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Penhallegon v. Nett

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

August 31, 2017

JAMES A. PENHALLEGON, Plaintiff,
v.
GUY NETT, SIR FINNIE, and RICHARD KUGLER, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. NO. 27)

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when the defendants failed to protect him from an attack by his cellmate. Dkt. No. 1. On November 21, 2016, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 27. For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant in part and deny in part the defendants' motion.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS[1]

         The plaintiff is an inmate in the Wisconsin prison system. Dkt. No. 29 at 1. During the relevant times, he was incarcerated at the Kenosha Correctional Center. Id. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) employed defendant Sir Finnie as the Food Services Supervisor at Kenosha. Id. at ¶4. The DOC employed defendants Guy Nett and Richard Kugler as Correctional Sergeants at that facility. Id. at ¶7, 10.

         Finnie was responsible for the overall functioning of Kenosha's food services, including supervising kitchen and food production staff, overseeing the ordering and supply of food service items, and managing Kenosha's meal menu. Id. at ¶5. Nett's and Kugler's duties included monitoring the various housing units and main lobby, as well as supervising inmates. Id. at ¶8, 11. One of Nett's assigned job duties was overseeing inmate room changes; any sergeant, however, was authorized to make an inmate room change. Id. at ¶9.

         Sometime prior to the altercation between the plaintiff and his cellmate John Dawley, the plaintiff asked Finnie if he could room with inmate Timothy Lawton. Id. at ¶13. The plaintiff and Lawton worked in the kitchen under Finnie's supervision. Id. Finnie understood that the two were friends. Id. Finnie asserts that the plaintiff never told him that he believed he was in danger from Dawley; the plaintiff asserts that he told Finnie that he believed he and Dawley would end up in a violent conflict if they weren't separated. Id. at ¶16.; Dkt. No. 41 at ¶1, 2.

         Because Finnie did not have the authority to assign rooms or cellmates, Finnie sent an email to Kevin Madden, asking that the plaintiff and Lawton be allowed to room together. Dkt. No. 29 at ¶14, 17. Finnie's email makes no mention of any threat posed by Dawley to the plaintiff. Dkt. No. 30-2. Madden told Finnie to contact Nett about cell assignments, so Finnie emailed the request to Nett. Dkt. No. 29 at ¶15. Finnie's email to Nett also makes no mention of any threat posed by Dawley to the plaintiff. Dkt. No. 30-3.

         The plaintiff spoke to Nett about a room change, and Nett told the plaintiff to fill out an interview/information request. Dkt. No. 29 at ¶19. The plaintiff asserts that he spoke to Nett about his concerns, and he sent several written requests to Nett[2] explaining that he and Dawley were not getting along and that he believed Dawley was going to get violent with him. Dkt. No. 41 at ¶3, 4. The plaintiff states that Nett did not respond to his requests. Id. at 3.

         Nett asserts that he received only one interview/information request[3]about two weeks before the altercation between the plaintiff and Dawley, and states that the request did not indicate that the plaintiff believed he was in danger. Dkt. No. 29 at ¶21. Nett indicates that he did not grant the plaintiff's request for a room change because the request did not provide information necessitating a change. Id. at ¶24.

         After denying the plaintiff's request, Nett received Finnie's email asking that the plaintiff be allowed to room with Lawton. Id. Nett believed that the plaintiff was trying to circumvent security staff decisions by making the request through Finnie. Id. at ¶25. Because the email contained no reason necessitating the change, Nett again denied the request. Id.

         The plaintiff asserts that, in addition to Nett and Finnie, he also spoke to Kugler on several occasions about wanting to change rooms because he and Dawley were not getting along. Dkt. No. 41 at ¶5. Kugler does not dispute that the plaintiff asked to change rooms; Kugler asserts, however, that the plaintiff never told him that he felt like he was in danger from Dawley. Dkt. No. 29 at ¶27. Kugler states that in response to the plaintiff's requests, Kugler often offered the plaintiff the option of changing cells based on which inmates were being released that week. Id. at ¶30. Kugler states that the plaintiff always declined to move to the available cells. Id. The plaintiff disputes that Kugler ever offered him the option to move to a different cell. Dkt. No. 41 at ¶7.

         On April 12, 2015, the plaintiff and Dawley were in an altercation. Dkt. No. 29 at ¶35. The plaintiff maintained (in his opposition brief) that Dawley hit him from behind. Dkt. No. 38 at 2. Both inmates were written a conduct report charging them with assault. Dkt. No. 29 at ¶35. The inmates provided different accounts about who was the initial aggressor, but the physical evidence showed that the plaintiff had a cut on his forehead and that Dawley's shirt was soaked in blood. Id. at ¶36.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Summary ...


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