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Rodgers v. Martin

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 8, 2015

SYNRICO RODGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
C.C. MARTIN, et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO: (1) DENY PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 47); AND (2) GRANT DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 48) FOURTEEN (14) DAY OBJECTION DEADLINE

MICHAEL J. SENG, Magistrate Judge.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. (ECF No. 1 & 5.) This matter proceeds against Defendants Martin and Blattel on Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation and Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims. (ECF No. 7)

On August 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 47.) Defendants filed an opposition. (ECF No. 49.) Plaintiff filed no reply.

On August 11, 2014, Defendants filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 48.) Plaintiff filed an opposition. (ECF No. 65.) Defendants filed a reply. (ECF No. 70.) These matters are deemed submitted pursuant to Local Rule 230( l ).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Any party may move for summary judgment, and the Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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); Wash. Mut. Inc. v. United States, 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

Plaintiff bears the burden of proof at trial, and to prevail on summary judgment, he must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for him. Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). Defendants do not bear the burden of proof at trial and, in moving for summary judgment, they need only prove an absence of evidence to support Plaintiff's case. In re Oracle Corp. Secs. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010).

In judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984, and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011).

III. PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

Plaintiff is incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison, but complains of acts that occurred at Corcoran State Prison. The relevant allegations in his original complaint (ECF No. 1) may be summarized essentially as follows:

Plaintiff filed administrative complaints against Defendants Martin and Blattel in October 2010.

On November 29, 2010, Plaintiff asked Defendant Martin about the status of a pending administrative complaint. Defendant Martin refused to assist Plaintiff and they exchanged words. Defendant Blattel approached. Plaintiff told Blattel to mind his own business. Blattel responded, "Martin is my business" and threatened Plaintiff that they "would have something for [him] tonight." In the evening, Defendants denied Plaintiff his evening meal. Later, Plaintiff was "bird bathing" with his cell door covered by a blanket. Defendants appeared and ordered the blanket removed. Plaintiff refused due to fear of receiving a rules violation for exposing himself. Plaintiff grabbed the blanket. Blattel reached through the food port and grabbed the blanket from Plaintiff. Defendant Martin told Defendant Blattel to pepper spray Plaintiff. Blattel pepper sprayed Plaintiff in the face and chest, and sprayed the cell and its contents stating, "I told you that we [would] be back later, didn't I."

Plaintiff complained to Martin and Blattel that he "could not breathe" and "begged" for a shower. Defendants laughed, denied the request, and told Plaintiff to use toilet water. Defendants left Plaintiff with severe pain and difficulty breathing. The pepper spray fumes remained in the cell for days, causing Plaintiff to suffer an ongoing burning sensation of his skin, nausea, and headaches.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards

1. Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). "[A] prison official may be held liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying humane conditions of confinement only if he knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994).

A conditions of confinement claim has both an objective and a subjective component. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. "First, the deprivation alleged must be... sufficiently serious, " and must "result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id . (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) "[E]xtreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions-of-confinement claim." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992).

Second, the prison official must have acted with "deliberate indifference" to inmate health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. "Mere negligence is not sufficient to establish liability." Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998). Rather, a plaintiff must show that a defendant knew of, but disregarded, an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. That is, "the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id.

Delays in providing showers and medical attention for inmates suffering from harmful effects of pepper spray may violate the Eighth Amendment. Clement v. ...


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