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Danny Murphy Coston v. andrew Nangalama

February 28, 2013



Plaintiff is a prisoner at California State Prison, Sacramento ("CSP-Sac") and is proceeding without counsel in a civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. Dckt. No. 56. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the motion be denied in part and granted it in part.

I. The Complaint

This action proceeds on the verified complaint filed July 28, 2010, Dckt. No. 1, asserting that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs by discontinuing his morphine prescription on March 18, 2008 . Id. at 7-12.*fn1 ////

According to the complaint, defendants Nangalama, Duc, and Bal were physicians at CSP-Sac. Id. at 5-6. Defendant Hale was a licensed vocational nurse there. Id. at 5. Defendant Brimhall was a Health Care Manager at CSP-Sac and, as such, was responsible for implementing and enforcing prison medication management procedures. Id. at 6. Defendant Berchtold was Director of Nurses for CSP-Sac and, as such, was responsible for ensuring that all CSP-Sac nurses properly provided care and complied with medication delivery policies. Id. at 6.

Plaintiff asserts that he suffers from degenerative joint disease in his back, knee, and foot, with a severe "rotative" cuff tear in his left shoulder. Id. at 7. In early 2008, plaintiff had been provided with a prescription for morphine by prison physicians, including defendant Nangalama, to alleviate chronic pain. Id. at 7-8. Defendant Hale had delivered the medication on many occasions to plaintiff's empty prison cell with no instructions, labels, or names. Id. at 8. On March 18, 2008, a correctional officer discovered the morphine in plaintiff's empty cell, in violation of a prison policy addressing hoarding. Id. at 8-9. That same day, "defendants Nangalama and Hale abruptly stripped plaintiff of his prescribed pain medication morphine[.]" Id. at 9.

According to plaintiff, Hale replied, "Yeah! You don't look well at all," laughed, and walked away. Id. On March 23, 2008, plaintiff was suffering from morphine withdrawal and submitted a request for medical care. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Nangalama and Hale ignored this request and ignored "all of plaintiff's pleas for medical care on his chronic pain and his morphine withdrawal effects." Id. Plaintiff states that he suffered chronic pain, anxiety, confusion, physical illness, and restlessness, among other symptoms. Id.

On March 29, 2008, a nurse discovered plaintiff laying on the floor of his cell near the toilet, perspiring heavily with his head near a pool of vomit. Id. at 10. Plaintiff was taken to the prison emergency room and treated for morphine withdrawal. Id. However, according to plaintiff, unidentified caregivers at the emergency room refused to treat his chronic pain complaints. Id.

Plaintiff submitted an appeal regarding the lack of medical care for his serious medical needs. Id. The appeal complained that plaintiff was prescribed the drug "with no verification notice of narcotics physical effects, side effects, risks, legal impact or implications," that the drug was incompatible with plaintiff's pre-existing prescriptions, that the morphine was discontinued too abruptly causing withdrawal, and that deviation from the prison's medication management policies had harmed him. Id. at 20-21.

Plaintiff alleges that by April 16, 2008, defendant Berchtold knew that defendants Nangalama and Hale had denied plaintiff medical treatment. Id. In addition, plaintiff states that he alerted defendant Berchtold on July 20, 2008 that defendant Hale was denying plaintiff necessary medical care, but defendant Berchtold ignored plaintiff. Id. at 10-11. The same day, plaintiff alerted defendant Brimhall that his constitutional right to medical care was being violated, but defendant Brimhall also did nothing. Id. at 11.

On June 26, 2008, defendants Duc and Bal refused to intervene or provide plaintiff with treatment after being alerted of the issues by reviewing plaintiff's appeal at the second level of review. Id. at 12. Plaintiff informed defendants Duc and Bal that plaintiff was "not provided with any medication treatment by Dr. Hamkar" (who examined plaintiff at the first level of appeal). Id.

The court has dismissed plaintiff's claim against defendant Hale for delivery of the morphine without labels or instructions. Dckt. Nos. 10, 15.

II. Defendants' Factual Assertions

Defendants do not dispute the facts relayed in plaintiff's complaint except as follows. Defendant Hale contends that he had no authority to discontinue plaintiff's morphine prescription and did not discontinue the prescription (defendant Nangalama did). Dckt. No. 56-1, Defs.' Separate Statement of Undisputed Facts ISO Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (hereinafter "DUF") 12, 13. Defendants also state that they "are currently unaware of" plaintiff's March 23, 2008 request for medical care. DUF 14. Plaintiff's medical records do not contain the request, indicating it was not received by the medical department. Id. Plaintiff's records do not indicate that he was in urgent need of medical care as of March 26, 2008, when he had a physical therapy appointment. DUF 15.

On April 16, 2008, defendant Berchtold determined that plaintiff's administrative grievance regarding his morphine prescription was not an emergency. DUF 21.

Defendant Brimhall was a Health Care Manager at CSP-Sac whose position was administrative in nature. DUF 26. He could not prescribe or discontinue medication to plaintiff. Id. He does not recall any alert from plaintiff in July ...

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