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Joseph D. Herman v. Norman Dodson

June 11, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge


I. Introduction

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, Defendant Norman Dodson moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff Joseph Herman's deliberate indifference claim, asserting that (1) Herman cannot show that he was deliberately indifferent to Herman's serious medical needs; and (2) he is entitled to protection under the qualified immunity doctrine (Docs. 30 & 31). Herman filed a Response to Dodson's motion (Docs. 32 & 33). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Dodson's motion for summary judgment.

II. Factual Background

This action stems from an incident which occurred on March 22, 2010, while Herman was housed at Tamms Correctional Center.On that date, Herman allegedly informed Dodson, who was working as a housing unit control officer at the time of the incident, that he was going to injure or cut himself (Doc. 31 at pp. 1-2; Doc. 31, Ex. B at p. 20). As the control officer, Dodson could not leave his post or see into the cells (Doc. 31, Ex. B at pp. 24-25, 37; Ex. D at p. 40). The parties agree that the proper procedure for a control officer when informed that an inmate plans to self-harm is to contact his zone lieutenant (Doc. 31, Ex. D at pp. 39-40). The parties dispute whether Dodson contacted his supervisor, Lieutenant Benefield, directly after Herman informed him of his intent to self-harm. Herman claims that Dodson completely ignored his statements about his intent to harm himself. Dodson contends that he contacted his supervisor about Herman's threats, in accordance with protocol. The record shows that this is a matter that is the subject of considerable contradictory evidence.

What is agreed upon is that at 11:30 a.m., C/O Dowdy informed Benefield that Herman had a cut down the outside of his lower right leg (Doc. 32, Ex. C-1). Benefield went to Herman's cell and observed that the cut was approximately seven inches long and a half inch wide. Id. Jeffrey Peterson, a wing officer at Tamms, testified that in all likelihood he discovered Herman's injury on a regular wing check (performed at 30-minute intervals), given the time noted in the general log (Doc. 32, Ex. D at pp. 8-9). Benefield does not recall whether anyone informed him of Herman's intent to self-harm prior to being approached by Dowdy. However, Benefield indicated that if he had been informed of Herman's statements, he would have gone to Herman's cell immediately to discuss the situation with him, and he does not recall doing that prior to speaking with Dowdy (Doc. 32, Ex. C at pp. 20-21, 31-32). Herman indicated that he had cut himself with a piece of glass from his eye glasses, which he destroyed because all of the noise on his wing kept him from sleeping (Doc. 32, Ex. C-1). Herman was ordered to cuff up and was taken to the nurses' station where he received 14 stitches. He was then returned to his cell on a 10-minute mental health watch or suicide watch (Id.; Doc. 32, Ex. D-1).

III. Summary Judgment Standard

Under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 56(c), summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). See also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005). The burden is upon the moving party to establish that no material facts are in genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970). See also Lawrence v. Kenosha County, 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004). A fact is material if it is outcome determinative under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Ballance v. City of Springfield, Illinois Police Department, 424 F.3d 614, 616 (7th Cir. 2005); Hottenroth v. Village of Slinger, 388 F.3d 1015, 1027 (7th Cir. 2004). Even if the facts are not in dispute, summary judgment is inappropriate when the information before the court reveals that "alternate inferences can be drawn from the available evidence." Spiegla v. Hull, 371 F.3d 928, 935 (7th Cir. 2004). See also Anderer v. Jones, 385 F.3d 1043, 1064 (7th Cir. 2004).

The threshold inquiry is whether a trial is needed, or, in other words, whether there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.

[T]his standard mirrors the standard for a directed verdict under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 50(a), which is that the trial judge must direct a verdict if, under the governing law, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the verdict.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). See also Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Packman v. Chicago Tribune Co., 267 F.3d 628, 637 (7th Cir. 2001); Sybron Transition Corporation v. Security Insurance Company of Hartford, 107 F.3d 1250, 1255 (7th Cir. 1997).

A showing of a mere factual disagreement between the parties is insufficient; the factual issue must be "material," meaning that the issue must be one affecting the outcome of the suit. See Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837 (7th Cir. 2001). A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the nonmoving party "has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he] has the burden of proof." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id.

IV. Analysis

A. Deliberate ...

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