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Crossley v. Niazi

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 11, 2014

ABE NIAZI, et al., Defendants.


CAROLYN K. DELANEY, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed this civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on the First Amended Complaint filed November 9, 2012, in which plaintiff alleges that four defendants at Mule Creek State Prison were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when he experienced post-surgical complications in his right hand. (ECF No. 13 ("FAC").) Pending before the court is defendants' December 20, 2013 motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 43), which has been briefed by the parties (ECF Nos. 47, 51). For the reasons discussed below, the undersigned will recommend that defendants' motion be granted.[1]

II. Summary Judgment Standards Under Rule 56

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).

III. Analysis

A. Facts

In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the court considers the following record facts[2]:

At all relevant times, plaintiff was a state prisoner housed at Mule Creek State Prison. (DUF 1.) In late December 2009, plaintiff broke his right hand by punching a metal door.[3] On January 8, 2010, he underwent surgery at an outside medical facility. The surgeon, Dr. Craig Lovett, inserted a plate and screws into his hand. (FAC at 17-18.[4])

1. Defendant Niazi

On January 16, 2010, plaintiff submitted a health care services request form stating:

I had surgery for a broken hand on 1-8-10 and had the stitches removed on 1-14-10. My hand was still swollen. Today the stiches are... burst open and a yellowish pus[] came out which had a bad smell to it. And at this point it (i.e. pus[]) is still coming out. It burst where my knuckle is. My knuckle had to have screws in it cause it was split.

(FAC at 21.) Plaintiff had pulled back the dressing of the wound. He saw that the wound was open and had lots of yellowish pus coming out of it that smelled bad. (ECF No. 47 at 70-71.)

Abraham Niazi is a Registered Nurse who worked in the Triage and Treatment Area ("TTA") at Mule Creek State Prison. (DUF 2.) On January 17, 2010, Niazi asked that plaintiff be brought to the TTA as soon as possible for a medical assessment concerning his complaints of a right hand wound. (ECF No. 43-6 at 5.)

Plaintiff told Niazi that he needed to see the doctor. Plaintiff told Niazi that he was "told by surgeon Craig Lovett and other medical staff to notify the physician if I saw signs of infection and that I needed him to call the doctor to treat my [right] hand and change my dressing that was contaminated with foul smelling pus[]." (ECF No. 47 at 71.)

Niazi did not notice any odor emitting from the open wound. (Niazi Dec., ¶ 5; ECF No. 43-6 at 5.) He does not personally recall if he performed any treatment to the area; however, the medical form indicates that treatment was done. Niazi advised plaintiff to keep the affected area dry and clean. Niazi further advised plaintiff that if his right hand developed swelling, redness, pus with an odor, unrelieved pain, numbness, or he noticed tingling in his fingers, to come back to the TTA for treatment and further evaluation. Niazi concluded that contacting the on-call medical doctor was not warranted.[5] (Niazi Dec., ¶¶ 6-7; ECF No. 43-6 at 5.)

According to plaintiff, Niazi stated: "It's Sunday and I'm the only one here, and you'll be alright." (ECF No. 47 at 71.) Plaintiff became upset and "reiterated what I was told about notifying the physician and I expressed my fears that my [right] hand was infected." (ECF No. 47 at 72.) Niazi sent plaintiff back to his cell without ...

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