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Robert Vincent Vega, Jr v. County of Yolo

April 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Through the present lawsuit, Plaintiff Robert Vega ("Plaintiff") seeks redress, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for alleged violations of his right to be free from cruel and usual punishment as guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Named Defendants include Yolo County and Sheriff E.G. Prieto, in his capacity as Yolo County Sheriff.

Defendants now move for summary judgment on grounds that there is no evidence of deliberate indifference by any Defendant to Plaintiff's serious medical needs so as to give rise to an Eighth Amendment violation. Defendants further argue that there is also no evidence of any unconstitutional custom or policy on the part of Defendants that caused or contributed to any deprivation of medical care as to Plaintiff.

As set forth below, Defendants' Motion will be denied.


On October 31, 2007, while serving a 40-day sentence at Yolo County's Leinberger jail facility for a parole violation, Plaintiff was attacked in the restroom by other inmates at approximately 9:25 a.m. Plaintiff claims to have been beaten and kicked repeatedly. Although he complained of a burning sensation to his neck area, Plaintiff did not initially request any medical treatment and no visible injury was observed other than redness/swelling to the left side of Vega's face. Given the altercation that occurred, however, Plaintiff was segregated and transferred to the jail's Monroe facility at approximately noon.

According to Plaintiff, within a couple of hours after arriving at the Monroe facility, he began to experience jaw and abdominal pain. See Pl.'s Dep., Ex. A to Decl. of Gregory Rueb, 33:3-34:2. About an hour before dinner, he states he pressed the intercom and requested immediate medical attention because the abdominal discomfort had become severe.

The responding officer told Plaintiff to fill out a "pink slip" for routine, non-urgent medical care*fn1 so that his condition could be evaluated at the time of the morning "pill call"*fn2 the following day, November 1, 2007. See id. at 35:1-25. Shortly thereafter, at about the time dinner was served at 4:10 p.m., Plaintiff states he made a second in-person request for medical care as one of the correctional officers was performing a welfare check. Plaintiff alleges that no help was forthcoming even after he told the officer that he had developed vision problems that made it difficult for him to see. Id. at 41:7-42:3. By early evening, Plaintiff states he was experiencing extreme, "buckling-over" pain that again prompted him to request medical attention over the intercom. He states that he was simply told to "wait until pill call". Id. at 33:7-34:2 and 36:19-37:10. Sometime during the night, Plaintiff reiterated his request for medical assistance by way of intercom, this time telling the officer that his abdominal discomfort had become so severe that he could neither lie down or stand up. According to Plaintiff, the officer who responded told him the same thing: wait until pill call. The officer told Plaintiff to stopyes using his call button. Id. at 37:13-39:24.

Sometime in the early hours of November 1, 2007, Plaintiff described yet another request for medical attention made over the intercom. Plaintiff states he told the responding officer that he could no longer see, was in excruciating pain, was vomiting, and had lost control of his bowels. Plaintiff testified he was again advised to wait until pill call. Id. at 40:9-41:1; 42:16-20 and 47:20-48:4.

Although Plaintiff identified approximately five specific occasions he claims to have requested medical assistance as enumerated above, he believes he may have made as many as seven or eight different requests, all without success. Plaintiff was ultimately discovered at about 10:30 a.m. on November 1, 2007, by a nurse who described him as cold and clammy, sweating profusely, semi-responsive and complaining of pain on the left side of his abdomen with nausea and approximately 30 cc's of vomit. When the nurse was unable to palpate a pulse, obtain a blood pressure, or elicit any pupil response, an ambulance was called and Plaintiff was hospitalized. He thereafter required emergency surgery, where his spleen had to be removed because it had ruptured.

Jail records contain no reference to any complaint voiced by Plaintiff before 8:40 a.m. on November 1, 2007. Between cell checks and other contact recorded in the jail's shift logs, however, Plaintiff alleges that as many as 24 potential contacts with officers occurred between 4:00 p.m. on October 31, 2007, and 10:25 a.m. the following morning. Moreover, jail logs indicate that during the three shifts that worked during this time period, a total of nine different officers were on duty. The logs indicate that cell checks were done by seven of those officers.

See Pl.'s Add'l Undisputed Fact Nos. 26-52. Cell checks were supposed to occur on an hourly basis. See Undisputed Fact No. 12.

As indicated above, the logs do not document anything remiss with respect to Plaintiff until less than two hours before he was taken away by ambulance. The officers deny any knowledge of a serious condition on Plaintiff's part, arguing that because he admittedly failed to scream or shout out for medical aid, there was no obligation on their part to summon immediate aid. See Reply, 2:12-3:6; 5:19-25. Defendants also claim that there is no evidence reflecting that "any one guard received more than one complaint from VEGA." Id. at 5:21-22. In stark contrast to the version of events offered by Plaintiff, Defendants claim they were never put on notice of a medical condition serious enough to justify immediate medical care.

Plaintiff filed the present complaint in this Court on February 27, 2009. Through the First Cause of Action, directed to Defendant Prieto in his official capacity, Plaintiff seeks to recover compensatory damages and attorney's fees by alleging cruel and unusual punishment in contravention of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution as enumerated above. Plaintiff also alleges, by way of his Second Cause of Action, that both Defendant Prieto and the County of Yolo acted ...

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