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Logan v. Hawkins

March 13, 2009

CHRIS LOGAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HAWKINS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on plaintiff's June 1, 2007 complaint in which plaintiff alleges that on May 7, 2002, defendant Hawkins was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs. Pending before the court is the sole remaining defendant Hawkin's May 30, 2008 motion for summary judgment on the grounds that there is no genuine dispute for trial because this action is barred by the statute of limitations and because defendant was not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs. On December 16, 2008, plaintiff filed an opposition brief, and on December 18, 2008, defendant filed a reply thereto. For the reasons stated below, the court recommends that defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted.

I. Facts

The following facts are undisputed, except as noted below. At all relevant times, plaintiff was an inmate housed at Mule Creek State Prison. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Stmt. of Undisp. Facts in Supp. Thereof ("SUF") 1. Plaintiff suffers from a neck condition that causes him pain. Compl. at 5, 8; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Decl. of Def. ("Def.'s Decl.") in Supp. Thereof, ¶ 5. Plaintiff is under the care of specialists at the U.C. Davis Medical Center for his neck condition. SUF 5.

Plaintiff alleges that on May 7, 2002, he had an appointment with defendant, who dismissed plaintiff's suffering and failed to examine him. Compl. at 5. Defendant allegedly told plaintiff that he was "o.k." and that plaintiff did not need the medications that had been prescribed to him by another doctor. Id. Plaintiff states that he takes 8000 milligrams of "Gabopantin" and 50 milligrams of "Altram" three times a day, however, plaintiff insists he should be prescribed a stronger pain reliever. Id. at 5, 8.

Defendant, a physician and surgeon, has only been employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") since September 2003. SUF 2. He has examined and provided treatment to plaintiff on several occasions and is familiar with his condition. Id. at 3. However, defendant did not work for the CDCR and was not at Mule Creek on May 7, 2002, and thus, could not have refused to provide care or treatment to plaintiff at that time. Id. at 4.

Furthermore, defendant is a general practitioner and not a neurologist or pain management specialist. Id. at 6. Defendant's duties with regard to plaintiff are limited to providing general care on an as needed basis. Def.'s Decl., ¶ 6. Defendant's duties also include prescribing medications, diagnostic testing, and other treatments recommended by plaintiff's specialists. Id. at¶7. His duties do not include second guessing the opinions, conclusions or recommendations made by plaintiff's specialists. SUF 7. Defendant never refused to provide plaintiff with medicine or treatment recommended by his specialists. Id. at 9. Additionally, at no time did defendant intentionally or knowingly disregard any serious risk of harm or injury to plaintiff, nor did he intentionally or knowingly cause plaintiff any sickness, harm or injury of any kind. Id. at 11, 12. Finally, plaintiff's pain and suffering as described in the complaint are the natural result of his condition and were not caused by any of the acts or omissions alleged in the complaint. Id. at 13.

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 movant 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.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotations omitted).

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, 477 U.S. at 323.

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 ...


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