United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
WILLIAM M. WATTS, Plaintiff,
J. SZETELA, R. GUPTA, C. RITTER, MELISSA LAUFENBERG, LOUIS WILLIAMS II, MARK KIDMAN, PAUL HARVEY, SARA REVELL, IAN CONNORS, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and BRAZOS URETHANE, INC., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff William M. Watts alleges that he was injured after
being sprayed in the face with a roof-sealing chemical used
by a contractor at the Federal Correctional Institution in
Oxford, Wisconsin, where Watts was incarcerated in 2015 and
2016. He is proceeding on claims against prison staff for
failing to protect him from the accident and for failing to
provide him with adequate medical care afterward. He is also
proceeding on negligence claims against Brazos Urethane,
Inc., the construction company that used the chemical
sealant, and Mark Kidman, a privately employed optometrist
who provided eye care to Watts.
the court is a motion to dismiss filed by the prison
officials represented by the government. Dkt. 36. They
argue that (1) Watts failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies for his Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claims; (2)
Watts's Bivens claims against defendants Ritter,
Laufenberg, and Harvey are barred by absolute immunity; (3)
the court lacks personal jurisdiction over defendant Connors;
(4) the court should decline to imply a Bivens
remedy against defendants Szetela, Williams, Revell, and
Connors; (5) Watts's allegations do not state a claim
against defendants Szetela, Gupta, Williams, Revell, and
Connors; and (6) all of the prison official defendants are
entitled to qualified immunity.
letter to the court, Watts concedes that he did not exhaust
his FTCA claims and asks that those claims be withdrawn. Dkt.
35 at 2. And in opposing defendants' motion to dismiss,
Watts again concedes that he did not exhaust his FTCA claims.
Dkt. 42 at 3. Therefore, I will dismiss the FTCA claims.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a); McNeil v. United
States, 508 U.S. 106, 112 (1993) (“The FTCA bars
claimants from bringing suit in federal court until they have
exhausted their administrative
remedies.”). Watts also agrees that his claims against
defendants Revell and Connors should be dismissed.
Id. at 5. This leaves Watts's claims against
defendants Szetela, Williams, Ritter, Laufenberg, Gupta, and
Harvey to be addressed in this order.
dismiss Watts's claims against Laufenberg, Ritter, and
Harvey because their position as officers of the United
States Public Health Service immunizes them from Watts's
Bivens claims. I will dismiss Watts's claims
against Szetela, Williams, and Gupta because Watts's
allegations are not sufficient to state constitutional claims
against these defendants. The only remaining claims are
Watts's claims against Dr. Kidman and Brazos Urethane,
September 14, 2015, while was Watts was outside the education
building at FCI-Oxford, he was sprayed in the face with a
chemical sealant being applied to a roof by workers for
defendant Brazos Urethane, Inc. The next day, Watts was seen
by defendant Dr. R. Gupta, who said that he did not see any
surface burns or scarring on Watts's eyes. Gupta told
Watts that the chemical he was sprayed with was “Green
Block Prime 100, ” which Gupta believed was not
September 16, 2015, Watts sent a message to defendant J.
Szetela, a “safety manager” at the prison.
Szetela was responsible for making sure proper safety
measures were taken for prison projects. Szetela did not
immediately respond to Watts's request, but she later
told Watts that the chemical was not hazardous and implied
that Watts should not be concerned.
started suffering from headaches and eye aches. Defendant
Ritter, a physician's assistant, suggested he keep a
“headache log.” At one point, she thought that
high blood pressure was causing the headaches, but she ruled
that out after she recorded a high blood pressure reading
while Watts did not have a headache.
23, 2016, Watts met with defendant Mark Kidman, an
optometrist who worked at the prison on a contract basis.
Kidman said that Watts had enlarged optic nerves, which is a
warning sign of early-onset glaucoma. Watts asked to meet
with an outside eye specialist, but Kidman did not refer him
and instead put plaintiff down for a “call-back”
for August 2016. Defendants Gupta and Ritter reviewed
Kidman's notes and treatment decision.
27, 2016, Watts told staff he had “ongoing
discomfort” after being sprayed with the chemical.
Defendant health administrator Melissa Laufenberg responded,
but in her response she mentioned only chemicals used by the
optometrist. (Laufenberg appears to have misunderstood
2016, Watts contacted health staff about obtaining tinted
eyeglass lenses, because he was experiencing sensitivity to
light. Laufenberg denied that request, saying that he needed
to “have a diagnosis from an optometrist” to
receive tinted lenses. Watts asked for an expedited
appointment with an optometrist and then complained to
Laufenberg about the delays in treatment.
October 25, 2016, Watts spoke with a correctional officer who
told him that OSHA had “shut down” Brazos
Urethane a couple of times during the ongoing project, and
that overspray had damaged employees' vehicles. Later,
Watts saw a document showing that the company had not taken
proper precautions to protect employees from the sealant
being applied to the roof.
saw an optometrist in October 2016. He was again diagnosed
with having enlarged optic nerves. Watts asked Laufenberg if
he could see an outside eye specialist. In November 2016,
Laufenberg responded that Watts's concerns had been
forwarded to the optometrist. But Watts did not receive an
outside appointment. In March 2017, Laufenberg told Watts
that he could get sunglasses from the commissary.
2017, Watts met again with Kidman. Despite having his highest
eye pressure yet, Kidman did not refer him to an outside
specialist. Kidman instead set him for follow-up in six
months. Defendant Dr. ...