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Lal v. Felker

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 30, 2014

AZHAR LAL, Plaintiff,
v.
FELKER, et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

EDMUND F. BRENNAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants Baltzer, Barton, Callison, Carter, Cullison, Garrison, and Yeager have filed a motion for summary judgment.[1] ECF No. 204. Plaintiff filed an opposition and defendants filed a reply.[2] ECF Nos. 222-23, 225. Thereafter, plaintiff requested leave to file a surreply to address defendants' contention that he had made various concessions in his opposition brief. ECF No. 231. Plaintiff's request is granted, and the court has considered the surreply (ECF No. 232) in resolving defendants' summary judgment motion. For the reasons explained below, it is recommended that the motion be granted.

I. Background

This action proceeds on the verified and amended complaint filed May 5, 2008. ECF No. 14 ("Compl."). Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), and the allegations in the complaint concern events that occurred while plaintiff was housed at High Desert State Prison ("HDSP"). Id. ¶¶ 18-19.

Plaintiff has a long history of treatment for Type 2 diabetes mellitus, complicated by management of mental health problems. Id. ¶ 21; ECF No. 194 at 2. He alleges that as of June 2006, his diabetes treatment plan included an evening blood glucose check, followed by insulin, if necessary. Compl. ¶¶ 22, 26. He claims that to receive his evening glucose check, "it was mandatory that he be called out to the medical clinic." Id. ¶ 23. The crux of his complaint is that on multiple occasions over a protracted period of time, he was not called to the clinic for his evening check.[3]

Defendants Barter, Baltzer, Callison, Carter, Cullison, Flores, Garrison, and Yeager were Medical Technical Assistants ("MTAs") at HDSP. Id. ¶¶ 8-15. Their alleged duties were to administer prescriptions ordered by plaintiff's doctor. Id. Plaintiff claims that on June 29, 2006, he filed an inmate appeal because defendant Flores failed to call him to the clinic on the evenings of June 28 and 29, meaning that he did not receive his evening glucose checks on those dates. Id. ¶¶ 24-25, Ex. A. On August 13, 2006, plaintiff allegedly filed another inmate appeal, this time claiming that MTA Flores had failed to call him to the clinic on the evenings of August 9 and 10 (again depriving him of glucose checks on those dates), and also charging Flores with falsely documenting that plaintiff had refused his evening treatments. Id. ¶ 29, Ex. A. Plaintiff also complained that the other MTAs had stopped calling him for his evening glucose checks. Id. Prison officials apparently responded to plaintiff's inmate appeals, stating that on various dates, plaintiff had been called to the clinic but either failed to show up or had refused the treatment. Id. ¶ 47. Plaintiff, however, maintains that if he did not get his evening glucose check it was because he was not called to the clinic. Id. ¶ 48. He also claims that if he had refused treatment, there would be a signed "refusal form" in his medical file. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that the MTAs failed to call him to the medical clinic for his evening glucose checks, as follows: (1) that Flores failed to call him on June 28 and 29, August 9, 10, 17, 19, and 23, September 9, 16, 19, 28, and 30, and October 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, 12, 19, 20, 21, and 24, 2006; (2) that Callison failed to call him on August 13 and 28, September 3, 4, 11, 18, and 24, and October 22, 2006; (3) that Carter failed to call him on August 20, 2006; (4) that Cullison failed to call him on August 21, and September 1, 2006; (5) that Garrison failed to call him on August 29, 2006; (6) that Barter failed to call him on September 6, 2006; (7) that Baltzer failed to call him on September 10, 2006; and (8) that Yeager failed to call him on September 25, and October 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16, 2006. Id. ¶¶ 24-25, 33. According to plaintiff, the MTAs failed to call him on these dates in "reprisal" for plaintiff having filed the above-referenced inmate appeals. Id. ¶¶ 34, 65.

Based on the above allegations, the remaining claim in this action is a First Amendment claim that the MTAs retaliated against plaintiff for filing inmate appeals by failing to call him to the clinic for his evening glucose checks. Defendants Baltzer, Barton, Callison, Carter, Cullison, Garrison, and Yeager ("defendants") were previously granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that by doing so, they also interfered with plaintiff's medical treatment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. ECF Nos. 194, 200.

II. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when 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). Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in favor of the nonmovant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1994). At bottom, a summary judgment motion asks whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury.

The principal purpose of Rule 56 is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Cop. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Thus, the rule functions to "pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments). Procedurally, under summary judgment practice, the moving party bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). If the moving party meets its burden with a properly supported motion, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to present specific facts that show there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Auvil v. CBS "60 Minutes", 67 F.3d 816, 819 (9th Cir. 1995).

A clear focus on where the burden of proof lies as to the factual issue in question is crucial to summary judgment procedures. Depending on which party bears that burden, the party seeking summary judgment does not necessarily need to submit any evidence of its own. When the opposing party would have the burden of proof on a dispositive issue at trial, the moving party need not produce evidence which negates the opponent's claim. See, e.g., Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 885 (1990). Rather, the moving party need only point to matters which demonstrate the absence of a genuine material factual issue. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. ("[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'"). Indeed, 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 id. at 322. In such a circumstance, summary judgment must be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323.

To defeat summary judgment the opposing party must establish a genuine dispute as to a material issue of fact. This entails two requirements. First, the dispute must be over a fact(s) that is material, i.e., one that makes a difference in the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 ("Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment."). Whether a factual dispute is material is determined by the substantive law applicable for the claim in question. Id. If the opposing party is unable to produce evidence sufficient to establish a required element of its claim that party fails in opposing summary judgment. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

Second, the dispute must be genuine. In determining whether a factual dispute is genuine the court must again focus on which party bears the burden of proof on the factual issue in question. Where the party opposing summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial on the factual issue in dispute, that party must produce evidence sufficient to support its factual claim. Conclusory allegations, unsupported by evidence are insufficient to defeat the motion. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir.1989). Rather, the opposing party must, by affidavit or as otherwise provided by Rule 56, designate specific facts that show there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 1076. More significantly, to demonstrate a genuine factual dispute the evidence relied on by the ...


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