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Jefferson v. Flohr

August 16, 2010



Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds on his October 16, 2009 amended complaint, wherein he alleges, in relevant part, that defendants Flohr, Harris, and Stocker ("defendants") were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by denying him Buproprion to treat his depression.*fn1 On February 5, 2010, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that they were not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical condition and that they are entitled to qualified immunity.*fn2 For the reasons explained below, the court recommends that defendants' motion be granted.

I. 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)(2). Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in favor of the non-movant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1994). At bottom, a summary judgment motion asks "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." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52. "When reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate." Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n, 18 F.3d at 1472.

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) (quoting the prior language of Rule 56(c), which was amended in 2007 to implement purely stylistic changes). If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the opposing party must "set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The opposing party must demonstrate -- through evidence in the form of affidavits and/or admissible discovery material -- a factual dispute that is both material (i.e. it affects the outcome of the claim under the governing law) and genuine (i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party).Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-50; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. 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 Celotex Corp., 477 322. Thus, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323.

In resolving a summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits filed by the parties. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in his or her favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which a favorable 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 (citation omitted).

On April 15, 2009 and March 18, 2010, the court informed plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 955-60 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1035 (1999) (holding that either the district court or the moving party must inform a pro se prisoner of the requirements of Rule 56), and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409, 411-12 (9th Cir. 1988).

II. Undisputed Facts

The following facts are not disputed by either party or following the court's review of the evidence submitted, have been deemed undisputed.

In approximately 2001, plaintiff began taking Wellbutrin. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' MSJ"), Stmt. of Undisp. Facts in Supp. Thereof ("Defs.' SUF") 11; Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' MSJ ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), Stmt. of Undisp. Facts in Supp. Thereof ("Pl.'s SUF") 6. Before plaintiff started taking Wellbutrin, he tried several other antidepressants. Defs.' SUF 12; Pl.'s SUF 7.

Plaintiff was incarcerated on June 27, 2006. Defs.' SUF 13. On August 22, 2006, plaintiff was transferred to Folsom State Prison (Folsom). Defs.' SUF 16. In June 2007, plaintiff's prescription was changed from Wellbutrin to Buproprion. Defs.' SUF 17. Buproprion is a generic form of Wellbutrin. Defs.' SUF 14; Pl.'s SUF 12. Initially, plaintiff experienced a dry mouth, a bad taste in his mouth, and fluctuations in his mood. Defs.' SUF 16, 17. Based upon these side effects, plaintiff refused to accept Buproprion. Defs.' SUF 17; Pl.'s SUF 9. During this time, plaintiff submitted a grievance, with log number 07-0694, that claimed his prescription for Buproprion needed to be changed to Wellbutrin. Defs.' SUF 18; Pl.'s SUF 9.

As the appeals coordinator at Folsom, defendant Stocker is responsible for reviewing inmate grievances regarding the medical care at Folsom and staff responses to those grievances. Defs.' SUF 6, 9. On August 26, 2007, Stocker conducted the first level review of grievance 07-0694. Defs.' SUF 19. Stocker granted plaintiff's grievance because plaintiff's medical records indicated that Flohr had prescribed him Wellbutrin. Defs.' MSJ, Ex. E at 5. At the second level of review, however, the grievance was denied on the ground that the chemical makeup of Buproprion and Wellbutrin are the same.*fn3 Defs.' SUF 20; Pl.'s SUF 14.

Because plaintiff believed the symptoms of his condition were worse than the side effects of Buproprion, plaintiff started taking Buproprion again. Defs.' SUF 17. After about a month, plaintiff's side effects subsided, and plaintiff believed the Buproprion was starting to work for him. Id.

There are safety issues associated with prescribing Buproprion and Wellbutrin to inmates. Defs.' SUF 21. For example, Buproprion and Wellbutrin are not appropriate for inmates with a history of drug abuse. Id. Seizures are a potential side effect of Buproprion and Wellbutrin, and the likelihood of a seizure is much greater if a patient consumes alcohol. Id. Many inmates have a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Defs.' SUF 22. While prisons take extensive measures to prevent inmates from obtaining illegal drugs and alcohol, prisoners manage to ...

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