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Tyler v. Andreasen

August 22, 2008

ELONZA JESSE TYLER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
R.L. ANDREASEN, M.D., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a prisoner without counsel suing for alleged civil rights violations. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He claims that defendants Donahue, Mehta, and Andreasen were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The matter is currently before the court on defendants' October 5, 2007, motion for summary judgment. The court has considered the moving and opposing papers and issues the following findings and recommendations on the motion.

I. Facts

At all times relevant to the motion, plaintiff was an inmate lawfully incarcerated at the California Medical Facility ("CMF"). Complaint ("Compl."), 1. At all relevant times each of the defendants was employed by the California Department of Corrections and assigned to CMF. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., Decl. of Kathleen Donahue in Supp. Thereof ("Donahue Decl."), ¶ 1; Decl. of Raymond Andreasen, M.D., in Supp. Thereof ("Andreasen Decl."), ¶ 1; Decl. of Deepak Mehta, M.D., in Supp. Thereof ("Mehta Decl."), ¶ 1. Defendant Donahue was a medical appeals analyst with no medical training. Donahue Decl., ¶2. Defendant Mehta is and was at all relevant times a licensed medical doctor and provided primary medical care and treatment to inmates at CMF. Mehta Decl., ¶ 2. Defendant Andreasen is and was at all relevant times a duly licensed medical doctor and Chief Medical Officer at CMF. Andreasen Decl., ¶ 2.

Plaintiff states that he suffered an injury on September 4, 2003, while working at his assigned prison job, for which he claims he did not receive adequate medical treatment. Compl., 5. On December 12, 2005, plaintiff was transferred to CMF for post-operative treatment. Compl., 6. Defendant Dr. Mehta examined plaintiff on December 20, 2005, who opined that plaintiff needed to begin physical rehabilitation post surgery from the operation he had in March 2005. Mehta Decl., ¶ 5. Defendant Mehta prepared orders to provide plaintiff with such treatment immediately and also recommended that plaintiff receive a follow-up examination. Id. Plaintiff was seen for a follow-up appointment on December 28, 2005, and was at that time given a referral to an orthopedic specialist and Tylenol #3 for pain. Id.; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1, at 6.

Plaintiff later filed a grievance seeking orthopedic treatment. Compl., 6. Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Kofoed on February 27, 2006, and X-rays were subsequently taken, showing "moderately severe osteoarthritis" in the left knee and "milder osteoarthritis" in the right knee. Andreasen Decl., ¶ 9.Dr. Kofoed examined plaintiff again on April 24, 2006, and at that time recommended that plaintiff have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Id., ¶ 10; Compl., 6. Plaintiff was scheduled for surgery in June 2006. Compl., 6.

Dr. Kofoed ended his contract with CMF prior to the date set for surgery. Andreasen Decl., ¶ 11. Defendant Andreasen approved having plaintiff taken to Queen of the Valley Hospital to consult with their orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Shifflett, on June 23, 2006. Id.

Plaintiff had surgery on September 13, 2006.

II. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases with no genuinely disputed material facts. See Northwest Motorcycle Ass'n v. United States Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir. 1994). At issue is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Thus, Rule 56 serves to screen the latter cases from those which actually require resolution of genuine disputes over material facts; e.g., issues that can only be determined through presentation of testimony at trial such as the credibility of conflicting testimony over facts that make a difference in the outcome. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)).

Focus on where the burden of proof lies as to the issue in question is crucial to summary judgment procedures. "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See id. at 322. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the opposing party must establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To overcome summary judgment, the opposing party must demonstrate a factual dispute that is both material, i.e. it affects the outcome of the claim under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987). In this regard, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In attempting to establish the existence of a factual dispute that is genuine, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631.

Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments). However, the opposing party must demonstrate with adequate evidence a genuine issue for trial. Valandingham v. Bojorquez, 866 F.2d 1135, 1142 (9th Cir. 1989). The opposing party must do so with evidence upon which a fair-minded jury "could return a verdict for [him] on the evidence presented." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248, 252. If ...


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