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Fitzpatrick v. Verheyen

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

July 13, 2018

DEQUARIUS D. FITZPATRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. VERHEYEN, et al., Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING-IN-PART AND DENYING-IN-PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court.

         Plaintiff Dequarius Fitzpatrick, an inmate currently serving a state prison sentence at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI) and representing himself, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that sixteen defendants[1] were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk of harm to him when he injured himself on August 31, 2016, and October 17, 2016.[2] This matter comes before the court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 48. Also before the court are Fitzpatrick's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 77), the defendants' motion to strike Fitzpatrick's summary judgment motion (ECF No. 83), and Fitzpatrick's motions for leave to file sur-replies to the defendants' reply brief in support of their motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 89) and to the defendants' reply to his response to their proposed statement of undisputed facts (ECF No. 90). For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted-in-part and denied-in-part, Fitzpatrick's motions for leave to file sur-replies will be granted, the defendants' motion to strike will be denied, and Fitzpatrick's motion for summary judgment will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         The following background facts are taken from the undisputed portions of the defendants' proposed findings of fact. At all times relevant to this case, Fitzpatrick was an inmate in the Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) at GBCI, and each defendant was employed as either a correctional officer, a sergeant, or a supervising officer on the RHU. Def.'s Proposed Findings of Fact (DPFOF) ¶¶ 1-3, ECF No. 49.

         Around 11:00 a.m. on August 31, 2016, Fitzpatrick cut his arm open approximately 7 times with a razor blade. Id. ¶ 36. It was the first time he had ever cut himself in prison. Id. ¶ 37. A psychologist placed Fitzpatrick on observation status as a precautionary measure, and around 1 p.m., Fitzpatrick received treatment in the Health Services Unit (HSU). Id. ¶¶ 40-42. Treatment notes from the HSU show that the cuts were “very superficial, ” there was no “active bleeding, ” and Fitzpatrick was in an “agreeable” mood. Id. ¶¶ 41-42 (citing ECF No. 54-8 at 25-26). Although no additional incident reports were recorded for Fitzpatrick on August 31, Defendant Michael Verheyen did confiscate a razor from him around 4:30 p.m., at which time Verheyen observed blood around one of Fitzpatrick's wounds from earlier in the day. Id. ¶¶ 44, 68; see also Pl.'s Response to DPFOF ¶ 68, ECF No. 82. Fitzpatrick alleges that Verheyen, as well as Defendants John Afolabi, Shane Brunner, John Deidrick, Chris Delfosse, James Elsinger, Alexander Laplant, Alejandra Mejia, Julio Ramirez, and David Yang were all deliberately indifferent to the serious threat that he posed to himself and failed to protect him from himself throughout the day.

         Several weeks later, on October 17, 2016, Fitzpatrick cut himself with a disposable plastic spoon shortly before 2:22 p.m. DPFOF ¶¶ 70, 74. Once again, he was placed on clinical observation status and his wound was treated in the HSU. Id. ¶¶ 76-77. Progress notes from the HSU show that, when he was treated at 2:30 p.m., his “pea sized” wound was not actively bleeding and could be closed by 2 steri-strips. Id. ¶ 76 (citing ECF No. 54-8 at 23). During the 6 o'clock hour that evening, Fitzpatrick reopened the wound and squeezed his arm to smear blood, culminating in a 6:55 p.m. return to the HSU, where his wound was cleaned, closed with 3 steri-strips, and covered with gauze. Id. ¶¶ 88-89 (citing ECF No. 54-8 at 23-24). Fitzpatrick was returned to observation status, and an officer observed that he was bleeding again as early as 10:05 p.m. Id. ¶¶ 91-92. This time, his wound did not require treatment in the HSU, the wound was again closed with steri-strips, and Fitzpatrick was placed in restraints. Id. ¶ 95; see also ECF No. 54-8 at 21. Similar to his claims regarding the August 31 incident, Fitzpatrick alleges that Defendants Kyle Peotter, Darren Larkin, Andrew Wickman, Michael Eichstedt, Raymond Koehler, Michael Schultz, and Alejandra Mejia were all deliberately indifferent to the danger he posed to himself throughout the day on October 17.

         Additional undisputed factual information regarding the actions of the individual defendants will be set forth in greater detail as necessary as part of the analysis that follows.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         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)).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Fitzpatrick's Motions to File Sur-Replies

         As a preliminary matter, Fitzpatrick has filed two motion seeking leave to file a sur-reply to the defendants' reply brief supporting their own motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 89) and a sur-reply to the defendants' reply to his response to their proposed statement of undisputed facts (ECF No. 90). Consistent with Civil Local Rule 7(i), Fitzpatrick filed his proposed sur-reply briefs simultaneously with his motions. Whether to grant a party leave to file a sur-reply brief is a question within the court's discretion. “The decision to permit the filing of a surreply is purely discretionary and should generally be allowed only for valid reasons, such as when the movant raises new arguments in a reply brief.” Merax-Camacho v. United States, 417 Fed.Appx. 558, 559 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Schmidt v. Eagle Waste & Recycling, Inc., 599 F.3d 626, 631 n.2 (7th Cir. 2010)). “In some instances, allowing the filing of a surreply ‘vouchsafes the aggrieved party's right to be heard and provides the court with the information necessary to make an informed decision.'” Univ. Healthsystem Consortium v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 68 F.Supp.3d 917, 922 (N.D. Ill. 2014) (quoting In re Sulfuric Acid Antitrust Litig., 231 F.R.D. 320, 329 (N.D. Ill. 2005)). Fitzpatrick's motions for leave to file sur-reply briefs will be granted, as the proposed filings will assist the court in evaluating his claims.

         II. 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). “[D]eliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.” Chatham v. Davis, 839 F.3d 679, 684 (2016) (alterations in original) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (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.'” Id. (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). “A § 1983 claim based upon a violation of the Eighth Amendment has both an objective and a subjective element: (1) the harm that befell the prisoner must be objectively, sufficiently ...


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