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Jones v. Beth

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

May 21, 2018


          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiff Nicholas A. Jones is an inmate confined at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF). He brings Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference and Wisconsin-law medical malpractice claims against defendant Beth Edge for mistreating his allergic reaction to protein powder, and deliberate indifference and First Amendment retaliation claims against defendant Joanne Govier for ignoring his complaints of psychological distress.

         Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment on these claims. After considering the parties' briefing on the motion and their disputes of fact over the events in question, I conclude that a reasonable jury could conclude that Edge acted with deliberate indifference or negligence when she initially refused to treat Jones's allergic reaction, and that Govier acted with deliberate indifference when she ignored Jones's complaints of psychological distress. However, I conclude that no reasonable jury could conclude that Edge deliberately prescribed Jones a lotion containing a known allergen or that Govier retaliated against Jones for exercising protected speech. Therefore, I will grant defendants' motion in part.


         The following facts are undisputed except where noted.

         On July 14, 2016, plaintiff Jones was an inmate at WSPF. That morning, he suffered an allergic reaction, likely caused by a protein powder he ingested. Jones sought treatment for his allergic reaction at the prison's Health Services Unit (HSU). The parties' versions of Jones's initial visit to the HSU differ substantially.

         Defendant Edge says that Jones, walking normally, presented to the HSU with a rash that was limited to his arms and neck. She says that before she could perform a medical assessment on Jones, he became belligerent toward her and refused treatment because he was concerned that he would be charged a copayment. She says that asked Jones to leave the HS U.She says that although she did not get the chance to perform an assessment on Jones, she observed during their argument that he had no shortness of breath, and when he left the HSU he was walking normally.

         Jones says that he arrived at the HSU in a wheelchair, with his face covered in a rash, difficulty breathing, and suffering from severe pain and blurred vision. Although he agrees he discussed a copayment with Edge, he says that he told her he was experiencing a medical emergency and therefore shouldn't be required to make a copayment. He denies becoming belligerent.

         Both parties agree that after Edge asked Jones to leave, he returned to his housing unit. Jones says that when he returned to his cell he began vomiting and eventually requested an EpiPen. This prompted the unit staff to contact the HSU, and Jones was soon returned to the HSU for treatment. During this second visit, Jones's allergic reaction was properly diagnosed, and he was prescribed Benadryl and Dermarest, a lotion containing hydrocortisone, as treatment.

         That evening, Jones applied the hydrocortisone lotion to his skin. Shortly thereafter, he began to experience symptoms of another allergic reaction. He was taken to the emergency room. The next morning, he visited the HSU and a nurse practitioner attributed his second allergic reaction to the hydrocortisone lotion.

         Two days later, Jones was working on a grievance against Edge when defendant Govier confiscated the grievance. She issued Jones a conduct report for unauthorized transfer of materials to another inmate, and he was disciplined with five days of cell confinement.

         Nine weeks later, on September 20, 2016, Govier refused to let Jones out his cell when he requested to visit the dayroom.[1] He says that she told him that he could not exit his cell because he had not scheduled time in the dayroom and because he was arguing with her. He says that he grew increasingly agitated and eventually requested to speak with the Psychological Services Unit. He says he began having troubling thoughts of self-harm, but that Govier told him that he was just seeking attention and that if he was really contemplating self-harm he would have already hurt himself. He says that she then began to ignore his calls on the emergency intercom and that he did not receive help until roughly 30 minutes later, from a different prison official, after Govier's shift had ended.


         To succeed on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “A genuine issue of material fact arises only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Brummett v. Sinclair Broad. Grp., Inc., 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2005). When considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must view all reasonable inferences from the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 338 (7th Cir. 1999). If the nonmoving party fails to establish the existence of an essential element on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment for the moving party is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         A. Claims ...

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