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Douglas v. Willson

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 4, 2019

LANCE WILLSON, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Justin Lee Douglas, a Wisconsin state prisoner who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. I allowed the plaintiff to proceed on claims under the Eighth Amendment based on his allegations that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs while he was incarcerated at the Outagamie County Jail. On August 30, 2019, defendants Beth Broyld, Gail Craft, and Beverly Weber (the “Medical Defendants”) filed a motion for summary judgment.[1] Docket No. 118. That same day, defendants Sergeant Lance Willson, Sergeant Paul Rosenthal, Sergeant Bruce Hintze, and Sergeant Tracy Edwards (the “Jail Defendants”) filed their motion for summary judgment.[2] Docket No. 125. I will grant the defendants' motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on June 4, 2018, naming several John and Jane Doe defendants. Docket No. 1. On March 4 and April 5, 2019, the plaintiff moved to amend his complaint to identify the Doe defendants as Nurse Tyler Rich, Nurse Mary Benotsch, Nurse Lisa Kowalski, Nurse Practitioner Shelby DePas, Dr. Thomas Finnegan, and Officer Deverase. Docket Nos. 86, 93. I granted the plaintiff's motions; however, on June 25, 2019, I dismissed those six defendants because the plaintiff's claims against them were barred by the statute of limitations. Docket No. 117. These individuals were involved the events I will describe below, but they are no longer defendants in this case.

         The plaintiff was booked into the Outagamie County Jail on June 12, 2012. Docket No. 140 at ¶ 18. According to the plaintiff, when he entered his cell, he noticed that his mattress had a green-like fungus growing on it. Docket No. 147 at ¶ 4. The plaintiff asserts that he stopped an officer to tell him about the mattress; the officer told him he could get cleaning supplies in the morning to clean it. Id. The Jail Defendants explain that, at that time, when an inmate was placed in his cell, he was given, among other things, sheets for the mattress and cleaning wipes. Id. The plaintiff does not clarify whether he used the wipes to clean his mattress, whether he used the sheets to cover his mattress, or whether he obtained additional cleaning supplies the next morning as the officer instructed.

         The Medical Defendants assert that health services staff completed an initial “Inmate Screening Report” on June 13, 2012. Docket No. 151 at ¶ 21. The plaintiff did not disclose any groin or testicle issue, and the plaintiff agrees that he was not suffering from any issues with his groin or testicles when he completed the form. Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.

         The plaintiff asserts that, on his first morning in the Jail, he told the nurse on medication pass that his mattress had a green fungus, which was now growing on his testicles. Docket No. 147 at ¶ 5. The plaintiff, who presumably was wearing at least underwear and who had been given sheets to sleep on, does not explain how the fungus came into contact with his testicles. The plaintiff asserts that, for the next three days (June 14-16), he told the nurses on morning medication pass that he had a medical emergency in that his testicles were very swollen and painful. Id. at ¶¶ 6-8. The Jail Defendants explain that inmates are not permitted to make oral requests for non-emergency care; instead, they must submit a formal sick call request on the form provided by the Jail. Docket No. 151 at ¶ 12.

         According to the plaintiff, on the morning of June 17, 2012, he told Nurse Broyld that he was having a medical emergency and that he needed to be seen right away because his testicles and the area between his anus were very swollen and painful and he could barely walk. Docket. No. 150 at ¶ 9. The plaintiff states that Nurse Broyld told him that he should submit a health services slip because she did not think his condition was an emergency. Id. The plaintiff submitted his first written sick call request that day, five days after he entered the Jail. Docket No. 140 at ¶ 25. In his request, the plaintiff stated that something was “wrong with the muscle/bone between [his] leg” and that he could not walk and was in pain. Id. at ¶ 26.

         Health services staff responded to the plaintiff and told him that they had scheduled him to be seen by health services staff and a physician. Docket No. 140 at ¶ 26. Nurse Broyld met with the plaintiff about six hours after health services received his slip. Id. at ¶ 28; Docket No. 150 at ¶ 10. According to Nurse Broyld's notes, the plaintiff complained of an “injury to his coccyx” and a “hand injury” after being hit by a squad car. Docket No. 140 at ¶ 29. The plaintiff denies he told Nurse Broyld that he had been hit by a squad car; he asserts that he told her he had severe pain and swelling in his groin area after sleeping on a filthy mattress. Id.

         Nurse Broyld performed a physical exam, which confirmed that the plaintiff's blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and oxygen levels were all within the normal range. Id. at ¶ 31. Nurse Broyld also examined the plaintiff's hip, coccyx, and buttocks region and concluded that, while the area was tender, the plaintiff could still ambulate without difficulty during the exam. Id. at ¶ 32. Nurse Broyld asserts that she consulted with an advanced practice nurse prescriber (who is not a defendant), who prescribed a 14-day regimen of Ibuprofen for his pain and ordered a follow up with a nurse practitioner or doctor. Id. at ¶ 33. The plaintiff received Ibuprofen that day, but he states that, because he was in so much pain, he was unable to walk to the medication window the following day to receive it. Id. at ¶ 35.

         The plaintiff asserts that the next morning he stopped the nurse during medication pass and told her he was in severe pain because of the swelling in his testicles. Docket No. 150 at ¶ 11. The Medical Defendants explain that Nurse Weber participated in medication pass that day and that, prior to June 22, the plaintiff never appeared to be suffering from a medical emergency. Id. Further, the Medical Defendants state that health services was aware of the plaintiff's complaints and knew he was being observed and treated. Id.

         On June 19, 2012, two days after Nurse Broyld's examination, Dr. Finnegan (who is no longer a defendant) examined the plaintiff. Docket No. 140 at ¶ 36. His examination note reflects that the plaintiff's vitals were still within normal ranges. Docket No. 151 at ¶ 34. The note also reflects Dr. Finnegan's inquiries about the plaintiff's injury, allegedly caused by being hit by a squad car. Docket No. 140 at ¶ 37. Dr. Finnegan's examination note questions why there is no bruising consistent with a traumatic injury, notes that there was slight swelling to the plaintiff's testicle, and states that the plaintiff expressed that he did not want anything done for his injury. Id. at ¶¶ 38-39.

         The plaintiff disputes the accuracy of Dr. Finnegan's note. The plaintiff asserts that he told Dr. Finnegan that he was not hit by a squad car; he told him he had slept on a filthy mattress and now he had an infection. Id. at ¶ 37. He asserts that he never would have refused treatment because he was in serious pain, could barely walk, and was sweating profusely. Id. at ¶ 39. According to the plaintiff, Dr. Finnegan said he had never seen anything like the plaintiff's condition before, and then he asked Nurse Craft to take a look. Id. The plaintiff states that she, too, said that the plaintiff's condition was unfamiliar to her. Id. The plaintiff states that they sent him back to his cell. Id.

         The following day, on June 20, 2012, Nurse Benotsch (who is no longer a defendant) followed up with the plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 41. The plaintiff complained of chills, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. Id. Nurse Benotsch noted that the plaintiff appeared flush and that she believed he may be suffering from a viral infection. Id. She told the plaintiff to increase his fluids and rest, and she gave him Tylenol to help alleviate his symptoms. Id. at ¶ 43. Based on her suspicions of a viral infection, health services staff collected a urine sample. Id. at ¶ 44.

         Health services received the lab results the next day and noted the presence of Ketones and blood in the plaintiff's urine. Id. Health services sent the plaintiff a note explaining that the jail physician believed he was suffering from a urinary tract infection, which would be treated with an antibiotic. Id. at ¶ 45. That same day, an order was entered for the plaintiff to receive the antibiotic Bactrim DS for seven days. Id. at ¶ 46. He received his first dose that night, at about 8 p.m. Id. at ¶ 47.

         The plaintiff asserts that, at about 4 a.m. on June 22, he fell in his cell. Docket No. 147 at ¶ 17. Sergeant McVay (who is not a defendant) decided to move the plaintiff to a holding cell via wheelchair for further observation. Id.; Docket No. 141 at ¶ 24. Sgt. McVay also contacted Nurse Sandy Geisler (who is not a defendant); she told Sgt. McVay to let the plaintiff stay in the holding cell until the on-duty medical staff arrived to assess his condition. Id. at ¶ 25. She also told Sgt. McVay to give the plaintiff two Tylenol, which he did. Id. at ¶ 26. The plaintiff received his second dose of the antibiotic at 6:41 a.m. Docket No. 140 at ¶ 48.

         Nurse Rich (who is no longer a defendant) met with the plaintiff at 9:27 a.m. Id. at ¶ 52. Health services had obtained a stool sample from the plaintiff and a second urine sample. Id. at ¶ 50. Nurse Rich did a physical exam of the plaintiff and noted that his scrotum was red and swollen. Id. at ¶ 53. He also confirmed that the plaintiff's vitals were within the normal range. Id. Nurse Rich told the plaintiff to increase his fluids and that Nurse Practitioner DePas (who is no longer a defendant) was working on a plan of care. Id. at ¶ 54.

         Health services received the test results that same day, at about 10 a.m. Id. at ¶¶ 54, 56. The urinalysis showed that the plaintiff no longer had evidence of Ketones in his urine and had only trace amounts of blood; there was no blood in the plaintiff's stool. Id. The plaintiff states that, regardless, he told Nurse Practitioner DePas that the swelling and pain were worse. Docket No. 150 at ¶ 19.

         After reviewing the lab results, Nurse Practitioner DePas expanded the differential diagnosis from just an infection to also include possible kidney stones. Docket No. 140 at ¶ 57. She indicated that the plaintiff should be seen daily for follow-up assessments. Id. She also indicated that the plaintiff had been told to rest and to give the antibiotics time to work. Id. at ¶ 59. Nurse Practitioner DePas followed up with the plaintiff later that day to assess his condition. Id. at ¶ 60. According to her notes, the plaintiff told her that the swelling was actually getting a little better, but he was having trouble eating and wanted to be moved back to his regular cell. Id. at ¶ 61. The plaintiff disputes that he told her his swelling was better or that he wanted to be moved to a non-observation cell. Id.

         According to Nurse Practitioner DePas, based on the test results and physical examinations, she believed that the plaintiff could be suffering from a skin infection, including MRSA, or that he could be passing kidney stones. Id. at ¶ 62. She explains that Bactrim, which the plaintiff was already receiving for a possible urinary tract infection, was the proper treatment for a skin infection. Id. at ¶ 63. She also explains that it can take up to 48 hours for an antibiotic to start to work. Id. The plaintiff asserts that, in addition to the skin irritation, his testicles were then the size of ...

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