United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
MATTHEW C. STECHAUNER, Plaintiff,
PAUL KEMPER, LAVAIL JAMISON, DANA BROWN, and KIM EINWALTER, Defendants.
D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Matthew Stechauner, an inmate at Oshkosh
Correctional Institution (OCI), filed this suit against
officials at his previous prison, Racine Correctional
Institution (RCI). One of the defendants, Kim Einwalter,
failed to respond to the complaint, although a summons and
complaint were properly served. Dkt. 49. The clerk's
office entered default against her. Dkt. 58. The other three
defendants, Paul Kemper, Lavail Jamison, and Dana Brown,
responded to Stechauner's complaint and went to trial,
after which the jury returned a verdict in favor of those
defendants. Dkt. 117.
moves for default judgment against Einwalter and to hold her
in contempt of court. Dkt. 56. I will grant the motion in
part, and I will grant default judgment against Einwalter.
But I won't hold Einwalter in contempt. To be held in
contempt, a a party “must have violated an order that
sets forth in specific detail an unequivocal command from the
court.” United States v. Dowell, 257 F.3d 694,
698 (7th Cir. 2001). I did not issue any orders commanding
Einwalter to take action in this case. An entry of default
does not place a party in contempt of court.
also moves for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on
appeal, Dkt. 119, and for the preparation of trial
transcripts at the government's expense. Dkt. 121. I will
grant both motions.
Motion for default judgment
a default hearing on July 18, 2019. Stechauner appeared by
telephone. Einwalter did not appear. I found that the court
has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331
because the case arises under the Eighth Amendment to the
Constitution; Einwalter was properly served; and Einwalter
did not answer or otherwise respond to the complaint.
Accordingly, I conclude that Stechauner is entitled to
default judgment against Einwalter.
testified that on October 28, 2015, around 7:00 p.m., he told
a correctional officer that he was suffering from chest pain,
dizziness, and trouble breathing. He says that the officer
called Einwalter (who was a nurse at the prison) and told her
about Stechauner's symptoms, but that Einwalter did not
examine or treat Stechauner. Stechauner continued to
experience chest pain and eventually collapsed in his cell.
At 1:28 a.m., he was sent to the hospital, where he was
diagnosed with acute bronchitis. Stechauner says that he
continues to suffer from bronchitis to this day. His
testimony is corroborated by an incident report, Dkt. 91-5,
hospital discharge records, Dkt. 91-6, and his earlier
testimony at trial against the other defendants.
default establishes that her actions violated
Stechauner's rights. But I still must determine the
amount of damages that Stechauner is entitled to because of
award Stechauner $2, 500 in compensatory damages for the
physical pain and anxiety he experienced while waiting to
receive treatment. I conclude that Einwalter's actions
caused a six-hour delay in treatment. During that time, he
suffered a physical injury in the form of untreated symptoms
of his bronchitis.
says that because he continues to suffer from chronic
bronchitis, I should also award compensatory damages for
ongoing and future health problems. But Einwalter's
actions on October 28 did not cause Stechauner's
bronchitis. On the contrary, Stechauner was already suffering
from bronchitis symptoms when Einwalter ignored him.
Stechauner testified at the hearing that he believes his
bronchitis was caused by continued mistreatment by members of
the prison's medical staff. But I am granting default
judgment only against Einwalter, and only for the delay in
treatment that she caused on October 28. Stechauner is not
entitled to compensation for harm caused by other individuals
or harm caused by Einwalter on different dates.
award Stechauner $2, 500 in punitive damages against
Einwalter. A plaintiff may recover punitive damages if the
defendant acted with “reckless or callous
indifference” to his constitutional rights. Smith
v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 56 (1983). Einwalter's default
establishes that she acted with deliberate indifference. This
means that she was both aware of Stechauner's serious
chest pain and knew that it was serious enough to require
immediate treatment. Serious chest pain can be a symptom of a
potentially life-threatening condition, so Einwalter's
decision to ignore Stechauner's complaint demonstrates a
reckless disregard for Stechauner's Eighth Amendment
right to receive treatment for serious medical needs. And
given Stechauner's history of pulmonary problems, I find
that some punishment and deterrence is warranted here.
Motions regarding ...