United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff Adonnis Conner, an inmate incarcerated at Waupun
Correctional Institution (WCI), alleges that he injured his
back when he slipped and fell on a patch of wet floor inside
the prison. He has filed a civil complaint under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, in which he says that prison staff were
negligent in failing to post warnings about the wet floor,
and that they failed to address his medical needs in the
aftermath of the fall by denying him a special mattress,
failing to provide him with physical therapy, and giving him
ineffective pain medications.
has paid the filing fee in full, so I can now screen his
complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. But before I do so, I
will address Conner's motion asking that a magistrate
judge handle his case. Dkt. 7. That motion is denied. Under
28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), the district court may refer a
case to a magistrate judge when all parties agree to do so.
The defendants have not yet been served, so they cannot
provide their consent. Regardless, I have discretion to
retain jurisdiction over a case even when both sides consent
to a magistrate judge's jurisdiction. Because Conner
provides no reason for seeking reassignment and I see no need
for one, I will retain jurisdiction over the case.
screening Conner's complaint under 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, I must dismiss any portion that is legally frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by
law cannot be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. §§
1915, 1915A. Because Conner is proceeding pro se, I must read
the allegations of his complaint generously. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). I conclude that
Conner has stated Eighth Amendment medical-care claims
against defendants Bouzek, York, and the John Doe Special
Needs Committee members who denied him a special mattress, as
well as a state-law negligence claim against Bouzek.
Conner's allegations about failure to train, physical
therapy, and pain medications are too vague to state a claim,
but I will give Conner a chance to supplement his complaint
with clarifying details.
the following facts from Conner's complaint, Dkt. 1, and
accept them as true for purposes of this order.
approximately 8:25 a.m. on August 27, 2018, Conner was on his
way to the library when he slipped and fell on a patch of wet
floor in the northwest cell hall. He landed on his back and
heard something pop. After lying on the floor for a while,
Conner managed to get up and make his way to the cage, where
a sergeant was posted. Conner told the sergeant that
“it was probably ok” and that he “was going
to try to make it to the library because he had important
legal work to get done.” Id. at ¶ 6.
later, Conner started experiencing sharp pains in his back,
so he left the library and returned to the cell hall. He told
defendant Bouzek, a sergeant at WCI, that “he was in
pain and couldn't take it anymore and needed
medical.” Id. at ¶ 8. Bouzek told Conner
that he would “look into it” and instructed him
to “go lock in.” Id. Conner doesn't
know when Bouzek notified the health services unit (HSU)
about the injury, but ultimately three hours passed before
Conner was called to HSU. In the meantime, Conner was left in
pain and in need of medical attention.
was taken to HSU at approximately 12:30 p.m. Defendant York,
a nurse, examined Conner and determined that his injury was
serious and that he needed to be taken to the hospital
immediately. At the hospital, a doctor determined that Conner
had “[m]ild 10% superior endplate T11 and T12 vertebral
body compression fractures of indeterminate age.” Dkt.
1-2, at 2.
accident report filed on September 2, 2018, Bouzek provided a
summary of the incident in which he said that the floors were
slippery because of the humidity, but that yellow signs had
been posted on the floor prior to Conner's fall. Dkt.
1-1, at 1. But Conner alleges that, contrary to Bouzek's
report, there were no signs out on the tier prior to his
fall. It wasn't until 8:40 a.m. that Bouzek ordered that
the signs be put out.
November 8, 2018, Conner asked the Special Needs Committee to
provide him with a medical mattress to accommodate his back
injury. The Special Needs Committee denied the request
because it determined that there was “no medical
indication” and that the request “does not meet
Policy and Procedure 300.07 criteria.” Dkt. 1-3. (DOC
Health Services Policy and Procedure 300.07 outlines
protocols for allowing certain special-needs items, such as
double or extra-thick mattresses.)
time he filed this lawsuit on December 12, 2018, Conner had
been on the waiting list for physical therapy since August
27-the date of the accident-but hadn't yet seen a
physical therapist. Instead, he was being prescribed
medication “that is not working.” Dkt. 1, ¶
21. After complaining about the ineffective medication for
months, Conner saw defendant Jeanpierre, a doctor, on
November 27, 2018. In her clinical notes from that
appointment, Jeanpierre noted that Conner was
“currently on ibuprofen and muscle rub” and
“on the waiting list for physical therapy.” Dkt.
1-4. Under the section of her notes labeled
“assessment/plan, ” Jeanpierre wrote that she
would have Conner do “a trial of duloxetine” and
would order that Conner receive an ice bag and a low-bunk