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Prater v. Oliver

February 16, 2010


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



Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is 1) defendants' motion for summary judgment, filed on June 1, 2009, to which plaintiff filed an opposition on June 15, 2009,*fn1 after which defendants filed a reply on June 30, 2009; and 2) plaintiff's motion for sanctions, filed on June 3, 2009.

Amended Complaint*fn2

This action, originally filed on September 6, 2006, is proceeding on an amended complaint, filed on December 1, 2006, as modified by Order, filed on July, 2, 2007, dismissing Grannis as a defendant. Defendants are Medical Technical Assistant (MTA) Olver (erroneously sued as "Oliver"), Dr. Lee; Dr. Sahota; Kim Stocker. The gravamen of plaintiff's action is that defendants violated plaintiff's rights under the Eighth Amendment by deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition. Plaintiff was in severe pain for three days and was unable to walk normally. Defendant Olver was deliberately indifferent in refusing him treatment when plaintiff tried to explain his medical problem, stating that "it is not a medical emergency," and only providing Ibuprofen which did not stop his pain. Amended Complaint, pp. 3, 19.

Plaintiff walked in pain for fourteen (14) days before receiving, in addition to Ibuprofen, Vicodin, "which never worked"; thus, defendant Lee, who saw plaintiff on December 30, 2005, and again on January 9, 2006, provided inadequate pain medication and made no real effort to determine the source of the pain in his leg, which still hurt but not so severely. Amended Complaint, pp. 3, 19, 51.

Defendants Stocker and Sahota denied plaintiff's request for an M.R.I.,*fn3 on February 27, 2006, and on March 10, 2006, which plaintiff sought so that the major cause of his pain could be diagnosed. He states, although it is less severe, that he is still in pain. Id., at 51. Plaintiff primarily seeks money damages including punitive in the amount of ten thousand dollars, but states he also seeks declaratory relief (although he apparently, but mistakenly, believes declaratory relief may come in the form of money damages (see id., at 3, 52)). In addition, he seeks injunctive relief, but apparently only in the form of prohibiting defendants and their agents from retaliating in any manner against him, including transferring him in retaliation for filing this action.*fn4


In a filing dated February 19, 2009, plaintiff filed a motion and some additional medical record exhibits, a copy of an M.R.I. taken on December 15, 2008. Motion to Add Evidence of Medical Negligence and Request for Additional Award. Plaintiff therein contends that more injury occurred due to defendants' failure to provide an M.R.I. and that he now needs surgery on his left knee. Id. at 2. Plaintiff therefore requests an additional two hundred thousand dollar money damages award for a total of two hundred and ten thousand dollars. Id. at 2-3. Motion for Summary Judgment

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).

While the standards for summary judgment are well established, the procedural rules governing such motions in pro se cases are in disarray. A recurring issue in this case is the lengths to which the undersigned should go in "helping" the pro se plaintiff in his case. The Ninth Circuit may be of two conflicting minds on the issue. On the one hand, we are told that pro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567(1987) (waiver of originally pled but omitted causes of action in amended complaint). Also, the district court has no "obligation to give notice of Rule 56's evidentiary standards" to "pro se litigants in the ordinary civil case," and "admissible evidence" must be submitted. Jacobsen v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1364, 1365 (9th Cir.1986). See also Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990) ("well established that unauthenticated documents cannot be considered on a motion for summary judgment"). Finally, as a general rule, the judge does not have to scour the record in efforts to find evidence which might defeat summary judgment, i.e., the litigant must supply the needed evidence within the motion or opposition. See Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist. 237 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2001) stating the rule for represented parties: "Other circuits are not unanimous, but Forsberg is both binding on us and consistent with the majority view that the district court may limit its review to the documents submitted for the purposes of summary judgment and those parts of the record specifically referenced therein. But see Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 922-23 (2004) ("[b]ecause Jones is pro se, we must consider as evidence in his opposition to summary judgment all of Jones contentions offered in motions and pleadings [signed under penalty of perjury]. See also Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, 1036037 (9th Cir. 2003) (form of evidence submitted is irrelevant as long as the evidence might be made admissible at trial.)

Recently, in Richardson v. Runnels, __F.3d__, 2010 WL 276181, *2 (9th Cir. Jan. 26, 2010), the Ninth Circuit declined to approve the enforcement by the district court of procedural rules against a pro se defendant opposing summary judgment when the pro se was in clear violation of the local rules, but more importantly, had not produced any admissible evidence to oppose the motion. The case was decided adversely to defendants on defendants' statement of facts to the Ninth Circuit as the district court had not reached the merits. The implicit rule of Richardson appears to be that failure by a pro se to comply with procedural rules governing summary judgment motions simply places the burden upon the district court to ferret out the opposition for a pro se plaintiff.

Legal Standard for Eighth Amendment Claim

In order to state a § 1983 claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment based on inadequate medical care, plaintiff must allege "acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 292 (1976). To prevail, plaintiff must show both that his medical needs were objectively serious, and that defendants possessed a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 299, 111 S.Ct. 2321, 2324 (1991); McKinney v. Anderson, 959 F.2d 853 (9th Cir. 1992) (on ...

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