United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District
Terrence Shipp, who is currently representing himself, filed
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that
Defendant Sergeant Nathan Wolf violated his constitutional
rights through his deliberate indifference to Shipp's
threats of self-harm which resulted in Shipp cutting himself
with a razor. Currently before the court is Wolf's motion
for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion
will be granted, and the case will be dismissed.
was housed in Waupun Correctional Institution's
Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at all times relevant to this
case. Def.'s Proposed Findings of Fact (DPFOF)
¶¶ 1-3, ECF No. 31. Inmates housed in RHU are
limited to the type of property they may have in their
possession and may not have items that may threaten the
safety of inmates and staff, such as razor
blades. Id. ¶ 4.
claims that on March 17, 2017, Shipp told C.O. Dustin Eckberg
that he was having a hard time and was depressed because of
the St. Patrick's Day holiday. Id. ¶ 8.
After their conversation, Eckberg reported to Sergeant Wolf
that Shipp requested to see him, and Wolf arrived to
Shipp's cell shortly thereafter. Id. ¶ 10.
Wolf repeatedly asked Shipp why Shipp had requested to see
him, but Shipp merely smiled at Wolf and did not respond.
Id. ¶¶ 11-12. After receiving no response
from Shipp, Wolf left Shipp's cell-front and continued on
with his daily duties. Eckberg confirms that Shipp did not
respond to Wolf's repeated questions. Id.
disputes Wolf's version of events. He asserts that he
told C.O. Eckberg that he was having suicidal thoughts and
was going to cut himself. Pl.'s Proposed Findings of Fact
(PPFOF) ¶ 3, ECF No. 39. Once Wolf arrived to his cell,
Wolf asked, “What's up?” Shipp told him that
he was having suicidal thoughts and was going to cut himself
if he was not placed in clinical observation. Id.
¶ 8. Wolf responded that all of the talk of suicide was
“weird, ” told Shipp to sit down, and walked
away. Id. ¶¶ 9-10.
point following the interaction between Wolf and Shipp, Shipp
cut himself with a razor and then tried to conceal the razor.
DPFOF ¶¶ 16-17. Shipp does not dispute that he was
prohibited from having a razor in his cell or that he never
told either C.O. Eckberg or Sergeant Wolf that he possessed a
razor. Id. ¶¶ 9, 19, 21.
judgment is appropriate when the moving party shows that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). All reasonable inferences are construed
in favor of the nonmoving party. Foley v. City of
Lafayette, 359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004). The party
opposing the motion for summary judgment must “submit
evidentiary materials that set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Siegel, 612 F.3d at 937 (citations omitted).
“The nonmoving party must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Id. Summary judgment is properly
entered against a party “who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to the party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Parent v. Home Depot
U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. 2012)
(internal quotations omitted).
claim is predicated on the principle adopted by the Supreme
Court in Estelle v. Gamble that “deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners
constitutes the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.” 429 U.S.
97, 104 (1976). This principle derives from the fact that
“[a]n inmate must rely on prison authorities to treat
his medical needs; if the authorities fail to do so, those
needs will not be met.” Id. at 103; Farmer
v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994). Shipp's claim
differs from those at issue in Estelle and
Farmer, however, in that the threat to his safety
from which he claims Wolf failed to protect him was himself.
Shipp claims he suffers from a severe mental disorder that
relieves him of all responsibility for the self-destructive
behavior he engages in while serving his sentence and renders
those entrusted with his care responsible for any harm he
does to himself. This type of claim is common in prisoner
cases. See, e.g., Taylor v. Wausau Underwriters
Ins. Co., 423 F.Supp.2d 882 (E.D. Wis. 2006); Bowers
v. Pollard, 602 F.Supp.2d 977 (E.D. Wis. 2009);
Goodvine v. VandeWalle, No. 16-C-890, 2018 WL 460121
(E.D. Wis. Jan. 17, 2018). In this case, Shipp asserts Wolf
ignored his requests to be sent to observation, which led to
his harming himself.
establish deliberate indifference in a case where the risk to
an inmate's health and safety is a suicide, attempted
suicide, or other acts of self harm, the plaintiff must show
that the defendant “(1) subjectively knew the prisoner
was at substantial risk of committing suicide and (2)
intentionally disregarding that risk.” Collins v.
Seeman, 462 F.3d 757, 760 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing
Matos ex rel. Matos v. O'Sullivan, 335 F.3d 553,
557 (7th Cir. 2003)). In other words, “[a]n official
must be ‘aware of facts from which the inference could
be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists'
and the official ‘must also draw the
inference.'” Pittman ex rel. Hamilton v. Cty.
of Madison, III., 746 F.3d 766, 776 (7th Cir. 2014)
(quoting Higgins v. Corr. Med. Servs. of Ill., Inc.,
178 F.3d 508, 511 (7th Cir. 1999)). While prison staff are
under an obligation to protect inmates from self-harm,
Taylor v. Wausau Underwriters Ins. Co., 423
F.Supp.2d 882, 889 (E.D. Wis. 2006), “[a] risk of
future harm must be ‘sure or very likely' to give
rise to ‘sufficiently imminent dangers' before an
official can be liable for ignoring that risk.”
Davis-Clair v. Turck, 714 Fed.Appx. 605, 606 (7th
Cir. 2018) (quoting Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 50
(2008) (Roberts, C.J., plurality opinion)).
parties dispute whether Shipp told Wolf that he experienced
suicidal thoughts and planned to cut himself. Nevertheless,
even if Shipp did notify Wolf of his intent to commit
self-harm, Shipp has not established that Wolf recklessly
disregarded a significant risk of imminent harm or was aware
of facts from which he could infer that a substantial risk of
serious harm existed. The record reflects that Wolf did not
know that Shipp had a razor in his cell. Because inmates in
RSU are limited in the items they may possess in restrictive
housing, it is not unreasonable for an officer to believe
that the inmate did not possess contraband that would aid him
in self harm. It thus follows that it was not unreasonable
for Wolf to believe that no imminent risk of harm existed.
Shipp does not dispute that Wolf had no knowledge that he
possessed a razor. Instead, he maintains that he would have
told an officer that he had a razor if he had been asked,
though it is absurd to think that an inmate would confirm
that he has contraband if asked. There is no basis to infer
that Wolf knew Shipp had the means to harm himself or that
the risk of future harm was sure or very likely. See
Davis-Clair, 714 Fed.Appx. at 606. Absent a showing that
Wolf knew of an obvious risk that Shipp would cut himself