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Hutchinson v. California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 16, 2017




         Plaintiff Knolts Hutchinson filed this action against defendants California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”), Warden Rackley, Warden Duffy, Associate Warden Kaplan, and Facilities Sergeant Romero, for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act, the California Disabled Person Act (“CDPA”), the Unruh Civil Rights Act (“Unruh Act”), and deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, defendants now move for summary judgment against plaintiff. (Docket No. 39.) I. Factual and Procedural Background Plaintiff is a paraplegic inmate incarcerated by the CDCR. He is paralyzed from the chest downwards, lacks bowel and bladder control, and requires the use of a wheelchair.

         In March 2013, plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal court against the CDCR and several employees, alleging he had been injured at the California Medical Facility (“CMF”) because he was provided with a locker that did not comply with the ADA. That case was voluntarily dismissed on November 14, 2016. See Hutchinson v. Cal. Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., Civ. No. 2:16-00620 MCE AC (E.D. Cal.).

         On October 27, 2013, plaintiff was transferred from the CMF to the California Health Care Facility (“CHCF”). CHCF houses and treats inmates who require a higher level of care due to disability. Duffy was the CMF Acting Warden from 2012 to August 25, 2014, and was the CHCF Acting Warden from August 25, 2014, to April 23, 2015. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts, Ex. C (“Duffy Decl.”) ¶¶ 2-3 (Docket No. 39-2).) Rackley was the CHCF Warden prior to August 25, 2014. (Id., Ex. D (“Rackley Decl.”) ¶ 2.)

         On November 4, 2013, plaintiff filed a request for an adjustable trapeze bar that would allow him to transfer from his bed to his wheelchair by himself, similar to the one he had in the CMF.[1] (Id., Ex. H (“Trapeze Bar Request”).) On November 25, 2013, and prior to his First Level of Review for this request, plaintiff received a trapeze bar. (Id., Ex. I (“First Level Appeal”).) Romero and Kaplan subsequently granted plaintiff's trapeze bar request at the First Level of Review based on plaintiff's representation that “[t]he issue had been resolved” and based on their understanding that plaintiff was receiving assistance from medical staff when transferring from his bed to his wheelchair and could also transfer without assistance. (Id.) In March 2015, plaintiff received a different trapeze bar that was adjustable and moveable. (Hutchinson Dep. 96:15-97:4 (Docket No. 43-2).)

         On November 10, 2013, plaintiff filed a request for a rolling commode chair. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts, Ex. J (“Rolling Commode Request”).) He wanted the chair, in part, so he could defecate in the shower. (Id., Ex. L (“Dr. Williams Decl.”) ¶ 8.) On review, Romero denied plaintiff's request for a rolling commode chair because he could transfer himself from the toilet to the shower, assistance from medical staff was available, and medical staff determined it was not safe or medically necessary. (Id., Ex. F (“Romero Decl.”) ¶¶ 11-13.) Plaintiff instead received a stationary commode chair and shower chair. (Id.) Dr. Williams reviewed Romero's decision and reaffirmed that the rolling commode chair was not safe and did not provide better accommodation than the stationary commode chair. (Dr. Williams Decl. ¶ 8.)

         Plaintiff brought this suit and alleges the following causes of action: (1) violation of Title II of the ADA (“Title II”); (2) retaliation in violation of Title V of the ADA; (3) violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504”); (4) violation of the CDPA; (5) violation of the Unruh Act; and (5) deliberate indifference to plaintiff's medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Second Am. Compl. (Docket No. 33).) Now before the court is defendants' Motion for summary judgment on all causes of action. (Docket No. 39.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A material fact is one that could affect the outcome of the suit, and a genuine issue is one that could permit a reasonable jury to enter a verdict in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and can satisfy this burden by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Alternatively, the moving party can demonstrate that the non-moving party cannot produce evidence to support an essential element upon which it will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id.

         Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324 (quoting then-Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). To carry this burden, the non-moving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence . . . will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “[T]he non-moving party may not rely on the mere allegations in the pleadings in order to preclude summary judgment.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment . . . .” Id.

         III. Discussion

         A. Retaliation in Violation of Title V of the ADA

         Plaintiff argues the individual defendants retaliated against him by transferring him from CMF to CHCF and denying him a rolling commode chair and moveable trapeze bar because of his prior lawsuit against the CDCR. Title V of the ADA provides: “No person shall discriminate against any individual because such individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by this chapter or because such individual made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any matter in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this chapter.” 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a).

         To make out a prima facie retaliation case, the plaintiff must show “(1) involvement in a protected activity, (2) an adverse . . . action and (3) a causal link between the two.” Brown v. City of Tucson,336 F.3d 1181, 1187 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Brooks v. City of San Mateo,229 F.3d 917, 928 (9th Cir. 2000)). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the defendant has the burden to “offer[] legitimate reasons for the adverse . . . action.” Pardi v. Kaiser Found. Hosps.,389 F.3d 840, 849 (9th Cir. 2004). If the defendant ...

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