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Windham v. California Department of Corrections

January 8, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding with appointed counsel, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment, filed on June 23, 2008, to which plaintiff filed his opposition on October 27, 2008; defendants' reply was filed on November 6, 2008.

II. Complaint

This case is proceeding on an amended complaint, filed on November 28, 2005.*fn1

Plaintiff names ten (10) defendants who were employed at either California Medical Facility - Vacaville (CMF) or at California State Prison Solano (CSP-Solano): Dr. M. Zhu; Sergeant (Sgt.) Wilkerson; Correctional Officer (C/O) Powe*fn2 ; C/O Moore; C/O Andrada; Dr. Traquina; Captain (Capt.) Garcia; C/O Evans; Lieutenant (Lt.) Pulsipher; Sgt. Ruiz. Amended Complaint (AC) at 1-2.

Plaintiff states that he is a burn victim with full body skin grafts covering 75 to 80 percent of his body. AC at 2-3. Previously, plaintiff was assigned as a disabled worker coordinator at CMF, and was warned by inmates who were his friends that two other inmates wanted to get plaintiff disciplined because he had not helped them make a bed move. AC at 5. Plaintiff did not have the authority to do what they wanted, but the two inmates apparently blamed him for the move and became vindictive toward him. Id. One night, plaintiff's housing officer C/O Kelly (not a defendant), in passing out the mail, delivered an envelope to plaintiff containing a few dollars but no return address. Id. Plaintiff turned over the money either to his supervisor, K. Caravello (not a defendant) or to defendant Pulsipher, the unit supervisor because plaintiff did not know where the money came from and wanted CMF to find out the source. Id.

While waiting for defendant Evans of the Security Investigation Unit (S&I) to investigate the matter, plaintiff received more money orders also for small amounts, which plaintiff again turned over to C/O Kelly, thinking it was the work of the two disgruntled inmates. AC at 6. Plaintiff and C/O Kelly went to Caravello who notified defendants Garcia, Pulsipher, Ruiz and Evans. Defendant S&I Officer Evans was told by Caravello and Kelly that plaintiff did not know where the money was coming from. Id. After a few months, defendant Evans called plaintiff into Caravello's office and told him the matter had been investigated, plaintiff was in the clear, and not to worry about it. Id.

Around a year later, on the morning of December 18, 2003, defendant Powe, who knew of plaintiff's medical condition, approached plaintiff and told him to stand, searched, grabbed and cuffed him on his skin grafts, causing the grafts to twist, with no explanation. AC at 3, 6. Defendant Powe escorted plaintiff to a holding cell. AC at 6-7. Defendant Moore then placed handcuffs on plaintiff's grafts more tightly. AC at 3. Plaintiff was later taken and locked into a holding cell in Receiving and Release (R&R) by defendant Wilkerson. Id. Defendant Wilkerson was also involved in throwing away plaintiff's medical supplies. AC at 3. Defendant Andrada participated in throwing plaintiff's medical supplies away as well. Id

Plaintiff was then taken to CSP-Solano. AC at 7. The metal restraints were still placed directly onto plaintiff's skin grafts and without his leg support jobskin stockings*fn3 on his legs, the restraints began to tear and irritate the graft sites. Id. Once plaintiff was escorted to CSP-Solano's holding cell in R&R, all metal restraints were removed from plaintiff's waist, wrist and ankles; at that time, plaintiff felt and observed that the restraints had begun to break down the skin grafts between his legs, lower ankles and upper thighs. AC at 8.

CSP-Solano's R&R Officer Webb (not a defendant) cuffed plaintiff and took him to the medical station for an examination. AC at 8. Plaintiff informed the nurse, not a defendant, that more than 75 percent of his body was covered with skin grafts, that he needed jobskin stockings and other medical items to keep his grafts medically stable. Id. Plaintiff was then taken to a holding cell and placed in metal restraints that were directly on his unprotected burn grafts. Plaintiff had no medical supplies to reduce leg pressure and was unable to provide himself the daily treatment for his burn-grafted skin and donor sites. AC at 9. It was not until later that plaintiff learned he was being investigated for extorting elderly inmates at CMF, after an inmate filed a complaint.

Even though defendants Garcia, Pulsipher, Evans and Ruiz were fully aware of what had happened with regard to plaintiff's receipt of the envelopes with money, they did nothing on plaintiff's behalf at any of the Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) hearings. AC at 3-5. Plaintiff claims he was illegally transferred to another institution without any prior notification or hearing in violation of his due process rights. AC at 9. Plaintiff was denied his medical supplies after CSP-Solano's Dr. Noriega (not a defendant) ordered them and was thereby forced to clean and stop the bleeding with his own urine. AC at 10. Plaintiff claims this to be a violation of the transfer of inmate procedure outlined in Department Operations Manual (DOM) at sections 54046.18 & 54046.18.3. Plaintiff was basically bed-ridden and in pain because he was without his medical supplies and adequate care. Id.

Plaintiff alleges as to defendant Dr. Zhu, that she cleared plaintiff to be housed in administrative segregation in another prison of which she knew nothing and did nothing to help plaintiff even though she knew he was bleeding while attending two ICC hearings on December, 24, 2003, and April 2, 2004. AC at 3. Defendant Traquina, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), was well aware of plaintiff's serious medical condition, but ignored plaintiff's injuries, which led to numerous wounds and exacerbated the previous burn sites. AC at 4.

In addition to the alleged due process violations, plaintiff accuses the defendants of conspiring to keep him in administrative segregation. AC at 10-11. He claims the actions of defendants were malicious, oppressive and caused him mental and emotional pain. AC at 11. He seeks money damages in the form of compensatory and punitive damages for the severe pain and being kept in a facility inadequate for his medical condition. AC at 12.

III. Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants move for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff is not entitled to the relief requested as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Motion for Summary Judgment (MSJ), at 4.

Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that the standard set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) is met. "The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if . . . there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and . . . the moving party is entitled to 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.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct., 2548, 2553 (1986). "[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, 106 S.Ct. at 2552. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. 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, 106 S.Ct. at 2553.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to 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, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, 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, 106 S.Ct. at 1356 n. 11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is 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 the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. 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, 106 S.Ct. at 1356 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1356 (citation omitted).

IV. Undisputed Facts

The following of defendants' undisputed facts (DUF) are either not disputed by plaintiff, or following the court's review of the evidence submitted, have been deemed undisputed. Plaintiff was an inmate at CMF and CSP-Solano. DUF #1. Plaintiff has burn scar injuries to his wrists, abdomen, both thighs and lower legs. DUF #28. On October 4, 2001, C/O Kelly attempted to deliver mail to plaintiff. The envelope was stamped, "No letter enclosed, $25.00 money order only." DUF #2. Plaintiff requested that the money be returned as he did not know where the money was from. Id. On February ...

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