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Johnson v. Wallace

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

August 22, 2014

HEATHER WALLACE, Correctional Officer, F. BRANNICK Correctional Officer, Defendants.



Plaintiff Richard Johnson ("Johnson") is an inmate of the Indiana Department of Correction ("IDOC"). He complains of the treatment he received while housed at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Specifically, he alleges that the defendant correctional officers, Heather Wallace and F. Brannick, were responsible for denying or delaying his medical treatment for a seizure in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.[1] The defendants deny these allegations and seek resolution of the claims alleged against them through summary judgment.

For the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion for summary judgment [dkt. 37] is granted.


Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A "material fact" is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a material issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on the matters stated. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially the grant of summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(e).

The key inquiry, then, is whether admissible evidence exists to support a plaintiff's claims, not the weight or credibility of that evidence, both of which are assessments reserved for the trier of fact. See Schacht v. Wis. Dep't of Corrections, 175 F.3d 497, 504 (7th Cir. 1999). When evaluating this inquiry, the Court must give the non-moving party the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the evidence submitted and resolve "any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial... against the moving party." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330.


The following statement of facts was evaluated pursuant to the standards set forth above. That is, this statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts supported by admissible evidence and the disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to Johnson as the non-moving party with respect to the motions for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

At the relevant time, plaintiff Johnson was incarcerated at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility ("Wabash Valley"). Officer Wallace and Officer Brannick are correctional officers at Wabash Valley. On December 30, 2011, the defendants were working in the "SCU unit"[2] where Johnson was housed.

At approximately 11:00 a.m., Officer Wallace saw Johnson who complained he needed medical attention because he might have a seizure. Johnson has described his sense that he might have a seizure as an "aura." Officer Wallace told Johnson that she would not stop passing lunch trays to call medical.[3] Because Johnson's cuff port was open for the passing of lunch trays, Johnson was able to reach the intercom located outside of his cell. He repeatedly used the intercom to request medical attention and to speak with the sergeant in charge.[4]

Officer Wallace personally contacted medical staff personnel, Nurse Crecelius.[5] Officer Wallace told Nurse Crecelius that Johnson wanted to see medical and that Johnson stated he felt a seizure coming on. Officer Wallace was informed by Nurse Crecilius that she would see Johnson when she arrived in the SCU. This is the course of action Officer Wallace is instructed to take when an offender requests medical attention.

After contacting the Nurse, Officer Wallace placed a pad lock on Johnson's cuff port (under orders from Sergeant Shroyer), the effect of which was that Johnson could no longer reach the intercom button outside his cell. At that time the cuff port was closed, Officer Wallace had already contacted medical, reported Johnson's complaint, and placed a request for Johnson to be seen by medical personnel.

Johnson testified in his complaint that at 2:30 p.m. he awoke laying on the floor of his cell in blood, urine and vomit.[6] The blood was a result of a small laceration on his forehead. At 3:00 p.m. Johnson again informed Officer Wallace that he needed medical attention and in response she threatened to issue Johnson a conduct report for self-mutilation. Complaint at p. 3. Johnson then decided to start a fire outside of his cell door. As he expected, several officers responded. Johnson was sprayed with a chemical (by non-parties to this suit) and then taken to the medical exam room ...

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