinger arrived to assist with the transport. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶24. Isaac placed handcuffs on the plaintiff, id. at ¶25; the plaintiff says they were so tight that they instantly caused pain to both his wrists. Dkt. No. 88, ¶25.

         According to the defendants, the plaintiff repeatedly attempted to impede progress by wrapping his feet around the bunks or by putting his feet on the ground in order to prevent the wheelchair from moving forward. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶¶26, 32-33. The defendants also aver that the plaintiff yelled disrespectful statements and made threats to officers during transport. Id. at ¶¶33-34.

         In contrast, the plaintiff says that Isaac pushed the wheelchair into two beds, a table, four doors and a door frame. Dkt. No. 88 at ¶26; dkt. no. 86 at ¶¶28-32, 34. He also says the wheelchair had no footrest and his legs were not strong enough to hold his feet up or wrap around anything. Dkt. No. 88 at ¶26. According to the plaintiff, Isaac rammed the plaintiff into numerous objects and injured the plaintiff, and tried to dump the plaintiff out of the wheelchair. Dkt. No. 86 at ¶39, dkt. no. 88 at ¶31.

         Although the video does not show the approximately one minute that the officers were in the medical ward getting the plaintiff into the wheelchair, various cameras follow the group’s progress through the hallways from the medical ward to X-Block. Dkt. No. 70 at clips 14E5802, 14E5804, 14E5807, 14E5811, 14E5813, 14E5816, 14E5818, 14E5821, 14E5824, 14E5827 and 14E5831. The video does not have sound, and consists of still images taken approximately every six seconds. In the video, the plaintiff sits passively in the wheelchair with his feet on the floor and his hands in his lap. There are no signs that the plaintiff was wrapping his feet around things. Nor are there any signs that the plaintiff was in distress. In contrast to the plaintiff’s claims that Isaac rammed him into beds and a table, the video clips show no beds or tables; nowhere on the clips does the wheelchair come into contact with anything other than the floor as it moves along.

         C. Transfer to Cell

         According to the defendants, once they were outside the “Zone 5 entrance to X-Block,” Isaac ordered the plaintiff to stand up and walk to the cell, but the plaintiff said that he could not walk without assistance. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶35. Isaac and Stauche assisted the plaintiff by holding him under his arms while he walked to the cell. Id. at ¶36. They got the plaintiff into his bunk without incident, and Officer Mottinger removed the handcuffs, while Isaac aimed his OC spray at the plaintiff due to the threats the plaintiff had made during transport. Id. at ¶¶37-38. The officers then left the cell, while the plaintiff continued to yell threats and disrespectful statements. Id. at ¶39.

         In the plaintiff’s version of events, he was not making threats, but asking and shouting for help. Dkt. No. 88 at ¶34. He says that Isaac never ordered the plaintiff to walk. Id. at ¶35. Instead, Isaac snatched the plaintiff out of the wheelchair, slammed the plaintiff into a wall and searched him. Id. The plaintiff says he was dragged down the hall, id., and that Isaac and Stauche had full control of his body, dkt. No. 81 at 6. Next, the plaintiff avers that Isaac threw the plaintiff to the floor and sat on him while pointing his OC spray at the plaintiff and calling him a bitch. Id.

         Clip number 14E5833 of the video shows the plaintiff in the hallway, hunched over but with his feet on the ground, and with one officer holding each of his arms. The video does not show anyone slamming the plaintiff into a wall, or dragging him down the hall; the wheelchair is parked in front of the door to the cell. The two officers went in the cell for approximately thirty seconds; during that time, they (and the plaintiff) were out of view of the video camera. A third officer stood at the door while the first two were inside with the plaintiff.

         None of the officers present-Isaac, Stauche or Mottinger-observed any injury to the plaintiff, or saw that he was in need of emergency medical care. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶43. They indicate that they would have directed the plaintiff to fill out an “Inmate Medical Request Form” if he had requested non-emergency care. Id. at ¶44. They stated that the plaintiff never requested medical attention or an inmate medical request form from Isaac, Stauche or Mottinger. Id. at ¶45.

         According to the plaintiff, the defendants did not observe his injuries because they didn’t want to. Dkt. No. 81 at 7. He states that they ignored his cries for medical help during the whole trip from the medical ward to the X-Block (although he says a different officer came from another zone in response to his cries). Dkt. No. 81 at 7. The plaintiff states that he did not know he needed to fill out a medical request form, because “he had just been assaulted by an officer and [was] bleeding [with] skin hanging from the cuts;” he assumed that this would have appeared to the officers to be a medical emergency. Id.

         D. Flooding

         Shortly after the officers left the plaintiff in his cell in X-block, the video shows water start to seep out from under the plaintiff’s cell door. Dkt. No. 70 at clip 14E5836. In contrast to the short clips that tracked the trip from the medical ward to the X-Block, this clip is forty-two minutes long. It is clear that the water was coming from only one cell-the plaintiff’s. The clip shows the water increase from a trickle to a flow, filling the hallway outside the cell and traveling away from the camera. The water passed three neighboring cells, moved into another section of the hallway, and eventually traveled as far as six cell doors down the hall.

         Approximately twenty minutes later, defendant Officer Alvin Burdick entered X-Block and noticed water coming from the plaintiff’s cell. Dkt. No. 68 at ¶46. The video shows Burdick approach the plaintiff’s cell, stand in the hallway and talk to the plaintiff for approximately thirty seconds. Dkt. No. 70 at clip 14E5836. He appears calm and, in the time-lapsed images, looks forward, turns his head to face the cell door, and then looks forward again before he leaves the frame.

         Burdick and the plaintiff describe this interaction very differently. According to Burdick, he asked the plaintiff why he was flooding his cell, and the plaintiff started yelling at Burdick, stating that he wanted a nurse and that “he should not be in there.” Dkt. No. 68 at ¶47. Burdick tried to explain to the plaintiff that flooding his cell would not get the nurse over to see him, and the plaintiff responded, “I don’t care bitch.” Id. at ¶48. Burdick asked another officer to retrieve the pipe chase key and turn the water off until maintenance could shut it off. Id. at ¶49. Burdick grabbed a couple of dirty sheets and blankets to put in front of the plaintiff’s door to try to stop the water from coming out. Id. at ¶51. The plaintiff called Burdick a “bitch” and began making threats, while Burdick ignored the plaintiff and monitored the inmate workers who were cleaning up the water. Id. at ¶¶52-55. Burdick indicates that he did not observe an emergency situation requiring emergency medical attention, and that the plaintiff never requested an inmate medical request form from Burdick. Id. at ¶¶56, 58. When Burdick asked the plaintiff about the nature of his alleged medical emergency, the plaintiff refused to respond to the question or explain why he needed emergency medical attention. Id. at ¶57. Instead, he continued to yell and make threats to Burdick. Id.

         The plaintiff alleges that when the plaintiffs in the X-Block saw Isaac sitting on the plaintiff, pointing the OC spray can at him and calling him names, they became so enraged that they started kicking and banging on their doors, trying to get the attention of other jail staff. Dkt. No. 1 at 5. He alleges that when the inmates couldn’t get staff attention that way, they “started flooding [their] cells.” Id. The plaintiff disputes Burdick’s assertion that Burdick saw water coming out of his cell. Dkt. No. 81 at 7.

         The plaintiff says that when Burdick asked him what was wrong, the plaintiff clearly and concisely told Burdick that he needed medical attention because an officer he did not know has just tried to break his legs and knee caps by pushing the plaintiff’s wheelchair into beds, a table, door frames, and a door. Id. at 8. The plaintiff reported that he had several long cuts and two punctures that were caused by the beds. Id. The plaintiff asked to have the wounds cleaned and the hanging skin removed; he also wanted a tetanus shot. Id. The plaintiff says Burdick responded by saying that “no one gives a fuck,” and told the plaintiff several minutes later, “I hope you die in that cell.” Id. at 8-9. The plaintiff avers that he did not make any threats to Burdick, and did not say “I don’t care bitch.” Id. at 8. The plaintiff says he was never excited and that he was calm and matter-of-fact at all times during two conversations with Burdick. Id. at 9.

         The video shows that the clean-up process was extensive. Various correctional officers came in and out of the area; some talked to the plaintiff through the door to his cell, others did not. Some talk to inmates in other cells through their doors; some do not. The clean-up efforts start with Burdick putting the sheets and blankets in front of the door; the fabric becomes soaked, and the sheets and blankets sink beneath the water to the floor. An officer (perhaps Burdick) then brings a squeegee with a long handle; after a few moments, he appears to realize that the squeegee is useless given the amount of water. Eventually, inmates in what appear to be black-and-white-striped prison garb appear, along with an officer who ...

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