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Coston v. Nangalama

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 26, 2015

DANNY MURPHY COSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW NANGALAMA, M.D., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MORRISON C. ENGLAND, Jr., Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Danny Murphy Coston ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights action against Defendants Andrew Nangalama, M.D., ("Nangalama") and Ronald Hale, L.V.N., ("Hale") (collectively "Defendants") alleging that Defendants failed to provide medical treatment in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On February 2, 2015, following the close of Plaintiff's case-in-chief, this Court granted Defendants' Motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 and dismissed this case. ECF No. 143. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Amend or Alter the Judgment, Motion to Set Aside the Judgment, and Motion for a New Trial. ECF No. 144. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motions are DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On July 28, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Complaint (ECF No. 1) naming Nangalama, Hale, and various other staff members of California State Prison, Sacramento, as Defendants. At the time of trial, only Nangalama and Hale remained parties to this action. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because they were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs when they discontinued his Morphine prescription "cold turkey" after Plaintiff was caught passing Morphine pills to other inmates and hoarding 25 days' worth of Morphine in his cell. At the close of Plaintiff's case-in-chief, this Court granted Defendants' Rule 50 motion, concluding that Plaintiff presented no evidence at trial to establish that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to any serious medical needs.

ANALYSIS

A. Defendants' Rule 50 Motion Was Not Granted in Clear Error Because Plaintiff Failed to Establish the Necessary Elements to Succeed on a § 1983 Claim.

"A district court has considerable discretion when considering a motion to amend a judgment under Rule 59(e)." Turner v. Burlington N. Santa Fe R.R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003). "[A] motion for reconsideration should not be granted, absent highly unusual circumstances, unless the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling law." Marlyn Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Mucos Pharma GmbH & Co., 571 F.3d 873, 880 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing 389 Orange St. Partners v. Arnold, 179 F.3d 656, 665 (9th Cir. 1999)). A Rule 59(e) motion should not be used to raise arguments or present evidence that could have reasonably been raised or presented earlier. Id. (citing Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000)). Additionally, Local Rule 230(j) similarly requires a party seeking reconsideration to demonstrate "what new or different facts or circumstances are claimed to exist which did not exist or were not shown upon such prior motion, or what other grounds exist for the motion, " and "why the facts or circumstances were not shown at the time of the prior motion."

Plaintiff contends that the Court erroneously granted Defendants' Rule 50 motion at the close of Plaintiff's case-in-chief. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) provides:

(1) If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:
(A) resolve the issue against the party; and
(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim... that, under the controlling law, can be maintained... only with a favorable finding on that issue.

As the rule itself indicates, "[j]udgment as a matter of law is appropriate when the evidence presented at trial permits only one reasonable conclusion." Santos v. Gates, 287 F.3d 846, 851 (9th Cir. 2002). Thus, "the court is permitted to take a case away from the jury by entering a judgment if there is not sufficient evidence to raise a genuine factual controversy." Tijani v. Blanas, No. 2:00-cv-00069-RRB-EFB, 2007 WL 1139408, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 17, 2007).

Since no new evidence or a change of controlling law has been offered, Plaintiff essentially contends that the Court committed clear error when it found that the evidence presented during trial was insufficient to substantiate the allegations that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. Plaintiff's complaint identified two areas in which he alleged the Defendants' care was deficient: (1) by discontinuing Plaintiff's Morphine prescription "cold turkey" after Plaintiff was found hoarding the medication in his cell, and (2) by Defendants' failure or refusal to provide Plaintiff alternative pain medication. Compl., ECF No. 1, at 11-13. Consistent with this Court's previous determination, no reasonable jury could find that Defendants' alleged actions rose to the requisite level of deliberate indifference for Plaintiff to succeed on his § 1983 claim.

In order to recover under § 1983 for the deprivation of a citizen's Due Process rights, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) a government employee (2) was subjectively aware (3) of a serious medical need and (4) acted with deliberate indifference. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-06 (1976); Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017-18 (9th Cir. 2010). A medical need is serious if failure to treat it will result in "further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc)). A prison official is deliberately indifferent to that need if he "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). To be liable, "the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and ...


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