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Hammer v. Schwartz-Oscar

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 22, 2019

TROY G. HAMMER, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Troy G. Hammer, who is currently serving a state prison sentence at Columbia Correctional Institution and representing himself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. This matter comes before the court on Hammer's motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the full filing fee and to screen the complaint.

         Motion to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         Hammer has requested leave to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee (in forma pauperis). A prisoner plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the $350.00 filing fee over time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Hammer has filed a certified copy of his prison trust account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint, as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), and has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $25.13. Hammer's motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the filing fee will be granted.

         Screening of the Complaint

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court accepts the factual allegations as true and liberally construes them in the plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2013). Nevertheless, the complaint's allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

         Allegations of the Complaint

         At all times relevant to this action, Hammer was incarcerated at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI) and all defendants were employees of GBCI. Hammer alleges that he was placed on clinical observation status in cell 405 around 5:45 p.m. on July 3, 2017. According to Hammer, around 6:30 p.m., Correctional Officer (CO) Michael Dedering (M. Dedering) witnessed him engaging in self-mutilation with a razor blade, but M. Dedering intentionally walked away and took no action. Shortly thereafter, CO Tyler Williquette witnessed Hammer engaging in self-mutilation and called for help. Hammer was escorted to the health services unit (HSU) and, while there, continued to verbalize suicidal ideation, including a threat to slice his neck if he wasn't strapped down. He alleges that HSU nurse Stephanie Wijas intentionally disregarded his safety and failed to provide adequate medical and psychological care.

         Hammer was transported to strip cell 621, where he continued to threaten self-harm. He specifically stated that he would slice his neck open as soon as he was placed back in a cell instead of being placed in bed restraints. He alleges that Lieutenant Daniel Cushing, Sergeant Gregory Friedel, Wijas, and COs Williquette, M. Dedering, Dalia Dedering (D. Dedering), and Scott Hansen, Jr. heard his threat yet did not place him in bed restraints or initiate another form of psychological care. Instead, they allegedly ignored the threat and placed Hammer back in cell 405. Hammer also alleges these defendants were aware that he had a razor blade because it had not been confiscated.

         After returning to cell 405 at approximately 9:00 p.m. and being placed on constant observation status, Hammer again acted on his suicidal ideation by lacerating his neck, and CO Hansen, Jr. immediately notified staff. Hammer alleges that CO D. Dedering arrived at his cell and stated “you should've cut deeper.” Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 25. Hammer was escorted to HSU and then to St. Vincent Hospital, where he received sutures in his neck and wrist.

         At some point after Hammer was placed on observation status, Dr. Samantha Schwartz-Oscar allegedly spoke with Lt. Cushing about Hammer's suicidal state, as well as his continued threats of self-harm. Hammer alleges that Dr. Schwartz-Oscar and Lt. Cushing disregarded his suicidal threats and intentionally ignored the use of bed restraints. Hammer alleges that Dr. Schwartz-Oscar was aware of his significant history of suicide attempts and self-harm and the fact that his threats were to be taken seriously. Hammer also claims Dr. Schwartz-Oscar knew he possessed a razor blade. Hammer sues all defendants in their individual capacities.

         The Court's Analysis

         Deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs, including thoughts of suicide and self-harm, violates the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994); Miranda v. County of Lake, 900 F.3d 335, 349 (7th Cir. 2018) (“We repeatedly have recognized a jail or prison official's failure to protect an inmate from self-harm as one way of establishing deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. The obligation to intervene covers self-destructive behaviors up to and including suicide.” (internal citations omitted)). To state a deliberate indifference claim, a plaintiff must allege objective and subjective elements: (1) the harm that befell him was objectively, sufficiently serious and a substantial risk to his health or safety, and (2) the defendants were deliberately, that is, subjectively, indifferent to that substantial risk. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832. In cases involving suicide or attempted suicide, the objective element is met by virtue of the act of or attempt to commit suicide, Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733 (7th Cir. 2001), and the subjective element requires ...

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