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Winston v. Quandt

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

October 17, 2017




         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff proceeds against Defendants in this action on a single claim-deliberate indifference to his risk of suicide, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. (Docket #9 at 5; Docket #20 at 1; Docket #26). All parties have filed motions for summary judgment. Defendant Erin Quandt (“Quandt”) filed her first motion on June 22, 2017 on procedural grounds, namely Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies, which is a prerequisite to this lawsuit. (Docket #52). On August 9, 2017, she filed a second motion directed at the substance of Plaintiff's claim. (Docket #101). Defendant Mario Dantzler (“Dantzler”) also filed a substantive motion on September 1, 2017. (Docket #120).[1]Plaintiff submitted his own motion on July 10, 2017, seeking judgment against both Defendants. (Docket #85). For the reasons explained below, Defendants' substantive motions must be granted, and this action must therefore be dismissed.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         3. ANALYSIS

         The Court will address each party's motions in separate sections. For clarity, the Court will also discuss the facts relevant to each motion within the appropriate section. All facts are drawn from the applicable factual briefing unless otherwise noted.

         3.1 Quandt's Motions

         The Court has considered Quandt's first motion on exhaustion of administrative remedies and, standing alone, would grant that motion. If the Court did so, it would be required to dismiss Plaintiff's claim against Quandt without prejudice. Ford v. Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 401 (7th Cir. 2004). As discussed below, Quandt's second, substantive motion must also be granted. This would warrant dismissal with prejudice. The Seventh Circuit holds that in this scenario, with the parties having a full opportunity to conduct discovery and litigate the claims presented, it is a far more efficient use of judicial and party resources to address the substantive summary judgment motion and dismiss the claim with prejudice. See Fluker v. County of Kankakee, 741 F.3d 787, 793-94 (7th Cir. 2013). The Court will do so here, addressing the merits of Quandt's second motion and denying the first motion as moot.

         3.1.1 Plaintiff's Failure to Dispute the Material Facts

         The facts relevant to Quandt's second motion are undisputed because Plaintiff failed to dispute them. In the Court's scheduling order, entered February 13, 2017, Plaintiff was warned about the requirements for opposing a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #13 at 3). Accompanying that order were copies of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Civil Local Rule 56, both of which describe in detail the form and contents of a proper summary judgment submission. In Quandt's motion for summary judgment, she too warned Plaintiff about the requirements for his response as set forth in Federal and Local Rules 56. (Docket #101). He was provided with additional copies of those Rules along with the motion. (Docket #101-1). In connection with her motion, Quandt filed a supporting statement of material facts that complied with the applicable procedural rules. (Docket #103). It contained short, numbered paragraphs concisely stating those facts which Quandt proposed to be beyond dispute, with supporting citations to the attached evidentiary materials. See id.

         In response, Plaintiff submitted a two-page brief on September 7, 2017. (Docket #127). The brief states that it is intended as his “reply to defendants Quandt motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 101-103).” Id. at 127. Plaintiff further states that he “hereby stands by his own motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 85-87). He believes that he can argue the facts or legal conclusions no further. Plaintiff believes that his reply brief in support of his own motion for summary judgment is sufficient as a response to either defendants motion for summary judgment.” Id. at 1-2. The brief makes no attempt to actually respond to Quandt's statements of fact. See generally id.

         Plaintiff's belief is incorrect. In addressing Quandt's motion, Plaintiff was obligated to submit a response to her statement of facts in accordance with the procedural rules which were provided to him more than once. Instead, Plaintiff ignored those rules by failing to properly dispute Quandt's proffered facts with citations to relevant, admissible evidence. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). This failing is particularly egregious in light of Plaintiff's demonstrated ability to submit an appropriate response to a statement of facts. See (Docket #71, #74, #83, #125, and #135). Though the Court is required to liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's filings, it cannot act as his lawyer, and it cannot delve through the record to find favorable evidence for him. Thus, the Court will, unless otherwise stated, deem Quandt's facts undisputed for purposes of deciding her second motion for summary judgment.[2] See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Civ. L. R. 56(b)(4); Hill v. Thalacker, 210 F. App'x 513, 515 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting that district courts have discretion to enforce procedural rules against pro se litigants).

         3.1.2 Relevant Facts

         At all times relevant, Plaintiff's primary place of incarceration has been Columbia Correctional Institution. On April 21, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to the Milwaukee County Jail (the “Jail”) so that he could appear in state court for proceedings in a criminal case. During that time, Quandt was employed as a “Psych Social Worker” (“PSW”) in the Jail. Prior to working at the Jail, Quandt obtained a master's degree in social work and certification as an advanced practice social worker. While at the Jail, Quandt received job training in the form of department meetings and shadowing more experienced PSWs. Quandt's duties as a PSW included addressing suicide crisis calls, wherein she would assess the distressed inmate and determine how best to handle their mental health issues. During her time at the Jail, Quandt would often handle three of these suicide crisis calls per day.

         On April 22, 2016, Plaintiff was placed on suicide watch. The next day, Quandt was called to Plaintiff's cell to handle an active suicide attempt. She had no previous interactions with Plaintiff. When she arrived at his cell, Quandt learned that Plaintiff had taken a string from his mattress and wrapped it around his neck. He was not actually suspended from the string at that point, but instead merely standing on his tip toes.

         Plaintiff told Quandt that if he was not taken to the special needs unit of the Jail, he would bang his head on the cell's sink. Quandt explained that the protocol for addressing that threat was to tie him to his bed using arm and leg restraints (known as “RIPP” restraints). Quandt was not actually authorized to order that an inmate be placed in RIPP restraints, but could recommend that based on her review of the situation. Her recommendation would be based on balancing the need to keep the inmate safe with the desire to impinge as little as possible on their civil liberties.

         In her professional judgment, Plaintiff's situation did not warrant RIPP restraints. She noted that Plaintiff had not, and did not, actually bang his head on the sink at any time. Further, Quandt knew that RIPP restraints may have caused more harm than good with respect to Plaintiff's mental health. Indeed, at the time of her evaluation, Quandt felt that RIPP restraints would have been unethical, given that Plaintiff was not actively attempting to harm himself. Finally, she believed that the restraints would have been an unwarranted infringement on Plaintiff's civil liberties. Quandt's decision was also influenced by information provided by security staff. They informed Quandt that Plaintiff's mattress would be replaced with a special suicide watch mattress, which would limit Plaintiff's ability to use the mattress for self-harming activities. When ...

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