United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Re: Dkt. No. 17
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, Jr., District Judge.
Plaintiff, a California prisoner currently incarcerated at California Correctional Institution, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Dr. N. Adam, a medical doctor, at Pelican Bay State Prison ("PBSP"), where Plaintiff was previously incarcerated. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discontinued a medical chrono that had prevented correctional officers from handcuffing Plaintiff's arms behind his back due to a shoulder injury. The Court found that, liberally construed, the complaint stated a cognizable claim for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff has filed an opposition, and defendant has filed a reply.
The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted:
Plaintiff is serving a sentence first imposed in 1993. Strain Decl. ¶ 6 & Ex. A. Due to a left shoulder condition, he received a temporary chrono for "side cuffing" starting on October 7, 2008. Sayre Decl. ¶ 6. Plaintiff has given two different narratives explaining his shoulder condition to medical providers. Id. He has stated that his shoulder was injured during a 2007 motor-vehicle accident. Id.  He has also stated that he injured his shoulder while lifting weights at some date before 2007. Id.; Adam Decl. Ex. A (AGO 44). The chrono became a permanent accommodation on October 2, 2009. Sayre Decl. ¶ 6. The "side cuffing" chrono changed to a "waist chain" chrono for unknown reasons on October 18, 2010. Id. Plaintiff was transferred to PBSP on or about April 21, 2011. Sayre Decl. ¶ 7. The waist chain chrono stayed in effect at PBSP until June 28, 2013.
On June 28, 2013, Plaintiff appeared at the PBSP clinic for a follow-up medical examination after returning from his appointment with an ear specialist at which he received a hearing aid. Adam Decl. ¶ 6. Defendant examined Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff's new hearing aid required a new Comprehensive Accommodation Chrono (CDCR Form 7410). Id. Under prison policy, a Comprehensive Accommodation Chrono must include all accommodations that are currently medically necessary. Id. Therefore, Defendant reviewed Plaintiff's existing chronos and medical records to determine whether Plaintiff's existing medical chronos were medically necessary and should be included in the new Comprehensive Accommodation Chrono. Id.
During the time period between his arrival at PBSP and June 2013, Plaintiff never submitted a request for medical treatment concerning his shoulder. Adam Decl. ¶ 6. Further, during this time period, no x-rays were taken of Plaintiff's shoulder and he had not been treated for any acute shoulder dislocations. Id. After reviewing Plaintiff's medical records, Defendant found no medical evidence that the waist chain chrono was medically necessary. Id. Therefore, on June 28, 2013, Defendant completed a new Comprehensive Accommodation Chrono for Plaintiff and discontinued the waist chain chrono. Id. ¶ 6 & Ex. A (AGO 21, 69).
On July 18, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a health care services request form, asking Defendant to explain her discontinuation of the waist chain chrono. Adam Decl. ¶ 8 & Ex. A (AGO 66). According to Defendant, Plaintiff was referred to medical staff, but he refused to be evaluated. Id. ¶ 8 & Ex. A (AGO 65). According to Plaintiff, he never refused an appointment but merely received a cell-front visit from a nurse who told him she could not reinstate the chrono. Compl. at 4. Later, on July 19, 2013, Defendant received correspondence from Plaintiff again requesting the reason for the discontinuation of the waist chain chrono. Adam Decl. ¶ 8 & Ex. A (AGO 61). Defendant responded and explained to Plaintiff that it was necessary for him to submit a request for medical treatment and not to refuse the appointment so that a medical staff member could complete the initial medical evaluation and triage his request for medical services in accordance with prison policy. Id. Defendant also requested additional information from Plaintiff concerning his shoulder so that additional medical records could be ordered. Id.
According to the complaint, on August 5, 2013, two correctional officers went to Plaintiff's cell to take his cellmate to an appointment. Compl. at 4. Plaintiff had to wait for a long period of time with his hands cuffed behind his back while his cellmate was stripped. Id. While waiting, Plaintiff's shoulder popped out of its socket, causing extreme pain. Id. at 4-5. His cellmate helped him to pop the shoulder back into place.
According to PBSP medical staff, this incident was never reported. Sayre Decl. ¶ 11; Adam Decl. ¶ 10. Rather, records show that Plaintiff was involved in an unwitnessed, in-cell fight that was unrelated to any custodial action. Sayre Decl. ¶ 11. There are no medical records indicating Plaintiff sought medical treatment for this incident. Adam Decl. ¶ 10. However, an August 5, 2013 progress note states that Plaintiff refused to exit his cell for a medical evaluation and completion of a CDCR Form 7219 (a form used to record any injury sustained by an inmate after an incident). Id. ¶ 10 & Ex. A (AGO 60).
Later, on or about August 13, 2013, a medical staff member again requested additional medical records concerning Plaintiff's shoulder. Adam Decl. ¶ 9. During an August 23, 2013 medical appointment, Dr. Martinelli issued Plaintiff a temporary waist chain chrono. Id. Ex. A (AGO 49, 50). During this medical visit with Dr. Martinelli, it was noted that Plaintiff was tender only at the acromioclavicular joint. Id. The acromioclavicular joint and shoulder dislocation are not medically related. Adam Decl. ¶ 9. "A patient may suffer from severe acromioclavicular joint separation (and pain) and still not be at greater risk for a shoulder dislocation." Id.
On September 10, 2013, Defendant issued a new medical chrono and continued the temporary waist chain chrono because the additional medical records ordered in August 2013 were not yet available for review. Adam Decl. ¶ 10, Ex. A (AGO 19, 44, 45). During the examination, Plaintiff removed his shirt for a shoulder examination. Id. Defendant observed a very muscular upper body and shoulders. Adam Decl. ¶ 10, Ex. A (AGO 44). Defendant opined that Plaintiff completes a very extensive exercise program bilaterally in the upper extremities and had no shoulder disability. Id. Upon observation, the shoulders were symmetric without any evidence of dislocation. Id. Plaintiff was able to lift his left arm overhead nearly as ...