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Anderson v. Schroeder

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 26, 2018

ELIZABETH SCHROEDER, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Robert Anderson, an inmate currently serving a state prison sentence at Stanley Correctional Institution and representing himself, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights while he was incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI). Anderson alleges that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need for treatment of pain arising out of a shoulder injury, and the majority of his allegations focus on the defendants' actions during two 32-day periods between August and September 2016 and November and December 2016. He also raises a state law medical malpractice claim against Defendant Dr. Salam Syed. This matter comes before the court on two motions for summary judgment, one by Defendant Elizabeth Schroeder (ECF No. 93) the other by Defendants Dr. Ryan Holzmacher, Emily Stadtmueller, Crystal Marchant, Donna Larson, and Dr. Syed (collectively, the “State Defendants”) (ECF No. 99).[1] For the reasons set forth below, both motions will be granted.


         Both Schroeder and the State Defendants submitted proposed findings of fact in support of their motions for summary judgment, as required by Civil Local Rule 56(b)(1)(C). ECF Nos. 95, 103. Although Anderson has submitted a declaration and a statement disputing several of the State Defendants' proposed findings of fact (ECF Nos. 116, 118), he has not disputed the vast majority of the State Defendants' proposed findings, and he has not submitted any response at all to Schroeder's proposed findings. Because Anderson received proper notice and warnings from both Schroeder and the State Defendants regarding the consequences of failing to respond to their proposed findings of fact, the court will treat as undisputed the portions of the statements to which Anderson did not respond. Civil L.R. 56(a)(1)(A), (b)(4) (E.D. Wis.); see also Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994) (“We have . . . repeatedly upheld the strict enforcement of [local] rules, sustaining the entry of summary judgment when the non-movant has failed to submit a factual statement in the form called for by the pertinent rule and thereby conceded the movant's version of the facts.”).

         Anderson suffers from degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) in his left shoulder, and this cases arises out of his efforts to obtain treatment for associated pain while incarcerated at WCI. State Defs.' Proposed Findings of Fact (DPFOF) ¶ 1, 12, ECF No. 103. His chronic pain is caused by inflammation of the shoulder joint. Id. ¶ 15. Between 2014 and 2017, Anderson had several appointments with Dr. Thomas Grossman at Waupun Memorial Hospital regarding his left shoulder. DPFOF ¶¶ 18-45. Dr. Grossman's care for Anderson included a left-shoulder surgery in July 2014 during which he attempted to repair a torn rotator cuff, a second surgery attempting to repair the rotator cuff in August 2015, and a third surgery primarily to remove an extruding screw in July 2016. Id. ¶¶ 18-19, 21, 36 (citing ECF No. 104-1 at 6-7, 17-19, 22). By the third surgery, Dr. Grossman made clear to Anderson that his rotator cuff likely could not be repaired. Id. ¶ 35 (citing ECF No. 104-1 at 8-9). After both the second and third surgeries, Dr. Grossman recommended that Anderson take 2 Vicodin every 4 hours to manage his pain. Id. ¶ 22, 37 (citing ECF No. 104-1 at 7-9, 18).

         During a follow-up appointment in September 2016 regarding the third surgery, Dr. Grossman recommended that Anderson receive “better analgesia, ” which he noted was the responsibility of WCI. Id. ¶ 42 (citing ECF No. 104-1 at 4-5). To that end, Dr. Grossman recommended a lidocaine patch or, if that proved ineffective, a corticosteroid injection. Id. ¶ 42. Dr. Grossman declares that he does not recall discussing specific treatments with Anderson, including treatment with narcotic pain medication, during the September 2016 appointment, and he notes that current guidelines recommend against the use of narcotic pain medication to treat chronic pain like Anderson's. Id. ¶ 43 (citing ECF No. 104 ¶ 26).

         Anderson's claims focus on the treatment he received at WCI during two 32-day periods in the months after his surgery: the first between August and September 2016, and the second between November and December 2016. With regard to the first 32-day period of alleged lack of treatment, Anderson contends that Defendant Elizabeth Schroeder prescribed him a topical gel for his shoulder pain but she and Defendants Emily Stadtmueller and Crystal Marchant were deliberately indifferent as a result of a long delay in providing him with the gel. As for the second 32-day period, he contends that Defendant Dr. Salam Syed was deliberately indifferent by failing to continue his prescription for Tramadol, only to briefly reinstate the prescription several weeks later. Anderson further alleges that Defendant Donna Larson was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when she examined him in February 2017. Finally, Anderson alleges that Defendant Dr. Ryan Holzmacher was deliberately indifferent in his administrative oversight capacity within the Department of Corrections (DOC). Additional undisputed factual material will be discussed with regard to each of these defendants in greater detail as part of the analysis that follows.


         Summary 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 v. Shell Oil Co., 612 F.3d 932, 937 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoted source and internal quotation marks 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 quotation mark omitted) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).


         I. Deliberate Indifference

         A plaintiff may prevail on a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by showing that he was (1) deprived of a federal right (2) by a person acting under color of state law. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). “The Supreme Court has interpreted the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment, as imposing a duty on states to provide medical care to incarcerated individuals, ” and prison officials violate that duty if they are deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs. Williams v. Liefer, 491 F.3d 710, 714 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976)). “A prison official may be liable for deliberate indifference only if he ‘knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.'” Chatham v. Davis, 839 F.3d 679, 684 (2016) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). To succeed on a deliberate indifference claim, a prisoner must therefore prove that he “suffered from ‘(1) an objectively serious medical condition to which (2) a state official was deliberately, that is subjectively, indifferent.'” Id. (quoting Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 675, 679 (7th Cir. 2008)).

         Crucially, an inmate alleging deliberate indifference must “show that the defendants actually knew of a substantial risk of harm to the inmate and acted or failed to act in disregard of that risk.” Walker v. Benjamin, 293 F.3d 1030, 1037 (7th Cir. 2002). This means that a prison official “must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw that inference.” Gevas v. McLaughlin, 798 F.3d 475, 480 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). “Mere medical malpractice or a disagreement with a doctor's medical judgment is not deliberate indifference.” Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 831 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 107); see also Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722, 731 (7th Cir. 2016). Although “a plaintiff's receipt of some medical care does not automatically defeat a claim of deliberate indifference, ” a plaintiff succeeds in proving the second prong only if the prison official's conduct was “‘so blatantly inappropriate as to evidence intentional mistreatment likely to seriously aggravate' a medical condition.” Edwards, 478 F.3d at 831 (quoting Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 1996)). Even assuming that Anderson's pain constituted a serious medical condition, none of the defendants possessed the subjective state of mind necessary to be liable for deliberate indifference.

         A. ...

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