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Victor Quintana v. Gary Swarthout

April 24, 2013

VICTOR QUINTANA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GARY SWARTHOUT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn K. Delaney United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff, an inmate in custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), proceeds pro se with a first amended civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 41 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. No. 26.) Defendant Espinosa, the sole remaining defendant, has moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 73). Plaintiff opposes the motion (Dkt. No. 82) and defendant has filed a reply (Dkt. No. 84). Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel (Dkt. No. 87) and defendant's motion for default judgment and/or dismissal based on plaintiff's failure to obey a court discovery order (Dkt. No. 86) are also before the court.

I. Motion for Summary Judgment

At all times relevant to this action, plaintiff was an inmate at California State Prison- Solano ("CSP-Solano") and defendant was employed at CSP-Solano. As set forth in the court's screening order of February 9, 2011 (Dkt. No. 30), plaintiff proceeds on a single claim that defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment in relation to an incident in which defendant allegedly struck plaintiff with an electric golf cart driven by defendant. Defendant asserts summary judgment is warranted because defendant's conduct as alleged by plaintiff, even if true, does not meet the test for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need under the Eighth Amendment. (Dkt. No. 73 at 5.)

On November 13, 2012, contemporaneously with defendant's motion for summary judgment, plaintiff was advised of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On December 14, 2012, pursuant to the Ninth Circuit's decision in Woods v. Carey, 684 F.3d 934 (9th Cir. 2012), the court again advised plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and granted him 30 additional days to file additional evidentiary materials regarding defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 78.) See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1035 (1999); Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

The court notes that plaintiff's first amended complaint is verified under penalty of perjury. (See Dkt. No. 26 at 3.*fn1 It therefore has the effect of an affidavit to oppose summary judgment "to the extent it is 'based on personal knowledge' and 'sets forth specific facts admissible in evidence.'" Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1090 n.1 (9th Cir. 1996).

A. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that 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). A party asserting that a fact cannot be disputed must support the assertion by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials. . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A).

Summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of their pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists or show that the materials cited by the movant do not establish the absence of a genuine dispute. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

B. Applicable Eighth Amendment Standards "[T]he unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment." Whitely v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). The Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment imposes on prison officials, among other things, a duty to "take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1991) (quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). "[T]he appropriate inquiry when an inmate alleges that prison officials failed to attend to serious medical needs is whether the officials exhibited 'deliberate indifference.'" Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). "Such indifference may be manifested in two ways. It may appear when prison officials deny, delay or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, or it may be shown by the way in which prison physicians provide medical care." Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d 390, 394 (9th Cir. 1988); see also Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 744 (9th Cir. 2002) ("Prison officials are deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs when they deny, delay, or intentionally interfere with medical treatment." (internal quotations omitted)).

In order to be liable, an official must know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832. Two requirements must be met: (1) the deprivation must be, objectively, sufficiently serious; and (2) the prison official must be, subjectively, deliberately indifferent to inmate health or safety. Id. at 834. A medical need is serious if "the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds by WMX Technologies, Inc., v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104). In order to be deliberately indifferent, the official must both be aware of facts from which the ...


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