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Arbuckle v. Ahern

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 16, 2014

KEVIN BERTRAN ARBUCKLE, Plaintiff,
v.
GREGORY J. AHERN, Sheriff; et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

EDWARD M. CHEN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a pro se prisoner's civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 in which Plaintiff claims that Defendant was deliberately indifferent to serious medical needs when he failed to test Plaintiff's blood sugar and blood pressure levels on certain dates. Defendant has moved for summary judgment; Plaintiff has not opposed the motion and the deadline by which to do so passed months ago. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

Kevin Bertran Arbuckle alleged in his verified complaint that someone from the jail health services staff failed to test his blood sugar on one Saturday (i.e., April 21, 2012) during his stay in the jail (which by then had been about 18 months), although he normally had his blood sugar checked on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Due to pleading problems, Mr. Arbuckle was required to file an amended complaint and, later, a second amended complaint. The Court found that the unverified second amended complaint stated a claim only against Michael Harris for his alleged refusal to check Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure and blood sugar levels on scheduled days in April 2012, including specifically April 21, 2012. Mr. Arbuckle alleged in his unverified second amended complaint that, after his blood pressure and blood sugar levels were not checked on April 21, he felt weak and dizzy, passed out and had to be taken to the jail hospital. As will be discussed below, the jail hospital event occurred ten weeks after Mr. Harris allegedly failed to check Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure and blood sugar levels; that hospital event has not been shown to be causally related to the failure to check those levels.

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted:

The events and omissions giving rise to this action occurred at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County from about April 1, 2012 through June 30, 2012 (sometimes referred to as "the relevant time period"). Mr. Arbuckle was an inmate at Santa Rita Jail. Mr. Harris was a licensed vocational nurse ("LVN") employed by Corizon Health, Inc., a company that provided health care services to inmates at Santa Rita Jail.

Mr. Arbuckle was a Type II non-insulin-dependent diabetic with high blood pressure. There were orders from a health care provider that Mr. Arbuckle was to receive Metformin each night for diabetes, and three medications for hypertension (i.e., amlodipine, hydrochlorothiazide and lisinopril). There also was an order from a health care provider that Mr. Arbuckle's blood sugar was to be tested twice a week (i.e., on Tuesday evening before dinner and Saturday morning before breakfast) to obtain fasting blood sugar levels to monitor his diabetes. Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure was to be checked once a week, but not on any particular day, to monitor his hypertension.

During April 2012, Mr. Harris worked the day shift, which began at 7:00 a.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m. He was not on duty at the time when Mr. Arbuckle's blood sugar was scheduled to be checked because those checks typically would have occurred at 4:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and 4:45 a.m. on Saturdays.

Blood sugar checks : According to the medical records submitted with Mr. Arbuckle's second amended complaint, his blood sugar was checked as ordered on Tuesdays and Saturdays during the April 1 - June 30, 2012 time period, except on four days (i.e., April 17 and 21, and May 5 and 8). See Docket # 11-3 at 8-10. The parties disagree as to whether it was Mr. Harris who failed to check the blood sugar on April 21, 2012. Mr. Arbuckle stated in his verified original complaint that he was informed by someone at Corizon Health that his blood sugar was not checked on April 21, 2012 because his "medical administration record was not flagged signifying that [Mr. Arbuckle was] a diabetic" and that Mr. "Harris stated that he did not see the order in [the] charts." Docket # 1 at 3.[1] There is no evidence that Mr. Harris was the person who failed to check Mr. Arbuckle's blood sugar levels on the three other days the testing was not performed as scheduled. The blood sugar values before and after the missed dates were within normal limits, and the medical records do not show that Mr. Arbuckle had any adverse events on or around the dates his blood sugar was not checked as required by the orders. See id. ; see also Docket # 11-2 through 11-6 (medical records attached to second amended complaint).

Blood pressure checks : The medical records show that Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure was checked at least once a week during the same time period, except for the week of May 20, 2012. See Docket # 11-3 at 8-10; Docket # 11-5 at 14, 17 and 19 (noting blood pressure checks on April 3, 5, 10, 17 and 24, 2012; May 1, 7, 15, and 29, 2012; and June 6, 11, 22, and 26, 2012). There is no evidence as to why Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure was not checked during the week of May 20. The "blood pressure values before and after the week when they were not checked were within normal limits" and the "medical records do not reflect Plaintiff had any problems associated with his blood pressure" during that week. Docket # 22-1 at 6.

On June 30, 2012, Mr. Arbuckle complained of feeling faint and dizzy and was brought to the jail infirmary or infirmary.[2] The medical records indicate that Mr. Arbuckle denied chest pain, nausea or vomiting; did not complain of shortness of breath and had clear respirations; was alert and oriented with a steady gait; had clammy skin; and had a soft and not tender stomach. Docket # 11-2 at 64. His blood pressure was low and was recorded to be 65/45 and 60/40. He also had slightly elevated blood sugar at 187. ("The range of normal values is 70-130 before a meal and less than 180 one to two hours after the beginning of a meal." Docket # 22-1 at 7.) The records show that the doctor on call ordered that Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure was to be monitored for a three-hour period (once every thirty minutes for two hours then once an hour) and that she be informed of the results. Mr. Arbuckle was encouraged to increase his intake of liquids. The records show that Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure values were: 68/50 at 11:40 a.m.; 74/54 at 12:15 p.m.; 80/60 at 1:00 p.m.; 104/67 at 2:20 p.m.; and 116/77 at 3:45 p.m. See Docket # 22-4 at 66. The medical records further state that Mr. Arbuckle requested that he be allowed to return to his housing unit during the afternoon hours; that he was verbally responsive with clear speech; that he denied any dizziness, lightheadedness, pain or shortness of breath; and that he had normal vital signs. The notes further show that he was discharged from the jail hospital with instructions to inform the nurse on duty if he felt dizzy or had any other symptoms, and that he was encouraged to drink fluids and increase his food intake while adhering to his diabetic diet. There is no evidence that Mr. Harris was involved with the events of June 30, 2012. See Docket # 22-1 at 10.

After his release from the jail hospital, one of Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure medications was reduced. Mr. Arbuckle's blood pressure was noted to be 130/86 on July 3, 2012; 129/87 on July 5, 2012; and 110/88 on July 6, 2012. He had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Pompey on July 6, 2012; Dr. Pompey determined that Mr. Arbuckle had experienced an orthostatic hypotension event, i.e., a decrease in blood pressure associated with a change in position, such as arising from a sitting or lying position to the standing position that most commonly produced dizziness. According to the record, ...


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