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Clemente v. T. Parciasepe

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 19, 2016

T. PARCIASEPE, Defendant.



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff claims that defendant Parciasepe was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff’s safety in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.[1] Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is before the court. As set forth more fully below, the undersigned finds that defendant’s motion for summary judgment should be denied.

         II. Plaintiff’s Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 10, 2013, defendant Parciasepe brought new inmate Villiers to plaintiff’s cell, and when Villiers and plaintiff recognized each other as enemies from past encounters on the streets and prisons, they informed defendant, but defendant ignored their pleas, shut the cell door, stated “handle your business, ” and walked away. (ECF No. 1 at 8.) Plaintiff alleges that Villiers started banging on the cell door, yelling “let me out because we [are] not compatible, ” but their pleas went unanswered by defendant and the altercation continued. (ECF No. 1 at 8.) Plaintiff contends that defendant was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff’s safety, and failed to protect plaintiff, and claims that his failure to address their incompatibility was cruel and unusual punishment.

         III. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendant moves for summary judgment on the grounds that there is evidence that plaintiff staged the fight with Villiers so that plaintiff could get his old cellmate back, and there are no facts demonstrating that defendant knew of an excessive risk to plaintiff or that defendant disregarded any such risk. In addition, defendant argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity because it was reasonable for defendant to believe that his actions were lawful, based on his review of the central files reflecting that plaintiff and Villiers were eligible to be cellmates, neither inmate advised the officers they were enemies when Villiers was placed in cell 240, and that Villiers’ statement that he and plaintiff were “incompatible, ” but both he and plaintiff were calm, and showed no sign of aggression or fear, led defendant to believe that Villiers’ request was a convenience cell move request. Defendant contends that his actions were objectively reasonable in light of the information known to him at the time.

         In opposition, plaintiff contends that his evidence demonstrates that defendant was warned that Villiers and plaintiff viewed one another as enemies as soon as Villiers entered the cell. Plaintiff argues that their yelling and kicking the door for help informed defendant that a fight was going to ensue if defendant did not separate them. Plaintiff contends that defendant ignored these warnings, resulting in the altercation and subsequent injuries sustained by plaintiff and Villiers.

         In reply, defendant argues that Villiers’ statement that he and plaintiff were “incompatible” did not alert defendant to a substantial risk of harm or suggest that plaintiff and Villiers were enemies. Defendant contends that Villiers was placed in cell 240 without incident, and it was not until shortly after they were celled together that Villiers informed defendant that plaintiff and Villiers were “incompatible.” (ECF No. 81 at 2.) Defendant argues that plaintiff failed to adduce competent evidence that defendant was both aware of facts from which an inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of harm existed, or that defendant drew the inference. (ECF No. 81 at 3.) Defendant denies that plaintiff or Villiers told defendant any reason they could not be housed together other than Villiers’ statement that they were “incompatible.” Defendant states that he advised Villiers of the procedure for convenience moves and assured him it would be addressed in the morning. Defendant contends that based on his observations of the behavior of plaintiff and Villiers, Villiers’ statements to defendant, and defendant’s experience and training as a correctional officer, defendant did not believe that placing Villiers in cell 240 with plaintiff would lead to an altercation.

         Moreover, defendant contends that plaintiff’s statement in his opposition that he and Villiers fought because plaintiff had “stabbed a person who plaintiff has always understood to be Villiers’ cousin” (ECF No. 80 at 4), is unsupported by plaintiff’s own declaration or any other competent evidence. (ECF No. 81 at 4.) Defendant points out that Villiers testified at his deposition that plaintiff fabricated the story about the cousin to create a reason for the fight that plaintiff planned in order to get Villiers out of the cell that night. (Id.) Defendant notes that plaintiff did not deny that he orchestrated the fight.

         Defendant argues that he adduced evidence that plaintiff and Villiers had no problems previously, and after the fight, they signed a “peaceful Co-existence Agreement” chrono which conceded that there was no animosity between them and they could co-exist peacefully on the same prison yard. Moreover, months after the incident they continued to be housed in the same building, “and communicated with each other with no signs of hostility, no verbal or physical altercations between them.” (ECF No. 81 at 5.)

         Finally, defendant argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity because he believed in good faith that his actions were reasonable based on the circumstances as he knew them at the time. (ECF No. 81 at 6.)

         IV. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that the standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil procedure 56 is met. “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). “[T]the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ’ which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting then-numbered Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party’s case.” Nursing Home Pension Fund, Local 144 v. Oracle Corp. (In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig.), 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 advisory committee’s notes to 2010 amendments (recognizing that “a party who does not have the trial burden of production may rely on a showing that a party who does have the trial burden cannot produce admissible evidence to carry its burden as to the fact”). Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323.

         Consequently, if the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of such a factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings, but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material in support of its contention that such a dispute exists. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass’n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987), overruled in part on other grounds, Hollinger v. Titan Capital Corp., 914 F.2d 1564, 1575 (9th Cir. 1990).

         In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 630. Thus, the “purpose of summary judgment is to ‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.’” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee’s note on 1963 amendments).

         In resolving a summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party’s obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff’d, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.’” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (citation omitted).

         By contemporaneous notice provided on November 10, 2015 (ECF No. 75-1), plaintiff was advised of the requirements for opposing a motion brought pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc); Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

         V. Evidentiary Objections

         Defendants filed objections to plaintiff’s exhibits. Generally, this court does not rule on evidentiary matters raised on summary judgment, unless otherwise noted. See Capitol Records, LLC v. BlueBeat, Inc., 765 F.Supp.2d 1198, 1200 n.1 (C.D. Cal. 2010) (stating that it is often unnecessary and impractical for a court to methodically scrutinize and give a full analysis of each evidentiary objection on a motion for summary judgment); Burch v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 433 F.Supp.2d 1110, 1118-22 (E.D. Cal. 2006) (same).

         “At summary judgment, a party does not necessarily have to produce evidence in a form that would be admissible at trial.” Nevada Dep’t of Corr. v. Greene, 648 F.3d 1014, 1019 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Block v. City of Los Angeles, 253 F.3d 410, 418-19 (9th Cir. 2001)) (internal quotations omitted). The focus is on the admissibility of the evidence’s contents, not its form. Fonseca v. Sysco Food Servs. of Arizona, Inc., 374 F.3d 840, 846 (9th Cir. 2004); Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 2003); Burch, 433 F.Supp.2d at 1122. Therefore, unless otherwise specifically addressed herein, defendants’ authentication and hearsay objections are overruled. See, e.g., Fonseca, 374 F.3d at 846; Burch, 433 F.Supp.2d at 1122. Documents submitted as exhibits are considered to the extent that they are relevant, and despite the fact that they are not authenticated because such documents could be admissible at trial if authenticated. This court offers no opinion on the admissibility of these documents at trial.

         VI. Facts[2]

         On January 10, 2013, plaintiff Marcelino Clemente was housed in A-5 facility of Mule Creek State Prison (“MCSP”) and did not have a cellmate at that time. Defendant Correctional Officer Parciasepe and his partner, Correctional Officer S. Hpoo (“Hpoo”), worked the third watch shift from 1400 to 2200 hours. That night, MCSP received prisoners at the facility who had just transferred in from another prison, including inmate Eric Villiers, CDCR # D-96687 (“Villiers”). Control Sergeant Butcher assigned defendant the task of locating housing for new arrival Villiers.

         An appropriate housing assignment for an inmate is determined through a screening process pursuant to California Code of Regulations Title 15 § 3269(a). A number of factors are considered when determining an appropriate housing assignment, including the inmate’s CDCR Form 812, also known as an “Enemy List” which is reviewed to confirm that inmates are not listed as enemies before housing them together. If an inmate has another inmate on his ...

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