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Reynaldo J. Castillo v. Solano County Jail

August 11, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff, a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison, proceeds in forma pauperis and without counsel, in this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently pending for decision are motions for summary judgment filed by defendants Kadevari and Pilaczynski (Dkt. No. 60), defendants Solano County, Stanton, Dolan, Marsh and Grapentine (Dkt. No. 65), and by plaintiff (Dkt. No. 71). Also pending is plaintiff's motion to voluntarily dismiss defendants Stanton, Dolan, Marsh and Grapentine (Dkt. No. 67), which those defendants do not oppose (Dkt. No. 69). Plaintiff has filed an opposition to defendants' motions (Dkt. No. 71), and defendants have filed their replies and oppositions thereto (Dkt. Nos. 70, 72, 73).

For the reasons set forth below, this court recommends the dismissal of defendants Stanton, Dolan, Marsh and Grapentine, as well as Solano County; the court further recommends that the remaining defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted in part and denied in part, and that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment should be denied.

II. Background

This action proceeds on plaintiff's amended complaint filed January 28, 2001.

(Dkt. No. 11 ("complaint," "Amended Complaint," or "AC").) Plaintiff alleges that he contracted scabies and a "Methicillin-resistent Staphylococcus Aureau" ("MRSA" or "staph") infection while incarcerated at Solano County Jail, due to defendants' alleged failure to isolate other infected inmates, compounded by the facility's allegedly unsanitary conditions. This court previously dismissed plaintiff's claim against defendant Dolan, for allegedly placing plaintiff in an unsanitary cell on January 13, 2009 (after this case was filed), for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Dkt. No. 14 at 2-4; see also Dkt. No. 19.) The court also dismissed plaintiff's "third party claims" to the extent that plaintiff sought to represent the interests of other inmates who may have contracted scabies and/or a staph infection, including as the alleged result of defendants' failure to quarantine plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 14 at 1-2, 4; see also Dkt. No. 19.)

This case now proceeds on plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process claims (informed by the proscriptions of the Eighth Amendment) that defendants failed to: (1) provide plaintiff adequate medical care; and (2) protect plaintiff from contracting scabies and an MRSA infection. Plaintiff alleges that he has residual "scars on my arms and torso area, and a silver-dollar size scar on my right leg, thigh area." (Dkt. No. 11 at 8.) He contends that these diseases put him "in a state of fear for my life with continu(ous) anxiety and stress," in part because "[i]t is known in Solano County Jail that inmates who recklessly expose other inmates to contagious disease will get physically attacked." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that contracting these diseases caused him "psychological stress" and "physical and psychological pain," and required plaintiff to isolate himself so as not to put others at risk. (Id. at 8-9.)

Plaintiff seeks damages totaling $1,200,000, as recompense for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights, and his pain and suffering. Plaintiff's requests for injunctive relief are now moot because each such request pertained only to plaintiff's former detention at Solano County Jail.*fn1 Thus, plaintiff's request for monetary damages is the only remaining relief sought.

III. Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss

Plaintiff requests voluntary dismissal of the following defendants: Solano County Sheriff Stanton, Sergeant Dolan, and correctional officers Marsh and Grapentine. (Dkt. No. 67.) Plaintiff states that, "[b]ased upon the evidence acquired through discovery with the medical defendants in this case, plaintiff finds no evidence to support culpability of [these] defendants. . . ." (Id. at 1.) As plaintiff concedes, these correctional officials are not responsible for making medical decisions at Solano County Jail, and plaintiff's reliance on a provision in the County's "Inmate Rules Handbook," which authorizes administrative segregation for disciplinary reasons, is not relevant to the jail's isolation of inmates for medical reasons. Defendants filed a statement of non-opposition to plaintiff's motion. (Dkt. No. 69.)

Accordingly, defendants Stanton, Dolan, Marsh and Grapentine should be dismissed from this action. The remaining defendants are Solano County*fn2 (dismissal is recommended infra), and the medical defendants, physician Ravinder Kadevari, M.D., and physician assistant Chris Pilaczynski.

IV. Legal Standards

A. Legal Standards for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that the standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) is met. "The judgment sought should be rendered if . . . there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and . . . the movant is entitled to 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 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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. 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. at 323. 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.

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 exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. 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 Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; T.W. Elec. Serv., 809

F.2d at 631.

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 630. 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. 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. 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. 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 586 (citation omitted).

On May 15, 2009 (Dkt. No. 16), the court advised plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Dkt. No. 29.) See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1035 (1999), and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409, 411-12 (9th Cir. 1988).

B. Legal Standards for Municipal Liability Under Section 1983 Title 42, United States Code, section 1983, provides a private right of action

based on proof that a "person," acting under color of state law, committed an act that deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or other federal law.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. Counties and other local governmental entities are "persons" within the meaning of the statute. Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). However, "a local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983." Monell, 436 U.S. at 694.

"A plaintiff may . . . establish municipal liability by demonstrating that (1) the constitutional tort was the result of a longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the standard operating procedure of the local government entity; (2) the tortfeasor was an official whose acts fairly represent official policy such that the challenged action constituted official policy; or (3) an official with final policy-making authority delegated that authority to, or ratified the decision of, a subordinate." Price v. Sery, 513 F.3d 962, 966 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, a plaintiff may establish, under Section 1983, the liability of a local governmental entity by showing that the alleged "constitutional violation resulted from: (1) an employee acting pursuant to an expressly adopted official policy; (2) an employee acting pursuant to a longstanding practice or custom; or (3) an employee acting as a final policymaker." Delia v. City of Rialto, 621 F.3d 1069, 1081--82 (9th Cir. 2010) (as amended).

However, "a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory." Monell, supra, 436 U.S. at 691. "Liability under section 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant. A supervisor is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them. There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983." Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (citations omitted). Hence, "[a] supervisor may be liable if there exists either (1) his or her personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation, or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation." Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing Thompkins v. Belt, 828 F.2d 298, 303-04 (5th Cir. 1987)).

Additionally, "[p]roof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose liability under Monell, unless proof of the incident includes proof that it was caused by an existing, unconstitutional municipal policy, which policy can be attributed to a municipal policymaker. Otherwise the existence of the unconstitutional policy, and its origin, must be separately proved. But where the policy relied upon is not itself unconstitutional, considerably more proof than the single incident will be necessary in every case to establish both the requisite fault on the part of the municipality, and the causal connection between the 'policy' and the constitutional deprivation." City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 824 (1985) (fns. omitted).

C. Assumption of Municipal Liability by Private Medical Provider When a state contracts with a private party to provide medical care to its prisoners, the obligations of the Eighth Amendment attach to the persons with whom the state contracts. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 55-56 (1988). As found by the Supreme Court in West:

Whether a physician is on the state payroll or is paid by contract, the dispositive issue concerns the relationship among the State, the physician, and the prisoner. Contracting out prison medical care does not relieve the State of its constitutional duty to provide adequate medical treatment to those in its custody, and it does not deprive the State's prisoners of the means to vindicate their Eighth Amendment rights. The State bore an affirmative obligation to provide adequate medical care to ...

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