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Craig v. Klemmer

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 15, 2018

DARNIAL CRAIG, Plaintiff,
v.
TREVOR KLEMMER and DANIEL CUSHING, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Darnial Craig (“Craig”), a prisoner housed at Waupun Correctional Institution (“WCI”), brings this action against Defendants Trevor Klemmer (“Klemmer”) and Daniel Cushing (“Cushing”), correctional sergeants at WCI, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Craig claims that Klemmer used excessive force against him in violation of the Eighth Amendment during a September 24, 2016 incident at WCI and that Cushing failed to intervene to prevent Klemmer's use of excessive force. (Docket #1 at 8-9 and #8 at 7). Craig also asserts Wisconsin state law claims, based on the same incident, for battery and negligence. Id.

         The case now comes before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment, both of which have been fully briefed. (Docket #16-19 and #21-35). Craig moves for summary judgment on all of his claims against the defendants. (Docket #16-19). The defendants initially moved for summary judgment on all claims as well, see (Docket #21-28), but have since withdrawn their request for summary judgment as to Craig's Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Klemmer, see (Docket #32 at 1). The defendants concede that factual disputes preclude resolution of that claim at this stage of the case. Id.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to all claims except Craig's excessive force claim against Klemmer and will deny Craig's motion for summary judgment in its entirety. Craig's excessive force claim will proceed to trial at a date to be set by the Court in a separate order.

         2. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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). The court must not weigh the evidence presented or determine credibility of witnesses; the Seventh Circuit instructs that “we leave those tasks to factfinders.” Berry v. Chicago Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010). The party opposing summary judgment “need not match the movant witness for witness, nor persuade the court that [his] case is convincing, [he] need only come forward with appropriate evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of material fact.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 (7th Cir. 1994).

         3. RELEVANT FACTS

         During all times relevant to this suit, Craig was an inmate and Klemmer and Cushing were correctional sergeants at WCI in Waupun, Wisconsin. In the fall of 2016, Craig was on clinical observation status in the restrictive housing unit at WCI. According to Craig, he was mentally unstable. He was on a hunger strike, and was deemed to be dangerous to himself.

         On September 24, 2016, Craig requested medical attention due to exposure to an incapacitating agent that had been used on another inmate in a nearby cell. Klemmer and another officer escorted Craig to a shower cell so that Craig could be evaluated by nursing staff. Craig complains that the leg restraints used during this escort were too tight and that Klemmer pushed him into the shower cell.

         After Craig was seen by a nurse and medically cleared to return to his cell, Cushing directed Klemmer and another sergeant, Thomas Nelson (“Nelson”), to escort Craig back to his cell. Due to Craig's status at the time, his arms were to be restrained behind his back during the escort, his legs were to be restrained, and he was to be escorted by two officers, with each officer holding one of Craig's arms. Craig asked Cushing to have someone other than Klemmer conduct the escort. Craig claims that he informed Cushing that he was concerned for his safety because Klemmer had pushed him into the shower and Klemmer had a propensity to attack inmates while in restraints, but Cushing disputes that Craig provided those details. Cushing denied Craig's demand and sent Klemmer and Nelson to conduct the escort. Craig resisted, asking for a “white shirt” (a supervisor) when the sergeants arrived at the shower to take him back to his cell.

         The parties dispute what happened next. According to Craig, the sergeants forcefully dragged him out of the shower while he was in full restraints. Klemmer then began to propel Craig forward faster than he was reasonably able to walk in the tight leg restraints. Craig pleaded to slow down, but instead Klemmer slammed Craig face-first onto the concrete floor and slammed his face into the floor a second time by using his forearm and full body weight. Craig experienced excruciating pain and became “semi-conscious.” (Docket #34 at 11). He suffered a laceration to his chin that bled profusely, his eye was injured, and his blood pressure and heart rate dropped suddenly.

         The defendants tell the story differently. They contend that shortly after the escort back to his cell began, Craig turned his body and had to be told to face forward. Craig then responded by cursing at the officers, stating that he would not return to his cell, and physically resisting the escort by pushing his body backward. He then went limp by buckling his knees and refusing to walk. He intentionally used his body weight to pull the sergeants to the ground. The sergeants then held Craig down until other staff could respond, and Craig finally became compliant when other staff arrived and he was escorted to a strip cell.

         Here the parties' stories converge. They agree that a nurse went to the strip cell to evaluate Craig and determined that he would be sent to a hospital because he had low blood pressure, a low heart rate, he had been on a hunger strike for a month, and had sustained a laceration on his chin during the escort back to his cell. At the hospital, Craig was given two nylon sutures for the two-centimeter laceration on his chin. He was discharged the same day after his blood ...


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