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Ordaz v. Tate

September 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court



Currently pending before the Court is Defendant Harold Tate, M.D.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 69) and Defendant Charles O'Brien, M.D's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 72).


Plaintiff Rafael Ordaz ("Plaintiff" or "Ordaz") filed this action on April 26, 2007. He alleges that Doctors O'Brien and Tate were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment when they confiscated and denied him the use of a walking cane from August 10, 2006 to November 2, 2006, while he was incarcerated at California Correctional Institution (CCI) in Tehachapi, California. During his deposition that took place on October 7, 2008, Plaintiff also indicated that he was asserting claims for medical malpractice and discrimination. Although these claims were not set forth in his complaint, the Court will address their merits in this order.

Plaintiff transferred to CCI on August 10, 2006. On the day of his arrival, Ordaz was issued a Rules Violation Report for assaulting another inmate with his waist chains upon exiting the transfer bus. The informational report, signed by Correctional Sergeant D. Wilson, indicated Ordaz possessed a cane but he perpetrated the attack "without benefit of his cane" and other staff observed Ordaz "moving about spryly" during the incident. (Tate Dec., Ex. B, Dkt. 69-6.) After this event, Wilson reviewed Ordaz's Central File where it was reported that on December 30, 2005, Ordaz battered an officer at California Institute for Men (CIM) at Chino with the footrest of his wheelchair and on March 21, 2006, Ordaz attempted to batter an officer at CIM with his cane by swinging it at the officer. Wilson also noted that there was no medical chrono*fn1 located in the Central File authorizing the use of a cane. Wilson confiscated the cane and provided Ordaz with a Reasonable Accommodation Request Form. On August 30, 2006, Ordaz was seen and examined by Dr. O'Brien. Dr. O'Brien ordered x-rays of Ordaz's low back and pelvis due to his complaints of back pain. The radiological report showed that his lumbar spine and pelvis were normal. Dr. O'Brien did not find that a cane chrono was indicated at that time because Ordaz was walking without difficulty. Ordaz's request was denied.

However, Ordaz was allowed to use a cane for "out of cell purposes," such as showers. On occasion, he was also provided a wheelchair escort to medical appointments. (Ordaz Dep. at 47:13-19, 49-50, 76:2-8, Dkt. 69-4.)

During Ordaz's time at CCI, from August 2006 until July 2007, Dr. O'Brien saw and treated him on several occasions. Dr. O'Brien prescribed Ordaz with muscle relaxants for back pain and ordered an MRI and bloodwork on October 4, 2006. On October 8, 2006, Ordaz fell in his cell and was treated for a cut to his forehead. Dr. O'Brien saw him on October 11, 2006, tested his range of motion and examined his left groin area for continued drainage following a hernia surgery. He prescribed antibiotics on October 15, 2006 for an infection in his left groin area. On October 19, 2006, Ordaz underwent an MRI. On October 25, 2006, Dr. O'Brien again examined Ordaz, noted he had a stiff back but had been walking without use of a cane, walker or wheelchair. He prescribed muscle relaxants, pain medication, antibiotics and referred him to a podiatrist. On November 2, 2006, another physician reviewed the results of the MRI and prescribed Ordaz a cane.

Dr. O'Brien renewed Ordaz's prescription for muscle relaxants and pain medication on January 31, 2007. He again treated Ordaz for low-back pain on February 14, 2007, prescribed a back brace for support and ordered lab work. He also prescribed antifungal medication for an infection in his toenails. Dr. O'Brien continued to renew Ordaz's prescription for muscle relaxants and pain medication during 2007. He ordered an electrocardiogram for Ordaz on March 7, 2007 and ordered a Hepatitis B vaccine and prescribed multi-vitamins on April 18, 2007. While examining Ordaz for a follow-up to his hepatitis treatment, Dr. O'Brien conducted a physical examination and tested his back's range of motion. Noting that Ordaz had increased back pain, he prescribed a stronger pain medication and muscle relaxants on May 9, 2007.

Dr. O'Brien treated Ordaz for drainage from his left groin area and back pain on June 4, 2007. At that time, Ordaz had consulted with a sports medicine specialist, Dr. Tanji, who recommended epidural steroid injections to control his back pain. Dr. O'Brien also referred Ordaz to a pain management clinic and referred him for a surgery consult on his groin. On June 12 and 20, 2007, Dr. O'Brien renewed the prescription for pain medication and prescribed a stronger antibiotic. He also examined Ordaz and tested his range of motion. Dr. O'Brien ordered chronos for a low tier cell and low bunk, a knee brace and a cane. Dr. O'Brien last renewed Ordaz's pain medication and antibiotics on June 27, 2007. Ordaz was released from CCI in July 2007.

Dr. Tate was the Chief Medical Officer at CCI during Ordaz's time at the facility. Dr. Tate never conducted a medical examination of Ordaz. He did request a consultation on behalf of Ordaz from UC Davis Associate Medical Director, Dr. Tanji.

In addition, on February 21, 2007 Dr. Tate issued a second level response to an inmate appeal filed by Ordaz requesting that an 1845 verification*fn2 be completed, as well as requesting waist chain chronos and soft-soled boots. The request for soft-soled boots was granted at the first level of review. At the second level of review, Dr. Tate denied the requests for waist chain chronos and 1845 verification, finding that Ordaz did not meet the criteria for mobility impairment. (Tate Decl., Ex. A.) Other than these times, Dr. Tate did not have any contact with Ordaz except as Chief Medical Officer, he supervised the physicians, nurses and others who offered medical care at CCI.


Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for ...

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