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Boyd v. Corbett

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

December 30, 2019

IVAN BOYD, Plaintiff,
LINDA CORBETT, et al., Defendants.



         Pro se plaintiff Ivan Boyd, a prisoner at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), is proceeding in this civil lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, on an Eighth Amendment claim against defendant Linda Corbett, for her alleged failure to respond to his need for a properly-fitting mask for his Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine between about September of 2016 and October of 2017, when he fainted and injured himself.[1] Corbett filed a motion for summary judgment (dkt. 84), and, after responding substantively to Corbett's motion, Boyd filed a motion for assistance in recruiting counsel (dkt. 113).

         Boyd has demonstrated that he can adequately handle the legal and factual complexities of this case, so I am denying his request for assistance in recruiting counsel.

         I am granting Corbett's motion for summary judgment because the evidence establishes that Corbett was not deliberately indifferent to Boyd's need for a new face mask.


         Plaintiff Ivan Boyd currently is incarcerated at the Redgranite Correctional Institution, but the events related to his claim against Corbett took place when he was incarcerated at Dodge Correctional Institution (Dodge), and the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF). Defendant Linda Corbett is a retired respiratory therapist. Corbett previously was employed by Guardian Health Staff (Guardian), which assigned her to the State of Wisconsin to provided respiratory therapy services to prisoners incarcerated by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC).

         Corbett was responsible for overseeing the respiratory therapy needs of over 900 DOC prisoners state-wide who used CPAP equipment to address their sleep apnea. Because these prisoners were scattered throughout the state, Corbett was not assigned to work at one particular facility. As a result, Corbett's standard practice for seeing patients was to rely on the staff at each institution's Health Services Unit (HSU) to forward to her specific requests from prisoners. Corbett also monitored prisoners' CPAP usage remotely and reported each prisoner's usage to his institution's HSU on a monthly basis. (There is no evidence that Corbett regularly or substantively reviewed or analyzed this data as to any particular prisoner).

         On August 8, 2016, while he was incarcerated at Dodge, Boyd was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. On August 23, 2016, Dr. Richard Fuller ordered a CPAP machine and mask for Boyd. On August 25, 2016, Corbett personally delivered Boyd's CPAP equipment and instructed him how to use and care for the equipment. Boyd avers that Corbett “strongly advised” him to use the CPAP machine every night because obstructive sleep apnea could result in death during the night. (Boyd Decl. (dkt. ¶ 5.) Afterward, Boyd attempted to use the CPAP machine, but he had difficulties with the fit of the mask.

         On September 8, 2016, Corbett had a follow-up appointment with Boyd to discuss how the CPAP mask should fit. Corbett wrote in her notes that Boyd reported “some problems” with the mask, and that they “discussed how the mask should fit” and she “encouraged [him] to keep using [the mask].” (Corbett Decl. (dkt. 87) ¶ 5; Boyd Ex. B (dkt. 59-2).) Boyd disputes this proposed finding of fact, claiming that he informed Corbett that the mask caused severe pain, and that “Corbett promised that she would return with a new mask.” However, the evidence he cites in support (Compl. (dkt. 1); Pl. Ex. A-005 (dkt. 102-1, at 5)), does not include such a specific statement from Corbett. Rather, Boyd avers that Corbett said she “would bring with her more equipment” the next time she was at the institution, and she directed him to submit a Health Service Request (HSR) to her attention to remind her to bring him a new mask. (Boyd Decl. (dkt. 97) ¶ 9.) I will accept as undisputed Boyd's averment that he reported the mask was causing him pain, and that Corbett asked him to submit an HSR. The parties dispute what exactly Corbett told Boyd that she would do as follow up.

         According to Boyd, on September 25, 2016, as a follow-up to that meeting, he submitted a Health Service Request (HSR) asking to see the respiratory therapist. On September 28, 2016, Boyd was seen in the HSU. On Boyd's HSR form, a Dodge HSU staff member wrote

client scheduled for sick call R/T HSR [Respiratory therapist Health Service Request] 9/25/16. After short discussion client felt  [no] need for sick call.

(Boyd Ex. C (dkt. 59-3).)

         Boyd avers that this HSU staff member was Dr. Fuller, who assured Boyd that he would make note of Boyd's complaints about the mask for Corbett. However, Boyd did not see or hear from Corbett after that date, even though his “Respiratory Care Plan” form included a notation that he would be interviewed after 180 days for dryness, fatigue/naps, and snoring. (Boyd Ex. A -005 (dkt. 102-1, at 9).). Corbett explains that the respiratory therapist is not required personally to conduct this interview. (Ex. to Pytlik Decl. (dkt. 109, at 3-4).)

         Corbett did not meet again with Boyd about his mask until November 2017, after Boyd's fainting spell and injuries. According to Corbett, because she did not receive any requests from Boyd or from his institution's HSU asking her to meet with Boyd regarding the fit of his CPAP mask, she did not initiate a meeting with him or take further action. As a result, from September 8, 2016 until October of 2017, Corbett's only involvement in Boyd's care was monitoring his use of the CPAP equipment remotely using telemetry monitoring equipment at her office, and submitting reports of those results on a monthly basis to the HSU of Boyd's institution.

         In December of 2016, Boyd was transferred to WSPF. On September 26, 2017, Corbett emailed WSPF's HSU manager Jolinda Waterman, reporting that “It looks like he hasn't used it at all since I set him up.”[3] Waterman followed up with Boyd on October 13, 2017. Boyd told Waterman that he wasn't using his CPAP machine because the mask ...

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