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Carroll v. Chapman

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

June 21, 2018




         Pro se plaintiff Jermichael Carroll is proceeding on Eighth Amendment claims against defendants employed at the Columbia Correctional Institution, based on allegations that he was forced to sleep on a “deplorable” mattress on a concrete floor and received no treatment for the pain he suffered because of the mattress. Now before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. #38. Because I conclude that there is not sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in plaintiff's favor on his Eighth Amendment claims, I will grant defendants' motion.

         From defendants' proposed findings of fact and plaintiff's responses, I find the following facts to be material and undisputed unless otherwise noted.


         Plaintiff Jermichael Carroll was an inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution from April 2016 to March 2017. All defendants worked at Columbia during the relevant time period: Jason Chatman, Scott Royce and Terrance Judd were security staff working in Columbia's restrictive housing unit 2; Jamie Gohde was the health services unit manager; and Kathleen Whalen, Melissa Thorne and Trisha Anderson were nursing staff.

         At various times during his confinement at Columbia, plaintiff was placed in segregation and confined in restrictive housing unit 2. There are 50 cells in that unit, 38 of which were designed for single occupancy and have one raised bed or bunk. Twelve of the cells have double bunks, for a total of 62 beds in the unit. Because of overcrowding in the institution, the average inmate count in restrictive housing unit 2 is 80-90 inmates, so many of the cells, including cells designed for single occupancy, are at double occupancy. If an inmate is assigned to a single occupancy cell in the unit that already houses another inmate, the incoming inmate will generally sleep on a mattress on the floor space. The mattresses provided to inmates in restrictive housing are the same mattresses provided in general population. They are rubber and approximately 2.5 inches thick.

         Plaintiff was required to sleep on such a mattress on the floor in restrictive housing unit 2 from August 31, 2016 to October 8, 2016, and again for several shorter periods of time between January and March of 2017. (The parties dispute whether plaintiff was given a damaged mattress and if so, whether any of the defendants knew about it. Plaintiff says his mattress was “damage[d]” and “deplorable, ” but he does not provide any details about how it was damaged or during what time periods he had a damaged mattress. Plaintiff also says he told defendants Royce, Chatman and Judd about the condition of his mattress and they told him to file a complaint with defendant Walker. Plaintiff says he did so and described his poor cell conditions to Walker, but Walker did not respond. Defendants do not recall plaintiff's complaining about his mattress to any of them.)

         Plaintiff received medical attention on numerous occasions during his confinement at Columbia. He also refused medical attention on numerous occasions, including when he was in restrictive housing unit 2. In April 2016, plaintiff complained to nursing staff about several issues, including his shoe restrictions, bullet wounds, skin care and anxiety. Nursing staff referred him to a doctor, whom he saw on April 25, 2016. At his doctor's appointment, plaintiff asked about his mattress. The doctor could have requested a “no floor” restriction for plaintiff, but nothing in plaintiff's medical records indicates that the doctor suggested or believed defendant needed a special restriction for a different mattress or an additional one. The doctor did refer plaintiff to the Special Needs Committee for a special shoe restriction. Plaintiff saw the doctor again in June 2016 for pain from a previous gunshot wound, but the records from that appointment include nothing about plaintiff's sleeping situation.

         Plaintiff wrote nursing staff on September 7, 2016, complaining about several matters: his doctor had recently set up “some tests”; he needed to see the doctor about “my eyes”; he was sleeping on the floor with one mattress; and he had “this bullet inside me.” Nursing staff responded that Columbia does not allow double mattresses (as some prisons did in the past), and that plaintiff did not have a “no floor” restriction that would prohibit restrictive housing unit staff from placing him in a cell where he would be required to sleep on the floor. Nursing staff then referred plaintiff to an appointment with the doctor. The next day, on September 8, 2016, a nurse went to see plaintiff, but plaintiff refused medical attention. (It is not clear from the records whether plaintiff then saw a doctor or whether he discussed his sleeping situation with the doctor.)

         On September 24, plaintiff wrote nursing staff complaining of knee pain and asked to see the doctor. Nursing staff responded by scheduling plaintiff to see the doctor for chronic pain and placing him on sick call for a nursing appointment. When a nurse came to see plaintiff on October 3, 2016 in restrictive housing unit 2, he again refused to be seen. In mid-October, plaintiff wrote nursing staff about having bullets in his knee removed. Nursing staff responded that such a procedure would require a doctor's referral and that plaintiff could discuss the matter at his upcoming appointment.

         Plaintiff also saw medical staff on October 24, 2016, November 3, 2016, January 6, 2017, January 30, 2017 and March 24, 2017, and he refused to be seen by medical staff on February 27 and March 6, 2017. During his appointments, plaintiff was provided pain medication, given instructions for back exercises and given ice, among other things, but he never asked for a “no floor” restriction. (Plaintiff says he did complain to a doctor about his “overall sleeping conditions, ” but plaintiff does not say when he made those complaints, what he stated in particular or how the doctor responded.)

         The parties dispute whether defendants Royce, Chatman or Judd were aware of plaintiff's medical needs. It is undisputed that security staff are generally only aware of particular medical needs of inmates when medical staff or a Special Needs Committee has instituted a medical restriction, such as a “no floor” restriction or a “no top bunk” restriction. However, plaintiff says he complained to defendants Royce, Chatman and Judd about the conditions of the cells, his medical conditions, including bullets in his body and pain, and that he needed better sleeping conditions. He says that Royce, Chatman and Judd told him to file a health service request. Defendants deny that they were aware of plaintiff's medical conditions.


         Plaintiff was granted leave to proceed on claims against security staff defendants Chapman, Royce, Judd and Walker based on his allegations that he was forced to sleep on a “deplorable” mattress on the floor despite severe pain from medical problems that were exacerbated by his sleeping conditions. Additionally, plaintiff was granted leave to proceed on claims that defendants Walker, Gohde, Whalen, Thorne and Anderson refused to refer him to a doctor and disregarded his health service requests regarding the pain he was suffering as a result of his mattress. (Plaintiff includes in his brief arguments about overcrowding ...

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