United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 11)
William Alsup United States District Judge.
a civil rights action filed under 42 U.S.C. 1983 by a pro se
prisoner at Avenal State Prison. Plaintiff claims that
defendants Dr. Darin Bright, Greg Ellis, and J. Lewis, who
are prison officials, violated his Eighth Amendment rights
when he was housed at the California Training Facility
("CTF") by being deliberately indifferent to his
knee condition. Defendants move for summary judgment,
plaintiff has opposed the motion, and defendants have
replied. For the reasons set out below, defendants'
motion is Granted.
following facts are not in dispute, unless otherwise noted.
suffers from extensive degenerative joint disease in his left
knee, and he also has a discrepancy in his leg length. In
2007, plaintiff received an M.R.I. for his knee and in May
2008 he underwent arthroscopic surgery. Since that surgery,
he has continued to experience locking, buckling, spasms and
instability in his knee that causes him severe pain. He has
received steroid injections, narcotic and non-narcotic pain
medication, a hinged knee brace and a cane, custom orthotic
boots, and enrolled in the CTF Chronic Care Program (under
which prisoners are closely monitored for changes in their
medical condition) (Custodian of Records ("COR")
Decl. CCHCS-000011; Bright Decl. ¶ 14). Plaintiff is
morbidly obese (COR Decl. CCHSC-000011).
September 2014, plaintiff filed an administrative appeal at
CTF requesting to be seen by a podiatrist, an orthopedic
specialist for knee replacement surgery (id.
CCHCS-000006). In the appeal he explained his condition, the
surgery, and his continuing symptoms (ibid.). He
further stated that the knee brace and medications he was
provided were alleviating the pain (ibid.) In
response, he was seen by Dr. Tarrar, a primary care physician
and surgeon (id. CCHCS-000008). He was advised to
lose weight and exercise to alleviate his knee pain, his
request to see an orthopedic specialist for knee replacement
surgery was denied, and he was referred to a podiatrist to
address his leg-length disparity (ibid).
appealed this decision to the second level of review,
reiterating his requests and complaints, and adding a request
for a new M.R.I. examination (id. CCHCS-000005). He
further stated that the brace and pain medication are the
"reason" he can work (ibid.) at his job in
the kitchen. The appeal was denied at the second level by
defendant Dr. Bright, the Chief Medical Executive at CTF, and
S. Camara, whom defendant Ellis, the CTF Chief Executive
Officer, designated to act on his behalf because Ellis was
absent (id. CCHCS-000010-11; Ellis Decl.
¶¶ 6-7). Dr. Bright found that an orthopedist would
not help because a second surgery would not have a better
outcome than the unsuccessful first surgery, plaintiff is
morbidly obese and requires weight loss to address his knee
pain, and plaintiff is able to walk to and from the yard and
the mess hall (COR Decl. CCHCS-000011; Bright Decl. ¶
14). Dr. Bright in his declaration further explains that his
reasoning was based on the fact that steroids had not
relieved the pain, plaintiff was provided narcotic and
non-narcotic pain medication, a cane, a hinged knee brace,
had a job in the prison kitchen, declined a lower bunk, and
enrolled in the CTF Chronic Care Program (ibid.).
Dr. Bright advised plaintiff that he could improve his knee
problems by losing weight and strengthening his leg with
exercise (COR Decl. CCHSC-000011). Dr. Bright also denied the
referral to a podiatrist because a podiatrist does not treat
leg length disparities or knee conditions, and instead
recommended that plaintiff's primary care physician order
orthotics for the problem (ibid.).
December 2014, petitioner appealed this decision to third and
final level of review where it was denied by R. Robinson, a
designee of defendant Lewis, who is the Deputy Director with
the California Correctional Health Care Services and
responsible for reviewing administrative appeals at the third
level of review (COR Decl. CCHCS-000003). Lewis states that
he receives too many appeals to review and decide them all
within the legal deadline denied plaintiff's
administrative appeal. (Lewis Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4-5). In
this appeal, plaintiff stated that the "hardly"
goes to the yard because of the knee pain, and that he feels
pain while he works (COR Decl. CCHCS-00005). His appeal was
denied on the grounds that he was evaluated by doctors, and
receiving the medically necessary treatment for his condition
(id. CCHCS-000003). On January 8, 2015, Dr. Tarrar,
submitted a "Physician Request for Services"
("RFS") form to defendant Dr. Bright requesting an
updated M.R.I. of plaintiff's left knee (Compl. 3b-3c).
Dr. Bright denied the request on January 20, 2015 (Bright
Decl. ¶ 3 n.1).
received custom boots from the orthotics department, and he
has not complained about their functionality (Bright Decl.
claims that defendants violated the Eighth Amendment and were
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.
Standard of Review
judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and
affidavits show that there is "no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the
case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine ...