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Neftan Mendez v. K. Win

January 18, 2011

NEFTAN MENDEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
K. WIN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court are motions for summary judgment brought, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on behalf of defendants Rohrer, Rallos, Traquina and Basi. (Doc. Nos. 30-31.) Plaintiff has filed oppositions to the motions and defendants have filed replies.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on his first amended complaint (Doc. No. 13) against defendants Rohrer, Rallos, Traquina, and Basi. Therein, he alleges as follows. In December of 2006 plaintiff was incarcerated in a California State Prison Conservation Camp. At that time a blood test revealed that plaintiff had an elevated Prostate-Specific Antigen ("PSA") level, which is sign of prostate cancer. Plaintiff was not informed of this test result.

In January of 2007 plaintiff was transferred to California State Prison-Solano ("CSP-Solano"). On January 24, 2007, defendant Dr. Basi ordered another PSA test for plaintiff which also showed that plaintiff had an elevated PSA level. Again, plaintiff was not informed of this test result, nor was he scheduled for a follow-up appointment during the nine months he remained incarcerated at CSP-Solano. During that time period plaintiff was considered for transfer to a prison outside of California. Prisoners with chronic or serious medical conditions are excluded from consideration for transfer to prisons outside of California.

From February 2007 through June 2007 plaintiff had medical appointments with defendants Dr. Rohrer and Dr. Rallos. Despite these appointments defendants Dr. Rohrer and Dr. Rallos never informed plaintiff of his abnormal PSA test results or of the possibility that he may have prostate cancer. Similarly, defendant Dr. Traquina received copies of plaintiff's lab results showing the elevated PSA level but failed to ensure that plaintiff received follow-up care while he was incarcerated at CSP-Solano.

On September 18, 2007, plaintiff was transferred from CSP-Solano to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, in Mississippi, without any mention of his elevated PSA level or possible prostate cancer. After his arrival, the medical staff at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility took note of plaintiff's elevated PSA levels.

After additional testing, plaintiff was examined by Dr. Derek Niles, a urologist, on October 4, 2007. Dr. Niles ordered a biopsy of plaintiff's prostate which was performed on October 11, 2007. As a result of that biopsy it was discovered that plaintiff was suffering from prostate cancer. On January 4, 2008, plaintiff was returned to CSP-Solano for treatment of his prostate cancer. However, after his return to CSP-Solano plaintiff was forced to file two inmate grievances in order to obtain treatment for his prostate cancer.

Plaintiff claims that the defendants have denied him adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment and seeks injunctive relief, as well as general, special and punitive damages. (Amend. Compl. (Doc. No. 13) at 11-20.)*fn1

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 14, 2009, the court ordered the United States Marshal to serve plaintiff's amended complaint on defendants Rohrer, Rallos, Traquina, and Basi. (Doc. No. 14.) Defendants Rohrer, Rallos and Traquina filed an answer on September 14, 2009 . (Doc. No. 18.) On September 17, 2009, the undersigned issued a discovery order. (Doc. No. 19.) On November 10, 2009, defendant Basi filed an answer. (Doc. No. 24.)

On April 9, 2010, counsel for defendants Rohrer, Rallos and Traquina filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that those defendants were entitled to entry of judgment in their favor because: (1) there is no evidence that they were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical need; and (2) they are entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. No. 30.) On that same day, counsel for defendant Basi filed a motion for summary judgment also arguing that: (1) there is no evidence that defendant Basi was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical need; and (2) defendant Basi is entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. No. 31.)

Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of defendants Rohrer, Rallos and Traquina on June 23, 2010. (Doc. No. 44.) Defendants Rohrer, Rallos and Traquina filed a reply on June 28, 2010. (Doc. No. 46.) On that same date, plaintiff filed an opposition to defendant Basi's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 47.) Defendant Basi filed a reply on July 1, 2010. (Doc. No. 49.)

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS UNDER RULE 56

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "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).

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 Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. Indeed, 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 id. at 322. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the 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).

OTHER APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Civil Rights Act Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of ...


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