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Brian Joseph Stoltie v. Janetta Geringson

April 29, 2011

BRIAN JOSEPH STOLTIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JANETTA GERINGSON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a former state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On November 18, 2010, defendant Ziga filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff has not opposed the motion.*fn1

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on his original complaint against defendants Ziga, Lipon, and Geringson.*fn2 Therein, he alleges as follows. Plaintiff has an extensive history of self-injurious behavior and has serious mental health needs. He further alleges that he was referred by prison officials to a higher level of care for close observation and intense therapy but while awaiting his custody clearance he became extremely agitated and presented a "behavioral problem." According to plaintiff, on February 19, 2008, at his Interdisciplinary Treatment Team meeting, defendant Geringson asked plaintiff to take a higher dose of his Geodon medication and informed him that if he refused she would seek a court order requiring him to accept the increased dose, which in turn would delay his referral to a higher level of care. Defendants Ziga and Lipon were also present at the meeting as part of plaintiff's "treatment team." Plaintiff refused to take the increased dose of Geodon medication, explaining that it made him feel disgusting and filthy. Plaintiff also expressed his desire to let the courts decide the matter. (Compl. at 5, Attach. at 2 & Ex. 3.)

The following day, that defendant Geringson told plaintiff not to worry about the medication increase and that she would discharge him to wherever he wanted to go, which led plaintiff to believe that he would eventually be transferred to a higher level of care. However, on or about February 21, 2009, plaintiff was instead transferred to the Enhanced Outpatient Program/Administrative Segregation Unit. In plaintiff's view, defendants Ziga, Lipon, and Geringson discharged him to this lower level of care unit knowing the dangers it would pose him. Plaintiff informed Dr. Gross, his psychologist, of his new housing unit assignment , and she quickly referred plaintiff back to a higher level of care because she believed the Enhanced Outpatient Program did not provide plaintiff with the level of care that he needed. However, despite Dr. Gross' efforts, plaintiff obtained an instrument and cut himself. He received treatment and approximately three sutures. Plaintiff was then placed in a crisis unit cell with a razor blade in plain sight on the floor. Plaintiff used the razor blade to inflict additional lacerations on himself. He was then treated again and transferred to the acute care unit. (Compl. Attach. at 2-2b.)

Plaintiff claims that the defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his serious mental health needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In terms of relief, plaintiff requests monetary damages. (Compl. at 5, Attach. at 2a.)

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 ...


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