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Rivers v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 6, 2019

DENZEL SAMONTA RIVERS, Plaintiff,
v.
DOYAL JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO DEFENDANT JOHNSON (DKT. NO. 49)

          PAMELA PEPPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 6, 2019, this court partially granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed the complaint against Defendant Loison Kast. Dkt. No. 74. The court ordered that by July 12, 2019, defendant Doyal Johnson must address the plaintiff's assertion that Johnson had reason to know that the plaintiff was at substantial risk of self-harm on April 20, 2017. Id. at 15-16. On July 12, 2019, Johnson submitted a surreply and accompanying documents in support. Dkt. Nos. 77-80. The plaintiff has replied to Johnson's filings and filed his own proposed findings of fact and accompanying documents. Dkt. Nos. 81-83. The plaintiff styled his proposed findings of fact as a motion. Dkt. No. 82. The court will grant the motion to the extent that it will review the plaintiff's proposed findings of fact and consider them in deciding the motion. The court will deny Johnson's motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 49.

         I. Additional Facts

         In its order granting summary judgment as to defendant Kast, the court recounted the facts leading up to the events of April 20, 2017. Dkt. No. 74. The court takes the additional facts in this section from the defendants' supplemental proposed findings of fact, dkt. no. 78, the plaintiff's proposed findings of fact, dkt. no. 82, and the parties' declarations and other documents, dkt. nos. 79, 80-1, 81-1, 83.

         A. The Plaintiff's Mental Health History

         The plaintiff has been an inmate at Waupun Correctional Institution since January 19, 2017. Dkt. No. 78 at ¶9. In June 2008, during an earlier period of incarceration, the plaintiff was classified as “MH-0, ” the lowest mental-health classification, and he denied having a history of mental-health problems or suicide. Id. at ¶33. In July 2014, he was re-classified as “MH-1” and diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood, Mood Disorder and ADHD. Id. In October 2016, he was reclassified as MH-2a. Id.

         The plaintiff reported up to twenty “serious attempts” of suicide, but the defendants indicate that some of his clinicians have noted that his self-reporting has been inconsistent or not supported by his medical records. Id. at ¶34. The plaintiff had two recent “serious” suicide attempts, one on August 3, 2014 at Fox Lake Correctional Institution and one on October 4, 2016 at the Milwaukee County Jail. Id. The plaintiff's records indicate that in December 2016, the plaintiff informed the psychiatric unit of his facility (not Waupun) that “he [was] not suicidal and that he had secondary gain for his complaints of suicidality.” Id. at ¶35. In April 2017, while at Waupun, he reported having “chronic thoughts and behaviors of cutting, ” though he also “met the criteria for a specifier of Malingering.” Id. at ¶¶36-37.

         Johnson indicates that as of April 20, 2017, he had had little interaction with the plaintiff and was unaware of his mental health status or any current or past issues with his mental or physical health. Id. at ¶14. Johnson also asserts that he did not have access to any inmate's medical records. Id.

         B. Waupun Policy

         According to Johnson, when an inmate at Waupun tells an officer he is going to harm himself, or if the inmate is in the process of harming himself, security staff notifies a supervisor over the radio and remains at the inmate's cell until assistance arrives. Id. at ¶31. If an inmate is having suicidal thoughts and wants to speak with someone in the Psychological Services Unit (“PSU”), but does not suggest he is going to harm himself or that he already has, the officer notifies the supervisor (not necessarily via radio), and the supervisor notifies PSU or the Health-Services Unit (“HSU”). Id.

         C. The Parties' Versions of April 20, 2017

         On April 20, 2017, the plaintiff was housed in the North Cell Hall, which is a general population residence hall at Waupun. Id. at ¶15. Inmates whom Waupun staff have deemed at risk of self-harm are placed on “Observation” status and are not housed in the North Cell Hall. Id. Johnson asserts that he “knew” the plaintiff was not on “heightened suicide” watch on April 20 because, if he were, he would have been placed on observation and not housed in the North Cell Hall. Id. The plaintiff does not dispute that he was in general population on April 20. Dkt. No. 82 at ¶2.

         The parties differ in their version of other events of April 20. Johnson contends that he first interacted with the plaintiff around 9:30 p.m., when he was conducting institution count. Dkt. No. 78 at ¶21. He says that the plaintiff told him that he was having thoughts of suicide and wanted to talk with PSU. Id. at ¶22. Johnson told the plaintiff he would notify the sergeant. Id. Johnson did not see a sign on the plaintiff's cell that said, “Call PSU.” Id. at ¶24. He says that the plaintiff was not harming himself and did not tell Johnson he was going to harm himself. Id. at ¶¶23, 25, 29. Johnson says that he “left immediately” to notify the sergeant on duty. Id. at ¶25. A sergeant or other officer told Johnson that “they were already aware of the situation” and had called HSU. Id. Johnson says that the plaintiff notified him only once that he was feeling suicidal and that the plaintiff did not communicate that he was intending to harm himself. Id. at ¶¶27, 32. Johnson did not believe that the plaintiff was expressing an intent to harm himself-Johnson thought the plaintiff was informing him that the plaintiff was thinking of suicide and wanted to speak to someone in PSU. Id. at ¶32. Johnson says he did not believe that the plaintiff was in imminent danger. Id. Johnson says if he had believed that the plaintiff was in imminent danger, he would have radioed for assistance or waited at the plaintiff's cell for assistance to arrive. Id. Johnson says that he did not have another interaction with the plaintiff that night. Id. at ¶28.

         The plaintiff states that the initial interaction between him and Johnson took place at 9:00 p.m. and not 9:30 p.m. Dkt. No. 82 at ¶4. The plaintiff avers that the “Call PSU” sign was in his cell window at that time. Id., ¶6. He states that he was not placed on suicide watch or crisis until 10:00 p.m. that evening, when Dr. K. DeBlanc placed him on Observation. Id. at ¶3. The plaintiff says that when Johnson arrived to conduct institution count at 9:00 p.m., the plaintiff was feeling suicidal and “was under Suicide Crisis.” Id. at ¶4. The plaintiff claims to have interacted with Johnson three times: first during count around 9:00 p.m., a second time when Johnson was passing out controlled medication from the medication cart and a third time when Johnson was passing out non-controlled medication. Id. at ¶¶7, 21. The plaintiff says that he told Johnson on all three occasions that he was suicidal and told him during the second interaction that he was about to cut himself. Id. at ¶22. The plaintiff says that after Johnson walked away from the cell, the plaintiff cut himself and constructed a noose. Id. at ΒΆ24. He asserts that Officer C. Winters found the plaintiff bloody in his cell at 9:30 ...


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