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Collins v. Gunderson

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 29, 2018

MAURICE COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
AMY GUNDERSON and GWENDOLYN A. VICK, Defendants.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION GRANTING MOTION FOR SANCTIONS

          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Maurice Collins, an inmate serving a state sentence at Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Amy Gunderson and Gwendolyn Vick, alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to his stated intent to harm himself by ingesting the medication health services staff allowed him to keep in his cell while incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI). On March 9, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss as a sanction, asserting that Collins filed a fabricated health services request response from defendant Vick in an attempt to defraud the defendants and the court. The court held an evidentiary hearing on the defendants' motion on June 27, 2018. As explained more fully below, based on the evidence presented, I find by clear and convincing evidence that Collins filed a fraudulent health services request and then lied about it under oath and will grant the defendants' motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The health services request that is the subject of the defendants' motion was purportedly submitted to the Health Services Unit (HSU) by Collins on February 24, 2016, in which he wrote:

To [D]r. Halper, Callister & Manlove, I am writing you because I don't feel safe with these meds in my cell & I am feeling suicidal. I have pleaded with you to place me on crushed meds cuz (sic) I couldn't have meds in my possession!

         Ex. 1010 at 59. The request appears to be signed by Gwendolyn A. Vick RN on February 25, 2016, and shows that she checked the box marked “refer to PSU.” Id.

         By way of background, this request was for HSU to reinstate the crushed medication order for Collins that had been discontinued in early-February 2016 as a consequence of Collins' inappropriate behavior, including his acts of exposing himself to nurses during the medication delivery. Once his crushed medication order had been discontinued, HSU authorized Collins to keep non-controlled medications, such as Tylenol, in his cell to take at his discretion. This type of medication may be prescribed by HSU to inmates in general population and is also available in canteen for purchase. Collins testified that he wanted to receive his medication crushed because he is then unable to hoard pills and later overdose on them.

         Collins alleges in his complaint that he did not receive a response from HSU regarding his February 24, 2016 request and subsequently overdosed on the Tylenol and Naproxen in his cell on February 25, 2016, resulting in outpatient treatment at Waupun Memorial Hospital. The defendants contend that Collins did not submit the February 24, 2016 health services request to HSU on that date, but falsified the document by forging Vick's signature, dating her receipt of the request as February 25, 2016, and then placing the document in his medical file after the overdose. In other words, the defendants claim Collins manufactured evidence in an attempt to defraud both them and

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         The court finds by clear and convincing evidence that Collins filed a false and fraudulent health services request with the court and further lied about his conduct in an attempt to avoid the consequences of his actions. I base this finding on the testimony of Gwendolyn Vick, whom I found to be a credible witness. Vick testified that she never received or signed Collins' February 24, 2016 health services request. She stated that the signature on that request is not her own and explained that it was written more carefully than her usual “scrawl.” As further evidence of falsification, Vick asserted that she date-stamps the health services requests she receives and noted that the health services request at issue here is not date-stamped. Compare Ex. 1010 at 63-66, with Ex. 1010 at 59. But most importantly, Vick testified that she could not have received or signed the health services request on February 24 and 25 because she was on vacation the entire week of February 22 through February 26, 2016.

         Vick's testimony was corroborated by the testimony of Chrystal Marchant, the Health Services Unit Manager at WCI. Marchant, whom I also found to be a credible witness, testified that Vick was not scheduled to work the week of February 22 through February 26, 2016 and did not work during that time. The documentary evidence submitted by the defendants, namely Vick's time sheet, shows that Vick did, in fact, take paid vacation for that week and confirms that she did not work on February 25, 2016. Ex. 1011.

         Collins argues that Vick is not credible because she amended her responses to his first set of interrogatories. He contends that in Vick's initial responses, she stated that she reviewed his request and forwarded his concerns to the appropriate staff for response, but later amended her responses to assert that she did not work on February 24 or 25. Compare Ex. 1008, at ¶ 4, with Ex. 1009. Her contradictory responses, Collins maintains, show that her testimony should not be believed. Yet, Vick explained why she needed to amend her responses to Collins' interrogatories. She testified that at the time she completed her initial responses, she was not able to review Collins' medical file and did not have all of the documents available to her, including the health services request at issue. Once she saw the health services request, she reviewed her time sheet and realized that she did not work the week of February 22, 2016 and did not sign the request on February 25. She then amended her responses accordingly.

         Vick's testimony is persuasive and convincing. I find that when Vick completed her initial responses, she did not intentionally make false statements about these events. At the time she drafted her responses, she believed the information she provided to be true and assumed that Collins was truthful in asserting that he had submitted the request in the first place. It was only after she reviewed the health services request and her time sheet that Vick realized she was not working on those days and could not have received or processed the health services request. In addition, much of Vick's initial responses to the interrogatories explained WCI's procedure for processing health services requests generally. That is, Vick never stated that she followed these procedures in Collins' case specifically. Based on the evidence and testimony presented, I am satisfied that Vick did not work February 22, 2016 through February 26, 2016 and did not receive, sign, or process, the February 24, 2016 health services request.

         The defendants assert that Collins forged the health services request at issue and then put the document in his medical file. They suggest that Collins had the opportunity to place a forged request in his file during a review of his medical records. At the evidentiary hearing, Marchant described the medical file review process. She explained that after an inmate requests to review his medical record, he is brought to a “visiting room.” A Medical Program Assistant Associate (MPAA) supervises the visiting room while up to four inmates review their records at one time. Marchant explained that in her experience, inmates have placed forged documents into their medical files during record reviews when the MPAA is distracted by another inmate's questions. She testified that it is possible for an inmate to slip a health services request into his medical file because these forms are not bound together with the inmate's chart and are simply loose in a manilla folder that is maintained within the file. Marchant testified that Collins had medical record reviews on April 4, 2016 and May 17, 2016 during which he could have inserted the falsified document into the manilla folder in his file. See Exhibit 1010 at 8. Jolinda Waterman, the WSPF Health Services Manager, testified that, after his transfer to that institution, Collins reviewed his medical file, which was ...


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