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Luis Valenzuela Rodriguez v. James Tilton

April 4, 2013

LUIS VALENZUELA RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES TILTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Allison Claire United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER AND FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendant Dr. Dena Anthony's October 23, 2012 motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff opposes the motion. On review of the motion, the documents filed in support and opposition, and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

In the operative third amended complaint ("TAC"), plaintiff sets forth a number of allegations directed at multiple defendants and spanning a period of three years. As to those allegations that are not directed to the moving defendant, the court notes only that, beginning in August 28, 2006, plaintiff complained to staff at Mule Creek State Prison ("MCSP"), where he was incarcerated at all times relevant to this motion*fn1 , of increasing pain and paralysis in his upper body. Despite repeated complaints, plaintiff was not seen by a doctor until September 5, 2006, when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening bacterial infection in his blood that created an epidural abscess along his lower spine and spinal cord. Plaintiff was immediately transferred to a hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. As a result of this infection, plaintiff suffered pain and a permanent loss of his ability to control his urinary and bowel functions.

Following two months of rehabilitation at Kentfield Hospital in Kentfield, California, plaintiff returned to MCSP where he was temporarily housed in Administrative Segregation ("Ad-Seg") before being housed in a second-tier cell. Plaintiff accuses MCSP staff members of violating his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide adequate and timely medical care and treatment. Plaintiff also accuses MCSP staff members of retaliating against him for filing grievances. By way of relief, plaintiff seeks compensatory, nominal, and punitive damages.

Plaintiff's allegations as to the moving defendant, Dr. Anthony, are limited to three paragraphs in the 55-page pleading and are reproduced here in their entirety:

Plaintiff had submitted requests for urgent mental health intervention, and had fully explained to the mental health clinician the horrors and traumatizing experiences he had continued to be forced to endure, and that he could no longer tolerate being forced to double cell, and that such was causing him suicidal ideations and extreme depression, but the mental health clinician (clinical social worker) Anthony, refused to help plaintiff and instead her and Dr. Powell falsified malicious information into plaintiff's mental health file to claim that plaintiff had a history of 'exaggerating symptoms.'

TAC ¶ 136.

Plaintiff's continued attempts to acquire mental health care and needed intensive support therapy and requests to be placed into Enhanced Outpatient Program was rejected by mental health clinician 'Anthony' with false asser5tions [sic] documented by Anthony and Psycholgist [sic] Powell, claiming plaintiff had a history of 'exaggerating symptoms", yet plaintiff was going through horrendous traumas physically and mentally, and denied meaningful therapy/support.

TAC ¶ 155.

Plaintiff asserts that defendants POWELL and ANTHONY, intentionally and deliberately exercised deliberate indifference and or wanton and or reckless disregard for plaintiff's extensive mental health conditions and needs upon plaintiff's return from Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital, despite plaintiff's emphatically stated needs for help with his extremely exacerbated depression and suicidal ideations which continued all day every day as a direct result of the extensive and extremely horrendous traumas and extreme physical / medical and extreme life altering injuries, losses and disabilities plaintiff had continued to be forced to contend with, as described herein supra, . . . . Plaintiff's suicide ideations manifested in a plan to 'overdose' himself with illegal narcotics obtained on the prison yard, due to the extensive and horrendous physical, mental and emotional sufferings plaintiff continued to be forced to endure (supra) alone and without help from anyone within the prison, regardless of his requests. Plaintiff was seen a total of once or twice by ANTHONY for a period of fifteen minutes each time, and once or twice by Powell during mental health classification process which only lasted for a couple of minutes. Plaintiff believes he should have been promptly designated "Enhanced Outpatient Program" (E.O.P.) Inamte [sic] and provided the daily intensive daily [sic] mental health care treatment provided the E.O.P. inmates, as plaintiff was eventually designated E.O.P. in about April or May 2008. Plaintiff had great difficulties just trying to think clearly and to think straght [sic], through the periods of short term memory losses and the extreme depression / anxieties / hopelessness / helplessness and his inabilities to physically and mentally adequately function among other inmates and in the general population program. Plaintiff's mental health problems continue to present date due to, inter alia, all the foregoing reasons.

TAC at 50.

FACTS*fn2

At all times relevant to this action, plaintiff was a state prisoner housed at MCSP. Defendant Dr. Anthony was a psychologist licensed by the State of California and working as an independent contractor at MCSP. Anthony Decl., ECF No. 127-2, ¶ 2. At MCSP, Dr. Anthony worked as a "Case Manager" and provided mental health services three days per week. Id. In performing her duties at MCSP, Dr. Anthony worked alongside a team of health care practitioners called an Interdisciplinary Treatment Team ("IDTT") that provided joint evaluations and decisions concerning inmates' health. Id.

A. Mental Health Care Before September 2006 Bacterial Infection Plaintiff met with MCSP mental health staff multiple times before his September

2006 bacterial infection. Plaintiff's records document the following interactions with mental health staff.

On May 4, 2006, plaintiff was seen by three members of the mental health team for a treatment plan update. The team members in attendance were clinical social worker Chuck Christensen, Dr. K. Cornish, and Dr. Lipon.*fn3 Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 6 (ECF No. 144-1 at 41). Dr. Anthony was not present at this meeting. See id. Based on the meeting notes, plaintiff's problems were identified as anxiety and depression, for which he had been prescribed an anti-depressant. Id.

On July 27, 2006, plaintiff met with ten members of the IDTT following his placement in Ad-Seg for stabbing another inmate. See Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 6 (ECF No. 144-1 at 46). Dr. Anthony was not present at this evaluation. Id. The notes of this meeting reference plaintiff's anxiety and depression, note his prescription for an anti-depressant, and reflect that his suicide risk assessment was "None to minimal." Id. He was diagnosed with Axis I mood disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and polysubstance dependence. Id. He was also diagnosed with an Axis II personality disorder. Id. Finally, he was diagnosed with Axis IV stressors, including prison, LWOP ("Life Without Parole"), and Ad-Seg. Id.*fn4

On August 22, 2006, plaintiff met with Dr. Douglas Lish in a one-on-one meeting. Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 7 (ECF No. 144-1 at 50). The notes of this meeting reflect that plaintiff was "very frustrated and anxious over double-cell status." Id. Plaintiff requested single-cell status, even if it was temporary, because he was suspicious of his cellmate. Id. Plaintiff denied any suicidal ideations. Id. His mood was noted to be anxious with some depression. Id.

On August 24, 2006, plaintiff was seen by five members of the IDTT, including Dr. Anthony and Dr. Powell, purportedly the IDTT supervisor. Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 5 (ECF No. 144-1 at 41). The notes of this meeting, which were prepared by clinical psychologist Dr. Keller, reflect that plaintiff's suicide risk was deemed "None," that he was complaining of depression and anxiety, and that he was suspicious of his cellmate. Id. Dr. Keller also wrote that plaintiff "is highly manipulative" and that "no single cell [is] indicated." Id. (emphasis in original). Additional therapy was not deemed clinically necessary. Id.

B. Mental Health Care After September 2006

Bacterial Infection Following plaintiff's September 5, 2006 bacterial infection and return from Kentfield Hospital, plaintiff was seen by MCSP mental health professionals regularly.

On November 22, 2006, plaintiff was seen in a one-on-one meeting with psychiatrist Dr. Young. Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 7 (ECF No. 144-1 at 51). After referencing plaintiff's medical issues related to the bacterial infection, Dr. Young wrote that plaintiff was calm and cooperative and that he had a "mild" depressive mood. Id.

On November 30, 2006, plaintiff was seen by three members of the IDTT, including Dr. Anthony. Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 6 (ECF No. 44-1 at 47). Per Dr. Anthony's notes of this meeting, plaintiff was diagnosed with an Axis I unspecified adjustment disorder that was in partial remission, as well as an Axis II personality disorder with narcissistic features. Id.; Anthony Decl., ECF No. 127-2, ¶ 4. The IDTT determined that plaintiff met the inclusion for mental health treatment in the Correctional Clinical Case Management Program ("CCCMS") at MCSP. Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 6 (ECF No. 144-1 at 47). The notes also indicate that plaintiff's current suicide risk was "None," that he could be placed in both a single or double cell, and that he was recovering from surgery. Id.

Plaintiff was next seen on January 26, 2007 in a one-on-one meeting with Dr. Anthony. Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 5 (ECF No. 144-1 at 42). Per Dr. Anthony's notes, plaintiff was again diagnosed with an unspecified adjustment disorder that was in partial remission. Id. Plaintiff's suicide risk was deemed "Minimal," and it was noted that there were no episodes of self harm or suicidal ideation. Id. There were also no episodes of violence to others, and plaintiff's violence risk was also deemed "Minimal." Id. The notes reflect that plaintiff was not taking any psychiatric medication, his mood was listed as "Euthymia,"*fn5 and he had no problems with sleep or appetite. Id. Although plaintiff felt that he had been mistreated by the system and asked for therapy for the resulting depression, Dr. Anthony did not deem it necessary to continue plaintiff in CCCMS any longer. Id.

On January 30, 2007, plaintiff was again seen by psychiatrist Dr. Young in a oneon-one meeting. Pl.'s Decl., Ex. 8 (ECF No. 144-1 at 53). Dr. Young's notes reflect that plaintiff was calm and cooperative, that he denied suicidal ideations, that he was not anxious or depressed, and that he was fairly content because he had recently been placed in a single cell on a lower tier. Id. Dr. Young discussed relaxation techniques ...


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