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Jones v. Sangha

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 9, 2017

CLEON NEAL JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. AJMEL SANGHA, M.D.; K. WYATT, RN; DR. IRENE PULIDO, M.D., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NO. 43]

          HON. GONZALO P. CURIEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment submitted by Defendant Ajmel Sangha, M.D. Dkt. No. 43. Plaintiff Jones has not opposed Defendant's motion. Upon review of the moving papers and the applicable law, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 3, 2013, the head nurse at Centinela State Prison (CSP), K. Wyatt, attended to Plaintiff Jones. Def.'s Exhibit 1, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 4; Ajmel Sangha, M.D. Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 2, ¶ 5. Jones informed Wyatt that he had lost vision in his right eye and that he had undergone cataract removal surgery on that same eye three months earlier, on June 5, 2013. See Def.'s Exhibit 1, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 4; Sangha Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 2, ¶ 5. Wyatt referred Plaintiff to the optometry clinic. Def.'s Exhibit 1, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 4. Plaintiff's medical records indicate that Wyatt had arranged for Jones to be seen in the clinic the following morning, on September 4, 2013. See id.; see also Sangha Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 2, ¶ 5. After completing the evaluation of Plaintiff, Wyatt sent a Physician's Order to the office of Defendant Ajmel Sangha, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer at CSP, seeking approval for Plaintiff's optometry appointment. See Sangha Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 2, ¶ 5. The Physician's Order was received by Defendant's office on September 4, 2013, and at some time thereafter, Defendant approved the Order. Id.

         The attending optometrist did not see Plaintiff on September 4, 2013. See Def.'s Exhibit 2, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 6. The patient log for specialty visits kept by CSP indicates that Jones was not scheduled for an optometry visit on September 4, 2013. Id. The log also indicates that none of the inmates with appointments to see an optometrist on September 4, 2013 were seen as scheduled “because of [the] Specialist.” Id.

         Plaintiff saw Dr. Irene Pulido, an optometrist, on September 13, 2013. Def.'s Exhibit 4, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 12; Sangha Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 3, ¶ 6. Dr. Pulido completed an Ophthalmologic Examination form, which recorded her findings and recommended a referral to ophthalmology for a second opinion. Def.'s Exhibit 5, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 14; Sangha Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 3, ¶ 6. The referral was routine, meaning, Dr. Pulido intended for Plaintiff to be seen by an ophthalmologist within ninety days. See Sangha Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 3, ¶ 6. Another California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) physician, not Defendant Sangha, approved Plaintiff's referral to the ophthalmologist. Id.

         About two months later, on November 14, 2013, Defendant Sangha signed a Physician's Order that approved an off-site appointment for Plaintiff with Dr. Narendra Patel, an ophthalmologist in El Centro. Id. at 4, ¶ 7; see also Def.'s Exhibit 7, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 34. Dr. Patel, the same doctor who had performed Plaintiff's cataract removal surgery, diagnosed Plaintiff with retinal detachment. Sangha Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 4, ¶ 7; Def.'s Exhibit 9, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 34.

         At 6:33pm that same day, Plaintiff arrived at the Hillcrest Emergency Department of the UC San Diego Health System (“UCSD”). Def.'s Exhibit 9, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 26. He was seen by a number of physicians and ultimately diagnosed with retinal detachment by a Dr. Theodore Craig Chan, an ophthalmologist. Id. at 26-31. Dr. Chan indicated in his notes that there was no need for urgent intervention as to Plaintiff's retinal detachment because the condition had been present for two months and typically detachments are repaired within 7 to 10 days of occurring. Id. at 31. Dr. Chan requested that Plaintiff be seen in the glaucoma clinic in 2-4 weeks and that he be seen by a Dr. Aresh Mozayan on November 26, 2013 to plan for repair. Id. Dr. Mozayan evaluated Plaintiff on November 25, 2013. See Sangha Decl., Dkt. No. 43-5 at 4, ¶ 8; Def.'s Exhibit 10, Dkt. No. 43-5 at 39.[1] Defendant Sangha had approved Plaintiff's off-site visit via Physician Order that same day. Def.'s Exhibit 11, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 42.

         On November 26, 2013, Defendant Sangha signed yet another Physician's Order approving Plaintiff's visit to an ophthalmologist at UCSD, per the recommendation of the previous consultation. Def.'s Exhibit 11, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 43.

         Finally, on December 12, 2013, Defendant Sangha signed a Physician's Order approving Plaintiff to be seen by a UCSD specialist who would perform a vitrectomy on Plaintiff's right eye within a month. Def.'s Exhibit 12, Dkt. No. 43-4 at 45.[2]

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant Sangha, and two other Defendants, [3] under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that their deliberate indifference to his medical needs violated the Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and usual punishment. FAC, Dkt. No. 6. On September 16, 2015, the Court granted Defendant Sangha's motion to be dismissed in his official capacity. Dkt. No. 19. The Court, however, denied Sangha's motion to be dismissed in his personal capacity. Id. About a year later, Defendant moved for summary judgment, on October 20, 2016. Def.'s Summary Judgment Motion (DMSJ), Dkt. No. 43-2. Defendant argues that there is no triable issue that he was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical need and that he is entitled to qualified immunity. Id. Plaintiff has not opposed Defendant's motion.[4]

         MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Fed. R. of Civ. P. 56 empowers courts to enter summary judgment on factually unsupported claims or defenses, and thereby “secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 327 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the “pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, 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 ...


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