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Timothy Watts v. R. Ramos

March 6, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 53).


A. Plaintiff's Allegations

This action proceeds on the original complaint filed June 2, 2009. Plaintiff names the following as defendants: Ramos, Murray, Gibson, Casey, Reid, Thompson, and Prince. He alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, he clams that he has a well-documented medical file indicating various and serious medical needs, including "heart and knee concerns." According to plaintiff, his file reveals that, as early as 2006, his medical problems precluded an upper bunk or upper tier cell assignment. He states that documents from 2007 and 2008 confirm this limitation. Plaintiff also states that his "chest pains" are well-documented and preclude him from being subject to any "unreasonable stressful situation."

Plaintiff alleges that, when he attempted to have prison staff follow medical "chronos" for a lower bunk and lower tier cell assignment, he was "ignored, put-off, or told to wait." Specifically, he claims that defendant Murray, who was the "housing sergeant," was aware that he was being housed in an upper bunk on an upper tier "as early as 12/7/06." He states that, on December 8, 2006, he sent defendant Gibson a request for interview, informing him of the situation. While plaintiff states that his request was ignored at first, he was eventually given a lower bunk cell assignment, but remained on the upper tier. Plaintiff states that he next notified defendant Ramos, who is the "housing lieutenant," of the problem. He adds that defendants Murray and Gibson were "always informed of Plaintiff needing a lower-tier, especially due to 'climbing and descending' stairs was 'dangerous and risky' due to his 'knee medical concerns.'" (emphasis in original). According to plaintiff, he informed defendant Thompson via an inmate grievance of his need for a lower tier cell assignment "to no avail."

He claims that defendants Ramos, Murray, Gibson, and Thompson all had "advance knowledge of Plaintiff being housed on the 'upper tier'" and that they all knew of the "risk to a seriously ill inmate, being called 'upstairs.'"

Next, plaintiff alleges that, on June 18, 2008, he experienced chest pains, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. According to plaintiff there is no way for inmates in their cells to communicate with officers in the control towers and that inmates must "yell between a crack in their door, until control tower hears them." When plaintiff began experiencing chest pains on June 18, 2008, he and his cellmate took turns yelling to defendant Reid, who was the officer in the control tower at the time. Plaintiff states that defendant Reid "came to his control tower window" and "partially opened Plaintiff's door" whereupon plaintiff informed defendant Reid that he needed medical attention. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Reid's response was: "Wait until yard release."

When he was eventually released to the yard, plaintiff went to the dayroom "because he felt insecure walking outside in his condition." Plaintiff states that he again asked defendant Reid to summon medical personnel, but that defendant Reid ordered plaintiff to return to his cell. According to plaintiff, another inmate overheard defendant Reid say: "The only way you're leaving this building is in a stretcher." Plaintiff adds that, by 12:30 p.m., he was "yelling for the tower staff to call medical" and that, a short time later, another inmate in the unit "saw no movement" from plaintiff. This inmate then informed defendant Reid of the situation but defendant Reid said that plaintiff would have to wait until the prison nurse arrived on her "pill call rounds." Plaintiff claims that, when the nurse -- defendant Prince -- arrived, she did not go to the plaintiff's cell. Without further detail, plaintiff alleges that defendant Prince "was aware of Plaintiff's condition and improper cell confinement."

Plaintiff states that, as defendant Prince was making her rounds, defendant Reid opened his cell door. He states that, while descending the stairs from the upper tier in order to obtain medical attention, his knees weakened and he "rolled half-way down the stairs, where he landed on the lower-tier floor -- 'unconscious.'" According to plaintiff, it was only then that defendant Reid spoke to defendant Prince to inform her of a "fallen inmate." Plaintiff adds that, even though he was laying unconscious on the floor, "it still took awhile before the alarm was sounded." Plaintiff claims that inmates who witnessed the situation described defendant Prince's "manner as 'indifferent.'" Additional medical staff eventually arrived and plaintiff was put on a stretcher to be taken to an outside hospital. It was later determined that plaintiff had suffered a heart attack.

Plaintiff claims that defendant Casey was the "floor officer" on June 18, 2008, and that he was aware of plaintiff's medical problem but "failed to get emergency care. . . ." Without stating how defendant Casey was aware of plaintiff's need for a lower tier cell assignment, plaintiff also stated that defendant Casey "did not correct this continuous violation."

B. The Parties' Evidence

Based on their own declarations, plaintiff's deposition testimony, as well as allegations in the complaint, defendants assert that the following facts are undisputed:

1. At all relevant times, plaintiff was an inmate at California State Prison -- Sacramento ("CSP-SAC").

2. At all relevant times, defendants Ramos, Murray, Gibson, Thompson, Reid, Prince, and Casey were staff employed at CSP-SAC.

3. Upon arrival at Facility B, Building 5 on December 7, 2006, plaintiff was assigned an upper bunk in a cell located on the upper tier.

4. At that time, there was a shortage of available lower tier lower bunk space due to a large number of inmates with "accommodation chronos" requiring such housing.

5. On January 2, 2007, a comprehensive accommodation chrono was issued for plaintiff which, for unspecified reasons, provided for: a lower bunk and orthopedic ...

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