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Smith v. Boughton

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

June 14, 2018

ADREAN L. SMITH, Plaintiff,



         Pro se plaintiff and prisoner Adrean Smith is proceeding on claims that defendants Gary Boughton, Mark Kartman, Larry Primmer, Daniel Leffler, Heidi Boyler and Zachary Berger violated his constitutional rights by depriving him of a regular mattress for 40 days. On February 8, 2018, I granted defendants' motion for partial summary judgment with respect to plaintiff's due process claim. Dkt. #32. Now before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's remaining Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims. Dkt. #36. Plaintiff has not filed a brief in opposition to the motion or responded to defendants' proposed findings of fact.

         After reviewing the undisputed evidence and defendants' arguments, I conclude that there is not sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in plaintiff's favor on his Eighth Amendment claims. Therefore, I am granting defendants' motion for summary judgment and closing this case.

         From defendants' proposed findings of fact and the undisputed facts in the February 2018 order, which I incorporate by reference, I find the following facts to be material and undisputed.


         At all times relevant to this case, plaintiff was incarcerated at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel, Wisconsin, where all the defendants worked. Defendant Gary Boughton was the warden, defendant Mark Kartman was the security director, defendant Daniel Leffler was a supervising officer, defendants Heidi Bloyer and Zachary Berger were correctional sergeants and defendant Larry Primmer was a captain assigned as the temporary unit supervisor of the Foxtrot unit where plaintiff was housed.

         On March 11, 2016, plaintiff was subjected to a random cell search during which it was discovered that he had a damaged mattress. Plaintiff was issued a conduct report. Defendant Leffler reviewed the conduct report and he and defendant Kartman placed plaintiff on a 10-day high-security mattress restriction. A high-security mattress is 3/4-inch thick and made of rubber, whereas a regular mattress is four inches thick and made of foam with a vinyl cover.

         The security mattress was not taken away at the end of the 10-day restriction period. (It is not clear whose responsibility it was to remove the mattress.) Neither defendant Bloyer nor defendant Berger recalls plaintiff ever complaining to them that his 10-day mattress restriction had ended. However, defendant Primmer remembers that sometime after the mattress restriction expired, plaintiff told him that he still had a high-security mattress and wanted his regular mattress back. Primmer asked plaintiff why he did not raise the issue earlier but plaintiff did not give him a response. As part of his duties, Primmer made daily rounds on the unit, so plaintiff had opportunities to speak with him about the mattress. Primmer advised staff on his unit to replace plaintiff's high-security mattress with a regular mattress, but he does not recall which staff members he specifically advised. After Primmer told staff to change the mattress, he did not hear anything about plaintiff's mattress again until around April 21, 2016, when Institution Complaint Examiner William Brown contacted Primmer for a response to an inmate complaint that plaintiff filed on March 27, 2016. Primmer had assumed that staff had followed his orders and provided plaintiff a regular mattress.

         Brown investigated plaintiff's complaint and found that plaintiff still had a security mattress as of April 21, 2016. On April 22, 2016, defendant Boughton affirmed plaintiff's inmate complaint as the reviewing authority, and plaintiff was given a regular mattress. Before April 22, 2016, Boughton was not aware that plaintiff had any complaints about his mattress. Boughton does not issue or review security restrictions that are imposed on an inmate.

         Plaintiff had the security mattress instead of a standard mattress for a total of 40 days, but he had a mattress and bedding during that entire time.


         Prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment if they are “deliberately indifferent to adverse conditions that deny ‘the minimal civilized nature of life's necessities.'” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1970). For example, lack of heat, bedding, adequate sanitation or clothing have been found to satisfy this demanding standard. Gillis v. Litscher, 468 F.3d 488, 493 (7th Cir. 2006); Lewis v. Lane, 816 F.2d 1165, 1171 (7th Cir. 1987). In addition, “an adverse condition of confinement, if endured over a significant time, can become an Eighth Amendment violation even if it would not be impermissible if it were only a short-term problem.” Gray v. Hardy, 826 F.3d 1000, 1005 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Dixon v. Godinez, 114 F.3d 640, 643 (7th Cir. 1997)).

         To succeed on his Eighth Amendment claim, plaintiff must establish two things: (1) that being forced to sleep on a thin, hard mattress for 40 days was “from an objective standpoint, sufficiently serious that it result[ed] in the denial of ‘the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities, ”' and (2) defendants were deliberately indifferent to the adverse conditions. Gray, 826 F.3d at 1005. “An official is deliberately indifferent when he is subjectively aware of the condition or danger complained of, but consciously disregards it.” Rice ex rel. Rice v. Corrections Medical Services, 675 F.3d 650, 665 (7th Cir. 2012). Plaintiff's claim fails with respect to both requirements.

         Plaintiff alleged in his complaint and previous submissions that the condition of his confinement was unusually harsh because he was forced to sleep on a thin, hard security mattress for 40 days. As defendants argue, even though courts have found that a lack of bedding qualifies as the denial of a basic life necessity, they have not found that the constitutional protection applies to uncomfortable mattresses. E.g., Putney v. Likin, 656 Fed.Appx. 642 (4th Cir. 2016) (“In this case, [the inmate] has so far failed to explain how the denial of a mattress was anything more than a discomfort.”); Alfred v. Bryant, 378 Fed.Appx. 977, 980 (11th Cir. 2010) (“Objectively speaking, sleeping on a steel bed without a mattress for eighteen days, though uncomfortable, is not so extreme as to violate contemporary standards of decency.”); Thomas v. Doe, 2016 WL 3951035, at *1 (C.D. Ill. July 20, 2016) (“While the thin mattress may have been uncomfortable, nothing suggests that Plaintiff suffered the type of extreme deprivation required to state a constitutional claim.”); Marshall v. Nickel, 2007 WL 5582139, at *9 (W.D. Wis. Jan. 29, 2007) (use of uncomfortable, rubber mat as mattress for several months failed to state claim under Eighth Amendment). Plaintiff was not denied bedding or a mattress or deprived of any essential need. Rather, his standard mattress was replaced with one that he found very uncomfortable. Marshall, 2007 WL 5582139, at *9 (noting same). See also Burton v. Downey, 805 F.3d 776, 786 (7th Cir. 2015) (unconstitutional conditions of confinement involve ‚Äúdeprivations of essential food, medical care, or sanitation‚ÄĚ and plaintiff presented no evidence to support allegation that sleeping on single mattress ...

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