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Jeffrey v. Kloth

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

October 19, 2017

KAREN KLOTH, et al., Defendants.



         Pro se plaintiff Jeffrey D. Leiser is proceeding in this lawsuit on Eighth Amendment claims against defendants Karen Kloth, Paula Stoudt, and Reed Richardson, related to Kloth's alleged harassment and Stoudt and Richardson's failure to protect him from harassment. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (dkt. 21), which I am denying, and Leiser filed a Motion to Strike (dkt. 38) which I also am denying. Also, the parties have two pending motions related to Leiser's discovery requests (dkts. 17-18), which I am denying in part. Finally, I am striking the upcoming trial date and scheduling this matter for a telephonic scheduling conference.


         I. Parties

         Leiser is a DOC inmate who was housed at the Stanley Correctional Institution at all times relevant to his claims in this lawsuit. During his time at Stanley, Leiser was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to a sexual assault when he was a child. One trigger for Leiser's PTSD is when someone stands directly behind him. According to Leiser, when his PTSD is triggered, he experiences flashbacks and becomes angry, starts sweating, knocks his head against the wall, yells and screams, and wants to attack or hurt the people who trigger his PTSD. (Leiser decl., dkt. 31, ¶ 18.)

         Defendant Karen Kloth was employed at Stanley as a sergeant during the relevant time period. Defendant Paula Stoudt was a Unit Manager at Stanley, and her responsibilities included supervising the security, treatment, and general living conditions of the inmates. Defendant Reed Richardson was the warden at Stanley during the relevant period, and he was responsible for the overall administration and operation there.

         II. Stanley's Psychological Services Unit (PSU) Approach to Inmate Diagnoses

         During the relevant time period, non-defendant Dr. Jesse Frey was the psychological supervisor at Stanley, and his responsibilities included overseeing inmate mental health treatment there. Dr. Frey explains that PSU staff do not inform security staff about inmates' clinical diagnoses. An exception to this general rule arises when an inmate needs a special accommodation to address an inmate-specific psychological condition. In such a case, psychological services staff informs unit security staff of the particular symptoms, behavioral or emotional responses of the inmate, and the special accommodations needed to address that inmate's issues. Dr. Frey states that:

It is my opinion, to a reasonable degree of clinical certainty based on my review of Leiser's clinical records and my interactions with him that Leiser did not need an accommodation directive precluding Stanley security staff from standing or moving behind him.

         (Frey May 9, 2017 Declaration, dkt. 27, ¶ 16.)

         III. Leiser's PTSD Diagnosis and Treatment by PSU

         Leiser worked consistently with PSU staff on a variety of psychological issues. During the relevant time period, Leiser's treating clinician was Nichole Kaeppler. It appears that she had her first session with Leiser on October 2, 2014, at which point she noted that Leiser made “mention of psychotherapeutic treatment as an adolescent while in foster care.” (Ex. 1005, dkt. 27-1, at 1.) According to Leiser, he told Kaeppler that he suffers from PTSD as a result of a childhood trauma in which he was knocked out while talking to a blond female. (Leiser decl., dkt. 31, ¶ 10.) Leiser also claims that during that session he told Kaeppler specifically that Kloth stands behind him to trigger his PTSD, but Kaeppler's notes do not include that detail.

         On December 18, 2014, Kaeppler noted that Leiser told her more about his childhood trauma, this time revealing that the trauma included sexual assault. Leiser also told her that he related the trauma to his refusal to trust others as well as his discomfort having people stand behind him. (Ex. 1005, dkt. 27-1, at 4.) At that point, Kaeppler made a plan to clinically monitor him to rule out PTSD. On January 8, 2015, Kaeppler met with Leiser again; she noted that Leiser did not want to discuss his childhood sexual abuse and again, and noted her plan to monitor him to rule out PTSD. On February 5, 2015, Kaeppler noted that Leiser talked more about his childhood sexual assault. Kaeppler also noted that the themes he presented seemed “to root from symptoms of PTSD.” (Id. at 7.) As such, she ordered a follow up in three weeks, and planned with consult with Dr. Frey about Leiser's symptoms to determine if an official PTSD diagnosis was appropriate. She also ordered that Leiser receive PTSD workbook materials. They met again on March 12, 2015, but the focus of that session was Leiser's loss of a friend.

         On March 30, 2015, Kaeppler met with Leiser, and they again discussed his fear of having people stand behind him. She noted that Leiser specifically said that his anxiety spiked when he was waiting in line for medications in the Health Services Unit (HSU). Kaeppler noted that she planned to assign him a PTSD diagnosis after consulting with Dr. Frey, and Dr. Frey signed that treatment note on April 13, 2015.

         Kaeppler and Dr. Frey continued to see Leiser. At times, the treatment notes indicate that Leiser reported that he was having problems with unit staff standing behind him, but the notes did not indicate that Leiser specifically reported that Kloth was harassing him or deliberately triggering his PTSD. (See dkts. 31-2, 31-7, 31-8.) Neither Dr. Frey nor Kaeppler initiated a treatment plan that would accommodate Leiser's needs related to his PTSD. Additionally, neither Kaeppler, nor anyone else from Stanley's PSU informed Stanley's other employees of Leiser's PTSD diagnosis or that his PTSD was triggered when people stood behind him. Dr. Frey explains that PSU did not create or implement an accommodation prohibiting Stanley staff from standing behind him because (1) psychological staff focus on internal, not external, changes, and (2) Stanley is too closely populated to ensure that no one would stand behind Leiser, so any such accommodation could not be implemented.

         Leiser does not dispute that there was no official accommodation for him at Stanley. Instead, he contends that he told his psychiatrist, Dr. Luxford, about the problem he had waiting for his medications, and that afterwards, Dr. Luxford arranged for Leiser to receive his medications inside the HSU rather than waiting in line. (Leiser decl., dkt. 31, ¶ 19.)

         IV. Sergeant Kloth

         At some point in 2014 and 2015, Leiser was housed in the unit where Kloth was sergeant. The parties dispute whether Leiser told Kloth that he suffered from PTSD and that his PTSD was triggered when someone stands directly behind him. Leiser submitted his own declaration, stating that when he told Kloth about his PTSD, Kloth responded that she can stand where she wants and he would have to learn to deal with it. (Leiser decl., dkt. 31, ¶ 10.) Beyond his declaration, Leiser submits declarations from three other inmates, recounting what they saw when Kloth and Leiser interacted. Specifically, Leiser's brother, Loren Leiser (Loren), states that he (Loren) told Kloth that she should not stand behind Leiser because it would trigger his PTSD, warning her that it would be her fault if Leiser “snapped on her” and hurt her. (Loren Leiser decl, dkt. 37, ¶¶ 16-18.) Loren also states that he saw Leiser tell Kloth not to stand behind him as well. (Id. ¶ 19.) Loren describes what happens to Leiser when his PTSD is triggered, explaining that he has two levels of PTSD: “level-one” involves fidgeting, sweating, and/or darting eye movements, sometimes causing him to yell and walk away; “level-two” involves level-one symptoms, plus shaky hands, twitchy leg movements, and increased heart rate. (Id. ¶ 15.) While Loren states that he warned Kloth that he might “snap on her, ” Loren does not state that Kloth saw Leiser experience these symptoms when Leiser interacted with her.

         Two other inmates, Robert Sekola and Terry Gorichs, state that they saw Leiser tell Kloth not to stand behind him in the cafeteria but she responded that she would stand where she wanted and thereafter continued to stand behind him. (Gorichs decl., dkt. 35, ¶¶ 2-3; Sekola decl., dkt. 36.) Sekola also states that when he saw Kloth stand behind Leiser, Leiser got angry and started shaking and sweating. (Sekola decl, dkt. 36 ¶ 4.) Gorichs also explained that he was Leiser's cellmate, and that he saw Leiser respond to Kloth standing behind him by dumping his tray and going back to his cell, where he would be shaking, sweating, and talking to himself, saying things like “She is not worth it” and “don't hurt her, ...

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