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Winters v. Saweris

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

April 28, 2017

DR. SAWERIS et al., Defendants.



         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 14, 2017, Niyatti Winters (“Plaintiff”), then a state prisoner at Wasco State Prison-Reception Center in Kern County, California, filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Dkt. 1 (“Complaint”). The Complaint arises out of Plaintiff's attempts to obtain medical care for injuries he sustained at the Southwest Detention Center (“SWDC”) in Murrieta, California. Plaintiff sues the following Defendants in their individual capacity: (1) Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff; (2) Dr. Saweris, a physician for Corrections Health Services (“CHS”); (3) John/Jane Doe, the Medical Director of CHS; (4) Jane Doe, a nurse for CHS; and (5) Deputy Barrios. Complaint at 3-4.[2]

         Under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court must screen the Complaint to determine whether the action is frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim on which relief might be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.


         Taking the allegations of the Complaint as true, Plaintiff received inadequate medical care after he was attacked by other inmates with whom he was jailed. Prison officials subsequently reassigned Plaintiff to the same “pod” where he had been attacked, even though he had alerted them to the danger to his safety.

         A. Plaintiff's Injuries and Treatment

         On June 11, 2015, Plaintiff was assaulted in “Epod Dayroom 1” at the SWDC by inmates Erik Godina and Edgar Silva, validated members of the Independent Riders gang. Complaint at 11; see id. at 28-29. During the assault, Plaintiff was sprayed with a “deter[r]ent agent.” Id. at 11. He sustained two injuries-a cut above his right eye and a broken arm. Id. Plaintiff was immediately seen by Dr. Saweris, who told two deputies that Plaintiff did not need to go to the emergency room. Id. Even though his wrist was “grotesquely swollen, ” Dr. Saweris only gave Plaintiff an icepack and an ACE bandage. Id. The cut above his eye was never treated. Id. Plaintiff, who was barefoot and still “saturated in the deter[r]ent agent, ” was sent to “F pods programs room” to wait for the gang unit to interview him. Id. When Plaintiff arrived, he asked for Tylenol. Id. He was not given any medication because he “was not housed in that part of the jail.” Id. Deputy Barrios was present when Plaintiff told the attending nurse that he thought his wrist was broken. Id. The nurse examined Plaintiff's wrist and told him that his tendons were swollen, which was “common with that type of injury.” Id. After the gang unit interviewed Plaintiff, he “asked to use the restroom on the recreation yard where [he] was left in excruciating pain for 6 hours.” Id. Plaintiff was then “escorted barefoot back to Epod Dayroom 2” and prescribed 4 Tylenol per day. Id.

         The Tylenol “did nothing” because of “bone on bone contact, ” and Plaintiff was in “excruciating pain” for 12 days. Id. On June 23, 2015, he was taken to the SWDC's x-ray suite. Id. X-rays of Plaintiff's hand, arm, and wrist were taken, but the x-ray technician refused to give Plaintiff the results. Id. On June 24, 2015, a CHS nurse was “vague about the prognosis” and told a deputy sheriff, “He needs to go out.” Id.; see id. at 18. Plaintiff was then taken to the Riverside University Health Systems (“RUHS”) emergency room in Moreno Valley, California. Id. at 11; see id. at 15-16. A physician told Plaintiff that his arm was broken and his “arm and hand had started mending offset at the wrist joint” due to the delay in treatment. Id. at 11-12. Plaintiff's arm was splinted. Id. at 12; see id. at 19.

         Upon his return to the SWDC, Plaintiff filed a grievance, which appears to have been reviewed by Deputy Barrios. Id. at 12; id. at 6. On July 10, 2015, a judge issued an order to expedite Plaintiff's treatment. Id. at 12.[3] On July 27, 2015, Plaintiff was taken to the RUHS's orthopedic clinic. Id. His splint was removed and x-rays, “pre-op, ” and a CT scan were performed. Id. Dr. Kaputo explained that Plaintiff would need surgery, including re-breaking and resetting his arm, removing a piece of bone and adding a plate and screws, and performing a performing a partial wrist fusion with pins. Id. When Plaintiff arrived back at the SWDC, the deputies “working the transport area” put him in a holding cell with Godina and Silva. Id. at 31, 35. That day, they were indicted for assaulting Plaintiff; however, he had not been made aware that charges were being brought. Id. Godina and Silva threatened, but did not physically harm Plaintiff, probably because they sensed it was a setup. Id. Even after prison officials were made aware of this incident, no steps were taken to ensure his safety. Id.

         On September 16, 2015, the managing attorney for the Prison Law Office sent Sheriff Sniff a letter “making him aware” of Plaintiff's condition, the impact it was having on Plaintiff's “day to day functions, ” and the need to have the surgery scheduled “forthwith.” Id. at 12; see id. at 30, 34.

         On September 24, 2015, Plaintiff returned to the RUHS's orthopedic clinic for another consultation “due to so much time passing.” Id. at 12. Additional x-rays were taken and a different surgeon informed Plaintiff that the longer he waited to have the surgery, the more cartilage deterioration would occur. Id. Plaintiff was also told that he would have severe arthritis and would never regain “full function of [his] hand/wrist dexterity.” Id.

         The surgery was performed on October 18, 2015. Id. While he was still recovering, Plaintiff was taken to the Riverside County Jail in Indio, California. Id. at 31, 35. In April 2016, he was taken back to the SWDC, where he was placed in temporary housing for 48 hours. Id. Plaintiff was then told that he was going back to the same unit where he had been assaulted, which was designated housing for validated members of the Independent Riders gang. Id. Plaintiff voiced his concerns to a “supervisor from classification, ” who told that nothing could be done. Id. Plaintiff “was forced to stay there under fear of constant threat, ” until he was sent to prison. Id.

         Even after the surgery, Plaintiff is “considerably” limited and in constant pain. Id. at 12. He is paranoid that Independent Riders members will retaliate against him or his loved ones for Godina's and Silva's convictions. Id. at 32, 36. He suffers from anxiety because he knows that the RCSD will not protect them. Id. He also has “bouts of severe depression” from “contemplating a future in which [he] will not be able to provide for [his] family or [him]self, due to [his] injury.” Id. Because Plaintiff is unable to “enjoy everyday activities, ” he has feelings of stress, frustration, and inadequacy. Id.

         B. Plaintiff's Claims

         Based on the foregoing, the Complaint raises three claims against Defendants: (1) deliberate indifference to serious medical needs (“Claim One”); (2) negligence (“Claim Two”); and (3) intentional infliction of emotional defense (“Claim Three”). Id. at 5, 31-32, 35-36. ...

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