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Cuesta v. Barker

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 20, 2018

TOMAS D. CUESTA, SR., Plaintiff,



         Tomas D. Cuesta, Sr., a state prisoner representing himself, brings this action alleging that Jamie Barker and Nicole Trevino violated his constitutional rights by denying him medical care and acting with deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Defendants move for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         At all times relevant to this case, plaintiff was an inmate at Stanley Correctional Institution (SCI). (Compl. ¶ 17; Dft. PFoF ¶ 1.) Barker was the Health Services Manager and Trevino was a Nurse Clinician II at SCI. (Dft. PFoF ¶¶ 2, 4.)

         Prior to being transferred to SCI, plaintiff was housed at Green Bay Correctional Institution. (Compl. ¶ 14.) While there, at some point, he suffered a back injury resulting in a week in the infirmary, a "Tylenol #3" prescription, and a low-bunk restriction. Id.

         When plaintiff arrived at SCI in 2012, his low-bunk restriction was terminated. (Compl. ¶ 15.) After he complained, the Health Service Unit (HSU) called him to be seen by a doctor. Id. While being seen by the doctor, plaintiff asked to see a specialist and also told the doctor that he could not "climb[] up and down [the] bunk bed without experiencing 'substantial difficult and discomfort.'" Id. The doctor recommended ice and ibuprofen and prescribed plaintiff a renewable low-bunk restriction. Id. Plaintiff was required to annually request the low-bunk restriction from his care provider. His requests were approved in 2013, 2014, and 2015. (Dft. PFoF ¶ 7.)

         At some point, plaintiff obtained a job with the maintenance staff, but he irritated his back injury while shoveling snow, which was one of his job duties. (Compl. ¶ 16.) While a nurse in the HSU was examining him, plaintiff requested to see a back therapist. Id. The nurse prescribed plaintiff ibuprofen, ice, and low back exercises. Id.

         In November 2015, Barker became the Health Services Manager, and that December he established a Special Needs Committee in accordance with Bureau of Health Services policy. (Dft. PFoF ¶ 8.) This committee-comprised of HSU personnel, security staff, and non-security staff-is responsible for making determinations on inmate requests for special accommodations after reviewing the inmates' medical history. (Dft. PFoF ¶ 9.)

         In October 2016, plaintiff submitted his annual request for a low-bunk restriction. (Dft. PFoF ¶ 10.) He, at some point later, was "sick" because of back pain, and Trevino treated him. (Compl. ¶ 17.) Trevino prescribed plaintiff medication and authorized a one-month extension of the low-bunk restriction, until the Special Needs Committee could meet to review plaintiff's request. (Compl. ¶ 17; Dft. PFoF ¶ 10.) Trevino was not a member of the committee. (Dft. PFoF ¶ 12.) When the committee met, it reviewed plaintiff's medical file, determined that he did not meet the criteria for a low-bunk restriction, and denied his request. (Compl. ¶ 18; Dft. PFoF ¶ 11.)

         After the denial, plaintiff asked Barker to schedule an appointment with a non-Department of Corrections (non-DOC) back specialist. (Compl. ¶ 18; Dft. PFoF ¶ 13.) According to Division of Adult Institutions (DAI) policy, if the requested non-DOC medical provider exam is not ordered by a DOC medical provider, the prisoner who wishes to be examined by a non-DOC medical provider must bear all related expenses including the security staff escort, transportation, treatment, and other associated costs. (Compl. ¶ 18; Dft. PFoF ¶ 14.) After reviewing plaintiffs file and not seeing a request by a DOC medical provider for a non-DOC provider exam, Barker informed plaintiff by memo of the policy and the steps plaintiff would need to take to complete his request. (Dft. PFoF ¶¶ 15-17.)

         Plaintiff submitted an inmate complaint asserting Barker failed to provide him with a non-DOC medical provider exam. (Dft. PFoF ¶ 18.) The complaint was dismissed based on the finding that plaintiff was not denied the ability to see an outside provider but was told how to complete his request. (Dft. PFoF ¶ 20.)


         Summary judgment shall be granted "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 also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Material facts" are those under the applicable substantive law that "might affect the outcome of the suit." See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute over a "material fact" is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

         Plaintiffs claims arise under the Eighth Amendment, which "safeguards the prisoner against a lack of medical care that 'may result in pain and suffering which no one suggests would serve any penological purpose.'" Arnett v. Webster,658 F.3d 742, 750 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Srv., 577 F.3d 816, 828 (7th Cir. 2009)). If prison officials are "deliberately indifferent to prisoners' serious medical needs, " they violate the Constitution. Id. (citing Estelle v. Gamble,429 U.S. 97, 105 (1976)). A plaintiff asserting an Eighth Amendment claim based on deficient medical care must show (1) an objectively serious medical condition and (2) an official's deliberate indifference to that condition. Id. ...

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