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Lord v. Beam

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 6, 2019

LEVI A. LORD, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH BEAM, CHRISTOPHER PASS, LISA STOFFEL, and CHRISTOPHER P. O'NEAL, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         On May 14, 2018, Magistrate Judge William E. Duffin screened Plaintiff's complaint. (Docket #15). Magistrate Duffin allowed Plaintiff to proceed on a claim that Defendants had allegedly failed to appropriately address Plaintiff's threat of self-harm, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 3-5. The action was reassigned to this branch of the Court on May 30, 2018. On October 31, 2018 and November 1, 2018, Plaintiff and Defendants respectively filed motions for summary judgment. (Docket #25 and #28). For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion must be granted and Plaintiff's denied as moot.

         2. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         3. RELEVANT FACTS[1]

         At all times relevant, Plaintiff was an inmate at Waupun Correctional Institution (“Waupun”), and Defendants were correctional officers employed there. On December 10, 2017, Plaintiff was being housed in Waupun's restrictive housing unit where Defendants worked. That morning, Plaintiff called to Defendant Lisa Stoffel (“Stoffel”) while she escorted another inmate to the shower. Plaintiff was visibly masturbating near his cell's open trap door, and as Stoffel turned to look at him, he made direct eye contact with her. This is, of course, a violation of prison rules and Stoffel told Plaintiff he would receive a conduct report for his behavior.

         Defendant Joseph Beam (“Beam”) then came to Plaintiff's cell to reiterate that Plaintiff's actions were inappropriate. Plaintiff claims that Beam said nothing, but instead it was Plaintiff who told Beam he was suicidal and had a razor blade. Later that morning, Stoffel and Defendant Christopher Pass (“Pass”) went back to Plaintiff's cell to issue the conduct report. Plaintiff says he informed both Stoffel and Pass of his suicidal feelings. The officers then left Plaintiff's cell.

         A few minutes later, Plaintiff called to Pass, asking that Pass bring Stoffel back to Plaintiff's cell so they could speak. Pass refused and left the area. Plaintiff asserts that he repeated to Pass that he had a razor blade and intended to hurt himself. In a related conduct report, Pass indicated that Plaintiff had said he would cut himself if he did not get to see Stoffel again.

         With his supposed threats of self-harm being ignored, Plaintiff decided to activate his cell's emergency intercom in the late morning. An Officer Strunz responded but Plaintiff said nothing to him. Soon afterward, Defendant Christopher P. O'Neal (“O'Neal”) went past Plaintiff's cell. O'Neal noticed some droplets of blood on the cell window. O'Neal says that he ordered Plaintiff to come to his door to be handcuffed, and that Plaintiff complied. Plaintiff counters that O'Neal had actually threatened to spray him with pepper spray, and when Plaintiff presented the razor blade, O'Neal knocked it away onto the floor.

         O'Neal then radioed Beam for assistance. When Plaintiff's hands were secured, the officers removed him from his cell. They did not observe any noticeable injuries or active bleeding from Plaintiff, other than a small cut on his forearm. Plaintiff claims that he “had blood all down [his] arm.” (Docket #38 at 8). Plaintiff further states that he had a sock tied to his arm which was also covered in blood.

         Video footage of the incident directly contradicts Plaintiff's version of events. The video shows Plaintiff tossing the razor out of his cell and onto the floor at O'Neal's request. At no point did O'Neal use or even reach for his pepper spray. In handcuffing Plaintiff and removing him from the cell, the officers put on gloves, suggesting the presence of blood. However, the video does not show any visible blood, and certainly not the profuse amount suggested by Plaintiff. Further, there was nothing tied to Plaintiff's arm when he was removed from the cell. Once Plaintiff was secured, the officers returned to retrieve the razor blade and inspect the area. Again, the video shows no observable trace of blood, though the officers are seen checking the soles of their shoes, presumably for blood spatter.

         Plaintiff was then seen by a Nurse York (“York”). Her report stated that Plaintiff presented with four to five “superficial vertical cuts” in a one inch by one-and-a-half inch area on his forearm. (Docket #35-1). She noted that the cuts produced some fresh bleeding, and that Plaintiff also had some semi-dried blood down his forearm. Id. York cleaned the wound area and applied gauze. Id. Plaintiff was placed in clinical observation and was seen by psychological services later that day. Plaintiff received no further treatment for his cuts.

         4. ...


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