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Prater v. Goodwin

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

March 24, 2017

CHRISTOPHER PRATER, Plaintiff,
v.
IRVIN GOODWIN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 57

          HOWARD R. LLOYD, United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendants Irvin Goodwin and the Homeless Veterans Emergency Housing Facility (“HVEHF” or “Facility”)[1] move for summary judgment on all claims for relief. Pro se plaintiff Christopher Prater opposes the motion. Upon consideration of the moving and responding papers, as well as the oral arguments presented, this court grants defendants' motion.[2]

         BACKGROUND

         Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are undisputed.

         Defendant Irvin Goodwin founded the HVEHF and is its Chief Executive Officer. (Goodwin Decl., ¶ 1). HVEHF is a private, non-profit organization. (Id. ¶ 2). The Facility contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to provide services to homeless veterans who are referred to the Facility by the Veterans Administration (VA). However, HVEHF is not part of the DVA or the VA. (Id ¶¶ 3-4). The services the Facility provides: a furnished room; meals; laundry facilities; and group meetings and workshops pertaining to life skills, social skills, finances, and alcohol and substance abuse issues. (Id ¶ 4). HVEHF also provides case management services, in collaboration with services provided by the VA, to help veterans with self-care skills, adaptive coping skills, financial planning, permanent housing search, and vocational rehabilitation. (Id.).

         Prater is a former resident of the Facility, who says that he has post-traumatic stress disorder and claims to have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. While living at the Facility, he attended mental health groups at the VA and meetings with his VA clinical psychologist, Rosemary Geiser. (Capabianco Decl., ¶ 4, Ex. B (Prater Depo. at 119:25-120:5, 140:10-12, 154:17-155:2).

         In order to stay at the Facility and obtain its services, residents must comply with HVEHF's Transition General House Rules (“House Rules”), including the following:

• “HVEHF is NOT VA, we work in collaboration with the VA”;
• “No arguing, belligerence, profanity, or violence of any kind, including threats or intimidation”;
• “All rooms, bags and possessions will be checked at staff discretion at any time”;
• “All residents are required to attend house meetings every week as scheduled”;
• “All residents are required to attend the Relapse Prevention classes every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30 a.m.-12PM, if not employed or in school”;
• “Residents will be asked for additional support for bread runs, special chores, Friday GI party, etc.”

(Goodwin Decl., ¶ 5; Capabianco Decl. ¶ 4, Ex. B (Prater Depo. at 31:8-32:8 & Ex. B-O); Perry Decl., ¶ 5, Ex. D).

         When Prater first moved into the Facility in March 2014, he signed HVEHF's House Rules. (Capabianco Decl. ¶ 4, Ex. B (Prater Depo. at 31:8-32:8 & Ex. B-O); Perry Decl., ¶ 5, Ex. D). In doing so, he acknowledged that he “signed, read, received a copy and understand[s] these rules.” (Id.).

         Prater also signed an HVEHF Resident Service Agreement (“Service Agreement”). Among other things, the Service Agreement provides:

         DAYTIME STRUCTURE:

1. I will attend the house meeting on Mondays at 5:00 p.m.
2. I will attend NA/AA meetings 2x per week (when applicable)
3. I will adhere to rules of the Veterans Housing Facility and continue to uphold my responsibilities (doing my chores, respecting curfew, etc.) while I am a resident here.

(Capabianco Decl. ¶ 4, Ex. B (Prater Depo. at 30:7-19 & Ex. B-M); Perry Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. E). Prater initialed each of the Service Agreement's provisions. And, just above his signature on the document is the following text:

I have reviewed the HVEHF Veterans Program Service Agreement, and I agree to follow the rules and to live cooperatively in the facility with other veterans. I understand that violations of these rules are grounds for Immediate Discharge.

(Id.).

         In this lawsuit, Prater contends that while at the Facility, he suffered “emotional abuse, ” “forced labor, ” “harassment, ” “uncompromising forced living conditions, ” and “discrimination, ” as well as various constitutional and civil rights violations. (Capabianco Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. A; ¶ 4, Ex. B (Prater Depo. at 17:17-19:8 & Ex. B-B)). He alleges “repetitive threats by Irwin Goodwin to throw the people out who did not help in the complex.” (Id ¶ 3, Ex. A). Additionally, he says his allegations are based on the following incidents:

• In April 2014, lead case manager Kyle Terzian left a note on Prater's desk in his room, stating that he was “not in compliance” and “not following the guideline”; and, the desk was later removed from his room. (Capabianco Decl. ¶ 4, Ex. B (Prater Depo. at 75:9-78:1 & Ex. B-B at 3:17-23, 4:28-5:5, 6:24-7:1, 7:19-24, 20:12-18)).
• Prater tried to give money to the cook for providing him with soup when he was sick. The cook refused the money, and Prater later heard that other (unidentified) people said that he tried to bribe the cook. (Id ΒΆ 4, Ex. B (Prater Depo. at ...

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