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Foster v. Redenius

May 4, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Mikel H. Williams United States Magistrate Judge


Currently pending before the Court for its consideration is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, filed October 6, 2008. (Docket No. 50). Because the motion is fully briefed by both parties, the Court finds that oral argument is not necessary.



A. Procedural Background

On June 22, 2006, Ronald Foster ("Plaintiff") filed the instant action against officers R. Redenius, E. Noyce, G. Alvarez, E. Garcia, B. Wadman, J. Uribe, R. Schiefelbein, and D. Harrison ("Defendants"). Complaint (Docket No. 1). Plaintiff was an inmate and Defendants were officers at the California Correctional Institution ("CCI") at the time this action was commenced. Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when Defendants refused to provide him approximately 35-45 meals between October 2005 and April 2006. Id. at pp. 3--9. Plaintiff also claims that he was denied meals without due process, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at p. 9. As a result of missing these meals, Plaintiff alleges that he lost 16 pounds and seeks to recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees for the alleged constitutional violations. Id. at pp. 3, 9. Plaintiff later conceded that he had lost 12 pounds, not 16, as originally claimed. Plaintiff's Opposition to the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, p. 9 (Docket No. 52) [hereinafter "Plaintiff's Opposition"]. Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on July 24, 2006. (Docket No. 5).

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment October 6, 2006, arguing that Plaintiff's alleged deprivation is not sufficiently serious to meet the objective requirement of an Eighth Amendment violation and that Defendants did not act with a culpable state of mind because Plaintiff refused the meals on the occasions he claims he was denied meals. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, pp. 5--6 (Docket No. 50) [hereinafter "MSJ"]. Plaintiff argues that there are sufficient factual disputes to preclude summary judgment because evidence shows Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his need for adequate nutrition and he did not refuse the meals on the occasions he was allegedly deprived of meals. Plaintiff's Opposition, pp. 4-7 (Docket No. 52). In reply, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to show that there is a genuine dispute of material fact because he has failed to show that his health declined as a result of missing meals. Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment, pp. 2-5 (Docket No. 54) [hereinafter "Defendants' Reply"].

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff is a 6'1" male who was housed in the California Correction Institute's Segregated Housing Unit ("SHU"), one of the most restricted units at the facility, during the period he alleges he was deprived of several meals. He weighed 225 pounds on July25, 2005, which is the most recent weigh-in prior to the alleged meal deprivations. Exhibit C of Plaintiff's Opposition, p. 19 (Docket No. 52). Plaintiff alleges that he missed meals beginning on October 14, 2005; however the "Record of Daily Activity" log for Plaintiff indicates that the first meal he missed was on November 12, 2005. Exhibit A of Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment [hereinafter "DUF"], p. 6 (Docket No. 51-3). Plaintiff missed meals sporadically between November 2005 and January 2006, and it increased in frequency during February 2006. Id. at pp. 6-16. The last meal Plaintiff missed was on April 7, 2006. Id. at p. 20. In total, Plaintiff missed approximately 35-45 meals during the period from November 2005 to April 2006, and all of the meals Plaintiff missed were either breakfast or lunch. The Record of Daily Activity log shows that on nine occasions, Plaintiff missed both breakfast and lunch. See Exhibit A of DUF, (Docket No. 51-3). It is undisputed that Plaintiff received dinner on all of the dates that he missed breakfast or lunch, or both. Attachment 1 to Plaintiff's Opposition, p. 9 (Docket No. 53).

Upon moving to the SHU, inmates are given an Orientation Package that details various procedures, including those for mealtime. The CCI has a meal distribution policy for cells in the SHU, which protects the safety of the officers while they serve meals to the inmates through the food port in the cell doors. The policy for meal distribution requires the inmate to turn his cell light on and stand by the cell door to indicate that he will accept his meal, then the food port is opened and the meal is served. Exhibit B of DUF, p. 3 (Docket No. 51-4). If an inmate does not follow this protocol, officers view it as the inmate's refusal to accept a meal and the meal is not served. Id. Before meals are served, officers announce "lights on" over the Public Address System to alert inmates to prepare to accept their breakfast and lunch, which is served about 20 minutes apart. Id. at p. 4. Cold bag lunches are served first, and upon making the rounds, officers return all leftover lunches to the kitchen. Id. Then, a hot breakfast is served. Id.

Plaintiff was referred to medical staff when he refused a meal on November 12, 2005, and it was determined that there was "no objective evidence of psychosis." Exhibit C of DUF, p. 3 (Docket No. 51-5). On February 4, 2006, Plaintiff was again referred to medical staff to determine whether he was on a hunger strike because Plaintiff was exhibiting "very bizzare behavior" and was not getting up for breakfast or lunch. Id. at p. 4; Exhibit A of DUF, p. 13 (Docket No. 51-3). The medical notation for this visit indicates that Plaintiff spoke in full sentences, stated he was not on a hunger strike, and that he was eating dinner. Id. The Record of Daily Activity log also indicates that medical staff was informed of Plaintiff's refusal to follow the mealtime policy. See Exhibit A of DUF, p. 13 (Docket No. 51-3).

Though Plaintiff disputes whether Defendants attempted to accommodate Plaintiff in allowing him more time to comply with the meal distribution protocol while serving food, the records that both Plaintiff and Defendants submitted indicate several occasions upon which he was informed of the protocol. For example, Exhibit A of Plaintiff's Complaint includes several Second Level administrative appeal decisions that Plaintiff received in response to his complaints about missing meals. On December 3, 2005, in response to the October 14, 2005 incident, the Appeal Response indicates that, when inmates are first housed in the SHU, they are told that they must turn on their cell light to accept a meal. Exhibit A of Complaint, p. 18 ( Docket No. 1). The Response also indicates that Defendant Redenius announced his presence during meal distribution and no other inmates refused to turn on their cell lights for meals that day. Id.

On December 19, 2005, another Appeal Response was issued to Plaintiff, and it indicates that it is customary for the officers to shout "lights on, lunch" over the Public Announcement System and again when the officer reaches the block, and that Plaintiff refused to get up to accept his meal on October 12, 2005. Id. at pp. 24--25. The Response also cites to and quotes the meal procedure from the Orientation Package that all inmates receive upon moving to the SHU and the Operation Procedure 111 for the SHU. Id. Specifically, the portion of the Appeal Response that references the meal distribution policy shows the following:

IVB Security Housing Unit Orientation Package.

Meal Procedures (Page 17)

B. Morning Meal

2. Food trays, sack lunches, and beverages will be served to you via the cell ...

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