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Robinson v. Catlett

July 19, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court


On January 25, 2008, Plaintiff Nehemiah Robinson ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint alleging Constitutional violations and violations of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act arising from events occurring while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison. (Doc. No. 1.) The Court granted Plaintiff's motion in part to file a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") on December 1, 2009. (Doc. Nos. 62, 72.) Defendants answered Plaintiff's SAC on December 4, 2009. (Doc. No. 73.)

On March 18, 2010, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 84.)

On March 18, 2010, the Court issued an order pursuant to Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc) and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988) warning Plaintiff that Defendant's motion for summary judgment seeks to have the case dismissed. (Doc. No. 85.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion on June 23, 2010. (Doc. No. 96.) On June 30, 2010, Defendants filed a reply in support of their motion. (Doc. No. 97.) For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.


I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); United States v. Kapp, 564 F.3d 1103, 1114 (9th Cir. 2009). A dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party can satisfy this burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's case on which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving at trial. Id. at 322-23. "Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). Once the moving party establishes the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth facts showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact remains. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. The nonmoving party cannot oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by "rest[ing] on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 259.

When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The Court does not make credibility determinations with respect to evidence offered. See T.W. Elec., 809 F.2d at 630-31. Summary judgment is therefore not appropriate "where contradictory inferences may reasonably be drawn from undisputed evidentiary facts . . . ." Hollingsworth Solderless Terminal Co. v. Turley, 622 F.2d 1324, 1335 (9th Cir. 1980).

II. Eighth Amendment Claims

A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment when (1) the deprivation alleged is objectively, "sufficiently serious"; and (2) the official acted with deliberate indifference to an inmate's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) ; see also Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006); Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 737-38 (2002); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 299-300 (1991) (discussing subjective requirement). To violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, a prison official must have a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.

Denial of medical attention to prisoners constitutes an Eighth Amendment violation if the denial amounts to deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of the prisoners. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976); Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006); Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 904 (9th Cir. 2002); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Mere delay of medical treatment, "without more, is insufficient to state a claim of deliberate medical indifference." Shapely v. Nevada Bd. of State Comm'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985)

"A 'serious' medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059 (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 104); see also Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096; Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). The court should consider whether a reasonable doctor would think that the condition is worthy of comment, whether the condition significantly affects the prisoner's daily activities, and whether the condition is chronic and accompanied by substantial pain. See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131-32; Doty, 37 F.3d at 546 n.3 (citing McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059-60).

In some cases, it may be important to balance the "competing tensions" between "the prisoners' need for medical attention and the government's need to maintain order and discipline," in determining the prison officials' subjective intent. Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d at 905 n.4. "In deciding whether there has been deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs, [the court] need not defer to the judgment of prison doctors or administrators." Hunt v. Dental Dept., 865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir. 1989). "[S]tate prison ...

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