United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff La'Mont Walker, an inmate at the Wisconsin
Secure Program Facility (WSPF), brings Eighth Amendment
claims against Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC)
employees for their alleged failure to provide him an extra
mattress and other accommodations for his chronic back pain.
The parties have filed dueling motions for summary judgment,
and Walker has filed a motion for preliminary injunctive
relief. I will deny Walker's summary judgment
motion and grant defendants' summary judgment motion
regarding most of Walker's claims. But I will stay a
decision on portions of Walker's claim against defendant
Burton Cox and have the parties present supplemental briefing
on how Cox responded to Walker's back problem for certain
periods of Walker's incarceration. Also, I will deny
Walker's motion for preliminary injunctive relief.
following facts are drawn from the parties' summary
judgment materials, and are undisputed unless noted
plaintiff La'Mont Walker has been confined by the DOC at
WSPF from December 2010 to the present. Defendant Burton Cox
is a DOC physician who worked at WSPF from January 2003 until
July 2015. The remaining defendants are employees at WSPF and
were members of at least one of the “Special Needs
Committees” that reviewed Walker's requests for an
extra mattress. Defendant Sonya Anderson is a nurse,
defendant Jolinda Waterman is the nursing supervisor,
defendant Carrie Sutter is the financial program supervisor,
defendant Joni Shannon-Sharpe is a lieutenant, and defendant
Jerry Sweeney is the security director.
Walker's interactions with defendant Cox
suffers from chronic back pain. In 2011 and 2012 he complained
verbally to defendant Cox that the segregation mattresses
were giving him back pain and requested an extra mattress.
31, 2013, Walker submitted a health service request (HSR)
form, complaining of lower back pain “for quite some
time” due to the mattresses. Cox responded that the
Special Needs Committee decides extra mattress requests.
There is no indication that Cox referred Walker's request
to the Special Needs Committee. I discuss the Special Needs
Committee's policies and its decisions regarding
Walker's requests below.
8, 2014, Cox saw Walker for complaints of spine pain. Cox
assessed Walker with “chronic pain at the junction of
the thoracic and lumbar spine due to musculoskeletal
causes.” Cox ordered an x-ray, referred Walker to
physical therapy, and noted that he did not prescribe NSAIDS
(nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) because they upset
Walker's stomach. From July 8, 2014 to August 19, 2014,
Walker had five sessions of physical therapy. After the fifth
session, the therapist noted that Walker was rehabilitated to
his maximum potential and that no further progress was
expected from physical therapy.
August 27, 2014, Walker submitted an HSR form, complaining of
back pain. Cox responded that his back issue was not a
surgical problem, leaving physical therapy as the treatment
option. Cox also noted that medications were not of much use
and that Walker could not have a TENS (transcutaneous
electrical nerve stimulation) unit while in segregation,
because the units have batteries that can generate an
October 20, 2014, Cox saw Walker for a follow up regarding
his back pain. Cox noted that Walker's x-rays were
unremarkable, that Walker had five physical therapy visits
with no benefit, and that Walker could have a TENS unit when
he was back in general population. Cox did not order further
physical therapy for Walker.
November 23, 2014, Walker submitted an HSR form, complaining
of back pain and requesting an extra mattress. Cox referred
Walker's request to the Special Needs Committee. The
Special Needs Committee denied Walker's request on
January 22, 2015.
Walker's mattress request was pending before the Special
Needs Committee, he had several interactions with Cox. On
December 4 and 17, 2014, Walker submitted HSR forms, asking
for a TENS unit and an extra mattress. Cox responded that the
issue had already been addressed. On January 7, 2015, Walker
submitted an HSR form, stating that he had been discharged
from physical therapy and asking about additional sessions.
Cox responded that inmates get six initial sessions and the
physical therapist can add six more if they request it, but
that this wasn't warranted in Walker's case, due to
his lack of progress.
24, 2015, Walker submitted an HSR form, complaining of
chronic back pain and requesting a back brace and theraband.
Cox responded that he did not recommend back braces and that
therabands are usually ordered through physical therapy.
Walker again requested a theraband in an HSR form submitted
June 1, 2015, and Cox granted this request on June 5, 2015.
Cox left WSPF in July 2015.
Walker's requests to the Special Needs Committee
to filing his complaint, Walker's requests for an extra
mattress were referred to the Special Needs Committee
(“the committee”) three times.
practitioners do not directly order certain “special
needs” or “comfort” items for inmates at
WSPF. Instead, they refer the requests to the committee,
which has the authority to grant or deny the requests. Items
that must be requested include extra mattresses, extra
pillows, crutches, and disposable medical items, as well as
beard trimmers and non-standard shoes. The committee has
rotating membership but it usually consists of members such
as the segregation unit manager, nurses, unit ...