United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER ADOPTING IN PART THE MAGISTRATE JUDGES FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PARTY DEFENDANTS MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (ECF No. 125)
ANTHONY W. ISHII, District Judge.
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to Local Rule 302 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
On June 26, 2013, the Magistrate issued Findings and Recommendations that recommended Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. On December 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed objections to the Findings and Recommendations. Defendants filed a reply on December 11, 2013.
In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 305, this Court has conducted a de novo review of this case. Having carefully reviewed the entire file, the Court respectfully finds that it cannot adopt portions of the Findings and Recommendations for the reasons set forth below.
Because the parties are aware of this cases procedural history, legal authority, and the submitted facts, the Court will not restate them here unless needed to explain this Courts order.
As explained by the Magistrate Judge, the Eighth Amendments prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen , 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994) and Rhodes v. Chapman , 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)) (quotation marks omitted). While conditions of confinement may be, and often are, restrictive and harsh, they must not involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain. Morgan , 465 F.3d at 1045 (citing Rhodes , 452 U.S. at 347) (quotation marks omitted). Thus, conditions devoid of any legitimate penological purpose or contrary to evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society violate the Eighth Amendment. Morgan , 465 F.3d at 1045; see also Hope v. Pelzer , 536 U.S. 730, 737, (2002); Rhodes , 452 U.S. at 346. Prison officials have a duty to ensure that prisoners are provided adequate shelter, food, clothing, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety, Johnson v. Lewis , 217 F.3d 726, 731 (9th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks and citations omitted), but not every injury that a prisoner sustains while in prison represents a constitutional violation, Morgan , 465 F.3d at 1045 (quotation marks omitted).
To avoid summary judgment on Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment claim, Plaintiff must provide evidence to show a genuinely disputed issue of material fact as to whether prison officials were deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm to his health or safety. E.g., Farmer , 511 U.S. at 847; Thomas v. Ponder , 611 F.3d 1144, 1150-51 (9th Cir. 2010); Foster v. Runnels , 554 F.3d 807, 812-14 (9th Cir. 2009); Morgan , 465 F.3d at 1045; Johnson , 217 F.3d at 731; Frost v. Agnos , 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998). Extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions of confinement claim, and only those deprivations denying the minimal civilized measure of lifes necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Hudson v. McMillian , 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (citations and quotations omitted). In other words, to state an Eighth Amendment claim, Plaintiff must provide evidence sufficient to show that prison officials knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm to the plaintiff. E.g., Farmer , 511 U.S. at 847; Thomas v. Ponder , 611 F.3d at 1150-51; Foster v. Runnels , 554 F.3d at 812-14; Frost v. Agnos , 152 F.3d at 1128.
In their motions, objections, and briefs, all parties refer to the policies and procedures for suicide watch at Corcorans Outpatient Housing Unit (OHU) in effect at CCI in 2002-03. In brief, an OHU cell is a single cell that contains a toilet and sink. While in OHU, an inmate is typically provided with a suicide blanket, suicide mattress, and disposable paper boxer shorts. If an inmate is on suicide prevention watch, an inmate is placed in a cell without anything that he could use to harm himself. The inmate is checked on every fifteen minutes. When an inmate is placed under suicide watch, he is placed in a similar cell but is continuously monitored. In extreme cases, staff may further restrict an inmates access to items and place the inmate in five-point restraints. Inmates normally stay at OHU no more than 72 hours. If a longer time period is needed, inmates are generally transferred to special mental health crisis beds at nearby prison hospitals.
The evidence before the Court, and apparently admitted by all parties, indicates that Plaintiff was placed on suicide prevention status at OHU on: June 6, 2002 to June 20, 2002; August 17, 2002 to August 19, 2002; September 16, 2002 to October 1, 2002; October 15, 2002 to October 16, 2002; November 13, 2002 to November 15, 2002; January 8, 2003 to January 10, 2003; and January 17, 2003 to January 21, 2003. Plaintiff was never placed on suicide prevention status for more than 14 days in a row.
A. Alleged Deprivations
Plaintiff contends that he was deprived of regular showers, sanitation materials and toilet paper, and was forced to remain in cells that were covered in other inmates' excrement. Plaintiff also contends his cell was illuminated twenty-four hours per day. Finally, Plaintiff contends that he was exposed to forty to fifty degree temperatures, provided only limited clothing, and deprived of adequate bedding, which caused him pain, cramps, chills, lower back and neck pain and extreme emotional anguish.
As to Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment claim regarding the temperature of his cell, he provides evidence in his verified complaint and in his declaration filed in opposition to the motion for summary judgment that at night the temperature in his OHU cell was "between 50 and 40 degrees." (Doc. 18. at p. 4.) Although Plaintiff admits that he had no thermometer in his cell, he alleges that a female nurse informed him that the temperature in the hall outside of his cell was about fifty degrees. (Pltf. Dep., 35:13-37:9.) Plaintiff further offers evidence in the form of his declarations that the temperature in his OHU cell was colder than in the hall outside of his cell. (Doc. 118 at p. 45). Plaintiff provides evidence that he regularly complained of the temperature to prison staff but such complaints were not recorded by Defendants. (Doc. 118 at p. 44). Plaintiff need not be an expert to opine on a cell being too cold to sleep or to give some general approximation of temperature. See Chatman v. Tyner, 2009 WL 498958, *2, 7-8 (2009) adopted by, 2009 WL 901129 (E.D. Cal. 2009)(AWI) (where the court found that an inmate plaintiffs declaration alleging that defendants ignored his temperature related complaint that "he was freezing to death, " where he was afforded limited clothing, was sufficient to defeat summary judgment). Plaintiff does provide evidence that one nurse recorded his complaint of the low temperature as reflected by the nursing care record. (Doc. 118 at p. 48.) The Court recognizes that, other than the one nurse care record, Plaintiffs account is contradicted by Defendants records evincing the temperature in the infirmary wing and the failure of prison records to reflect that Plaintiff complained. ( See Docs. 107-5, 107-6.) At this stage of the proceedings there is a disputed issue of fact concerning the temperature. Plaintiff has submitted sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact. See Fields v. Junious, 2012 WL 2116351, *7 (2012) adopted by, 2012 WL 3201689 (E.D. Cal. 2012)(AWI).
As to Plaintiffs bedding claim, Plaintiffs verified complaint alleges that he was denied a suicide mattress. Defendants acknowledge that CDCR policy provides for a suicide mattress to be provided to inmates under suicide watch. (Nguyet Decl., ¶ 6.) Suicide mattresses are "designed from a special material that cannot be torn-in order to prevent inmates from attempting to harm themselves, such as by hanging." (Doc. 93-1 at p. 8.) Although a comfortable mattress is not required by the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner cannot be made to sleep on the floor. A practice requiring inmates to sleep on the floor is sufficiently serious deprivation of "the minimal civilized measure of lifes necessities" to warrant protection by the Eighth Amendment if continued for a prolonged period. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991) (plaintiff's allegations that defendants deprived him of clothing, bedding, toilet paper, running water and the ability to shower for eight days in cold and unsanitary conditions are sufficient to state a claim); Thompson v. City of Los Angeles, 885 F.2d 1439, 1448 (9th Cir 1989); see Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 732 (9th Cir.2000) ("modest deprivations can also form the objective basis of a violation, but only if such deprivations are lengthy or ongoing."); but cf. Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1314 (9th Cir.) amended, 75 F.3d 448 (9th Cir. 1995) (placement of violent and mentally disturbed inmates in safety cell that was dirty and smelly with a pit toilet for short duration (up to one day) did not violate the Eighth Amendment). Where claims of ...