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Lewis v. McLean

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 21, 2017

James A. Lewis, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Angela McLean, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued April 20, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 14 CV 280 - James D. Peterson, Chief Judge.

          Before Manion and Rovner, Circuit Judges, and Coleman, District Judge [*]

          ROVNER, Circuit Judge.

         James Lewis, a Wisconsin prisoner, claimed in this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that staff at the The Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman, of the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation.

          Wisconsin Secure Program Facility violated the Eighth Amendment by delaying medical attention for a painful back condition and then using excessive force when eventually taking him to the hospital. Lewis also claimed that two of the defendants, a nurse and a physician, committed malpractice under state law. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on the constitutional claims and relinquished supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claim, and Lewis appeals. We conclude that a jury reasonably could find that two of the defendants were deliberately indifferent to Lewis's serious medical need.


         The facts are largely undisputed, and we recount them, as we must at this stage of the proceedings, in the light most favorable to Lewis, noting disputes where relevant. In February 2014, Lewis was an inmate in the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel, Wisconsin. On February 8, he woke up at approximately 5:15 a.m. and experienced a sharp pain shooting from the base of his neck to his tailbone when he attempted to get out of bed. On account of the pain, he could neither lie back down or stand up. He remained immobilized by pain until approximately thirty minutes later, when at 5:39 a.m., he leaned forward just far enough to press the emergency call button on the wall of his cell. Lewis was housed in segregation (the reason is not disclosed in the record and when asked at oral argument the state did not know), and the guard who answered the call looked at the live video feed from the security camera in Lewis's cell and saw him sitting on the bed. The guard asked what the emergency was, and Lewis replied that he was suffering from extreme pain in his back that left him unable to move.

         The guard relayed this information to Lieutenant Joseph Cichanowicz, a security supervisor. After some time passed, Cichanowicz went to Lewis's cell, where Lewis explained that he was in terrible pain and could not stand up or lie back down. Lewis told Cichanowicz that he needed a nurse. After another ten or fifteen minutes passed and no nurse appeared, Lewis carefully eased himself forward again to push the emergency call button and request medical assistance. Sometime thereafter, Cichanowicz visited Lewis's cell with Nurse Angela McLean. According to McLean's progress report, she visited Lewis's cell at approximately 6:05 a.m., although in her answers to interrogatories she claimed that she went to his cell at 6:30 a.m. When Lewis saw McLean he told her that he was experiencing "terrible pain in his back" and "couldn't move." Prison policy discourages staff from examining an inmate in his cell, so McLean told Lewis that guards would escort him to the infirmary after head count, which was typically conducted at 6:15 a.m. McLean and Cichanowicz added, however, that Lewis would first have to stand with his back to the cell door so that he could be cuffed from behind through a slot in the door. Lewis again told them that he was in terrible pain in his back and neck and that he could not move or stand. Cichanowicz replied that he must be able to stand because he had pressed the emergency call button. Lewis then demonstrated that he could lean forward slightly to press the call button, and told them yet again that he was unable to stand or move.

          Cichanowicz warned Lewis that if correctional officers had to be sent into the cell without first shackling Lewis that they would throw him to the ground and cuff him from behind, but that if he would come to the cell door they could cuff him from the front through the slot in the door. When Lewis replied that he was unable to stand or to reach the slot, Cichanowicz told him to get on his knees and crawl to the door. Lewis again told them he was in severe pain and unable to move. McLean reiterated to Lewis that if he wanted help he needed to follow Cichanowicz's orders, and then they walked away. The head count occurred as scheduled at approximately 6:15 a.m., but no one came to check on Lewis or take him to the infirmary.

         After Cichanowicz and McLean left Lewis's cell, Cichanowicz viewed the video footage from Lewis's cell. Around 6:40 a.m., Cichanowicz told McLean that Lewis had not moved from a seated position on his bed since 5:15 a.m., but she still did nothing. Close to an hour later, Sergeant Wayne Primmer heard from other staff that Lewis was complaining about being in pain and unable to stand. Primmer checked the live video feed from Lewis's cell and saw him edge himself off the bed, fall to the floor on his knees, and then fall over onto his side on the floor. Lewis then cried out and pulled a blanket over himself. Primmer contacted Lieutenant Joni Shannon-Sharpe and briefed her about Lewis's earlier encounter with Cichanowicz and his continuing complaints of pain and inability to stand or walk. Primmer added that Lewis now was lying on the floor.

         Shannon-Sharpe went to Lewis's cell at approximately 7:30 a.m. Like Cichanowicz, she told Lewis that guards could not enter the cell to take him to the infirmary unless he was restrained. Lewis repeated that he could not reach the door because of excruciating pain in his back, and also told her that Cichanowicz told him no one would help him unless he crawled to the cell door and that being on the floor was increasing his pain. Shannon-Sharpe then conferred with McLean, and someone (we are not told who) directed McLean to contact the on-call physician, Dr. Meena Joseph.

         McLean telephoned Dr. Joseph around 7:40 a.m.-over an hour and a half after Lewis had told her and Cichanowicz that he was in severe pain and could not move. Dr. Joseph directed that Lewis be taken to a hospital, and Shannon-Sharpe gathered five guards, two of them with medical training, to transport Lewis. They entered his cell at 7:58 a.m., restrained him, placed him in a wheelchair, searched him with a handheld metal-detector (after abandoning the effort to force him into a standing position for a search when Lewis screamed that they were causing him extreme pain), lifted him into a van, and drove him to a local hospital. Lewis was admitted to the emergency room at 8:53 a.m. Doctors gave him morphine for his back pain, Ativan for his agitation, and diagnosed him with muscle spasms of the neck and upper back and myalgia (muscle pain). An hour later, Lewis was able to stand and walk again. He was prescribed ibuprofen and a muscle relaxant, and was discharged from the hospital at 10:24 a.m.

         Lewis filed this suit two months later, naming as defendants Lieutenants Cichanowicz and Shannon-Sharpe, Nurse McLean, Dr. Joseph, and the five guards who removed him from his cell. He claimed that all of the defendants had shown deliberate indifference to his severe back pain by delaying his access to medical care, and that Shannon-Sharpe and the five guards had been indifferent to his pain because they restrained him and did not take him to the hospital on a stretcher. Lewis also claimed that Shannon-Sharpe and the guards had used excessive force ...

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