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Key v. Shannon

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

July 18, 2019

PRINCE D. KEY, Plaintiff,



         Pro se plaintiff Prince D. Key, an inmate at Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), alleges that defendants, all prison officials at WSPF, violated his rights by failing to provide him with his medication on four occasions. Key is proceeding under the Eighth Amendment against all defendants. He is also proceeding against defendant Robert Shannon under the First and Fourteenth Amendment and under a Wisconsin-law negligence theory.

         Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. I will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment in part: I will dismiss Key's retaliation and equal protection claims in their entirety, and I will dismiss most of Key's deliberate indifference claims. But because it is not clear from Key's medical records whether defendant Shannon denied Key stomach-pain medication on February 21, 2017, I will stay a ruling on Key's deliberate indifference and negligence claims related to this incident and order the parties to submit supplemental materials.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         Plaintiff Prince D. Key is an inmate at Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, in Boscobel, Wisconsin. Defendants are all prison officials at WSPF. Defendant Robert Shannon is a correctional officer, defendant Joseph Cichanowicz is a supervising officer, defendant Joshua Kolbo is a sergeant, and defendant Gary Boughton is the warden.

         Key suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anti-social personality disorder, and depression. Key also suffers from ulcerative colitis, a disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Key's claims in this case stem from four incidents in February and March 2017 in which he was denied or experienced delay in receiving his medications for both his mental health problems and ulcerative colitis: February 21, 2017, February 24, 2017, March 17, 2017, and March 24, 2017.

         A. Key's medications

         At some point in February 2017, Key was prescribed paroxetine, an anti-depressant, and trazadone, an anti-depressant and sedative, to treat his mental health conditions. Key was also prescribed diphenhydramine, an antihistamine prescribed to treat nausea. Key does not dispute that he was prescribed these medications, and he says that he was also prescribed promethazine, an antihistamine used to treat stomach pain. Defendants dispute that Key was prescribed promethazine on either February 21 or 24, 2017. Defendants say that Key was first prescribed promethazine on March 8, 2017. But Key's “Medication/Treatment Record” appears to show otherwise. This is a record kept by the prison that lists Key's medications and contains notations denoting the specific days when Key received each medication in his cell. Dkt. 18-7. The meaning of every notation on the record is not self-evident, and the parties do not fully explain the information on it. But the document appears to show that Key was given promethazine a few days in early February.

         In March 2017, Key was prescribed mirtazapine, an anti-depressant, in addition to paroxetine to treat his mental health conditions. Beginning on March 8, 2017, Key also was prescribed promethazine.

         B. Medication distribution procedure

         We begin with some background on how medication is distributed at WSPF. When it is time for “med pass” to begin, the unit's control center issues a public-address announcement. To make the med pass run smoother, each inmate with a prescription is encouraged to use the intercom to confirm that he indeed wants his prescribed medication. After the announcement, staff members in the control center compile a list of inmates who responded to the PA message. Inmates who do not reply will not be on the list for medication, but staff should provide medication if an inmate requests it during the med pass.

         When conducting a med pass, officers give an inmate medication by putting it in a paper cup and placing it on the ledge of the opened “trap” in the inmate's door. Opening the trap inevitably poses some risk to the officer. For example, an inmate could attempt to attack an officer with a weapon or throw urine or feces at the officer. So for the safety of staff members conducting the med pass, inmates are required to have their light on and be fully clothed.

         The incidents complained of in this case all occurred during the “bedtime” med pass. Because defendant Shannon was assigned to second shift, working from approximately 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., he was responsible for dispensing Key's bedtime medications.

         C. Denied or delayed medications

         1. February 21, 2017

         On this date, Shannon passed out “bedtime” medication to inmates. Key did not reply to the med pass PA announcement. When Shannon passed by Key's cell, Key told Shannon that he wanted his medication. Shannon did not give Key his medication.

         Key then contacted defendant Sergeant Joshua Kolbo. The parties disagree about precisely what Kolbo did in response, but they agree that Kolbo approved Shannon's denial. Key did not receive his medication until ...

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