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Jacobs v. Martinez

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 11, 2014

GEORGE E. JACOBS IV, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O MARTINEZ, et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 121) OBJECTIONS DUE IN THIRTY DAYS

GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff has opposed the motion.[1]

I. Procedural History

This action proceeds on the original complaint filed by Plaintiff on September 18, 2006. Plaintiff named as Defendants the following individuals employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at CSP Corcoran: Warden Allen Scribner; Chief Deputy Warden Lonnie Watson; Associate Warden David Ortiz; Facility Captain R. Lowden; Facility Lieutenant D. J. Ruiz; Correctional Sergeant J. M. Martinez; Correctional Officers German and Northcutt; Does 1-14. Plaintiff set forth several claims for relief. On March 12, 2007, an order was entered, finding that the complaint stated a claim for relief against Defendants Martinez and Does 3, 4, and 6-10 for acting with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. (ECF No. 9). The Court found that the complaint failed to state any other claims. Id . The Court ordered Plaintiff to either file an amended complaint or notify the Court of his willingness to proceed only on the claims found to be cognizable in the March 12, 2007, order. Plaintiff notified the Court that he did not wish to amend and wished to proceed only on his cognizable claims. On June 4, 2007, an order was entered by the District Court, adopting the findings and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge, dismissing certain claims and Defendants.[2] (ECF No. 17.) The order specified that this action proceed on Plaintiff's original complaint against Defendants Martinez, German and Northcutt and Does 1 and 2 for use of excessive physical force, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. This action also proceeded against Defendants Martinez and Does 3, 4 and 6-10 for acting with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. On July 25, 2007, Defendants Martinez and Northcutt filed an answer to the complaint. (ECF No. 21.) On September 25, 2007, Defendant German filed an answer to the complaint. (ECF No. 27.) On March 27, 2009, Defendants Martinez, Northcutt and German filed a motion for partial summary judgment. (ECF No. 82.) Plaintiff opposed the motion (ECF No. 83.) On November 16, 2009, an order was entered by the District Court, adopting the findings and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 101.) Summary judgment was granted in Defendants' favor on Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Martinez, German and Northcutt for intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery under California law. This action now proceeds against Defendants Martinez, German and Northcutt for use of excessive physical force and against Defendant Martinez for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. On May 25, 2010, Defendants Martinez, German and Northcutt filed the motion for summary judgment that is before the Court. (ECF No. 121.) Plaintiff has opposed the motion. (ECF No. 137).

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

On January 26, 2005, Defendants Martinez, German and Northcutt arrived to escort Plaintiff from the Suicide Unit to the Security Housing Unit. Plaintiff alleges that during the escort, Defendants used excessive physical force against him, including throwing him against the wall, smashing his face into the wall, stepping on the chain between Plaintiff's legs, twisting Plaintiff's wrist and fingers upward and pulling them in different directions, and punching Plaintiff in the ribs and stomach while he was pinned to the wall. (Compl. ¶ 38.)

Plaintiff alleges that "at no time was Plaintiff a threat to anyone or himself. At no time did Plaintiff display any harmful actions." (Compl. ¶ 39.) Defendant Martinez told Plaintiff that his "past actions would not be tolerated." Id . Plaintiff was then dragged by Defendants to his cell and thrown on to the floor.[3] While still in leg irons and handcuffs, he was "socked in the right eye from behind by defendants." (Compl. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff's arms were pulled through the tray slot "as far as they could extend." (Compl. ¶ 41.) As a result, Plaintiff "began to lose sight in his right eye, loss of feeling in both wrists, left thumb, left point finger, right point finger, and right pinky." (Compl. ¶ 42.)

Plaintiff alleges that on January 27, 2005, he began calling "man down" and "emergency" in order to obtain medical assistance. Defendant Martinez came to his cell and then left after asking, "Jacobs, from Tehachapi, right?" (Compl. ¶ 43.) Plaintiff's remaining allegations regarding deliberate indifference to his medical needs involve conduct by Doe Defendants 3-4 and 6-10.

III. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Under summary judgment practice, the moving party

[always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, " which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

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. 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 denial of its 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. Rule 56(e); 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 governing law, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Nidds v. Schindler Elevator Corp. , 113 F.3d 912, 916 (9th Cir. 1996), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 588; County of Tuolumne v. Sonora Community Hosp. , 263 F.3d 1148, 1154 (9th Cir. 2001).

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." Giles v. Gen. Motors Acceptance Corp. , 494 F.3d 865, 872 (9th Cir. 2007). 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 notes on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Rule 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 587 (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc. , 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)(per curiam)). 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. 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 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 not genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita , 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

A. Excessive Force

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners not only from inhumane methods of punishment but also from inhumane conditions of confinement." Morgan v. Morgensen , 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). [W]hile conditions of confinement may be, and often are, restrictive and harsh, they must not involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain.'" Id . (Quoting Rhodes v. Chapman , 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). "What is necessary to show sufficient harm for purposes of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause depends on the claim at issue...." Hudson v. McMillian , 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992).

For excessive force claims, the issue is "whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson , 503 U.S. at 7. Although de minimis uses of force do not violate the Constitution, the malicious and sadistic use of force to cause harm always violates the Eighth Amendment, regardless of whether or not significant injury is evident." Id. at 9-10.

Defendants support their motion with Plaintiff's deposition, documents from Plaintiff's central file, documents from Plaintiff's medical record, the declarations of Defendants Martinez, German and Northcutt, and the declaration of J. Dang, M.D. Regarding the events at issue, Defendant Martinez declares as follows:

Jacobs was escorted from the ACH to the SHU on January 26, 2005, by Correctional Officers German, Northcutt and myself.
The January 26, 2005, escort was uneventful and no excessive force was used against inmate Jacobs.
During the January 26, 2005, escort Jacobs' restraints were not mishandled causing him physical harm, no one delivered any punches to Jacobs' body, and Jacobs was not punched in the face by Officer German or anyone else once he was in his cell.
Because of Plaintiff's history of assaultive behavior, Officers Northcutt and German and myself believed it necessary to maintain a secure hold on Plaintiff's restraints during the escort.
Such a belief is consistent with a good-faith effort to maintain order and discipline.
Plaintiff's complaint concerning the use of restraints amounts to nothing more than the discomfort normally associated with a secure escort.
I am not a medical doctor, rather I am a custody officer.
As far as I knew on January 26, 2005, Jacobs had been medically screened, evaluated, treated at the ACH, and cleared to be re-housed in the SHU.
I had no reason to believe on January 26, 2005, and thereafter, that the health care delivery system was not attending to Jacobs' medical needs.
I did not have the authority to order any kind of medical treatment for Plaintiff - emergent or otherwise.
I could not independently determine or diagnose Plaintiff's medical needs - emergent or otherwise - or prescribe treatment for such.
I could not independently grant or deny Plaintiff's request for emergency medical treatment.
As far as I knew, on January 26, 2005, and thereafter, Jacobs was receiving on-going treatment for his medical condition and I had no reason to believe that ...

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