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Stinson v. Schuelor

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

October 28, 2019




         Pro se plaintiff Deyontae Cornail Stinson, an inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI), sustained a serious injury to his right knee in February 2017. He alleges that health-care staff at CCI have failed to address his medical needs in the aftermath of that injury by failing to promptly schedule him for a needed surgery and by depriving him of ibuprofen to address his pain.

         The court has granted Stinson leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Dkt. 4. I must now screen his complaint and 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 and 1915A. In doing so, I must accept his allegations as true, see Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 463 (7th Cir. 2010), and construe the complaint generously, holding it to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751 (7th Cir. 2011).

         Stinson may have viable constitutional and state-law claims, but he has not explained how the defendants he named are specifically responsible for those violations. So I will dismiss his complaint and give him a chance to file an amended complaint.


         On February 18, 2017, Stinson was playing basketball at CCI when he severely injured his right knee. He was rushed to CCI's health service unit (HSU), where he was seen by a registered nurse (whose name he does not know). The nurse observed that Stinson's knee was swollen in an unnatural way. She sent Stinson back to his housing unit in a wheelchair with a bag of ice, but she did not provide him with an x-ray or pain medication. On February 20, 2017, Stinson was seen by another unknown nurse, who also sent him back to his housing unit without an x-ray.

         On May 18, 2017, Stinson was seen by defendant Salamullah Syed, a doctor, who ordered an MRI. That MRI occurred on July 11, 2017. It revealed a “complex tear.” Dkt. 1, at 3. Stinson says that he was told that a knee surgery had been scheduled for November 16, 2017, but that date came and went without Stinson receiving his surgery. Stinson filed a grievance about the delay in care on February 5, 2018. See Dkt. 1-1. The inmate complaint examiner recommended that Stinson's complaint be dismissed, noting that “[w]hile there was a period of delay . . ., care has been occurring and plans for continued care are in process. Noting that surgery is scheduled, recommendation is for dismissal.” Id. at 1. Stinson ultimately received the promised surgery on March 15, 2018.

         Stinson also alleges that he was deprived of ibuprofen for a several days in January 2018. Stinson was in segregation at the time and was experiencing considerable pain. He filed a grievance about the deprivation on February 8, 2019. See Dkt. 1-2. That grievance was affirmed after the inmate complaint examiner determined that “the medication should have been reissued through HSU after the [segregation] placement. Recommendation is to affirm the complaint with copies to the Deputy Warden and [Health Service Managers] to review the process of reissuing medication for [Restrictive Housing] Unit Moves.” Dkt. 1-2, at 1.


         Stinson attempts to assert Eighth Amendment medical care claims and state-law medical malpractice claims. I understand his claims to arise out of two incidents related to his knee injury: (1) the delay in scheduling his surgery; and (2) the failure to provide him with pain medication while in segregation.

         A. Delay in scheduling Stinson's knee surgery

         Stinson contends that all five defendants violated the Eighth Amendment and Wisconsin law by failing to promptly schedule him for surgery once the extent of his injury became clear. The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from acting with deliberate indifference toward prisoners' serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-104 (1976). To state a deliberate indifference claim, Stinson must allege that each defendant was aware of a serious medical need and consciously failed to take reasonable measures to help him. Duckworth v. Ahmad, 532 F.3d 676, 679 (7th Cir. 2008). A serious medical need is a condition that a doctor has recognized as needing treatment or one for which the necessity of treatment would be obvious to a lay person. Johnson v. Snyder, 444 F.3d 579, 584-85 (7th Cir. 2006). Delays in treatment may constitute deliberate indifference if they unnecessarily prolong the prisoner's pain. Smith v. Knox Cty. Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1040 (7th Cir. 2012).

         I can infer from Stinson's allegations that his knee injury constituted a serious medical need for purposes of the Eighth Amendment. But I cannot tell from Stinson's allegations how these five defendants he names were responsible for the delay he experienced in getting the surgery he needed. Stinson says that “health service request forms show the names of the defendants who were [primarily responding to his] medical needs” were defendants Angela Hodge (HSU assistant manager), Teresa Eailr (a registered nurse), and Denise Valerius (another registered nurse). Dkt. 1, at 4. But he doesn't explain what relief he asked for in his health service requests forms, so I cannot tell whether Hodge, Eailr, and Valerius were aware that Stinson needed surgery and failed to take reasonable measures to help him.

         The same goes for defendants Schueler and Syed. Stinson does not make any specific allegations about Schueler, other than noting that she was the health service manager during the period at issue. But to be liable under the Eighth Amendment, a defendant must have personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation. Hildebrandt v. Ill. Dep't of Nat. Res., 347 F.3d 1014, 1036 (7th Cir. 2003). This means that an official must have participated in the alleged conduct or facilitated it. It is not enough to show that a particular defendant is the supervisor of someone else who committed a constitutional violation. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 593-94 (7th Cir. 2009) (“Liability depends on each defendant's knowledge and actions, not on the knowledge or actions of persons they supervise.”). As for the allegations about defendant Syed, Stinson says that he saw Syed on May 18, 2017, and that Syed ...

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