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Galvan v. Fox

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 11, 2017

ROBERT W. FOX, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, Chad Anthony Galvan, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Galvan asserts a claim under the Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference to safety. The gravamen of Galvan's claim is that defendants exposed him to faulty electric hair clippers that shocked and burned him.

         Before the court are (1) defendants' motion for summary judgment and (2) Galvan's motion to appoint counsel. In their motion, defendants argue that they could not have been deliberately indifferent to Galvan's safety because they did not know of the risk of electrocution that the clippers posed. Galvan asks the court to appoint counsel on the basis that his mental disabilities and lack of legal training have prevented him from properly presenting his case. As discussed below, the undersigned recommends that (1) defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted and (2) Galvan's motion to appoint counsel be denied.


         A. Factual Background

         This section is based on evidence in the summary judgment record. Unless otherwise noted, the parties do not dispute the facts recited herein.

         Galvan is currently incarcerated at California Men's Colony-East. He was incarcerated at California Medical Facility (“CMF”) when the events underlying his complaint took place. (Compl. at 2, 4 (ECF No. 1).)

         On July 15, 2014, Galvan was on the yard of the Psychiatric Administrative Segregation Unit (“PASU”) at CMF. (Galvan Dep. 12:19-13:1 (ECF No. 26-8).) Defendant Jones (“Officer Jones”) was on the yard that day, working as the “Yard Officer.” (Jones Decl. ¶ 2 (ECF No. 26-7).) Officer Jones was responsible for escorting inmates to cages where they could groom with electric clippers. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 6; Galvan Dep. 13:21-23 (ECF No. 26-8).) Then he set up clippers inside a grooming cage, which involved running a cord through the side of the cage and plugging it into an outlet outside of the cage. (. (Jones Decl. ¶ 8 (ECF No. 26-7).) Id. ¶ 8.)

         Officer Jones declares that the clippers had “something white on top of [them].” (Id. ¶ 9.) Similarly, Galvan states in his deposition that the clippers “were wrapped with a [white] tape, ” and that “the ones before . . . that were never wrapped.” (Galvan Dep. 12:13-15 (ECF No. 26-8).) Galvan also states that the tape was “[wrapped up] in the middle of the hair clippers.” (Id. 16:2-3.)

         Officer Jones declares that he “saw nothing wrong or out of place with the clippers.” (Jones Decl. ¶ 9 (ECF No. 26-7).) He added that the clippers had “no exposed wires or damaged cords, ” and “appeared to be in proper working condition.” (Id.) Galvan does not contradict these statements in his deposition. (See Galvan Dep. at 12, 15-16 (ECF No. 26-8).)

         Officer Jones plugged in the clippers and walked around the yard, asking inmates if they wanted to use the clippers. (Jones Decl. ¶¶ 8, 10 (ECF No. 26-7).) Galvan said that he needed to use them and Jones gave him the clippers. (Galvan Dep 15:14-17 (ECF No. 26-8).) Galvan states that he was the first or second inmate to use the clippers that day. (Id. 14:24-15:4.) Further, Galvan states that he does not know if anyone else used the clippers that day. (Id. 15:5- 7.)

         Galvan started shaving his face with the clippers, which shocked and burned him. (Compl. at 14, 16-20 (ECF No. 1); Galvan Dep. 17:2-6 (ECF No. 26-8).) Subsequently, Officer Jones activated his alarm to indicate a medical emergency and summon medical staff. (Jones Decl. ¶ 14 (ECF No. 26-7); Galvan Dep. 18:13-20 (ECF No. 26-8).) Officer Jones “collected the clippers, placed them in a plastic bag, and recorded the incident in the yard log book.” (Jones Decl. ¶ 15 (ECF No. 26-7).)

         Medical staff transported Galvan to an emergency room at CMF, where he received treatment for his injuries, which included a facial burn. (Id. ¶ 15; Galvan Dep. at 18-19 (ECF No. 26-8); Compl. at 14 (ECF No. 1).) Galvan also alleges that he received nerve damage to the right side of his face. (Id. at 5, 16-19.)

         Defendant Infante (“Sergeant Infante”) was the “PASU Sergeant” when the incident happened on July 15, 2014. (Infante Decl. ¶ 6 (ECF No. 26-6).) The PASU Sergeant must review the daily inventory log (i.e., yard log book) to ensure that the designated correctional officer completed it. (Id. ¶ 4.) However, Infante was on leave from June 3, 2014 until July 19, 2014. (Id. ¶ 2.) When he returned, he learned that the clippers had injured someone and had them disposed of in the “Hot Trash.” (Id. ¶ 7.) Sergeant Infante declares that, before the incident, he “was not aware that the hair clippers had been altered or damaged in any way.” (Id. ¶ 7.) Galvan disagrees. In his assessment, Sergeant Infante should have seen that the clippers were defective because, as PASU Sergeant, he “overlooks everything that's inside the . . . yard.” (Galvan Dep. 35:12-16 (ECF No. 26-8).)

         Like Sergeant Infante, defendants Fox (“Warden Fox”) and Hurley (“Associate Warden Hurley”) declare that they were “not aware of any hair clippers that were altered or damaged before [Galvan's] incident.” (Fox Decl. ¶ 4 (ECF No. 26-4); Hurley Decl. ¶ 4 (ECF No. 26-5).)

         By comparison, Galvan states that Warden Fox and Associate Warden Hurley had no role in providing him with the faulty clippers other than “overseeing that the policies and procedures of distribution of the hair clippers are followed correctly.” (Galvan Dep. 34:22-24 (ECF No. 26-8).)

         B. Procedural Background

         On August 25, 2015, Galvan filed a complaint. (Compl. (ECF No. 1).) When he filed his complaint, Galvan was incarcerated at California State Prison-Sacramento.

         Galvan alleges that while incarcerated at CMF, Officer Jones gave him visibly defective electric clippers that electrocuted and burned him. (Id. at 3.) Galvan asserts an Eighth Amendment claim against the following defendants: (1) Warden Fox; ...

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