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Solis v. McKesson

September 3, 2010



Pending before the Court are numerous motions, including Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 87). This case arises out of an incident that took place in the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (CSATF) on December 16, 2003. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the Eighth Amendment by closing a cell door on his right ring finger. Plaintiff also makes other allegations that the Defendant called him a "rat" and "snitch" and said other disparaging remarks.

Defendant claims that he is entitled to summary judgment on all of the Plaintiff's claims or, in the alternative, that the Plaintiff's claim should be dismissed as a sanction for his abuse of the discovery process. Upon review of the briefs, motions, and evidence, and for the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. All other motions in this case pending before this Court are dismissed as moot.*fn1

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is 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). A genuine issue exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party"; material facts are those "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is "genuine" if "there is sufficient evidence on each side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue either way." Id. A fact is "material" if, under the applicable substantive law, it is "essential to the proper disposition of the claim." Id. Initially, the moving party has the burden to demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and once this initial burden is met, the opposing party has the burden to "demonstrate through production of probative evidence that an issue of fact remains to be tried." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). A court deciding a motion for summary judgment must view all evidentiary inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. King County v. Rasmussen, 299 F.3d 1077, 1083 (9th Cir. 2002). If significant factual issues remain, the motion should be denied. United States v. Carter, 906 F.2d 1375, 1377 (9th Cir. 1990).

When, as here, a party moves for summary judgment early in the proceedings and the opposing party requests additional discovery, the Court analyzes the parties' requests under Rule 56(f). Under that Rule, if the non-moving party "shows by affidavit that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition," the Court may issue any just order including denial of the motion or an order for further discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f). District courts should grant Rule 56(f) relief "fairly freely"when a motion for summary judgment is filed "early in the litigation, and before a party has had any realistic opportunity to pursue discovery." Burlington N. Santa Fe R.R. Co. v. Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation, 323 F.3d 767, 773 (9th Cir. 2003). The Rule 56(f) affidavit must be "(a) a timely application which (b) specifically identifies (c) relevant information, (d) where there is some basis for believing that the information sought actually exists." VISA Int'l Serv. Assoc. v. Bankcard Holders of Am., 784 F.2d 1472, 1475 (9th Cir. 1986). To demonstrate that there is some basis for believing that the information sought actually exists, the affidavit cannot rely on facts that are "almost certainly nonesxistent" or that are "pure speculation." California ex rel. Cal. Dep't of Toxic Substances Control v. Campbell, 138 F.3d 772, 779-80 (9th Cir. 1988) (internal quotations omitted).

II. Background

On December 16, 2003, Plaintiff Salvador Solis was being released for his daily time in the prison yard. Release to the yard followed a certain regimen: the tower officer unlocked the doors from a remote location while another officer walked the line of cells, shutting the doors of those prisoners who did not wish to have their yard time on a particular day. On December 16, the Defendant, Officer McKesson, was walking the line closing inmates' doors of those inmates not wishing to go to the yard.

Solis claims that when his door was electronically unlocked that afternoon, he "had [his] fingers on the tray slot."*fn2 Then, while his right ring finger was on the tray slot, Solis claims that the McKesson "hit the door backwards," trapping his finger in the door. Solis stated that his finger remained stuck in the tray slot for approximately ten to fifteen minutes while Officer McKesson released the other inmates. After Officer McKesson unlocked Solis's door, Solis confronted McKesson about the incident. McKesson responded, "why don't you act like a man. Stop crying."

Solis was seen by medical personnel in the facility who concluded that there was no injury to Solis's finger. The medical report stated: "4-5 fingers slightly pink. No acute injury or trauma seen. Finger appear [sic] properly aligned." Subsequent x-rays revealed no fracture or break in the finger bone. Solis was prescribed Motrin about a month after the incident.

Solis has exhausted his administrative remedies for the claims considered in this motion. See Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, at 3-4. Solis's claims regarding retaliation are not before this Court as he did not exhaust his administrative remedies as to those claims. Solis filed this claim against Officer McKesson, alleging a violation of his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by use of excessive force.

III. Discussion

A. Summary Judgment Is Not Premature in this Case

The plain language of Rule 56 allows a defendant to move for summary judgment "at any time." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b). Summary judgment is most proper "after adequate time for discovery," Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, although the meaning of "adequate time" depends on the claims presented and whether the Plaintiff will benefit from further discovery. Pre-discovery summary judgment is still the exception and not the rule, "granted only in the clearest of cases." Patton v. General Signal Corp., 984 F.Supp. 666, 670 (W.D.N.Y. 1997) (citations omitted). However, in cases where the non-moving party makes no showing that there are material facts in dispute, a court may grant summary judgment without further discovery. See Chance v. Pac-Tel Teletrac, Inc., 242 F.3d 1151, 1161 (9th Cir. 2001).

In Chance, the Plaintiff "did not proffer to the district court . . . sufficient facts to show that evidence which it sought existed and would prevent summary judgment." Id. Rather, the Plaintiff "merely state[d] in conclusory form that it was deprived of the opportunity to discover additional crucial evidence without ever identifying the content of that evidence." Id. Such conclusory allegations are not enough to justify further discovery when a party has had adequate time for discovery. Frederick S. Wyle, P.C. v. Texaco, Inc., ...

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