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Shawn Curtis Donges v. Don Durett

May 31, 2011

SHAWN CURTIS DONGES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DON DURETT, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On January 31, 2011, defendants Baker and Durett filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion, and defendants have filed a reply.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on a second amended complaint against defendants Durett, Flicker, and Baker.*fn1 Therein, he complains about the following conditions of confinement at the Butte County Jail ("BCJ") that he allegedly experienced while incarcerated there as a pretrial detainee. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Durett was aware that plaintiff had chronic pain, but from December 3, 2008, to May 14, 2009, defendant Durett failed to provide plaintiff with adequate pain management or help him through his withdrawal from Methadone and Oxycodone.*fn2 According to the complaint, for two to three weeks plaintiff experienced extreme pain, vomiting, stomach ulcers, insomnia, and muscle cramps. Plaintiff also alleges that defendant Durett was aware that plaintiff suffered from AIDS. Plaintiff alleges that he was nonetheless denied his AIDS medication thereby shortening his life span and making him more susceptible to illness and infection. (Sec. Am. Compl. at 3.)

Plaintiff alleges that defendant Flicker knew there was a temperature problem in the K-Pod of the BCJ where plaintiff was housed from December 3, 2008, to January 1, 2009, but defendant Flicker took a month to fix the problem. According to the complaint, temperatures in K-Pod ranged from 42 degrees to 98 degrees. Plaintiff alleges that he should not have been exposed to such extreme temperatures because he has AIDS. (Sec. Am. Compl. at 3.)

Finally, plaintiff alleges that defendant Dr. Baker was aware that plaintiff had a mental health history and was recently released from a mental hospital. Nonetheless, plaintiff alleges, defendant Baker failed to prescribe plaintiff the appropriate medication to keep him from having suicidal thoughts. According to the complaint, plaintiff attempted suicide twice while incarcerated at the BCJ and only thereafter did defendant Baker prescribe him medication. Plaintiff alleges that even then, defendant Baker prescribed him the wrong medication. (Sec. Am. Compl. at 4.)

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 official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

II. Fourteenth Amendment and Adequate Medical and Mental Health Care Although pretrial detainees are lawfully in state custody, they are not prisoners

subject to punishment by the state and are entitled to protection under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 537 n.16 (1979) (unlike sentenced inmates the state is not allowed to punish pretrial detainees and therefore the Due Process Clause applies). Cf. Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 933-35 (9th Cir. 2004) (the Fourteenth Amendment standard applies to conditions of confinement when civil detainees have not been convicted of a crime).

Under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, the state may not impose conditions of confinement on a pretrial detainee that inflict punishment. See Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232 (9th Cir. 2010). "The key question 'in determining whether particular restrictions and conditions accompanying pretrial detention amount to punishment in the constitutional sense of that word,' is whether the restrictions evince a punitive purpose or intent." Id. at 1242 (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 538-39).

With respect to a pretrial detainee's medical and mental health care claims, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently clarified that "the 'deliberate indifference' standard applies to claims that correction facility officials failed to address the medical needs of pretrial detainees." Clouthier, 591 F.3d at 1242. Specifically, the Ninth Circuit explained that: under Bell and our cases, we must consider whether [a plaintiff] was subjected to punishment. This requires us to inquire into the subjective ...


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