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Meador v. Hammer

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 16, 2015

GORDON D. MEADOR, Plaintiff,
M. HAMMER, et al., Defendants.


ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis and with the assistance of counsel in this action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants' motion for summary judgment is before the court. ECF No. 72. Plaintiff has filed a response (ECF No. 80) and defendants have replied (ECF No. 76). Plaintiff, acting pro se, has also filed a declaration (ECF No. 84) which defendants oppose (ECF No. 85).

I. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment when they ignored his claims that he was experiencing chest pains, resulting in an approximately three-hour delay in treatment. ECF No. 1. According to the complaint, defendants Hammer and Asad refused plaintiff's requests to call for medical assistance when he informed them he was experiencing chest pain. Id. at 4. Plaintiff then began using his cane to bang on the window in his cell, ultimately breaking the window. Id. Defendant Shaw was called and ordered plaintiff moved to the sally port. Id. at 4-5. Shaw was aware from the beginning that there was an emergency medical situation, but failed to order plaintiff sent to medical. Id. at 7. It was not until plaintiff was at the sally port that another office sent him to medical. Id. at 5. Medical staff performed an EKG and had plaintiff transported by ambulance to the hospital. Id. At the hospital plaintiff was given morphine for the pain, and he suffered heart damage due to the delay in treatment. Id. It was ultimately determined that plaintiff required an ablation to correct the damage to his heart. Id. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and compensatory damages. Id. at 9-10.

II. Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion

Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff cannot establish the essential element of deliberate indifference to his medical need. ECF No. 72-1 at 4-5. They argue that even assuming plaintiff's account of events is true, he cannot show that he suffered any harm as a result of the alleged delay, and therefore cannot establish deliberate indifference. Id. They also argue that because the alleged delay was an isolated incident, there was no deliberate indifference. Id. at 5-6. Finally, defendants argue that plaintiff's claim for damages for mental or emotional injury is barred by 42 U.S.C. 1997(e) because he did not suffer a physical injury. Id. at 6.

III. Plaintiff's Opposition

Plaintiff, through counsel, argues that because there is a material issue of fact regarding the events of August 13, 2011, summary judgment should not be granted. ECF No. 75 at 7-8. He further argues that defendants' actions on August 13, 2011, were not an isolated event and that inmate calls for help were routinely ignored. Id. at 8. Plaintiff appears to concede that he is not entitled to damages for emotional and mental injury. Id. at 7-8.

IV. Plaintiff's Pro Se Declaration

Acting pro se, plaintiff has also filed a motion for leave to lodge a declaration with supporting medical records. ECF No. 84. The defendants oppose the motion, arguing that it is an attempt to file a sur-reply and is untimely and inadmissible. ECF No. 85.

Plaintiff's proposed declaration attempts to offer an opinion on the appropriate interpretation of plaintiff's medical records and to dispute whether he abused his asthma medication. ECF No. 84. However, there is no evidence to establish that plaintiff is qualified to offer testimony regarding the proper interpretation of his medical records, and whether he abused his asthma medication is immaterial to deciding this case. Furthermore, plaintiff has previously been warned that pro se filings will be disregarded so long as he is represented by counsel. ECF No. 23 at 2; ECF No. 37 at 2. For these reasons, the court will disregard plaintiff's pro se filing. ECF No. 84.

V. Undisputed Material Facts

With the exception of the issue whether plaintiff suffered damage to his heart, for the purposes of summary judgment the defendants have assumed that plaintiff's version of events is accurate. Accordingly, the facts are largely undisputed. See Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts ("DSUF") (ECF No. 72-2); Plaintiff's Response to DSUF (ECF No. 80). The following material facts are undisputed for purposes of this motion unless otherwise noted.

Prior to August 13, 2011, plaintiff had been diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia ("SVT"), the symptoms of which include "pounding of the heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid breathing, and dizziness." DSUF ¶ 2; Response to DSUF ¶ 2. He had also "received and rejected recommendations from physicians that he undergo an ablation procedure to address his SVT condition."[1] DSUF ¶ 3; Response to DSUF ¶ 3.

On August 13, 2011, at approximately 1:25 a.m., plaintiff awoke to symptoms of "chest pain, shortness of breath, and numbness and tingling in his left arm." DSUF ¶ 4; Response to DSUF ¶ 4. He proceeded to take two nitroglycerin pills and an aspirin, which did not help to alleviate his symptoms. DSUF ¶ 5; Response to DSUF ¶ 5. At approximately 1:30 a.m., after the nitroglycerin and aspirin did not help his symptoms, plaintiff began banging on his cell doors and yelling "man down."[2] Officers did not arrive until approximately 2:30 a.m. Id.

When defendants Hammer and Asad arrived at plaintiff's cell, he advised them he was "having a heart attack, was short of breath, and that nitroglycerin medication and aspirin did not help." DSUF ¶ 7; Response to DSUF ¶ 7. Defendant Hammer told plaintiff that since he was standing up there was nothing wrong with him and defendants Hammer and Asad then walked away.[3] DSUF ¶ 8; Response to DSUF ¶ 8. Approximately five to ten minutes later, plaintiff began banging on his cell window with his cane, and after about twenty to thirty minutes, the window broke. DSUF ¶ 9; Response to DSUF ¶ 9.

At approximately 3:00 a.m., Hammer returned to plaintiff's cell and plaintiff told them he had broken the window to get Hammer's attention and that he "was still experiencing chest pain, was short of breath, and had thrown up twice." DSUF ¶ 10; Response to DSUF ¶ 10. Hammer left and briefly and returned with Asad, at which point they handcuffed plaintiff and moved him to a holding cell. DSUF ¶ 11; Response to DSUF ¶ 11. Plaintiff estimates that it was approximately three hours between when he first began trying to get the officers' attention and when he was removed from his cell and placed in a holding cell.[4] Id. After plaintiff was moved to a holding cell, an unknown officer arrived and plaintiff advised that he was experiencing chest pain. DSUF ¶ 12; Response to DSUF ¶ 12. Five minutes later, plaintiff was taken to a prison yard emergency room and subsequently transported to Mercy Folsom Hospital by ambulance. Id. DSUF ¶ 13; Response to DSUF ¶ 13.

Once at Mercy Hospital, an electrocardiogram ("EKG") was performed that did not indicate that plaintiff was experiencing SVT or that he had sustained a heart attack or myocardial infarct. DSUF ¶¶ 14-15; Response to DSUF ¶¶ 14-15. Blood tests were also administered and they did not show "elevated cardiac enzyme levels, elevated troponin levels, or other indications that a heart attack or damage to the heart had occurred."[5] DSUF ¶ 15; Response to DSUF ¶ 15. Plaintiff was transferred to Queen of the Valley Hospital, where an additional EKG and blood tests were performed. DSUF ¶¶ 16-18; Response to DSUF ¶¶ 16-18. The EKG demonstrated "normal sinus rhythm, with episodes of atrial fibrillation and flutter, without mention of supraventricular tachycardia" and did not indicate that plaintiff had sustained a heart attack or myocardial infarct. DSUF ¶¶ 17-18; Response to DSUF ¶¶ 17-18. Plaintiff's blood tests once again "indicated that there were no abnormal cardiac enzyme levels, elevated troponin levels, or other indications that ...

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