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Walker v. Bonson

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

May 31, 2018

JEROME WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
TANYA BONSON and JOLINDA WATERMAN, Defendants.

          OPINION

          BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff Jerome Walker, who is incarcerated at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel, Wisconsin, is proceeding on claims that prison medical staff violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to provide him adequate medical care for his lower back pain. Before the court are the motions for summary judgment filed by plaintiff, dkt. #28, defendant Bonson, dkt. #50, and defendant Waterman, dkt. #41.

         For the reasons stated below, I am granting the motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Jolinda Waterman and denying the motions for summary judgment filed by plaintiff and defendant Tanya Bonson. Defendant Waterman will be dismissed. This case will proceed to trial on only one claim: that defendant Bonson took away the TENS unit plaintiff needed for his lower back pain and failed to return it for 69 days without consulting or examining him, even though she knew he was in pain.

         From the parties' proposed findings of fact, I find that the following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         UNDISPUTED FACTS

         A. Parties

         Plaintiff Jerome Walker has been an inmate at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel, Wisconsin since September 20, 2016. At all times relevant to this lawsuit, defendants were both employed at the institution.

         Defendant Tanya Bonson is an advanced nurse “prescriber” under contract with Maxim Physician Resources, Inc. and was assigned to the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility to serve as the primary care provider from May 31, 2016 to March 31, 2017. Bonson did not see plaintiff in person during her assignment at the institution.

         Defendant Jolinda Waterman is a nurse and the health services manager at the prison. As the health services manager, she is under the general supervision of the warden and is responsible for providing administrative support and direction to the unit. Waterman does not provide direct patient care, but a No. of nurses and support staff in the health services unit work with patients. She does not have the authority to require a health care provider to pursue a certain course of treatment. If an inmate receives a recommendation for care from an outside medical provider, the recommendation is not automatically implemented and must be reviewed by health services staff with the institution's security needs in mind.

         B. Plaintiff's Medical Treatment

         Plaintiff has chronic, axial low back pain for which surgical treatment is not an option. On July 31, 2015, an outside medical specialist recommended that plaintiff use a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit for his lower back pain “for lifetime, ” and the health services unit agreed to provide one to plaintiff. A TENS unit is a non-invasive, drug-free, small electronic device comprising a base unit and four electrode pads connected to the base unit by thin wires. When activated, the TENS unit sends stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin, producing a tingling or massaging sensation to reduce the sensation of pain. Although the TENS unit is an effective means of pain management for some users, it has the potential for misuse in the prison setting and can pose significant threats to security. For example, the base unit can be converted for use as a tattoo machine, or as a heating element in which the bare wires are utilized to conduct electrical currents for heating foods and beverages. (The parties dispute whether the TENS unit at the prison is always kept on the medication cart and available only during medication pass times. Plaintiff says that he was allowed to keep his TENS unit in his cell at all times.)

         If the pads on a TENS unit prescribed for an inmate become non-functioning, the inmate can request replacement pads by submitting a medication refill form to the health services unit. A nurse reviews the request and can send new pads to the inmate on the medication cart.

         On September 29, 2016, defendant Bonson entered an order referring and scheduling plaintiff for a neurosurgery consult for low back pain and moderate stenosis at an outside hospital. She noted that plaintiff had recently transferred into the prison and was going to miss an appointment for an epidural steroid injection at the pain clinic at his previous institution. Bonson ...


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