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Shaw v. Vasquez

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 20, 2019

TERRANCE J. SHAW, Plaintiff,


          J. P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         1. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Terrance J. Shaw (“Shaw”), is incarcerated at Racine Correctional Institution (“RCI”). He alleges that he underwent heart catheterization surgery on October 12, 2016 and was prescribed Plavix to be taken daily, but RCI medical staff repeatedly failed to provide him with that medication. Upon screening, the Court permitted Plaintiff to proceed on a claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, against Kristin Vasquez (“Vasquez”), manager of RCI’s health services unit (“HSU”), Laura Frazier (“Frazier”), assistant manager of the HSU, and Paul Kemper (“Kemper”), RCI’s warden, all in their individual capacities. See (Docket #27, Amended Complaint; Docket #28, Second Screening Order).

         On November 1, 2018, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Docket #37). That motion is now fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. For the reasons explained below, the defendants’ motion will be granted, and this case will be dismissed.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that the court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th Cir. 2016). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d 356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016).

         3. RELEVANT FACTS

         The following facts are material to the disposition of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. They are drawn from the parties’ factual submissions and accompanying evidence. (Docket #39–#42, #51–#54, #56). Consistent with the standard of review, these facts are presented in a light most favorable to Shaw.

         At all times relevant, Shaw was incarcerated at RCI. On October 12, 2016, he underwent heart catheterization surgery at an off-site hospital and was prescribed Plavix to be taken daily.[1] When he returned to RCI from the hospital where the surgery was performed, Shaw experienced several lapses in the dispensation of this medication. The first occurred immediately when he returned to the prison from the hospital in October 2016 and the last was in April 2017.

         During this timeframe, the HSU at RCI was short staffed. For example, it had only one physician to attend to more than 1, 800 patients. It is undisputed that this drastic shortage created a strain on the HSU’s ability to timely address all orders that need attention. To address issues with untimely prescription refills, Frazier and Vasquez implemented a flag system for charts which would alert the physician of items that needed immediate review. Though the defendants say this system has improved efficiency at the HSU, it did not prevent the medication lapses that form the basis of this lawsuit.

         3.1 First medication lapse

         Shaw returned to RCI on October 13, 2017 after his surgery and was seen by a nurse in the HSU the next day. The nurse flagged Shaw’s medical chart so that a doctor would order his Plavix. The doctor did so, but did not indicate that the drug should be delivered “stat” or “today.” The prescription went to the central pharmacy in Waupun, Wisconsin, where it was processed without priority, causing a one-week delay in the medication reaching Shaw.

         Shaw was without Plavix until October 19, 2016, when he returned to the off-site hospital for a follow-up appointment and received additional Plavix pills. The parties dispute the number of pills Shaw received there. The defendants say he received eleven pills, citing a prescription log that evidences the same. (Docket #40-1 at 2). Shaw insists he only received a seven-day supply. These things are not necessarily inconsistent. Emails dated soon afterward show that part of the October 19 dose (of eleven pills) was a one-time adjusted dose. (Docket #42-2 at 32–33). That catch-up dose could have accounted for four pills, leaving seven more for the next seven days. It is undisputed that Shaw subsequently received his first 30-day supply of Plavix on October 25, 2016.

         Shaw filed an inmate complaint about the medication lapse. Inmate complaint examiner Michelle Bones (“Bones”) contacted Frazier, assistant manager of the HSU, who had no knowledge about the lapse. Frazier responded by reviewing Shaw’s medical file and confirming that he had since been given pills at the hospital and his first 30-day supply. Frazier also discovered that the cause of the lapse appeared to be the doctor’s failure to code the Plavix prescription properly as “stat” priority. Believing that the problem had been resolved, Frazier took no further action.

         3.2 Second ...

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