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Treandous A. Cotton v. D.L. Runnels

July 11, 2011

TREANDOUS A. COTTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
D.L. RUNNELS, 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. This matter is before the court on a renewed motion for summary judgment brought, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on behalf of defendants Anthony and Sloss-Peck. (Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. (Doc. No. 102-1); Defs.' Notice of Renewal (Doc. No. 124.)) Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion. (Doc. No. 127.) Defendants have not filed a reply.

For the reasons set forth below, the court recommends that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted.

BACKGROUND

In his complaint plaintiff alleges as follows. On January 26, 2004, plaintiff was placed in the Correctional Treatment Center ("CTC") at High Desert State Prison ("HDSP"),because he was suicidal and hearing voices. While in the CTC plaintiff was prescribed Prozac and Risperdal. On February 2, 2004, plaintiff was discharged from the CTC despite still being suicidal. After he was escorted back to his housing unit, plaintiff was given two pill bottles containing Prozac and Risperdal by an unidentified correctional officer, identified as John Doe in plaintiff's complaint, in the presence of defendants Anthony and Sloss-Peck.*fn1 Later that day, plaintiff attempted suicide by overdosing on the medications given to him by the correctional officer identified only as John Doe. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 4-5.)*fn2 Nonetheless, plaintiff alleges that defendants Anthony and Sloss-Peck were aware that plaintiff had been given the pill bottles by the correctional officer and failed to confiscate them. (Id. at 8.) In this regard, plaintiff claims that the named defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical need and seeks compensatory and punitive damages against them. (Id.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 19, 2007, the court ordered the United States Marshal to serve plaintiff's complaint on defendants Anthony and Sloss-Peck.*fn3 (Doc. No. 7.) On July 26, 2007, defendant Sloss-Peck filed a motion to dismiss arguing that plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim for relief. (Doc. No. 21.) On October 2, 2007, defendant Anthony filed an answer to plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No. 37.) On February 19, 2008, the undersigned issued findings and recommendations recommending that defendant Sloss-Peck's July 26, 2007 motion to dismiss be denied but that the motion to dismiss as to defendants Jackson and Guzman be granted. (Doc. No. 44.) On March 20, 2008, the assigned District Judge adopted those findings and recommendations in full. (Doc. No. 46.) On March 26, 2008, defendant Sloss-Peck filed an answer to plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No.47.)

On April 16, 2008, plaintiff filed a notice of interlocutory appeal of the March 20, 2008 order. (Doc. No. 49.) On August 13, 2008, the Ninth Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the order plaintiff was challenging was not final or appealable. (Doc. No. 61.) The August 13, 2008 judgment of the Ninth Circuit took effect September 24, 2008. (Doc. No. 62.) On October 23, 2008, the undersigned issued a scheduling order. (Doc. No. 64.)

On December 2, 2008, defendants Anthony and Sloss-Peck filed a motion to dismiss arguing that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this civil action. (Doc. No. 66.) On April 29, 2009, the undersigned issued findings and recommendations recommending that the December 2, 2008 motion to dismiss filed on behalf of defendants Anthony and Sloss-Peck be denied. (Doc. No. 94.) Those findings and recommendations were adopted in full by the assigned District Judge on June 8, 2009. (Doc. No. 98.)

On July 31, 2009, counsel for defendants Anthony and Sloss-Peck filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the defendants were entitled to entry of judgment in their favor because: (1) there is no evidence that either defendant knew that plaintiff had been given the pill bottles; (2) there is no evidence that either defendant committed an affirmative act to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights; and (3) they are entitled to qualified immunity. (Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. (Doc. No. 102-1) at 2.) On March 4, 2010, the undersigned denied defendants' July 31, 2009 motion for summary judgment without prejudice to its renewal and granted plaintiff ninety days to obtain an affidavit from his former cellmate. (Doc. No. 120.) Plaintiff filed that affidavit from his former cellmate on June 7, 2010. (Doc. No. 121.) On October 19, 2010, defendants Anthony and Sloss-Peck renewed their July 31, 2009 motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 124.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment on January 5, 2011. (Pl.'s Opp'n. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (Doc. No 127.))

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. at323.

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 ...


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