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Strain v. Sandham

January 22, 2009

CHARLES STRAIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER R. SANDHAM, ET AL., DEFENDANTS,



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

ORDER & FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, a former state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment, filed on May 2, 2008, to which plaintiff filed his opposition on July 2, 2008; defendants' reply was filed on July 31, 2008.

II. Complaint

This case is proceeding on an amended complaint, filed on June 2, 2006.*fn1

Plaintiff's remaining claim names two (2) defendants who were employed at High Desert State Prison (HDSP): Dr. James and Dr. Sandham.

Plaintiff suffers from significant back pain stemming from an injury in 1986. Complaint (Comp.) at 6. In 2001, while incarcerated at California State Prison-Solano (CSPSolano), plaintiff was prescribed narcotic medications to treat the pain. Id. Plaintiff was transferred to HDSP on February 26, 2004, at which time plaintiff had been taking methadone and other prescriptions for approximately three years. Comp. at 2. Defendant Dr. Sandham, upon plaintiff's transfer to HDSP, cut off his medication before his then-current prescription approached its monthly expiration date, despite plaintiff's cautioning that he would be caused severe withdrawal pain if forced to go "cold turkey," and might become suicidal. Comp. at 9.

Two days after his transfer, on February 28, 2004, plaintiff notified Barton, a medical technical assistant (MTA) who has been dismissed as a defendant, that he was beginning to show or exhibit signs of withdrawal, such as an inability to eat, diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, tremors, and pain. Comp. at 10. According to MTA Barton's report, defendants Dr. Sandham and Dr. James knew of plaintiff's condition and "all agreed [he] would have to go through the withdrawals as unpleasant as it is." Id.

On March 5, 2004, plaintiff states he had not eaten in a week and was in very bad pain. Comp. at 11. On March 11, 2004, plaintiff was seen by defendant Dr. James, and requested anti-nausea medication and Prilosec, due to uncontrollable vomiting and severe pain but was refused. Id. Defendant Dr. James only changed plaintiff's prescription from Motrin to Tylenol and scheduled a follow-up appointment in 30 days. Comp. at 11-12.

On March 13, 2004, plaintiff began vomiting blood, but an RN told him that he would just have to suffer through it. Comp at 12. After retching blood violently all day, floor officers demanded that plaintiff receive medical attention and he was transported to Washoe Medical Center. Id. Plaintiff was stabilized at Washoe Medical Center by March 15, 2004, given morphine and other medications, and was provided a 30-day prescription of Prilosec and Maalox but never received any Maalox from doctors at HDSP. Comp. at 13.

On March 19, 2004, plaintiff was seen by defendant Dr. James and informed the doctor that he was having problems with bowel movements, had rapid weight loss and little to no sleep; that he was not receiving the medications prescribed from Washoe Medical Center; that he was in great pain and still vomiting blood. Comp. at 14. Plaintiff was seen by defendant Dr. James on March 26, 2004, and April 9, 2004, and told him that he was suffering severe back pain, pain in his right leg and sciatica and sleeping little; by the latter appointment he still felt very weak although his withdrawals were basically over. Comp. at 15-16.

III. Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants move for summary judgment on the ground that they were not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's health and safety nor did they intentionally subject him to any known risk or serious harm. Defendants contend there is no triable issue of fact and they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Motion for Summary Judgment (MSJ), at 2-3.

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 ...


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