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Ager v. Hedgepath

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

March 26, 2014

DANIEL AGER, individually and as a Successor in Interest to the ESTATE OF ALAN AGER, KATHRYN AGER and ELIZABETH AGER, Plaintiffs,
v.
ANTHONY HEDGEPATH, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS MOOT [Re: Docket Nos. 102, 110]

EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge.

Presently before the court in this § 1983 action are Plaintiffs Daniel Ager, Elizabeth Ager, and Kathryn Ager's (collectively, "Plaintiffs") Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 102) and Defendants Anthony Hedgepath, Belinda Hendrick, and Robert Burgh's (collectively, "Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment. The court heard argument on these motions on December 13, 2013. Having fully reviewed the parties' briefing, and for the foregoing reasons, the court GRANTS Defendants' Motion and DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion as moot.

I. BACKGROUND

a. Factual Background

This case concerns the untimely death of Dr. Alan Ager, an inmate at Salinas Valley State Prison ("SVSP"), as a result of an assault by his cellmate on April 6, 2010. Dr. Ager was convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a minor and subsequently incarcerated in California State Prison, first at San Quentin State Prison, and then at SVSP. See Third Amended Complaint ("TAC") ¶¶ 9-10, 12, Dkt. No. 98. At all relevant times, Defendant Hedgepath worked as the Warden of SVSP, Defendant Hedrick worked as the Associate Warden, and Defendant Burgh worked as a Correctional Counselor II. Decl. of Anthony Hedgepath ISO Def. MSJ ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 112; Decl. of B. Hedrick ISO Def. MSJ ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 113; Decl. of Robert Burgh ISO Def. MSJ ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 111.

While at San Quentin, Dr. Ager requested and was granted Sensitive Needs Yard ("SNY") housing. Dkt. No. 111 ¶ 3. The SNY designation is reserved for inmates who require protective custody due to special case factors such as type of conviction, sexual orientation, or gang dropout status. See id. Upon Dr. Ager's transfer to SVSP in September 2008, the Unit Classification Committee ("UCC") evaluated Dr. Ager's SNY designation and concluded Dr. Ager continued to warrant SNY housing and could be double celled with other SNY inmates. Decl. of Sahar Nayeri ISO Def. MSJ Exs. F, G, Dkt. No. 115. On February 28, 2009, Dr. Ager appeared before a UCC for his annual review and stated that he believed prison officials had revealed the nature of his crime to other inmates. Decl. of John Houston Scott ISO Pl. Opp'n Ex. C at 1963, Dkt. No. 120. The committee took note of Dr. Ager's statement and concluded, inter alia, that no changes should be made to his housing. Id.

Six months after his transfer to SVSP, on March 11, 2009, prison officials discovered multiple packages of controlled medication in Dr. Ager's cell. Dkt. No. 115 Ex. I. Dr. Ager indicated to the officials that he bought the pills so that he could commit suicide. Id . As a result of this violation, Dr. Ager was moved from SNY to the Administrative Segregation Unit ("ASU"). Dkt. No. 115 Ex. H. An Institutional Classification Committee ("ICC") convened on March 19, 2009 to evaluate Dr. Ager's placement in ASU. At the meeting, Dr. Ager expressed concerns of remaining in ASU and potentially being single-celled; he also requested that he continue to be double-celled. The committee elected to retain Dr. Ager in ASU for 90 days to complete the disciplinary process for his violation. Dkt. No. 120 Ex. C at 1961.

On May 7, 2009, Dr. Ager voluntarily waived his SNY status in order to participate in the Enhanced Outpatient Program ("EOP"), which is a program for inmates suffering from mental illness who require intensive mental health treatment. Dkt. No. 115 Ex. AC; Dkt. No. 111 ¶ 5. As a result, he went from being classified as a Level III-SNY inmate to a Level IV-EOP inmate. Shortly thereafter, on May 14, 2009, Dr. Ager appeared before the ASU ICC for a program review. Dkt. No. 120 Ex. C at 1959. Upon a hearing on Dr. Ager's Rules Violation Report ("RVR") for distribution of controlled medication, Dr. Ager was found guilty of a lesser included offense of possession of a controlled substance. Id . Considering this lesser offense and Dr. Ager's waiver, the committee determined that Dr. Ager should be released from ASU to a Level IV-EOP yard and informed Dr. Ager that he could be referred back to SNY placement once his mental health status was downgraded to Correctional Clinical Case Management System ("CCCMS"), a status assigned to inmates with mental health issues who do not need the intensive treatment provided by EOP and can program on yards housing inmates without mental health needs. Id .; see Dkt. No. 115 Ex. AC; Dkt. No. 111 ¶¶ 5, 7.

On July 28, 2009, Dr. Ager notified prison officials that he wished to rescind his EOP status and return to SNY and brought a grievance on that issue. Dkt. 115 Ex. O. Because SVSP did not have an EOP/SNY yard, officials moved Dr. Ager from EOP to ASU housing pending ICC review of his status. Id . The following day, Dr. Ager met with Lieutenant Warfield, who worked as Facility Captain of ASU, and indicated that he had no enemy concerns and wished to return to EOP. Id . Several days later, on August 4, 2009, Dr. Ager participated in a UCC meeting reviewing his housing. Id . Ex. P. The committee decided to transfer Dr. Ager back to the EOP yard from ASU, and Dr. Ager agreed with the decision. Id . However, Dr. Ager continued to disagree with his EOP placement. Several weeks later, on September 15, 2009, Dr. Ager appeared before an ICC for a Vitek hearing because he had been referred for Department of Mental Health ("DMH") placement but refused to voluntarily be housed in DMH, arguing that he "did not belong in the EOP program at all." Dkt. No. 120 Ex. C at 1956. The Committee approved his DHM placement and ordered that he continue in his EOP placement pending transfer. Id.

On November 12, 2009 Dr. Ager's clinician lowered his level of mental care from EOP to CCCMS, rendering Dr. Ager eligible to return to a Level III SNY housing unit. See Dkt. 111 ¶ 7. Because SVSP did not have an SNY/CCCMS unit, the UCC that convened on December 1, 2009 to review Dr. Ager's housing status determined that Dr. Ager should be transferred to either Mule Creek State Prison or Sierra Conservation Center. Dkt. No. 111 Ex. 3. The committee also determined that, because Dr. Ager had not expressed any safety concerns and had already successfully programmed on the EOP yard for six months, Dr. Ager should remain on the EOP yard pending transfer. Id . Dr. Ager agreed with the committee's decision. Id . The UCC's recommendation for transfer was subsequently endorsed by the Classification Services Representative, and Dr. Ager's name was added to the transfer waiting list. Dkt. No. 111 ¶ 8. At the time, the average wait for a transfer was between six to nine months. Id.

Following the UCC meeting, but before reaching his cell, Dr. Ager was assaulted by an inmate named Aragon in the presence of prison officials. Dkt. No. 115 Ex. R. Prison officials immediately placed Aragon in a holding cell, issued an RVR to him, and added him to Dr. Ager's list of enemies to ensure the two would not come into contact again. See Dkt. No. 115 Exs. N, R, S, T. The next day, Dr. Ager was celled with inmate Gadson. Dkt. No. 115 Ex. U. Less than ten days later, on December 11, 2009, Dr. Ager was assaulted by inmate Gadson in his cell in the presence of correctional officers. Dkt. No. 115 Ex. V. The officials immediately separated the inmates and subsequently placed each of them in ASU. Id . Additionally, the officials issued an RVR to Gadson, referred the incident to the district attorney for prosecution, and added Gadson to Dr. Ager's list of enemies. Dkt. No. 115 Exs. N, V. Defendant Burgh conducted an in-cell assault review and found that the inmates had been properly housed together and that Dr. Ager did not need to be placed in protective custody after the assault. Dkt. No. 115 Ex. AB.

On December 22, 2009, another UCC, chaired by Defendant Burgh, convened to review Dr. Ager's housing; Dr. Ager declined to attend this meeting. Dkt. No. 111 Ex. 4. The committee determined that, despite the recent in-cell assault, Dr. Ager did not present with victimization issues that would warrant single celling and accordingly that he should continue to be double-celled in the EOP unit. Id . Several weeks later, on January 12, 2010, another UCC chaired by Defendant Burgh convened to conduct an annual review of Dr. Ager's housing. Dkt. No. 111 Ex. 5. Dr. Ager again declined to appear before the committee but was assigned a staff assistant to be present during the meeting. Id . The committee decided to maintain Dr. Ager's housing program without any modifications. Id . Two days later, on January 14, 2010, Dr. Ager appeared before an ICC chaired by Defendant Hedrick that convened to determine whether Dr. Ager was eligible for living in a dormitory setting under a recently implemented pilot program. Dkt. No. 113 Ex. B. The committee determined that Dr. Ager qualified for the program, Dr. Ager agreed, and the committee referred the case to the CSR for further action. Id . Despite having been reduced to CCCMS status and having been referred to this pilot program, Dr. Ager continued to be housed in the EOP unit rather than being transferred to the Transitional Program Unit ("TPU").

On January 27, 2010, an inmate named Beaver became Dr. Ager's cellmate in EOP. Correctional officers regularly monitored Dr. Ager and inmate Beaver's cell and observed the two getting along well. Decl. of J. Lopez ISO Def. MSJ ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 114. During his incarceration, Dr. Ager periodically used the prison's inmate grievance system but never submitted a grievance about any safety concerns regarding inmate Beaver. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 114 ¶ 8; Dkt. No. 115 Exs. AD-AF. Yet, on April ...


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