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Gaxiola v. Sayre

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 9, 2014



WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge.


This is a civil rights action filed under 42 U.S.C. 1983 by a state prisoner proceeding pro se. Plaintiff claims that defendants Dr. M. Sayre, F.N.P. Sue Risenhoover, Dr. C. Williams, and R.N. K. Vail, all employees of the California prison, violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide adequate medical care when he was at Pelican Bay State Prison ("PBSP"). Defendants move for summary judgment, plaintiff has opposed the motion, and defendants have replied. For the reasons set out below, defendants' motion is GRANTED.


The following facts are not in dispute, unless otherwise noted.

In 2008, plaintiff fell down in his prison cell and was escorted to an outside hospital, where he received treatment for a closed head injury (Compl. 8; Defs. Mot. Summ. J. ("MSJ") Ex. N). According to plaintiff, he suffered a seizure in this incident (Compl. 8). However, the examining doctor assessed the incident as a "mechanical fall" because a CT scan and an EKG did not show that a seizure had occurred (MSJ, Ex. N at 3). A doctor later evaluated plaintiff further for indications of a seizure, but he showed normal endocrine, neurological and cardiac systems that did not indicate seizure activity (MSJ, Ex. O at 3). In November of 2008, plaintiff was seen by a neurologist for further evaluation, but he showed normal results from MRI scans of his brain and spine (MSJ, Ex. CC at 18-19). The neurologist recommended that plaintiff receive an EEG, which was performed in December and produced normal results (MSJ, Ex. M).

In April 2009, plaintiff was found lying on his cell floor with a cut on his head (Sayre Decl. at 4). Plaintiff was then transported to an emergency room for treatment, and en route he had a seizure in the ambulance ( id. 5). Plaintiff was prescribed anti-seizure medication and admitted into the PBSP's treatment center by defendant R.N. Risenhoover (MSJ, Ex. Q). Later that month, plaintiff told defendant Dr. Williams that he had stopped taking the medication due to an allergic reaction, so Williams prescribed a different anti-seizure medication to which plaintiff reported no allergic reactions (MSJ, Ex. S). When plaintiff complained to Williams of chest pain in June, Williams ordered a treadmill stress test, but the test reported no abnormalities ( ibid ). In December, the Medical Authorization Review ("MAR") Committee, chaired by defendant Sayre, elected to discontinue plaintiff's anti-seizure medication after a "thorough review of the record" ( id. at 18).

In early 2010, plaintiff received a padded helmet in order to protect his head in case of another seizure (Compl. 13). In June 2010, plaintiff reported to defendant R.N. Vail that he had experienced a seizure and had stopped wearing his helmet because it was too big, and defendant Vail instructed him to wear the helmet in order to protect himself (MSJ, Ex. T at 5). Plaintiff was then examined by defendant Williams, who requested a psychological consult based on her suspicions that plaintiff's seizures were psychological rather than physiological ( id. 6).

In October 2010, plaintiff complained of headaches and photosensitivity to defendant Vail, who prescribed him Ibuprofen and referred him to an optometrist in order to ascertain the cause of his headaches ( id. 12). On November 5, 2010, defendant Vail examined plaintiff again and he was prescribed Tylenol for his headaches by Dr. Adam, who is not a defendant ( id. 15). Later that day, plaintiff reported having another seizure (Compl. 14). A PBSP doctor prescribed plaintiff more anti-seizure medication (MSJ, Ex. T at 17). At that point, defendant Williams elected to set up a chronic care checkup for plaintiff, whereupon he would be examined every six months to monitor any seizure activity (MSJ, Ex. T at 17).

In 2011, plaintiff complained to defendant Williams about his headaches, who prescribed Tylenol and Indocin (MSJ, Ex. U at 1-2). In addition, defendant Williams ordered sinus films in an attempt to pinpoint the source of plaintiff's headaches (MSJ, Ex. U at 2). Throughout 2011, plaintiff intermittently reported seizures and headaches to prison medical staff, who consistently renewed his anti-seizure and headache medications (MSJ, Ex. U). Plaintiff was also examined by optometrists, who attempted to diagnose the cause of his headaches several times and gave plaintiff medical advice on how to manage his headaches and light sensitivity (MSJ, Ex. U at 9, 12). In August, he was prescribed new medication for his headaches, and offered bifocals by the optometry clinic, which he declined ( id. 17-18).

In 2012 and 2013, plaintiff began reporting an improvement in his headaches (MSJ, Ex. V at 1). Throughout 2012 and 2013, plaintiff was regularly seen by doctors and prescribed medication for his headaches and to prevent seizures (MSJ, Ex. V; Ex. W). Plaintiff was also seen by the optometry clinic several times and eventually given glasses (MSJ, Ex. W). Plaintiff last reported seizures in April 2013, when he told medical staff he had experienced two seizures in the prior six months (Sayre Decl. 12).

Plaintiff claims that defendants violated the Eighth Amendment and were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.



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