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Bahr v. Winnebago County

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

July 19, 2018




         Plaintiff Gary Bahr, proceeding pro se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his civil rights were violated. He claims that Winnebago County and the Winnebago County Sheriff, John Matz, violated his constitutional rights by their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs when they denied him access to his prescription narcotic pain medications while he was in the Winnebago County Jail.

         Currently before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. Bahr did not file a response to defendants' motion for summary judgment within thirty days as required by Civil Local Rule 56(b)(2) and has not requested additional time to file a response. Nor has Bahr filed a response to defendants' reply in support of summary judgment. This alone is grounds to grant the motion. Civil L.R. 7(d) (“Failure to file a memorandum in opposition to a motion is sufficient cause for the Court to grant the motion.”). In addition, Bahr refused to sign a release allowing the defendants access to the medical records that would be needed to establish the serious medical condition upon which his claim rests. Bahr's refusal to provide such authorization also constitutes grounds for dismissal of his case. For these reasons, and also because on the undisputed facts before me it is clear they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff Gary Bahr has been incarcerated at the Winnebago County Jail (WCJ) at various times in the past years leading up to April 19, 2017. Defs.' Proposed Findings of Fact, ECF No. 51, at ¶ 1. While Bahr was incarcerated at WCJ, he was a pretrial detainee. Id. at ¶ 17.

         Defendant John Matz is the Winnebago County Sheriff. Id. at ¶ 4. The Winnebago County Sheriff's Office operates WCJ. Id. at ¶ 6. However, Sheriff Matz does not supervise the day-to-day operations of WCJ; rather, Captain Todd Christie, the Jail Administrator, does. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8. Sheriff Matz has had no interactions with Bahr and has made no decisions about Bahr's medical care while at WCJ. Id. at ¶ 11.

         Winnebago County contracts with Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc. (CHC), to provide jail nursing services, physician services, professional medical services, and personnel pursuant to a contract. Id. at ¶ 10. CHC is the “Medical Authority” referred to in WCJ's policies. Id. at ¶ 19. For security reasons, inmates are not allowed to keep prescription narcotic pain medications in their own cells; rather, all such medication is held in a secure location and distributed pursuant to CHC-provided medical professional directive. Id. at ¶¶ 20-21. CHC nurses and physicians review all prescription medications prescribed for WCJ inmates. Id. at ¶ 23. Additionally, WCJ's Pharmaceutical Operations Policy requires CHC, in conjunction with a pharmacist, to “establish a list of all prescription and nonprescription medications available for inmate use.” WCJ Policies, ECF No. 49-1, at 20. WCJ policy also states that the “Jail Administrator and the Health Services Unit will develop a procedure through which it can be reliably determined what prescription medications the inmate is taking and the medical urgency for continuing those medications without interruption, regardless of whether the medications are brought in by the inmate or another person.” Id.

         CHC nurses and physicians provide their professional judgment and expertise to WCJ inmates in reviewing existing prescription medications and medically acceptable substitute medications. Id. at ¶ 24. WCJ employees do not make such decisions and do not substitute their own judgment for that of the CHC medical staff. Id. at ¶ 25.

         On August 5, 2016, Bahr filed a complaint, which was amended on February 24, 2017, alleging that WCJ and Sheriff Matz were deliberately indifferent to his chronic pain syndrome because they maintained a policy of not allowing inmates to have prescription narcotic pain medications while at WCJ. ECF No. 12. On May 10, 2018, defendants moved for summary judgment. ECF No. 46. Bahr's response was due on June 10, 2018; however, Bahr did not, and to this date has not, filed a response. On June 21, 2018, defendants filed a reply brief in support of their motion for summary judgment and highlighted that Bahr had failed to respond to their motion. ECF No. 53. Bahr has not responded to this either. Because the time for Bahr to respond has passed, the motion is ripe for a decision.


         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “[T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986).


         Bahr alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his chronic pain by denying him access to his prescription narcotic pain medication. The Constitution's ban on “cruel and unusual punishments” imposes a duty on prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee an inmate's safety and to ensure that inmates receive adequate medical care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). While the Eighth Amendment's ban protects convicted prisoners, the Fourteenth Amendment protects pretrial detainees, like Bahr. However, despite the differences in which amendment the protection arises under, the analysis performed by the court is the same because “pretrial detainees . . . are entitled to the same basic protections.” Minix v. Canarecci, 597 F.3d 824, 831 (7th Cir. 2010) (holding that “[courts] apply the same legal standards to deliberate indifference claims brought under either the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment”). To state a claim for deliberate indifference an inmate must establish “(1) an objectively serious medical condition; and (2) an official's deliberate indifference to that condition.” Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 865 (7th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted).

         A. ...

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