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Spangler v. Pittman

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 27, 2018


          OPINION & ORDER


         Pro se plaintiff Charles E. Spangler is a Wisconsin prisoner now incarcerated at the Stanley Correctional Institution. He suffers from various physical and mental impairments, and an administrative law judge in his social security proceeding found him to be disabled. After his disability determination, he was incarcerated as a pretrial detainee at the Eau Claire County Jail, and the jail had a policy that locked detainees out of their cells twice a day and five days a week, with each lockout lasting for about four hours. Spangler's physical impairments caused him back pain when he stood for hours during the lockouts. He presented documents showing his disability and continually asked jail officials for accommodations, such as an extra mattress, a plastic chair, reduced lockout time, and exemptions from the lockouts. Most of his requests were denied, and he had to comply with the lockout policy despite his pain. He also asked for a doctor visit to seek help for his pain, but it took over a week for a doctor to see him despite his complaints of severe pain. He also asked for pain medicine, but the doctor did not give him medicine to alleviate his pain, stating that she did not have his medical records, even though she had the documents from Spangler's disability proceeding. I allowed Spangler to proceed on Fourteenth Amendment claims against jail officials, a doctor, and a nurse at the jail.

         Defendants move for summary judgment. Dkt. 68 and Dkt. 77. I will deny these motions because there are disputed issue of material fact regarding Spangler's claims that he was forced to stand for hours at a time despite his complaints of severe pain, and that he faced delays in being treated for his pain. I will also grant Spangler's motion for the court's assistance in recruiting him counsel.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         A. Background

         Spangler was a pretrial detainee at the Eau Claire County Jail from March 19, 2010, to May 20, 2010. Defendant Ron Cramer was the sheriff of Eau Claire County. Defendants Joel Brettingen, Patricia Salimes, and Michael Klotz were jail officials who reviewed Spangler's institutional grievances. Defendant Donna Pittman was a doctor at the jail. Defendant Stacy Rose was a nurse.

         Spangler suffered from various maladies, including anxiety, obesity, and osteoarthrosis, along with depressive disorder. Dkt. 94-3, at 3-4; accord Dkt. 80-1, at 13. Osteoarthrosis caused him chronic back pain, and he had been adjudicated to be disabled under the Social Security Act. An administrative law judge found that Spangler could stand for only 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and Spangler presented his social security documents, including the ALJ's decision, when he arrived at the Eau Claire County Jail. He needed to use a cane to stand or walk, and jail officials allowed him to use a metal cane during his stay at the jail.

         B. Lockout policy

         The Eau Claire County Jail had a procedure of locking detainees out of their cells. The parties have not produced a comprehensive document that shows all of the details of the lockout procedure, but Spangler presents a document titled “Eau Claire County Jail Field Training & Evaluation Program” that shows some key provisions of the lockout policy. Dkt. 1-1, at 24-25.

         The policy locked detainees out of their cells twice a day from Monday through Friday. The morning lockout was from 8 a.m. to noon; the afternoon lockout was after the afternoon roll call, around 1:30 p.m., “until approximately dinner.” Dkt. 74, ¶ 30; see also Dkt. 1-1, at 24. Each lockout lasted about four hours. The lockout policy did not apply on weekends and holidays. While locked out of their cells, the detainees stayed in the dayroom.

         Supervisors at the jail could excuse detainees from the lockouts. If a detainee claimed a medical issue as an excuse, a supervisor would contact the jail's medical department for a medical opinion and then the supervisor could provide any accommodations that had been deemed necessary. Some housing units at the jail were excused from the lockouts.

         In Spangler's case, jail officials excused him from the lockouts for some portions of his detainment at the Eau Claire County Jail. For his first four days at the jail, from March 19 to March 23, he stayed in a housing unit where he was excused from the lockouts while his security classification was pending. After he was classified, he moved to 89-G-15L, another housing unit where he was made to comply with the lockout policy, and he stayed there from March 23 to March 25.

         On March 23 and 24, he submitted health-care request forms, explaining that he could not be locked out for hours at a time. He also filed an institutional grievance on March 24, explaining that if he continued to be locked out, he would need emergency medical treatment. Dkt. 94-1, at 4. Klotz reviewed Spangler's March 24 grievance, and after speaking with a nurse, authorized Spangler's transfer to the Huber dorm, a housing unit where detainees were not subject to lockouts. Spangler stayed in the Huber Dorm from March 25 to April 16.

         On April 16, Spangler was moved from the Huber dorm to Pod B, a housing unit where he was again subjected to lockouts. This move was caused by an incident involving contraband. A detainee in the Huber dorm was caught with pornography and some unidentified contraband, and jail officials moved all detainees out of the Huber dorm. Spangler states in his declaration that contraband was found in another detainee's locker, Dkt. 94, ¶ 17, and defendants do not deny that the pornography and the contraband belonged to someone other than Spangler.

         While at Pod B, he was excused from the afternoon lockouts from April 16 until he left the Eau Claire County Jail on May 20, except for April 24, when he was locked out for both the morning and the afternoon for an unidentified reason. On May 20, he was transferred to the Dodge Correctional Institution.

         Between April 16 and May 20, Spangler submitted numerous grievances and healthcare request forms asking for accommodations. He asked for, among other things, a transfer back to the Huber dorm, a second mattress, a plastic chair, an exception from the lockouts, reduced lockout time, and access to his cell during the lockouts. Most of Spangler's requests were denied, except that he was excused from afternoon lockouts and got a second mattress. Spangler's grievances indicate that jail officials ostensibly deferred to unidentified medical personnel on what accommodations were appropriate for Spangler, but Pittman, the doctor, deferred the decision to determine the accommodations to jail officials.

         C. Medical care

         Eau Claire County had a contract with a private entity, Health Professionals, Ltd., now known as Correctional Healthcare (CHC). Under that contract, CHC employees provided health care to detainees at the Eau Claire County Jail. Pittman and Rose were both employees of CHC. Pittman was a physician; Rose was a nurse.

         At the Eau Claire County Jail, a detainee who wanted medical treatment had to submit a health-care request form. The health-care request forms were screened by nurses, who scheduled on-site appointments. If a nurse determined that a detainee required emergency medical care, the nurse was to schedule an appointment with a doctor and the doctor visit would take place the same day of the detainees' request for treatment. The doctor would then examine the detainee and assess whether to call 911.

         Spangler submitted health-care request forms on at least eight dates: March 20, March 23, March 24, April 7, April 13, April 30, May 2, and May 20. He requested, among other things, pain medicine, doctor visits for back pain, and the lockout accommodations that he requested in his grievances.

         On March 31, Pittman saw Spangler and prescribed trazodone. Pittman and Rose contend that trazodone can treat chronic pain, but they do not dispute that trazadone failed to alleviate Spangler's pain. Spangler continued to report that he suffered from severe back pain in his institutional grievances, that he was being denied adequate medical treatment, that he would need emergency medical treatment if he were forced to continue to comply with the lockout policy, and that he needed different medicine. Pittman denied Spangler's request for different medicine and noted that she would need to reevaluate Spangler once she received his medical records. The parties agree that Pittman had the ALJ's decision from Spangler's social security proceedings. The ALJ's decision shows the names of the medical professionals who examined Spangler and their medical findings. Spangler also complained in a grievance that the nursing staff did not even send a request for his medical records. Dkt. 94-1, at 12.

         Pittman saw Spangler again on May 4, when she prescribed him amoxicillin, an antibiotic that treats infections and stomach ulcers. Although Spangler told her that he had back pain and muscle spasms, she told Spangler that she still had not gotten his medical records, and she did not prescribe him ...

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