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Jackson v. Corrao

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 9, 2018

DEBRADRE D. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DOMINIC CORRAO, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. NO. 19) AND DISMISSING CASE.

          HON AMELA PEPPER United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, a Wisconsin state prisoner who is representing himself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendant violated his civil rights at the Racine Correctional Institution (“RCI”). Dkt. No. 1. The court screened the complaint, and allowed the plaintiff to proceed with an Eighth Amendment claim that Dominic Corrao showed deliberate indifference toward his serious medical needs following a seizure. Dkt. No. 7. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, dkt. no. 19, which is fully briefed. The court will grant the motion, and dismiss the case.

         I. THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Facts[1]

         The plaintiff is an inmate at RCI, dkt. no. 32 at ¶1, where the defendant is a correctional sergeant, id. at ¶3.

         On October 2, 2016, around 7:10 p.m., one of the correctional officers at RCI, Officer Sairs, saw the plaintiff's cellmate (whose name was Cunningham) run out of their cell, saying “[m]y cellmate is having a seizure.” Id. at ¶¶4-5. Sairs was about three doors away. Id. at ¶5. Sairs went to the plaintiff's cell, and saw him lying on the floor, “having what appeared to be a seizure.” Id. at ¶7. He radioed the defendant, who was the second shift sergeant, and the security staff at the control center, asking for help. Id. at ¶8. He then went into the plaintiff's cell. Id. at ¶9.

         The parties agree that Sairs appropriately responded to the plaintiff's medical condition after entering his cell. Dkt. No. 31 at ¶2; Dkt. No. 32 at ¶¶17-19. He placed his hands between the plaintiff's head and the wall to prevent the plaintiff from hitting his head, and rolled up a bed sheet to put between the plaintiff's head and the wall. Dkt. No. 32 at ¶17. Some fifteen seconds later, Officer Walker arrived and helped Sairs to stabilize the plaintiff. Id. at ¶18; Dkt. No. 31 at ¶3. A minute or so after the plaintiff's seizure started, it stopped, and the plaintiff lay on the floor “motionless for about two minutes just breathing.” Dkt. No. 32 at ¶19; see also Dkt. No. 31 at ¶4. At this point, Walker left the cell. Dkt. No. 32 at ¶20; Dkt. No. 31 at ¶5.

         The parties dispute what happened next. The defendant says that when he received Sairs's radio contact, he notified the control staff center, asked for extra support and then went to the plaintiff's cell; he does not say where he was when he did this. Dkt. No. 32 at ¶10. The defendant says that Walker left the plaintiff's cell when the defendant arrived. Id. at ¶20. He maintains that when he reached the cell, he saw the plaintiff on the floor, beginning to “regain consciousness.” Id. at ¶21.

         The defendant explains that he and Sairs had radios with them, and could contact the control center and the supervisors while going to wherever assistance was needed. Id. at ¶13. He asserts, however, that “contact with the Health Services Unit staff is done by telephone, which is located within the security control center;” he does not explain why. Id. at ¶14. He says that it is the responsibility of the control center staff to contact the security supervisor on duty and Health Services Unit (“HSU”) staff. Id. The defendant admits that neither he nor Sairs “personally” contact HSU about the plaintiff's situation. Id. at ¶12. He says that for him (or Sairs) to contact HSU personally, they would “have had to go to the control center and make the phone call, which would take time away from assisting [the plaintiff.]” Id. at 15. The defendant asserts that “it was more efficient for Sairs and [the defendant] to contact the control center because the control center staff had immediate access to the telephone to call the Health Services Unit.” Id. at 16.

         The plaintiff says that the defendant did not go directly to the plaintiff's cell when he received Sairs's radio notification; he maintains that the defendant “had to stay at the Officer's station until Officer Walker came to relieve him.” Dkt. No. 27 at ¶10. The plaintiff disputes that it was the responsibility of the Central Control Center staff to contact the Health Services Unit. Id. at ¶14. The plaintiff maintains that neither the defendant nor Sairs was required to go to the Control Center to call HSU; he says there was a phone at the Officer Station, which is where he argues the defendant was during the time he was having the seizure. Id. at ¶15. The plaintiff claims that the defendant had “immediate access to a telephone at the” officer's station “as [the defendant] waited to be relieved by Officer Walker.” Id. at ¶16. He asserts that Walker did not leave the plaintiff's cell when the defendant arrived; he says instead that Walker left the cell to go relieve the defendant from the officer's station. Id. at ¶20.

         The parties agree that when the defendant arrived at the plaintiff's cell, the plaintiff was regaining consciousness. Dkt. No. 32 at ¶21. They agree that the defendant and Sairs started asking the plaintiff questions-his name, his corrections number, his date of birth, whether he knew where he was. Id. at ¶22. The defendant says that that the plaintiff responded with statements like “I know my name!, ” and “Why do you want to know my name?” and “I am not in prison.” Id. The plaintiff disputes that this is how he answered those questions. Dkt. No. 27 at 22. The defendant also says that when the plaintiff saw the badges on Sairs's and the defendant's uniforms, he “exclaimed ‘Oh! You the Po Po' (meaning police) and stuck his hands up in the air.” Dkt. No. 32 at ¶23. The plaintiff responds that he does not recall any remarks he made, or whether he made any at all. Dkt. No. 27 at ¶23. The parties agree that during the questioning, the plaintiff tried to get up and move around, but that the defendant and Sairs told him to “sit or lie down and try to remain relaxed.” Dkt. No. 32 at ¶24.

         The defendant asserts that the plaintiff's “symptoms were atypical of a normal seizure because of his active attempts to stand, his lack of exhaustion, his ability to respond, and his coherence within such short time frame after the supposed seizure.” Id. at ¶25. He says he believed that, rather than suffering from a seizure, the plaintiff “was high on an illegal substance.” Id. at ¶26. He says that because of this suspicion, he started looking around the plaintiff's cell “for a possible cause of” the plaintiff's “symptoms.” Id. at ¶27. The defendant asserts that “[t]here had been other incidents at [RCI] where inmates had been experiencing seizure like symptoms due to the use of contraband substance known as K2, which is a synthetic form of cannabis.” Id. at ¶28. While looking around the plaintiff's cell, the defendant “notice a green leafy substance and a freshly used homemade pipe made of rolled paper and a charred tin foil cap located on an inmate desk within six inches of [the plaintiff's] identification tag.” Id. at ¶29. (It is undisputed that Sairs observed the pipe and the substance. Id. at ¶30.)

         The plaintiff asserts that officers such as the defendant were not “permitted” to determine his medical care, and that after an emergency, his medical care should have been determined by a “qualified Health Professional.” Dkt. No. 27 at ¶25. He asserts that the defendant was not qualified to make decisions about what was causing the plaintiff's symptoms. Id. at ¶26. The plaintiff doesn't dispute the other incidents at RCI involving K2, but asserts that if somehow his incident had involved K2, the defendant “knew of the dangers of K2 and it could kill a person.” Id. at ¶28.

         Other prison staff arrived at the plaintiff's cell around 7:17 p.m. (about seven minutes after the plaintiff's cellmate came out of the cell), dkt. no. 32 at ¶32, and while they helped the plaintiff up and prepared him for removal from the cell, the defendant took the items he'd observed on the desk and went back to the officer's station, id. at ¶33. (The plaintiff does not dispute this, but points to the fact that the defendant said that he went back to the officer's station, which the plaintiff indicates shows where the defendant was when he was notified that the plaintiff was having seizure-like symptoms. Dkt. No. 27 at ¶33.) After the defendant arrived at the officer's station, he says that Lieutenant Jones called him; the defendant told Jones what he'd found in the plaintiff's cell. Dkt. No. 32 at ¶34. According to the defendant, Jones said that he was “reporting to the unit to place [the plaintiff] in Temporary Lock-up status.” Id. at ¶35. The plaintiff was taken to the restrictive housing unit for placement in temporary lockup, “pending investigation into the substance found in [the plaintiff's] cell, based on the directives of Lieutenant Jones.” Id. at ¶36.

         The parties agree that while staff members were escorting the plaintiff to the restrictive housing unit, he needed help getting down the stairs “because he did not seem to be able to do it on his own and seemed to be stumbling down the stairs . . . .” Id. at ¶37. The defendant, however, asserts that the plaintiff was “giggling” during the trip down the stairs, id., while the plaintiff asserts that he was not giggling, but “moaning in pain, ” dkt. no. 27 at ¶37. It is undisputed that it was Sairs's opinion that the plaintiff “seemed to be high on K2.” Dkt. No. 32 at ¶30. It is also undisputed that Jones joined the escort, that he questioned the plaintiff about “the incident” and that the plaintiff “informed” Jones that “the substance was K2 and [the plaintiff] admitted to smoking it.” Id. at ¶¶39-40.

         The defendant drafted a conduct report on the incident, dkt. no. 24-1, but had no further involvement after that point. Id. at ¶¶ 41-42. The defendant was not assigned to the Restrictive Housing Unit, and it is undisputed that he had no “knowledge or authority as to the actions that took place after [the plaintiff] was escorted there.” Id. at ¶43. According to the “supervisor comments” on the conduct report, dkt. no. 24-3 at 2, the plaintiff “refused ...


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