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Esteban Galindo v. M.A. Smelosky

June 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William V. Gallo U.S. Magistrate Judge


[DOC. NO. 25]

Pending before the Court is Defendants' unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 25.) The parties have consented to the undersigned Magistrate Judge's jurisdiction, and the matter has accordingly been referred to the undersigned for all purposes. (Doc. No. 24.) Defendants claim qualified immunity from suit and argue they did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights when they denied his request for dentures. As explained below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion and enters judgment in their favor.


On August 21, 2006, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") entered into a stipulation addressing the dental care needs of its inmates as part of a class action. The class certified was "all California state prisoners in the custody of CDCR who have serious dental care needs." As part of the stipulation, CDCR agreed to implement Health Care Services Division Dental Policies and Procedures (hereinafter, "P&P").

The P&P was "designed to meet at least the minimum level of dental care necessary to fulfill [CDCR]'s obligations under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution." The P&P outlines the procedure under the class action stipulation relating to dental prostheses in force from October 9, 2007 through at least July 2010. The P&P provides that a "dental prosthesis shall be constructed only when: . . . b. An inmate-patient is edentulous [toothless], is missing an anterior [front] tooth, or has seven or fewer posterior teeth in occlusion." Prior to August 2006, the CDCR's P&P manual also authorized dentures when an inmate had seven or fewer posterior teeth in occlusion, although the policy was worded differently.

Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his "right to dental care." Under "Request for Relief" in his Complaint, Plaintiff seeks only an "order to defendants to provide the needed dental prosthesis." On or about January 7, 2008, Plaintiff was missing four teeth (two molars on each side of his jaw). On January 7, 2008, Plaintiff had a dental examination with Defendant Dentist Musgrave at Centinela State Prison. At this appointment, Plaintiff requested dentures and claims he told the dentist he had difficulty chewing his food due to the limited time he was given to eat. Plaintiff had nine posterior teeth in occlusion and claims he was informed he did not qualify for dentures as a result. Plaintiff has admitted that under institutional policy, he would have to have seven or fewer posterior teeth in occlusion to qualify for a dental prosthesis. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Chief Dental Officer Peters at Centinela State Prison approved Defendant Musgrave's denial of the prosthesis.

Defendant Musgrave did not list dentures on Plaintiff's treatment plan. Under the class action-mandated dental treatment protocol, dental staff were directed that a treatment plan should be provided only when an inmate patient has seven or fewer posterior teeth in occlusion. Inmate Galindo had at least nine posterior teeth in occlusion. Defendant Musgrave did not believe there was an excessive risk to Plaintiff's health by requiring Plaintiff to follow the mandated dental protocols. Defendant Musgrave believed that Plaintiff would still be able to eat with his nine posterior teeth that were in occlusion-only that Plaintiff might be inconvenienced by having to eat a bit slower than if he had dentures.

Defendant Musgrave never became aware that the lack of dentures caused Plaintiff any serious health problems due to not receiving adequate nutrition or otherwise.

At all relevant times, Defendant Smelosky was the warden at Centinela State Prison.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) mandates the grant of summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The standard for granting a motion for summary judgment is essentially the same as for the granting of a directed verdict. Judgment must be entered "if, under the governing law, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the verdict." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51 (1986). However, "[i]f reasonable minds could differ," judgment should not be entered in favor of the moving party. Id.; see also Blankenhorn v. City of Orange, 485 F.3d 463, 470 (9th Cir. 2007) ("If a rational trier of fact might resolve the issue in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment must be denied.") (alteration omitted).

The parties bear the same substantive burden of proof as would apply at a trial on the merits, including plaintiff's burden to establish any element essential to his case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Lack of a genuine issue of material fact on a single element of a claim for relief is sufficient to warrant summary judgment on that claim. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23.

The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying the elements of the claim in the pleadings, or other evidence, and "'showing' -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "A material issue of fact is one that affects the outcome of the litigation and requires a trial to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth." S.E.C. v. Seaboard Corp., 677 F.2d 1301, 1305-06 (9th Cir. 1982). The burden then ...

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