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Walker v. Cox

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

March 21, 2019

LA'MONT WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
BURTON COX, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff La'Mont Walker, appearing pro se, is currently a prisoner at the Dodge County Detention Facility. Walker brought Eighth Amendment claims against Wisconsin Department of Corrections employees for their alleged failure to provide him an extra mattress and other accommodations for his chronic back pain when he was housed at Wisconsin Secure Program Facility. The parties both filed motions for summary judgment; I previously granted summary judgment to defendants on most of Walker's claims, including claims that defendant Dr. Burton Cox failed to properly treat him from May to November 2014. See Dkt. 69.

         For the rest of the time covered in Walker's complaint-2011 to May 2014, and November 2014 to July 2015-Walker alleges that Cox did little to nothing to help him. But neither party provided any detail about how and when Walker sought help for his back problems and how Cox responded. I directed the parties to submit a round of supplemental proposed findings of fact and supporting evidence concerning these two time periods. The parties have filed their supplemental materials.

         I conclude that the supplemental materials do not resolve Walker's claims. Instead, they raise complex medical issues concerning the adequacy of the treatment that Cox provided Walker. I will recruit counsel to represent Walker at trial.

         UNDISPUTED FACTS

         The following facts are drawn from the parties' summary judgment materials, and are undisputed unless noted otherwise.

         Walker suffers from chronic back pain. In 2011 and 2012 he complained verbally to various officials, including defendant Cox, that the segregation mattresses were giving him back pain, and he requested an extra mattress. Cox says that he first became involved in the treatment of Walker's chronic back pain in July 2013, when Walker submitted a health service request (HSR) form complaining of back pain “for quite some time” because of the segregation mattresses. Cox responded by stating, “Extra mattresses are up to Spec Needs Comm.” Dkt. 50-1, at 89. There is no indication that Cox referred Walker's request to the Special Needs Committee, a rotating group of medical and non-medical officials that decides prisoner requests for “special needs” or “comfort” items.

         Cox ordered non-controlled pain medication for Walker for chronic pain treatment unrelated to his back pain several times. On November 25, 2013, Walker refused to be seen by HSU staff for his back pain, stating “I'm better now.”[1]

         On May 8, 2014, Cox saw Walker for complaints of spine pain. Cox assessed Walker with “chronic pain at the junction of the thoracic and lumbar spine due to musculoskeletal causes.” Cox ordered an x-ray, referred Walker to physical therapy, and noted that he did not prescribe NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) because they upset Walker's stomach. Walker had physical therapy sessions from July 8, 2014 until August 19, 2014.

         Following Walker's request for a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit, Cox told him that he could not have the device in segregation, but that he could have it when he was in general population. Cox says that he believed that inmates were not allowed to have TENS units in segregation. Walker provides correspondence suggesting that inmates indeed were allowed at access to TENS units while they were in segregation; they just were not allowed to keep them when not using them.

         On November 23, 2014, Walker requested an extra mattress. Cox referred that request to the Special Needs Committee. On December 4 and 17, 2014, Walker submitted HSR forms, asking for a TENS unit and an extra mattress. Cox responded that the issue had already been addressed. On January 7, 2015, Walker submitted an HSR form, stating that he had been discharged from physical therapy and asking about additional sessions. Cox responded that inmates get six initial sessions and the physical therapist can add six more if they request it, but that this wasn't warranted in Walker's case, due to his lack of progress. On January 25, 2015, Cox again ordered that Walker receive a TENS unit while he was in general population.

         On May 24, 2015, Walker submitted an HSR form, complaining of chronic back pain and requesting a back brace and theraband. Cox responded that he did not recommend back braces and that therabands are usually ordered through physical therapy. In early June 2015, Walker again requested a theraband, and Cox granted this request. Cox left WSPF in July 2015.

         After Cox left WSPF, Walker received various other types of treatment for his back, including ice, an extra pillow, a back brace, more physical therapy, an MRI, and several medications, such as amitriptyline (an antidepressant also sometimes used for chronic ...


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