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Adams v. Hepp

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

August 2, 2019

PAUL ALLEN ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
RANDALL R. HEPP, et al., Defendants.

          DECISION OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE DUFFIN'S JUNE 6, 2019 ORDER (DKT. NO. 103)

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Back in December, the court referred the plaintiff's case to Magistrate Judge William Duffin to handle all pretrial proceedings. Dkt. No. 62. In the next two weeks, the court received three letters from the plaintiff. Dkt. Nos. 63, 64, 65. Judge Duffin held a telephone hearing on January 4, 2019 to address the plaintiff's concerns. Dkt. No. 66. Two weeks later, the court received another letter. Dkt. No. 67. Judge Duffin held another hearing. Dkt. No. 68. Within the next month, the court received another motion and two more letters from the plaintiff. Dkt. Nos. 69, 70, 71. At this point, Judge Duffin issued an order describing what had happened up to that point and denying the plaintiff's motion asking to reinstate a defendant, proceed against additional defendants, compel discovery and appoint counsel. Dkt. No. 73 (denying plaintiff's motion at Dkt. No. 69). The plaintiff objected, dkt. no. 75; this court overruled that objection, dkt. no. 78. The plaintiff, undeterred, filed another motion to compel the defendants to produce discovery, arguing that it was his understanding that anything he filed was filed under penalty of perjury, and that his motions constituted good-faith efforts to work out his discovery issues with the defendants. Dkt. No. 79. Judge Duffin held another hearing, and granted the plaintiff's motion in part. Dkt. No. 83. Despite that fact, the plaintiff objected. Dkt. No. 84. He also filed two motions asking the court to conduct an in camera review of some 1, 700 emails he alleges are involved in three cases. Dkt. Nos. 85, 86. Judge Duffin issued an order granting in part and denying in part the plaintiff's motions. Dkt. No. 87. The plaintiff filed another motion to compel-seventeen, hand-written pages. Dkt. No. 88. Judge Duffin partially granted that motion. Dkt. No. 90. The plaintiff objected to that order. Dkt. No. 103. The court addresses that objection.

         The district court applies a “clear-error standard” when it reviews a party's objections to a magistrate judge's order; this standard requires the district judge to give great deference to the magistrate judge's decision. Dkt. No. 78. A district judge will modify a magistrate judge's decision only if he or she is convinced that the magistrate judge made a mistake. McGuire v. Carrier Corp., 09-cv-315, 2010 WL 231099, at *1 (S.D. Ind. Jan. 13, 2010) (citing Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997)). The mere fact that a district judge would have come to a different conclusion is an insufficient basis to modify the magistrate judge's order. Id.

         In the plaintiff's May 29 motion to compel, the plaintiff alleged-as he has time and again-that the defendants were withholding discovery. Dkt. No. 88. Specifically, he detailed the many obstacles he faced in reviewing his medical file. He asserted that he had flagged certain records for copying, but that he never received them. He also explained that he had very limited time to review the records and was not allowed to take notes. The plaintiff also believed that the defendants were withholding relevant emails and that defendant Regina Henrichs had maintained a file that contained documents about his diet that were not in his medical file. The plaintiff also complained that he hadn't been able to depose the defendants and that they had not produced their medical licenses or any complaints that had been made against them during their careers. Finally, the plaintiff argued that the defendants were required to produce documents about the water quality issues at Fox Lake Correctional.

         Judge Duffin ordered the defendants to work with the plaintiff to ensure that he had adequate time to review his medical file and an opportunity to obtain copies of the records he wanted. Dkt. No. 90 at 2. He also ordered the defense lawyer to review Henrichs' file and produce any relevant, non-privileged documents that the defense had not already produced or that were not included in the plaintiff's medical records. Id. at 4.

         Finally, Judge Duffin denied the plaintiff's request to order the defendants to respond to his discovery requests about the water quality at Fox Lake. Id. Judge Duffin explained that this topic had been addressed at a January 2019 hearing, and repeated his conclusion that water quality was not at issue in this case, meaning that the defendants did not have to produce documents related to that issue. Id.

         Less than a week later, the court received the plaintiff's objections to Judge Duffin's order. Dkt. No. 103. He raises the following issues: (1) he believes he is entitled to discovery related to the water issues at Fox Lake Correctional because, in its screening order, the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed against defendant Candi Whitman, the Fox Lake health services manager, “over the water issue”; (2) he objects to defense counsel's refusal to respond to his discovery requests-in particular, her refusal to provide him with copies of “the 150 HRS forms”; (3) he says that the Henrichs file is relevant; (4) while it is not clear, he appears to want the court to require the defendants to produce all email communication between the defendants about him; (5) he complains that defense counsel has refused to provide him with the defendants' professional licenses and explain whether they ever lost their licenses or have been sued for violating the rights of other patients; (6) he complains that the “person doing” the Health Services Unit records reviews is not providing him access to all of his records, and says that he has flagged records for copying that he never received or saw again; and (7) he asks whether he is not entitled to depose the defendants, and asserts that he is being taken advantage of because he does not have a lawyer.

         In considering these objections, it helps to recount the claims on which this court allowed the plaintiff to proceed. The court allowed him to proceed on a claim that Nurse Dawn P., Nurse Truen, Nurse Practitioner Frank[1] and Dr. Larson were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when they ignored or minimized his complaints about his medical condition, refused to provide him with pain relief and refused or delayed a physical examination. Dkt. No. 48 at 8. The court allowed the plaintiff to proceed on a deliberate indifference claim against Henrichs (based on his allegations that she denied him a special diet even though she acknowledged that he needed one), Whitman (based on his allegations that she denied his request for bottled water despite independent information that people with his condition should not drink tap water), Floeter (based on his allegations that she delayed scheduling his surgery even after Frank reminded her to schedule it), Nurse Jane Doe[2] and CO DeBrees[3] (based on his allegation that they refused to allow him the use of a private area to self-administer two enemas) and Hepp (based on his claim that even though the plaintiff complained about HSU's alleged inadequate response, Hepp did not intervene). Id. at 8-9.

         I. Water Quality at Fox Lake Correctional

         At a hearing on January 4, 2019, the plaintiff told Judge Duffin that he saw staff at Fox Lake taking water samples from the fire hydrants and sending them to the Department of Natural Resources, claiming they were independently tested when they were not. Dkt. No. 66 at 3. The plaintiff told Judge Duffin that Fox Lake got its water from fire hydrants, and argued that this was one of the claims in his case. Id. Defense counsel responded that in December 2018, the plaintiff had made a discovery demand for water samples, but she had not provided such samples (and did not plan to) because she did not understand the plaintiff's case to involve a challenge to the quality of the water at Fox Lake. Id. Defense counsel said she had understood that the plaintiff had made claims about his medical treatment and his diet. Id. Judge Duffin encouraged the plaintiff to stay focused on the issues relating to his medical care. Id. at 4. When the plaintiff asked whether he had to prove what caused his medical issues, Judge Duffin responded that the plaintiff's deliberate indifference claims were not about his health before he got to prison, or any health problems he developed while he was in prison; his claims were about the medical care that he did or did not receive while in prison. Id.

         In his June 6, 2019 order, Judge Duffin was more direct. Dkt. No. 90. He stated that he agreed with defense counsel at the January 4, 2019 hearing that discovery requests about the water quality at Fox Lake were not relevant to the plaintiff's claims. Id. at 4. He stated, “Despite Adams's characterizations to the contrary, whether the water quality at Fox Lake was adequate is not an issue in this case.” Id.

         In his objection, the plaintiff says that Judge Duffin was wrong, and that this court-Judge Pepper-explicitly told him that it would allow him to proceed against the Health Services Manager at Fox Lake, “over the water issue.” Dkt. No. 103. At 1. He also says that he made allegations about the quality of the water at Fox Lake in the amended complaint. Id. He asserts that for someone with advanced liver disease (like the plaintiff), drinking water with high levels of certain heavy metals is toxic. Id. at 2. He argues that defendant Whitman gave bottled water to inmates who came to the HSU for their meds, and asks why she did that if there was nothing wrong with the water. Id.

         This court did not allow the plaintiff to proceed on a claim regarding the water quality at Fox Lake. It is true that in his amended complaint, the plaintiff described what he believed to be the poor quality of the water at the institution. Dkt. No. 33 at 10. The plaintiff assumed that the “logical cause” of his chronic persistent diarrhea was the water; he alleged that Whitman would have been aware of the water problems because Fox Lake was being sued in the federal court for the Western District on the basis of the water quality. Id. He asserted that he had “filed administrative complaints about . . . Whitman's refusal to provide [him] with bottled water.” Id.

         In its screening order, the court recounted the facts this way:

The plaintiff also alleges that, after he saw an article in the prison legal news about tainted water at Fox Lake and the dangers it imposed, he made requests to defendant Candi Whitman that he be permitted to receive bottled water. [citation omitted] The plaintiff asserts that Whitman denied his request, telling him that “magnesium is good for you.” [citation omitted] The plaintiff says he told Whitman that the issue was manganese, and that he asked to be tested for heavy metal poisoning, but that Whitman said there was no evidence for it. [citation omitted]

         Dkt. No. 48 at 8. In the analysis section of the court's order, the court stated that it would allow the plaintiff to proceed “on a deliberate indifference claim against . . . Whitman, based on his allegations that she denied his request for bottled water despite independent ...


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