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Muhammad v. Director of Corrections

August 6, 2010


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


I. Introduction

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action is proceeding on the second amended complaint (Doc. 12) filed September 7, 2007. Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by forcing him to sleep on a mattress contaminated with bodily fluids. Pending before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 89) filed October 2, 2009. Plaintiff filed an opposition (Doc. 92) on January 19, 2010.

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

The second amended complaint alleges that plaintiff was compelled, in 2006, to sleep on a mattress contaminated with blood and urine stains at California State Prison-Solano (CSP-Solano). It was served on defendants Sisto, Hines, and Noble. (Doc. 13.) On August 22, 2008, the second amended complaint was dismissed as to defendant Sisto. (Doc. 67.)

In his opposition to summary judgment, plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to comply with prison guidelines for replacing "contaminated mattresses." (Doc. 92 at 1, 3-4.) For example, they did not "place contaminated mattress in a clear mattress bag and clearly mark with the date and condition of mattress[;] place the contaminated mattress next to the infectious waste locker . . . [;] . . . contact the supervising registered nurse . . . [;] [nor had] contaminated mattress placed in appropriate red biohazard waste bag." (Id. at 3, 4.) Instead, plaintiff alleges, defendants offered him a replacement mattress that was "in worst [sic] or the same condition." (Id. at 6.) He claims that defendants' response to his "contaminated mattress" violates his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.

III. Evidentiary Findings

In January 2008, plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction (Doc. 27), claiming that he was still being forced to sleep on a contaminated mattress. On June 11, 2008, plaintiff filed a declaration (Doc. 48) stating that the mattress he currently slept on contained bodily fluids or bodily fluid stains. He also stated that the replacement mattress offered to him was in the same condition or worse than the mattress he had. (Id.)

On July 30, 2008, the court held an evidentiary hearing on plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. At the hearing, defendants offered as exhibits photographs of the mattress plaintiff currently used. The court found the mattress to be in "relatively good condition" with only a few small stains. (Doc. 60 at 3.) No evidence was offered as to what caused the stains, but the court observed that they did not appear to be bodily fluid stains and could have been caused by, for example, spilled coffee. (Id.) Plaintiff testified -- in seeming contradiction to his allegation that the mattress was contaminated with bodily fluids -- that he had brought this mattress with him when he transferred cells because it was in fairly good condition. (Id.)

The court concluded that plaintiff's mattress was in "adequate" condition. (Id.) As plaintiff failed to show a threat of irreparable injury based on the current state of his mattress, the court denied his motion for preliminary injunction on that basis and did not reach the question of whether plaintiff's previous mattresses were contaminated. (Id.; see also Doc. 67.)

The court hereby takes judicial notice of its findings at the evidentiary hearing. See Fed. R. Evid. 201; Grason Elec. Co. v. Sacramento Municipal Utility Dist., 571 F.Supp. 1504, 1521 (E.D. Cal. 1983) (court may take judicial notice of adjudicative facts at the summary judgment stage).

IV. Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendants contend there are no issues of material fact as plaintiff's claims of a stained mattress do not create a condition amounting to "cruel and unusual punishment" and defendants Hines and Noble did not show deliberate indifference to plaintiff's needs.

A. Legal Standard

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 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," ...

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