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Harbridge v. Hall

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 10, 2017

HALL et al., Defendants.


         Plaintiff Christopher Harbridge is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action. Defendants Hall, Lee, and Tucker are represented by Deputy Attorney General Diana Esquivel. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(e), the court now issues its final pretrial order.

         I. SUMMARY

         Plaintiff filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 16, 2010. This action is proceeding to trial on Claim 17, as stated in plaintiffs second amended complaint, against defendants Hall, Lee, and Tucker for deliberate indifference of his serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[1]


         The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this federal civil rights action. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is proper because the conduct allegedly occurred in this judicial district. 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

         III. TRIAL

         The parties demand a trial by jury. Fed.R.Civ.P. 38(b). The trial of this matter is scheduled to commence at 1:00 p.m. on May 2, 2017, in Courtroom 5, before United States District Judge Dale A. Drozd.

         IV. FACTS

         A. Undisputed Facts

         1. Plaintiff is a prisoner in custody at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and has been incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") since 2005. Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for his 1997 conviction for second degree murder.

         2. At all times relevant to this lawsuit, defendant Hall was a Licensed Vocational Nurse at PVSP, defendant Lee was a Correctional Officer at PVSP, and defendant Tucker was a Correctional Officer at PVSP. All defendants were acting under color of state law.

         3. The incident giving rise to this claim occurred on the evening of May 2, 2006.

a. Plaintiff had been released from administrative segregation to be housed in Building 4, Facility A at PVSP.
b. At approximately 6:45 p.m., plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with a prospective cellmate in the dayroom of Building 4. Plaintiff was thereafter escorted out of the building.
c. Plaintiff later returned to Building 4. At around 8:54 p.m., plaintiff assaulted another prospective cellmate.
d. During this second altercation, an officer struck plaintiff on the left ankle and left thigh with an expandable baton to stop the assault.
e. After this second altercation, plaintiff was escorted to the Facility A Program Office and placed in a holding cell.

         4. Defendants Hall, Lee, and Tucker, were not present during the physical altercation in Building 4.

         5. That same evening, on May 2, 2006, at approximately 9:00 p.m., defendant Hall evaluated plaintiffs injuries in the Program Office and noted that plaintiff had a swollen left ankle and a cut that was bleeding on his left thigh.

         6. Defendant Hall retrieved a wheelchair for plaintiff.

         7. Defendant Hall did not receive a call from anyone regarding plaintiff for the remainder of his shift.

         8. Defendant Hall had no further interaction with plaintiff after May 2, 2006, nor was defendant Hall informed that plaintiff had required or requested medical care.

         9. When plaintiff left the Program Office the night of May 2, 2006, he was sent to a cell on the second floor of Building 1, Facility A, where defendants Lee and Tucker were the second-watch floor officers from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

         10. On May 4, 2006, plaintiff submitted a request for medical care. In addition to requesting medication for other ailments, plaintiff also requested that his foot be x-rayed because he could not walk.

         11. On May 5, 2006, at or around 1:00 a.m., plaintiff was treated for his complaints of ankle pain. Medical staff x-rayed plaintiffs ankle and discovered a small distal fracture. A cast was placed on plaintiffs ankle that same day.

         B. Disputed Factual Issues

         1. Whether defendant Hall believed plaintiffs ankle was possibly broken and informed former defendants Herrera and McBride.

         2. Whether defendant Hall knew plaintiff required medical treatment.

         3. Whether defendant Hall refused to treat plaintiffs injuries from May 2 to 4, 2006.

         4. Whether plaintiff refused to go to the Treatment & Triage Area ("TTA") and instead insisted on going back to his cell and refused to provide any information about his symptoms or injuries.

         5. Whether defendant Hall called the nurse on duty in the TTA to seek advice on how to proceed regarding plaintiffs injuries and was advised to put ice on plaintiffs ankle, provide Motrin to control the pain and swelling, and that an x-ray would be ordered for plaintiff the following morning.

         6. Whether defendant Hall followed the nurse's instructions and whether plaintiff was uncooperative and refused treatment.

         7. Whether defendant Hall informed plaintiff that if he changed his mind, Hall would call the housing officers and send plaintiff to the TTA.

         8. Whether plaintiff requested assistance to get to his cell on the second floor and/or walked up the stairs on his own.

         9. Whether defendants Lee and Tucker were aware that plaintiff had a serious medical need, which they ignored while plaintiff was housed in Building 1 from May 2 to 4, 2006.

         10. Whether defendant Lee failed to summon medical care for plaintiffs broken ankle while housed in Building 1 from May 2 to 4, 2006.

         11. Whether plaintiffs' injuries (the laceration on his left thigh and distal fracture on his left ankle) amounted to a serious medical condition.

         12. Whether any defendant acted maliciously, oppressively, recklessly, or with evil intent from March 2 to 4, 2006.

         13. Whether any of the defendants' conduct on May 2 to 4, 2006 violated plaintiffs constitutional rights, and if so, would a reasonable prison official in defendants' position believe that their conduct was lawful or reasonable under the circumstances.

         C. Disputed Evidentiary Issues[2]

         (1) Plaintiffs Evidentiary Disputes

         1. Plaintiff obj ects to the introduction of the Interdisciplinary Progress Notes dated 5-2-06 by defendant Hall on hearsay grounds and because the document was fabricated.

         2. Plaintiff objects to introduction of the statement "Refused medical care until requesting ER attention tonight" found in the "Encounter Form" dated 5-5-06 by R.N. Engbrecht on hearsay grounds and because it is false.

         3. Plaintiff obj ects to the testimony introduction of testimony of former defendants Benyamin and Ferro for the reasons stated in his motion in limine.

         4. Plaintiff obj ects to the admittance of any testimony by the 10 expert witnesses listed in defendants' expert disclosures, or any other witnesses, pertaining to their "observation of plaintiffs behavior" for the reasons stated in plaintiffs motion in limine.

         5. Plaintiff reserves the right to raise objections to other evidence presented by defendants.

         (2) Defendants' Evidentiary Disputes

         1. Defendants obj ect to plaintiff testifying about the diagnosis and prognosis of his left ankle injury and any residual effects of which he now complains. Defendants object that plaintiff is not qualified to give testimony about the cause and effect, diagnosis, or prognosis of his medical condition and that he is not qualified to interpret medical records.

         2. Defendants intend to file motions in limine to preclude plaintiff from testifying, eliciting testimony, or introducing evidence of the following matters: (a) dismissed defendants and claims and unrelated claims and individuals; (b) defendants' involvement in other lawsuits, incidents, or inmate appeals alleging denial of medical care or other misconduct; (c) plaintiffs theories that defendants and their counsel conspired to fabricate evidence; (d) reference to other lawsuit suits, litigation, or court-orders involving defendants' attorneys; (e) offers to compromise; and (f) CDCR's indemnification of an adverse judgment.

         3. Defendants will file a motion in limine to exclude all witnesses listed in plaintiffs pretrial statement absent an offer of proof that they have personal knowledge or relevant information about the events of May 2006.

         4. Defendants will file a motion in limine to permit them to introduce evidence of plaintiffs and any incarcerated witness's felony conviction and length of sentence for impeachment purposes.

         5. Defendants anticipate objecting to many of plaintiff s proposed trial exhibits, and will move to preclude plaintiff from using any document that was timely requested but not produced during discovery.

         6. Defendants reserve the right to file any other motion in limine as issues may arise during pretrial and trial proceedings.

         D. Special Factual Information



         Plaintiff seeks "three billion dollars" in compensatory damages, "three billion dollars" in punitive damages, court costs, trial costs, filing fees, attorney fees, and such further relief as the court deems proper.[3]

         Defendants seek judgment in this case and costs

         VI. POINTS OF LAW

         A. Section 1983

         The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of plaintiff s constitutional rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir. 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). To prevail on his inadequate medical care claim, plaintiff must demonstrate a link between actions or omissions of defendant and the violation of his Eighth Amendment rights; there is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676-77 (2009); Lemire v. California Dep't of Corr. and Rehab., 726 F.3d 1062, 1074-75 (9th Cir. 2013); Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 711 F.3d 941, 967-68 (9th Cir. 2013); Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 915-16 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc); Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2010).

         B. Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

         Prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment if they are "deliberately] indifferen[t] to [a prisoner's] serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). "A medical need is serious if failure to treat it will result in ' "significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." ' " Peralta v. Dillard, 744 F.3d 1076, 1081-82 (2014) (quoting Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir.2006) (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds by WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir.l997)(en banc)).

         To maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on alleged inadequate medical care in prison, a plaintiff must first "show a serious medical need by demonstrating that failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain. Second, the plaintiff must show the defendants' response to the need was deliberately indifferent." Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1122 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096 (quotation marks omitted)).

         As to the first prong, indications of a serious medical need "include the existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain." Colwell v. Bannister, 763 F.3d 1060, 1066 (9th Cir. 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); accord Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1122; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000).

         As to the second prong, deliberate indifference is "a state of mind more blameworthy than negligence" and "requires 'more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interests or safety.'" Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994) (quoting Whitley, 475 U.S. at 319). Deliberate indifference is shown where a prison official "knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Mat 847. In medical care cases, this requires showing: (a) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the indifference. Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1122 (quoting Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096). "A prisoner need not show his harm was substantial; however, such would provide additional support for the inmate's claim that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to his needs." Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096, citing McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060.

         Deliberate indifference is a high legal standard. Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir.2004). "Under this standard, the prison official must not only 'be aware of the facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, ' but that person 'must also draw the inference.'" Id. at 1057 (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). '"If a prison official should have been aware of the risk, but was not, then the official has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how severe the risk.'" Id. (quoting Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nevada, 290 F.3d 1175, 1188 (9th Cir. 2002)).

         C. Qualified Immunity

         "Qualified immunity shields government officials from civil damages liability unless the official violated a statutory or constitutional right that was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct." Taylor v. Barkes, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 135 S.Ct. 2042, 2044 (2015) (quoting Reichle v. Howards, 566 U.S. 658, ___, 132 S.Ct. 2088, 2093 (2012)). Qualified immunity analysis requires two prongs of inquiry: "(1) whether 'the facts alleged show the official's conduct violated a constitutional right; and (2) if so, whether the right was clearly established' as of the date of the involved events 'in light of the specific context of the case.'" Tarabochia v. Adkins, 766 F.3d 1115, 1121 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Robinson v. York, 566 F.3d 817, 821 (9th Cir. 2009). These prongs need not be addressed in a particular order. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223 (2009).

         To determine whether a government official should be granted qualified immunity, under the first prong, the facts are to be viewed "in the light most favorable to the injured party." Chappell v. Mandeville, 706 F.3d 1052, 1058 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001), overruled in part on other grounds by Pearson, 555 U.S. at 817-21; see also Bryan v. MacPherson, 630 F.3d 805, 817 (9th Cir. 2010)). However, the existence of a material factual dispute does not necessarily preclude a finding of qualified immunity. Estate of Ford v. Ramirez-Palmer, 301 F.3d 1043, 1053 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Under the second prong, clearly established law is not to be defined "at a high level of generality." White v. Pauly, ___ S.Ct. ___, ___, 137 S.Ct. 548, 552 (2017) (quoting Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 742 (2011)); see also Mullenix v. Luna, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (quoting al-Kidd, 563 U.S. at 742). "The dispositive question is 'whether the violative nature of particular conduct is clearly established.'" Ibid, (emphasis added in Mullenix). "This inquiry ' " 'must be undertaken in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.' " ' " Id., (quoting Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 198 (2004) (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001))). "[G]eneral statements of the law are not inherently incapable of giving fair and clear warning" to officers, White, 137 S.Ct. at 552 (quoting United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259, 271 (1997)), but "in the light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be apparent, " Id. (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987)). "The relevant inquiry is whether existing precedent placed the conclusion that [the defendant] acted unreasonably in the [specific circumstances confronted] 'beyond debate.' " Mullenix, 136 S.Ct. at 309 (quoting al-Kidd, 563 U.S. at 741).

         "To be clearly established, a right must be sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing violates that right." Reichel, 132 S.Ct. at 2092; see also Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1067 (9th Cir. 2016). "When properly applied, [qualified immunity] protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law." al-Kidd, 563 U.S. at 743 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "We do not require a case directly on point, but existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate." Id. at 741. "[A] 'robust consensus of cases of persuasive authority' " in the Courts of Appeals could establish the federal right [in question]." City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 135 S.Ct. 1765, 1778 (2015).

         D. Punitive Damages

         Plaintiff has the burden of proving what, if any, punitive damages should be awarded by a preponderance of the evidence. Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions § 5.5 (2007). In order to award punitive damages, the jury must find that defendant's conduct was "motivated by evil motive or intent, or . . . involves reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of others." Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 56 (1986). Acts or omissions which are malicious, wanton, or oppressive support an award of punitive damages. Dang v. Cross, 422 F.3d 800, 807-08 (9th Cir. 2005).

         E. Federal Rules of Evidence

         Federal Rules of Evidence 608 and 609 provide that evidence of a witness's prior felony conviction or instance of conduct demonstrating a propensity to lie may be used to impeach that witness's testimony.[4] Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) provides that evidence of prior crimes, wrongs, or acts cannot be used to prove the character of the person in order to show conduct in conformity with that character trait. Such prior acts may be admissible for other purposes only, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. Id.


         The court previously granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Trimble, Brown, Reeves, Munoz, Singleton, McBride, Collier, Redding, Franco, and Herrera on all claims against them. (Doc. No. 128.) Consequently, these defendants have been dismissed ...

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