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Darren Henderson v. T. Felker

August 14, 2012



Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed. R. Civ. P. Dckt. No. 106. For the reasons that follow, the motion must be denied.

I. Background

This action proceeds on the verified amended complaint filed October 4, 2006. Dckt. No. 16. Claims currently remaining in the action are plaintiff's claims that defendants Dovey, Felker, and Roche executed and enforced unconstitutional policies pertaining to the treatment of diabetic inmates. Ninth Circuit Memorandum, Dckt. No. 56, at 2.*fn1 (Plaintiff's claims against other defendants and his claim against defendant Roche for alleged failure to provide medication have been dismissed. Id.)

Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant Dovey is the Director of Corrections for the state of California and is responsible for "the overall operations" of each California prison, including High Desert State Prison ("HDSP"), where plaintiff was confined at the time he filed this action. Dckt. No. 16 at 1-2. Defendant Felker is the "superintendent" of HDSP and is responsible for its operations and the welfare of its inmates. Id. at 2. Defendant Roche is a medical doctor who was the Chief Medical Officer at HDSP at all times relevant to the complaint. Id.

According to plaintiff, defendants adopted or enforced policies that were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs as a diabetic inmate. Plaintiff describes his condition as follows:

Plaintiff is an insulin depended [sic] diabetic with related complications, high blood pressure, a condition called neuropathy which causes poor blood flow, pain and numbness in the legs and feet. It also places me at high risk for heart disease, stroke, infection and amputation. Because of my condition I require daily access to a exercise yard [sic] to walk or run to increase the blood flow to my heart and legs. I also require effective distribution of medications that improve and sustain quality in life, a special diet prepared by a medically trained dietician, and a emergency plan [sic] to prevent hypoglycemia while traped [sic] in a cell overnight.

Id. at 3. Plaintiff alleges that he received such treatment in a prior institution but that, when he was transferred to HDSP on August 11, 2005, the needed treatments (exercise, medication, diet, and emergency plan) were stopped according to a screening policy in place at HDSP. Id. His prescriptions for blood pressure and pain medication were discontinued. Id. No special diet was provided, nor any emergency snack, because HDSP, per policy, does not provide special diets or emergency snacks to diabetic inmates. Id. at 3-4. Further, HDSP policy only allowed inmates to access the yard for 1.5-2 hours five times per month. Id. at 4.

After complaining, plaintiff was seen by a doctor who prescribed blood pressure and pain medication (enalapril and neurontin, respectively). Id. Plaintiff received the enalapril on August 26, 2005. Id. Plaintiff received the neurontin on September 5, 2005, but was only given enough for one month. Id. at 5. He had to wait over 30 days for a refill, suffering pain in his legs and feet. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that he developed a skin infection on one of his toes because of the lack of exercise to increase blood flow to his legs and feet. Id. at 6.

In sum, plaintiff alleges that defendants are responsible for several policies, which together prevented him from receiving adequate treatment for his diabetes: (1) a policy to discontinue medications upon an inmate's transfer to HDSP; (2) a policy resulting in the erratic distribution of neurontin; (3) a policy to deny diabetic inmates a special diabetic diet; (4) a policy of inadequate yard-time for diabetic inmates; and (5) a policy depriving diabetic inmates of an emergency snack to treat hypoglycemia.

Defendants concede that plaintiff arrived at HDSP on August 11, 2005 and had been "prescribed medication and a treatment program for his serious medical needs" at his prior institution. Dckt. No. 114-2, Defs.' Responses to Plaintiff's Undisputed Facts (hereinafter "DPUF") 1-2. Defendants dispute, however, that HDSP had a screening policy under which inmates' medications are discontinued at transfer. DPUF 3; Dckt. No. 114-2, Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts ISO Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (hereinafter "DUF") 14. Defendants further dispute that they are responsible for plaintiff's medications or diabetic meal plan policies. DUF 3-6, 8-13, 27. According to defendants, plaintiff received his necessary medication, and it was not necessary for plaintiff to have an emergency snack, because he could obtain one from the prison clinic or a Medical Technical Assistant if needed. DUF 22, 23. Defendants assert that the standard prison menu provided adequate healthful food for plaintiff and that plaintiff could get enough exercise by exercising in his cell when yard time was not provided. DUF 25, 26, 28-36. Lastly, defendants dispute that plaintiff's skin infection was due to lack of exercise, lack of proper medication, and/or poor diet, because, at the time of the infection, plaintiff's blood sugars "were within the normal range." DUF 37.

II. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in favor of the non-movant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1994). At bottom, a summary judgment motion asks whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury.

The principal purpose of Rule 56 is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Cop. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thus, the rule functions to "'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments). Procedurally, under summary judgment practice, the moving party bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). If the moving party meets its burden with a properly supported ...

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