United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
an inmate at Westville Correctional Facility, plaintiff
Demajio Jerome Ellis was injured during an altercation with
correctional officers on November 22, 2013, causing him a cut
to his shoulder, bruising, swelling, and headache. Mr. Ellis
filed this cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights related to
the incident. He brings a claim of deliberate indifference to
his medical needs against defendant Tawnya Lukac, LPN and
defendant Sergeant Myers. Mr. Ellis also alleges claims
against defendants Sergeant Myers, Sergeant Sexton, and
Officer Backus for confining him in a cold cell and for using
excessive force. Nurse Lukac now moves for summary judgment
on the claim of deliberate indifference to Mr. Ellis'
medical needs, and the Officers move for partial summary
judgment, seeking summary judgment only on the claims for
denial of medical care and the conditions of confinement in a
cold cell. For the reasons set forth in this order, the Court
grants both motions.
time of the relevant events, Mr. Ellis was incarcerated at
the Westville Correctional Facility (Westville). Pl.'s
Compl. 1, ECF No. 1; Lukac's Ex. A., Lukac Dep. ¶ 6,
ECF No. 166-1. Nurse Lukac was a licensed practical nurse at
Westville providing medical care to offenders. Lukac's
Ex. A., Lukac Dep. ¶ 5.
Lukac is trained in identifying and treating patients in
emergency situations and has experience in assessing patients
with common ailments, including injuries after an
altercation. Id. ¶ 4. As part of her work at
Westville, Nurse Lukac triages offenders and determines if an
offender's complaints present as a serious medical
condition requiring immediate physician review. Id.
¶ 5. If she determines that an offender presents with a
serious medical condition, she performs a physical
examination and communicates the offender's complaints
and her objective findings to the onsite physician for orders
and then follows those orders. Id. Nurse Lukac was
familiar with Mr. Ellis' medical history of resisting
officers and refusing medical treatment. Id. ¶
November 21, 2013, Nurse Janice West examined Mr. Ellis after
he was sprayed with OC (pepper) spray by correctional
officers. Lukac's Ex B. pp. 1-4, Med. Rec., ECF No.
166-2. Mr. Ellis refused medical treatment. Id. at
1. Nurse West noted that Mr. Ellis was alert and oriented,
ambulated with a steady gait, and appeared calm as soon as he
was handcuffed. Id. Mr. Ellis told Nurse West that
he planned to hang himself with a bedsheet, which Nurse West
relayed to mental health. Id. Mr. Ellis was placed
on suicide observation that evening. Id. at 6.
next morning, November 22, 2013, mental health professional
(MHP) Nicholas Wardell charted that, the day before, Mr.
Ellis had gotten into a verbal altercation with correctional
officers. Id. at 6. In his deposition, Mr. Ellis
acknowledged that he had resisted officers in the past and
refused medical care because he was angry. Lukac's Br.
Ex. E, Ellis Dep. 23:14-19, 59:9-60:25, ECF No. 166-5.
he was on suicide watch, the water in Mr. Ellis' cell was
turned off. Officers' Br., Ex. A, Ellis Dep. 7:9-19,
9:1-3. On November 22, 2013, when he returned to his cell,
the water was still off, and, when the staff did not respond
to his requests over two hours that the water be turned on so
that he could use the toilet, he threw his feces on the range
two times. Id. 9:4-10:1; Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep.
66:15-67:13, 68:4-24, ECF No. 182; see also Lukac
Br., Ex. C, Report Forms, p. 3, ECF No. 166-3.
result, Mr. Ellis was escorted to the intake receiving cell
at approximately 12:15 p.m. while his cell was being cleaned.
Officers' Br., Ex. A, 10:2-4; Ex. B, Inter. 4; Lukac Br.,
Ex. C, Report Forms, p. 3. While in the intake receiving
cell, Mr. Ellis was stripped down to his boxer shorts and his
clothes were confiscated for weapons that could be used
against staff or for objects that bodily fluid could be
stored in. Officers' Br., Ex. A, 12: 2; Ex. C, Myers
Inter. No. 13. Mr. Ellis was in the intake receiving cell for
approximately three hours. Officers' Br. Ex. A, Ellis
Dep. 10:3-4, 16-18; see also Lukac Br., Ex. C,
Incident Report Forms, pp. 3. During this time, Mr.
Ellis' cell was being cleaned. Officers' Br., Ex. B.,
Sexton Inter. 4); Lukac Br., Ex. C, Report Forms, p. 3. The
Incident Report indicates that Mr. Ellis would be taken back
to his cell at 3:00 p.m. Lukac Br., Ex. C, Incident Report
Forms, p. 3.
Ellis testified that the intake cell was “very
cold”; he was unable to give a temperature. Pl.'s
Supp., Ellis Dep. 10:19-25. Mr. Ellis testified that he knew
it was cold because it was November and the intake cell was
connected to the garage, where air flowed in under the garage
door. Id. 10:25-11:14. He also explained that the
air conditioner blows right above the intake cell.
Id. 11:16-17. There were no officers walking by; Mr.
Ellis was not able to tell officers that he was cold; and he
did not try to get the officers' attention to ask for
clothes or other accommodations. Officers' Br., Ex. A,
Ellis Dep. 11:21-12:1; Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep. 69:18-19.
approximately 3:15 p.m., Mr. Ellis was given clothing, and
Sergeant Sexton and Sergeant Myers escorted Mr. Ellis from
the intake receiving cell to his cell in B-Pod. Lukac's
Br. Ex. C, ECF No. 166-3; Officers' Br., Ex. A, Ellis
Dep. 12:16-13:16; Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep. 87: 20-22.
Sergeant Myers reported that, as he and Sergeant Sexton
entered B-Pod, Mr. Ellis started physically resisting them by
shoving his shoulder into Sergeant Myers and spitting on him.
Lukac's Br. Ex. C, ECF No. 166-3, p. 1. However, Mr.
Ellis testified that, upon arriving at his cell, the officers
picked him up over their heads and threw him onto his
mattress that was on the floor next to the wall. Pl.'s
Supp., Ellis Dep. 75:8-21, 76:24-77:4. Mr. Ellis' head
hit the concrete wall. Id. 78:11-20. The officers
proceeded to kick, punch, and elbow Mr. Ellis while he was on
the floor. Id. at 80:22-81:9, 82:9-18.
report provides that the officers secured Mr. Ellis on the
ground and Sergeant Sexton called in the event at 3:16 p.m.
Lukac's Br. Ex. C, Incident Report Forms. First
responders arrived and helped escort Mr. Ellis back to the
intake receiving cell by carrying him. Id.;
Officers' Br., Ex. A, Ellis Dep. 15:22-17:1. The report
provides that Mr. Ellis continued to resist staff by pulling
away. Lukac's Br. Ex. C, Incident Report Forms. Mr. Ellis
testified that, while taking him back to the intake receiving
cell, the officers forcibly made it difficult for him to walk
through use of the “leash” and shackles.
Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep. 86:7-87:12. And, at the intake
receiving cell, the officers slammed Mr. Ellis' head
against the door before putting him inside. Id.
back in the intake receiving cell, Mr. Ellis was again
stripped down to his boxer shorts. Lukac's Br. Ex. C,
Incident Report Form, p. 1. Mr. Ellis testified that Officer
Myers put his knee on Mr. Ellis' head, crushing his face
into the hard floor, to hold him down while his clothes were
removed. Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep. 88:7-20.
Ellis testified that, as a result of the incident, he
experienced a three-to-four centimeter cut on his right
shoulder blade, cuts and swelling on his wrist and ankles
from the leg irons, bruising on his thighs and arms, a small
knot on his head, and headaches. Lukac Ex. E, Pl.'s Dep.
20:10-23, 99:2-100:23. Mr. Ellis testified that, except for
the headaches, the injuries resolved in four to five days.
Id. at 22:21-22, 99:10-100:23. The wound on his
shoulder formed a scab, healing within a few days.
Id. at 100:12-23. The headaches lasted six months.
Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep. 104:9-25.
Ellis testified that, after the intake receiving cell door
was closed and the shackles were removed, he asked Officer
Myers to see the nurse and Officer Myers responded that Mr.
Ellis wouldn't be seeing anyone and walked away.
Id. 89:14-90:3. In contrast, the Incident Report
indicates that Mr. Ellis refused medical treatment.
Lukac's Br. Ex. C, ECF No. 166-3. The Incident Report
also states that Nurse Lukac was notified and spoke to Mr.
Ellis. Id. Sergeant Myers stated in his
interrogatory response, “Ellis stated to me and Sgt.
Sexton that he did not want medical attention. Ellis refused
to sign a refusal form for medical . . . .” Defs.'s
Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. C ¶ 12, ECF No. 169-3. Sergeant
Myers further states, “I notified LPN Lukac. I do
recall LPN Lukac going to the receiving area door and hearing
Ellis being loud and threatening. Ellis stated to me and Sgt.
Sexton that he did not want medical . . . . Mental health
(Mr. Wardel) was notified as well of Ellis'
behavior.” Id. ¶ 10.
Ellis testified that he did not refuse treatment. Pl.'s
Supp., Ellis Dep. 19:24-20:3. Mr. Ellis testified that, after
the officers left him in the receiving cell in his boxer
shorts, he yelled for a nurse for twenty to thirty minutes.
Lukac's Br. Ex. E, Ellis Dep. 19:7-23; Pl.'s Supp.,
Ellis Dep. 92:3-5. Mr. Ellis testified that he wanted an ice
pack for his swelling, alcohol for his cuts, and just wanted
to be attended to. Lukac's Br. Ex. E, Ellis Dep.
Affidavit, Nurse Lukac states that, on the afternoon of
November 22, 2013, she was working in the medical unit at
Westville with Nurse Ryan Moore when they received a
telephone call from officers regarding Mr. Ellis. Lukac's
Br. Ex. A, Lukac Aff. ¶¶ 8-9; Lukac's Br. Ex.
B, Med. Recs. pp. 7-9. Nurse Lukac understood that officers
told Nurse Moore that Mr. Ellis had been resisting officers
and was being held in a receiving cell because he was
combative. Lukac's Br. Ex. A, Lukac Aff. ¶ 9. Nurse
Lukac states that Officers told Nurse Moore that Mr. Ellis
refused medical care and refused to sign a refusal of
treatment. Id. Nurse Moore reported this to Nurse
Lukac, and both Nurse Moore and Nurse Lukac completed a
refusal of treatment form. Id. Nurse Lukac states
that it is not uncommon for the nurses to fill out refusal of
treatment forms when offenders refuse medical care.
Id. Nurse Lukac states that, once an offender
refuses medical care, nursing staff is not authorized to
initiate further care or force unwanted care on offenders.
Nurse Lukac was walking by the intake receiving cell when Mr.
Ellis began yelling out to her from the cell. Lukac's Br.
Ex. A, Lukac Aff. ¶ 10. Mr. Ellis agrees that, after he
had been yelling for twenty to thirty minutes, Nurse Lukac
stopped at the intake receiving cell and opened the door that
separates the hallway from the cell to speak with him.
Lukac's Br. Ex. E, Ellis Dep. 19:17-20:9; Pl.'s
Supp., Ellis Dep. 92:6-17. Nurse Lukac stood approximately
fifteen feet away from Mr. Ellis during this interaction.
Lukac's Br. Ex. E, Ellis Dep. 93:9-11; Pl.'s Supp.,
Ellis Dep. 93:9-11. Mr. Ellis testified that he told Nurse
Lukac that he had “injury” and
“pains” and needed to see the nurse. Lukac's
Br. Ex. E, Ellis Dep. 19:22-23; Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep.
92:11-12. However, he testified that he did not specify his
injuries to Nurse Lukac. Lukac's Br. Ex. E, Ellis Dep.
22:2-7. Mr. Ellis testified, “And she said she
can't come back there by [herself]. I told her I need her
to come here. She said I can't come back there by myself.
I said go get Lieutenant Washington. She said something, then
she left. She never came back.” Id. 20:4-9;
see also Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep. 92:6-17,
93:12-13. Nurse Lukac describes Mr. Ellis as swearing at her
and demanding that she come into his cell. Lukac's Br.
Ex. A, Lukac Aff. ¶ 10. She told him that she could not
enter the cell without an officer present. Id. Nurse
Lukac states in her Affidavit that she could not enter the
receiving cell without an officer present for safety
this interaction, Mr. Ellis was wearing just his boxer
shorts, and Mr. Ellis testified that Nurse Lukac could see
most of his body. Lukac's Br. Ex. E, Ellis Dep.
107:12-18. Nurse Lukac states that she visually examined Mr.
Ellis and evaluated his condition. Lukac's Br. Ex. A,
Lukac Aff. ¶ 11. Nurse Lukac observed that Mr. Ellis had
no visible injuries, had even and unlabored respirations, and
did not display any signs or symptoms of physical distress.
Id. Nurse Lukac states that Mr. Ellis remained
combative and verbally abusive and that she feared for her
safety. Id. Nurse Lukac reported Mr. Ellis'
behavior to correctional officers and completed a conduct
report. Id. Mr. Ellis was returned to his cell in
B-pod at approximately 7:00 p.m. Pl.'s Supp., Ellis Dep.,
November 22, 2013, Nurse A. Laska noted on the segregation
rounds flow sheet that Mr. Ellis was awake and verbal with no
complaints. Lukac's Br. Ex. B, Med. Recs. p. 10.
next day, November 23, 2019, Mr. Ellis submitted a Request
for Health Care form, stating, “I got jumped by
officer[s] and they refused my medical need.”
Lukac's Br. Ex. B, Med. Recs., p. 11. Therein, Mr. Ellis
complained of bruising on his left arm and shoulder blades, a
knot under his chin, swollen wrist and ankles, and a
headache. Id. At 9:00 p.m. that evening, Nurse Laska
performed a segregation round check, noting that Mr. Ellis
was alert, awake, and had no complaints. Id. p. 10.
November 25, 2013, Nurse Jocelyn Bigheart examined Mr. Ellis
in nursing sick call for his complaints and did not chart any
injuries. Id. at p. 12-13. Mr. Ellis testified that
Nurse Bigheart visually examined his shoulder and wrists,
wiped the cut on his shoulder with an alcohol pad, and
advised Mr. Ellis to submit a healthcare request if he
experienced additional complaints. Lukac's Br. Ex. E,
Ellis Dep. 26:1-10. Mr. Ellis also spoke with MHP Wardell who
reported that Mr. Ellis stated he wanted to report
“getting beat-up by officers.” Lukac's Br.
Ex. B, Med. Recs., p.14-15. MHP Wardell did not note any
complaint of physical injuries by Mr. Ellis. Id.
Also that day, Mr. Ellis met with his case manager Doug
Barnes regarding the November 22, 2013 incident, reporting
complaints about custody staff leading up the incident, the
assault by custody staff, and mental ...