UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
January 7, 2011
SOLANO COUNTY CUSTODY DIVISION/MEDICAL, ET AL., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marsha J. Pechman United States District Judge
ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND MOTION TO AMEND
The above-entitled Court, having received and reviewed
1. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend (Dkt. No. 31), Defendant Kadevari's Response (Dkt. No. 35), Defendants' Stanton and Norris' Opposition to Motion to Amend (Dkt. No. 36), Plaintiff's Reply (Dkt. No. 41)
2. Defendant Dr. Kadevari's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 37), Plaintiff's Response (Dkt. No. 46), Reply to Plaintiff's Response (Dkt. No. 49)
3. Defendants' Stanton and Norris' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 40), Plaintiff's Response and Objection (Dkt. No. 43), Reply to Plaintiff's Response (Dkt. No. 48) and all attached declarations and exhibits, makes the following ruling:
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion to amend is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants' motions for summary judgment are GRANTED and this matter is DISMISSED with prejudice.
Plaintiff, who is an amputee, was arrested on March 31, 2007 -- in the course of the arrest he was tasered, wrapped and had his shoulder dislocated. He was taken to an emergency room where he was treated and released to the police. Upon being booked into jail, his leg prosthesis was removed and retained and Plaintiff was given a wheelchair.
Plaintiff was in custody at the Solano County Jail approximately 18 months. The Court will not reproduce in its entirety the lengthy chronology of appointments, examinations, treatments and surgery which charts the jail's response to the medical conditions (right shoulder, prosthesis and right knee) which form the focus of Plaintiff's complaint. These chronologies can be found as attachments to both of Defendants' summary judgment motions. Dkt. Nos. 37-2 and 40-2.*fn1 Reviewing the chronology, the Court counts a total of 33 separate events -- contacts with medical facilities to make appointments or to follow up on previous visits, appointments for examinations or testing, and actual medical procedures (surgery, fitting for prosthesis) -- over the course of the year and a half Plaintiff was incarcerated in Solano County.
During his time in Solano County jail, Plaintiff filed 11 grievances related to his medical treatment. All were denied, but in only one instance did he follow through with an appeal of the denial to the next administrative level. Another undisputed fact is that Defendant Tom Norris, whom Plaintiff names as the "Chief Medical Officer" of the Solano County Jail, is in fact a nurse with no authority to authorize or order treatment. Decl. of Norris, Dkt. No. 40-8.
Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there is no genuine dispute of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FRCP 56(a). The movant always bears the initial responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, discovery responses and affidavits which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment may also carry its initial burden by showing that the opposing party lacks sufficient evidence to carry its ultimate burden at trial. Id. at 323-325. A complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case renders all other facts immaterial. Id. at 323.
If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine dispute of fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-587 (1986). If the non-movant fails to properly address an assertion of fact, the Court may consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion. FRCP 56(e).
Reasonable inferences that may be drawn from facts must be drawn in favor of the opposing party, but inferences cannot be drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual basis from which reasonable inferences may be drawn. Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-1245 (E.D. Ca. 1985). To demonstrate a genuine issue, an opposing party "must do more than just show that there is some metaphysical doubt about the material facts. Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the opposing party, there is no genuine issue left for trial." Matsushita, supra, 475 U.S. at 586-587. If the facts or context makes the opposing party's claim about the existence of a material fact implausible, that party must come forward with more persuasive evidence to support his claim than would otherwise be necessary. Blueridge Ins. Co. v. Stanewich, 142 F.3d 1145, 1147 (9th Cir. 1998).
Plaintiff's complaint is extremely vague on the nature of the "constitutional violations" committed against him, but Defendants correctly identify the Eighth Amendment/"cruel and unusual punishment" as the applicable legal principle, and Plaintiff's case will be analyzed along the guidelines set out for complaints involving inadequate medical care for prisoners.
The applicable standard to which Plaintiff's evidence must conform is evidence of "acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). To invoke the protection of the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must not only show that there were serious medical needs which went untreated, but that Defendants possessed "a sufficiently culpable state of mind," described as "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)).
[A] prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).
Plaintiff's evidence is devoid of any proof which would satisfy this
standard. He did not depose any of the Defendants nor seek discovery
of their internal communciations, so there is no evidence to establish
what they knew or did not know of Plaintiff's condition.*fn2
As far as the seriousness of his condition, Plaintiff
presents no testimony from any of his treating physicians (other than
his hearsay recounting of a conversation with Dr. Tkach where the
doctor allegedly asked him why he didn't come in earlier for
treatment) from which the Court could draw the inference of a
condition so serious that the jail medical staff knew or should have
known it needed to be treated more expeditiously. This absence of
proof also means that no conclusion can be drawn that Plaintiff's
current medical condition (of which he also presents no evidence) is
the result of any delay in treatment, and furthermore that he is
unable to satisfy the Ninth Circuit standard for inadequate medical
care which requires that, in order
. to prevail on a claim involving choices between alternative courses
of treatment, a prisoner must show that the chosen course of treatment
"was medically unacceptable under the circumstances," and was chosen
"in conscious disregard of an excessive risk to [the prisoner's]
Toguchi v. Soon Hwang Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1058 (9th Cir. 2004)(citations omitted).
On the contrary, the evidence submitted by Defendants (largely uncontested by Plaintiff) establishes that there was an ongoing, concerted effort to obtain medical care for Plaintiff. There were unquestionably delays, some of them caused by nothing more sinister than the sluggishness of the prison bureaucracy, some of them by Plaintiff being double-booked for court appearances. But the lengthy chronology of scheduling, appointments and treatments establishes (in the absence of any evidence from Plaintiff to the contrary) that there was no "deliberate indifference" to Plaintiff's condition on the part of the jail staff; on the contrary, it appears that the jail staff went to considerable lengths to procure diagnosis and treatment for the medical conditions of which Plaintiff complains.
Just prior to the filing of Defendants' summary judgment motions, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend (Dkt. No. 31), seeking permission to add Solano County and the City of Fairfield as defendants. Defendant Kadevari indicated no objection; Defendants Stanton and Norris objected.
The motion will be denied. It is untimely -- discovery closed in August 2010 and would have to be reopened with the addition of new parties. Plaintiff indicates in his reply that "these new defendants were unknown to Plaintiff at the time the original and the amended complaints were filed," but this is not credible and Plaintiff offers no explanation of how he could have been unaware of them when he named "Solano County Custody Division/Medical" as a defendant originally, and the Solano County Jail is located in the City of Fairfield.
Amendment is futile as well as untimely. First, Plaintiff provides no evidence that the City of Fairfield has any authority or control over the administration of medical care at the Solano County Jail, and it is counterintuitive to assume that it would be so. Furthermore, the proof problems that resulted in the Court's decision to grant summary judgment to the existing defendants would still be an obstacle to recovery for Plaintiff. His request to amend contains no allegations of proof that these two governmental entities are more culpable than the county medical and law enforcement personnel he sued originally.
Based on the material facts before the Court and in the absence of any proof that the moving parties acted with "deliberate indifference" towards Plaintiff's medical conditions, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment of dismissal as a matter of law. Because it would be both untimely and futile, Plaintiff's request to amend his complaint to add further governmental entities is denied.
The above-entitled matter is DISMISSED with prejudice. The Clerk of the Court is ordered to enter judgment against Plaintiff and close the case.
The Clerk is ordered to provide copies of this order to Plaintiff and all counsel.