United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
RONDALE D. TENNER, Plaintiff,
BENJAMIN JACKSON, JACKELINE VELEZ, and MONIQUE STACKER-WILLIAMS, Defendants.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
February 28, 2018, the Court screened Plaintiff's pro
se complaint and permitted him to proceed on a claim of
inadequate conditions of confinement, in violation of his
Eighth Amendment rights. (Docket #8). On October 1, 2018,
Defendants moved for summary judgment. (Docket #21).That
motion is now fully briefed. For the issues explained below,
the Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be
granted, and the case will be dismissed.
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
nonmovant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc.,
815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must not weigh
the evidence presented or determine credibility of witnesses;
the Seventh Circuit instructs that “we leave those
tasks to factfinders.” Berry v. Chi. Transit
Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2010). The party
opposing summary judgment “need not match the movant
witness for witness, nor persuade the court that [his] case
is convincing, [he] need only come forward with appropriate
evidence demonstrating that there is a pending dispute of
material fact.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst
Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921 (7th Cir. 1994).
is an inmate at Green Bay Correctional Institution
(“GBCI”) who was temporarily housed at Milwaukee
County Jail (“MCJ”) from January 18 to January
23, 2018 so that he could attend court proceedings in
Milwaukee. He was assigned to Pod 3A, which is general
population intake housing. Defendant Benjamin Jackson
(“Jackson”) was a correctional officer who worked
in Pod 3A on January 21, 2018. Defendant Monique
Stacker-Williams (“Stacker-Williams”) was a
correctional officer who worked in Pod 3A on Monday, January
is filled with inmates who are staying short-term at MCJ. The
schedule in Pod 3A runs as follows: the day begins at 7:00
a.m., at which point inmates are permitted to leave their
cells and/or clean their cells. The day room of the pod is
opened shortly thereafter for breakfast and activities.
Inmates may spend most of their time in the day room, but
must return to their cells three times throughout the day for
counts and officer shift changes: from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00
p.m.; 1:50 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m., to 6:00 p.m.
They are required to return to their cells for the night at
9:45 p.m. Inmates typically eat meals in the day room unless
there are safety or security concerns that require the day
room to close. In total, inmates are permitted to spend
roughly half of the day outside of their cells.
January 21 at around 7:30 a.m., Plaintiff informed Jackson
that his cell's toilet was running. At 10:14 a.m.,
Lieutenant David Steel, who was conducting rounds, re-set the
toilet, which seemed to fix the issue. Shortly thereafter,
however, Plaintiff discovered that the toilet would not
flush. Toilets at MCJ can be flushed via motion sensor by the
inmate in the cell, or remotely via computer by the
correctional officer in the pod. Plaintiff asked Jackson to
flush the toilet via computer, and Jackson complied. However,
instead of flushing down, the water rose. At some point
during the day, when inmates were returned to their cells,
Plaintiff slipped and fell in the overflowed toilet waste.
saw Plaintiff several times over the course of the day. The
parties dispute whether Plaintiff told Jackson that his
toilet was not working. (Docket #33 ¶ 52). In any case,
Jackson does not recall this, and concedes that the pod can
be very busy during his shift, and he may have been
distracted and forgotten. (Docket #22 ¶¶ 53, 65).
While conducting rounds, Jackson did not observe
Plaintiff's toilet overflow. He did not observe excrement
on the floor of Plaintiff's cell, nor was he aware that
Plaintiff had slipped and fallen in it. His shift ended 2:20
p.m., and he debriefed the second shift officer before
leaving for the day.
next morning, on January 22, Plaintiff informed
Stacker-Williams that his toilet was not flushing.
Stacker-Williams attempted to flush the toilet via computer,
but this did not work. When Stacker-Williams checked on
Plaintiff's toilet, it was not overflowing. Plaintiff
explains that he had cleaned the soiled floor himself.
Stacker-Williams states that if she had seen the toilet
overflow, she would have moved Plaintiff to a different cell
and called for a bio-hazard crew to clean up. At 11:15 a.m.,
she emailed correction officers Joel Neumann
(“Neumann”), who was assigned to maintenance
matters, and informed him that the toilet in Plaintiff's
cell was not flushing. At 12:53 p.m., Neumann submitted a
work order to the facilities department to address the issue.
At 2:16 p.m., a plumber arrived to fix the toilet, and the
issue was resolved. On January 23, Plaintiff was transported
back to GBCI. Five days later, on January 28, he experienced
flu-like symptoms and submitted a request for health
services. No. conclusions were ever drawn regarding whether
Plaintiff's symptoms resulted from exposure to the
clogged toilet. Plaintiff admits that it was only a
“possibility” that his symptoms were from the
conditions of the cell at MCJ. (Docket #33 ¶ 74).
Supreme Court has interpreted the Eighth Amendment as
requiring a minimum standard for the treatment of inmates by
prison officials: prison conditions must not, among other
things, involve “the wanton and unnecessary infliction
of pain.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347
(1981). An inmate's constitutional challenge to the
conditions of his confinement has an objective element and a
subjective element. Whitman v. Nesic, 368 F.3d 931,
934 (7th Cir. 2004).
a prisoner must show that the conditions at issue were
“sufficiently serious” so that “a prison
official's act or omission. . .result[s] in the denial of
the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
834 (1994) (citations and quotations omitted). Prison
conditions may be “harsh and uncomfortable without
violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against
cruel and unusual punishment.” Dixon v.
Godinez, 114 F.3d 640, 642 (7th Cir. 1997). The Eighth
Amendment “does not require prisons to provide
prisoners with more salubrious air, healthier food, or
cleaner water than are enjoyed by substantial numbers of free
Americans.” Carroll v. DeTella, 255 F.3d 470,
472 (7th Cir. 2001). Rather, “extreme deprivations are
required to make out a conditions-of-confinement
claim.” Turner v. Miller, 301 F.3d 599, 603
(7th Cir. 2002) (citations and quotations omitted);
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992).
even if conditions were sufficiently severe, the prisoner
must also demonstrate that prison officials acted with
“deliberate indifference” to the risk created by
those conditions. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294,
302 (1991); Whitman, 368 F.3d at 934.
“Deliberate indifference” means that the official
knew that the inmate faced a substantial risk of serious harm
from the condition in question, and yet disregarded that risk
by failing to take reasonable measures to address it.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847; Johnson v. Phelan,
69 F.3d 144, 149 (7th Cir. 1995); Grieveson v.
Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 777 (7th Cir. 2008) (deliberate
indifference arises when prison officials “ac[t] with
the equivalent of criminal recklessness”) (citations
and quotations omitted). It is not enough for the inmate to
show that the official acted negligently or that he or she
should have known about the risk. Pierson v.
Hartley, 391 F.3d 898, 902 (7th Cir. 2004); Haley v.
Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 641 (7th Cir. 1996). Instead, the
inmate must show that the official received information from
which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk
existed, and that the official actually drew the inference.
Pierson, 391 F.3d at 902. That is, “a
plaintiff must establish that the official knew of the risk
(or a high probability of the risk) and did nothing.”
Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996). In
the end, it is “obduracy and wantonness, not
inadvertence or error in ...