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Brown v. Felten

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

August 4, 2017

CALVIN BROWN, Plaintiff,


          HON. PAMELA PEPPER, United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendants violated his constitutional rights. On November 10, 2015, the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed on his claims that the defendants demonstrated deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Dkt. No. 7. On August 16, 2016, defendant Donald Stonefeld filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 40. The next day, defendant Beverly Felten filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 43. This decision resolves those motions.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS[1]

         A. Parties

         The plaintiff is a Wisconsin state prisoner who was formerly incarcerated at the Milwaukee County Jail (“Jail”) and the Milwaukee County House of Correction (“HOC”). Dkt. No. 70 at 24 ¶1.

         Defendant Beverly Felton is a registered nurse, an advanced practice nurse practitioner (APNP), a clinical specialist in gerontological nursing, and holds a PhD in nursing. Id. at 24-25 ¶3. From 2007 through 2013, Felten worked as a psychiatric APNP for the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department and provided psychiatric services to inmates housed at the Jail and the HOC. Id. at 25 ¶4. Her duties at the Jail included assessing inmates' health care needs, including evaluating whether an inmate exhibited mental illness and a need for psychotropic medication, and prescribing psychotropic medication, if necessary and appropriate. Id. at ¶5.

         Defendant Donald Felten is a state licensed physician specializing in the field of psychiatry who previously provided psychiatric services to inmates housed in the Jail and the HOC. Dkt. No. 62 at 7 ¶17. Stonefeld's duties included providing psychiatric consultation to inmates referred by a physician, psychologist, or nurse practitioner to evaluate whether the subject exhibited severe mental illness and a need for psychotropic medication, as well as prescribing psychotropic medication if necessary and appropriate. Id. at ¶18.

         B. The Plaintiff's Interactions with the Defendants

         The plaintiff was admitted to the Jail on November 2, 2009. Dkt. No. 70 at 29 ¶14. At the time he was admitted, he was prescribed Levothyroxine for his thyroid and Ranitidine for his acid reflux. Id. at ¶15.

         On November 4, 2009, a social worker at the Jail (who is not named as a defendant) conducted a mental health exam of the plaintiff. Id. at ¶16. The plaintiff responded affirmatively to the social worker's inquiry about whether the plaintiff was willing to receive help and possibly medication for his being sad about being back in Jail. Id. at 30 ¶18. The social worker referred the plaintiff to “Pych MD” for a medical evaluation. Id. at 31 ¶19.

         On November 5, 2009, the plaintiff told a nurse practitioner (who is not named as a defendant) that he was depressed and needed help. Id. at ¶21. That same day, someone (it is unclear who) prescribed the plaintiff 150 milligram tablets of Ranitidine. Id. at 32 ¶22. Ranitidine is used to treat and prevent ulcers; it also treats conditions in which the stomach produces too much acid, and it treats gastroesophageal reflux disease and other conditions in which acid backs up from the stomach into the esophagus, causing heartburn. See

         On November 8, 2009, Jail medical personnel discontinued the plaintiff's prescription for Ranitidine because the plaintiff's fiancé brought his prescription to the Jail. Dkt. No. 70 at 32 ¶23. When his personal prescription ran out later that month, the Jail personnel re-prescribed Ranitidine through May 11, 2010. Id. at ¶23.[2]

         In December 2009, the plaintiff was transferred from the Jail to the House of Correction. Dkt. No. 62 at 7 ¶7.

         On December 28, 2009, Felten examined the plaintiff. Dkt. No. 70 at 32 ¶24. During the examination, the plaintiff told Felten that he felt like hurting people when they get in his face and that he had previously tried to commit suicide two times by cutting himself. Id. Felten states that the plaintiff also said that he heard voices, including the voices of his dead mother and the devil and that he felt like breaking people's necks or poking their eyes out. Id. at 33 ¶25. Felten asserts that the plaintiff also displayed jerking movements. Id. The plaintiff states that he told Felten that he recalled things that his mother used to say to him and that he had cut his arm when he was nineteen or twenty but that he would not ever do that again. Id. Based on her conversation with the plaintiff, Felten concluded that the plaintiff demonstrated “active thoughts of hurting others with viable plans.” Id. at 34 ¶26. She then called for assistance and ordered the plaintiff into psychiatric custody. Id. at ¶27.

         Felten states that the plaintiff resisted being moved into psychiatric custody and began to bang his head. Id. at 34-35 ¶28. The plaintiff asserts that he did not resist or bang his head; he states that he was handcuffed, surrounded and restrained by correctional officers at the time. Id.

         Felten ordered that the plaintiff receive a two-milligram injection of Ativan, an antianxiety medication, and that he be placed on homicide watch with a “razor restriction.” Id. at 35 ¶29. She also prescribed the plaintiff a one-milligram dose of Risperidone, an antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and a daily fifty-milligram dose of Sertraline, an inhibitor used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders. Id. at 36 ¶30. Felten did not have any further involvement with the plaintiff after December 28, 2009. Id. at ¶32.

         Stonefeld examined the plaintiff the next day, December 29, 2009. Dkt. No. 62 at 8 ¶16. During that examination, Stonefeld determined that the plaintiff was calm and rational and “just wanted someone to talk to.” Id. at 9 ¶19. Stonefeld concluded that the plaintiff posed no pending danger to himself or others and should be released from psychiatric custody to general population. Id. at ¶20. Stonefeld continued the medications prescribed by Felten, and his assessment report indicates that he discussed the medications and their potential side effects with the plaintiff; the plaintiff disputes that such a conversation occurred. Id. at ¶21.

         On December 31, 2009, the plaintiff's Risperidone prescription was increased to a daily dose of two milligrams (it is unclear who ordered this increase). Id. at ¶14. On January 7, 2010, the plaintiff's Sertraline prescription was increased to one hundred milligrams (again, it is unclear who ordered this increase). Id. at 10 ¶26.

         On March 24, 2010, Stonefeld met with the plaintiff for a second and final time. Id. at ¶32. The plaintiff complained that he was experiencing side effects commonly associated with Risperidone, including involuntary spasms in his back, chest, arms, and legs. Id. at ΒΆ31. In response to those ...

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