DECISION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. NO. 14), GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. NO. 21) AND DISMISSING CASE
PAMELA PEPPER, District Judge.
The plaintiff, who is representing himself, filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendants HAD violated his constitutional rights. On September 19, 2016, the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed on his claim that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to the risk that he would overdose when they failed to grant his request for crushed medication. Dkt. No. 8. The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment in the fall of 2016. Dkt. No. 14. The defendants filed their motion for summary judgment in March, 2017. Dkt. No. 43. Those motions are fully briefed. The court will deny the plaintiff's motion and grant the defendants' motion.
I. RELEVANT FACTS
At all relevant times, the plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of Wisconsin Department of Corrections, housed at the Waupun Correctional Institution. Dkt. No. 31, ¶1. Defendant Jeffrey Manlove was employed in the Health Services Unit (HSU) as a physician; defendant Todd Callister was employed in HSU as a psychiatrist; and defendant Bonnie Halper was employed in the Psychological Services Unit (PSU) as a Psychological Associate and Licensed Professional Counselor.
On December 28, 2015, Callister consulted with the plaintiff about his medication management.
The plaintiff denied thoughts of wanting to harm himself, but expressed concern that, if his moods worsened, he would begin to have such thoughts.
On January 14, 2016, Nurse Gwendolyn Vick (who is not named as a defendant) forwarded a Health Services Request (HSR) form from the plaintiff to defendant Manlove.
On January 29, 2016, nursing staff informed Manlove that the plaintiff was engaging in inappropriate behavior when nurses delivered the crushed medication to his cell.
Due to the plaintiff's behavior, Manlove decided to discontinue his order for crushed medication; however, he first asked that Nurse Gail Waltz (who is not named as a defendant) to contact PSU to make sure the plaintiff was mentally stable, and that discontinuing the crushed mediation order would not pose a risk to the plaintiff.
Waltz contacted Halper in PSU that same day, and informed her of the plaintiff's behavior.
A week or so later (on February 5, 2016), Manlove met with the plaintiff about the plaintiff's complaints of lower back pain and athlete's foot.
A little over two weeks later (on Tuesday, February 23, 2016), HSU received two HSRs from the plaintiff, dated on the prior two days (February 21, 2016 and February 22, 2016).
That same day, PSU received two Psychological Service Request (PSR) forms from the plaintiff, dated February 21, 2016 and February 22, 2016.
At the meeting, the plaintiff was alert and engaged, but said he was really struggling and asked about a transfer to the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF); he stated that he had been in segregation too long.
Halper states that she showed the plaintiff empathy and compassion; she explained to him that she understood that he was struggling, and told him that anyone in the same circumstances also would struggle with the environment.
The February 23, 2016 meeting was conducted cell-side, which is a public environment.
Based on her discussions with the plaintiff, Halper decided that the plaintiff did not need to receive crushed medication.
After the meeting, Halper responded to the plaintiff's PSRs, noting that he had been taken off crushed medication because of his inappropriate behavior and that she had met with him on February 23.
On February 24, 2016, the plaintiff was moved from segregation to the North Program, where inmates are allowed to possess all of their non-controlled medications in their cell to take at their discretion. Dkt. No. 24. ¶12.
On February 25, 2016—the day before the scheduled private meeting with Halper—HSU received an HSR from the plaintiff about his new circumstances. The request explained that the plaintiff didn't feel safe having access to all of his medications. The HSR was dated February 24, 2016 (the plaintiff indicates that he wrote a PSR on February 23, but there is no record of a February 23 PSR, nor does the plaintiff provide a copy). Dkt. No. 31, ¶61; Dkt. No. 24, ¶13. Nurse Vick (not a defendant) received, reviewed and responded to the HSR; she referred it to PSU. Dkt. No. 31, ¶62. Neither Manlove, Callister nor Harper received or reviewed the February 24 HSR.
That same day, at about 11:30 p.m., the plaintiff attempted to overdose on Tylenol, Naproxen and Buspirone.
Summary Judgment Standard
"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);
A party asserting that a fact cannot be disputed or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). "An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4).
"Prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment when their conduct demonstrates `deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners.'"
The plaintiff has satisfied the objective prong of this standard. The parties agree, for purposes of summary judgment, that the plaintiff presented with a serious mental health condition when he expressed feelings of wanting to overdose, and later engaged in self-harm.
The parties disagree, however, about whether the defendants acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Specifically, the plaintiff argues that the defendants demonstrated deliberate indifference to his serious mental health needs when they ignored his requests to be placed on crushed medication, despite his telling them that he felt urges to overdose. The defendants dispute the plaintiff's assertions, arguing that they did not know of the risk the plaintiff allegedly faced. The court will consider each defendant in turn.
1. Jeffrey Manlove
The plaintiff first requested that he receive crushed medication on January 14, 2016; Manlove granted that request, and put in the order that same day. It wasn't until about two weeks later, on January 29, 2016, that Manlove learned that the plaintiff had been acting inappropriately when the nurses administered the crushed medication to the plaintiff.
At that point, Manlove decided that there was no need to expose the nurses to that type of misconduct if the plaintiff was mentally stable enough to be taken off the crushed medication order. Manlove asked one of the HSU nurses to reach out to PSU to see if it would be safe to discontinue the crushed medication order.
Halper did not object to Manlove discontinuing the order, and she told the nurse that she would inform the plaintiff why he was being taken off crushed medication. Satisfied that the plaintiff was mentally stable enough to receive his medication without it being crushed, Manlove discontinued his order for crushed medication.
The plaintiff disagrees with Manlove's decision, but his disagreement is not sufficient to raise a genuine dispute as to a material fact that survives summary judgment.
Manlove asserts that his decision to take the plaintiff off of crushed medications was the last interaction he had with the plaintiff prior to the plaintiff's suicide attempt nearly a month later. The plaintiff claims, in contrast, that he wrote a letter to Manlove again asking to be placed on crushed medications, but that Manlove ignored him. While a court must draw all justifiable inferences in the non-moving party's favor on summary judgment,
No jury could reasonably conclude that that after Manlove discontinued his crushed medications order on January 29, 2016, Manlove received a request from the plaintiff to be placed back on crushed medications. There is no evidence that Manlove knew that the plaintiff again was having urges to overdose in late February, and a person cannot be deliberately indifferent to a serious medical condition that he doesn't know about.
Because Manlove did not demonstrate deliberate indifference when he exercised his medical judgment to discontinue the plaintiff's medication on January 29, 2016, and because he did not know of any danger to the plaintiff after that date, the court will grant summary judgment in Manlove's favor.
2. Todd Callister
On December 28, 2015—almost two months before the plaintiff's suicide attempt—Callister consulted with the plaintiff about his medication management. At that consultation, the plaintiff did not mention that he was having urges to overdose or harm himself, nor did he ask to receive crushed medication. Callister states that he played no role in Manlove's later decision to order crushed medication, or in Manlove's decision to discontinue the order for crushed medication. In fact, Callister did not interact with the plaintiff again until March 22, 2016, nearly a month after the attempted overdose.
The plaintiff states that he wrote Callister a letter asking to be placed back on crushed medication. As with his statement that he wrote a letter to Manlove, the plaintiff does not indicate when he sent Callister the letter or provide a copy of the letter, and the plaintiff's certified medical records do not contain any such letter. Callister attests, under oath, that he did not receive such a letter, and the plaintiff has not provided any evidence to the contrary.
No reasonable jury could conclude, on this evidence, that Callister received a letter from the plaintiff asking to be placed on crushed medication. Callister cannot have been deliberately indifferent to a serious medical condition that he didn't know about.
3. Bonnie Halper
On February 21 and 22, 2016, the plaintiff submitted two HSRs and two PSRs asking to be placed back on crushed medication. Halper became aware of the PSRs on February 23, 2016, and she met with the plaintiff that same day. Halper states that she met with the plaintiff cell-side and determined that, although he was struggling, he was mentally stable. She asked the plaintiff if he could wait three days, until February 26, 2016, to meet and talk further in private. The plaintiff agreed. According to Halper, the staff on the unit told her that the plaintiff would not be released from segregation until April.
The evidence shows that the plaintiff was moved the next day, and as a result of that move, was given all of his medication to hold in his cell. The plaintiff tried to notify HSU that he did not feel safe having access to all of his medication. A nurse referred that request to PSU, but neither Manlove, Callistor nor Halper received it. This fact is fatal to the plaintiff's claim.
On February 23, Halper believed the plaintiff to be mentally stable, believed the plaintiff would remain in segregation until April (and therefore would not have access to all of his medication at once), and knew that she had a scheduled meeting to talk further with the plaintiff in three days. There is no evidence to indicate that Halper (or even the plaintiff) knew that the plaintiff would be moved in the next three days to a part of the institution where he would be allowed to possess all of his medication. This is an important fact that, had she known it, could have influenced Halper's decision on whether to order crushed medication for the plaintiff. But Halper did not know about the move until after the plaintiff attempted to overdose. The law provides that individuals are responsible only for what they actually know.
It is possible that Halper's February 23, 2016 assessment that the plaintiff was mentally stable and did not require crushed medication was wrong, even with the limited facts she had. But the standard is not whether the defendant was wrong in her exercising her professional judgment. The standard is whether Halper knew of a risk and was deliberately indifferent to that risk. Halper met with the plaintiff, exercised her professional judgment based on the facts before her, and determined there was no need for crushed medication. The court will grant summary judgment in Halper's favor.
This order and the judgment to follow are final. A dissatisfied party may appeal this court's decision to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by filing in this court a notice of appeal within
Under certain circumstances, a party may ask this court to alter or amend its judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or ask for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Any motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) must be filed within
The court expects parties to closely review all applicable rules and determine, what, if any, further action is appropriate in a case.