Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Heilman v. Cook

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 23, 2017

THOMAS JOHN HEILMAN, CDCR #H-76785, Plaintiff,
J. COOK, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF Nos. 151, 155, 172)

          Hon. Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Thomas John Heilman's Motion for Summary Judgment, (“Pl.'s MSJ, ” ECF No. 155), as well as Defendants Jessica Cook, David Donoghue, and Robert J. Davis's Response in Opposition to, (“Pl.'s MSJ Opp'n, ” ECF No. 159), and Plaintiff's Reply in Support of, (“Pl.'s MSJ Reply, ” ECF No. 176), Plaintiff's MSJ. Also before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, (“Defs.' MSJ, ” ECF No. 151), as well as Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to, (“Defs.' MSJ Opp'n, ”[1]ECF No. 174), and Defendants' Reply in Support of, (“Defs.' MSJ Reply, ” ECF No. 178), Defendants' MSJ. The Court vacated the hearing on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment and took them under submission without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). (ECF No. 180.) After considering the parties' arguments and the law, the Court rules as follows.


         Plaintiff was an inmate at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) when the relevant events in this case occurred. (See generally First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), ECF No. 18.) He contends that on May 9, 2013 he was beaten by correctional officers in his cell in the administrative segregation unit at RJD (hereinafter the “Incident”). (Defs.' MSJ Mem. 7[2] (citing FAC 3), ECF No. 163.)[3] He alleges that these correctional officers concocted a story that Plaintiff was seen hanging with a noose around his neck so they had a plausible reason for forcibly extracting him from his cell.[4] (Id. (citing FAC 4, 8-9).) After the Incident, Plaintiff was taken to be evaluated by RJD medical personnel. (Id.) Defendants are medical professionals who worked at RJD at the relevant time: Dr. Jessica Cook is a Doctor of Osteopathy who was working in the Triage and Treatment Area (“TTA”), Nurse David Donoghue is a Registered Nurse who was working in the Crisis Treatment Center (“CTC”), and Dr. Robert Davis is a psychiatrist who was working in the CTC. (Id. (citing FAC 9-12).)

         Within approximately fifteen minutes of the Incident, a psychiatry technician documented areas of redness around Plaintiff's body, and noted his complaint of pain to his left anterior thorax and an abrasion/scratch on his cheek. (Id.) He documented that Plaintiff was “clear for psych assessment; no first aid indicated per RN.” (Id. (citing Declaration of Bruce Barnett (“Barnett Decl.”) ¶ 26, ECF No. 151-3).) About an hour later Plaintiff was evaluated by a psychiatric social worker, who noted that Plaintiff was disheveled, manic, uncooperative, angry, and agitated, and that the plan was for Plaintiff to be evaluated by psychiatry. (Id. (citing Barnett Decl. ¶ 11).) Shortly thereafter Dr. Nizamani performed a psychiatric evaluation on Plaintiff, and noted that Plaintiff was agitated, refused to give any history, and was uncooperative. (Id. at 8.) Dr. Nizamani noted some external injuries, and also assessed Plaintiff with mixed affective state and multiple risk factors for suicide. (Id. (citing Barnett Decl. ¶ 12, and Ex. C, ECF No. 151-12, at 6).) The plan was to admit Plaintiff to a mental health crisis bed in the CTC. (Id.)

         Within less than three hours of the Incident, Plaintiff was interviewed about the Incident on video-tape, which shows the external injuries Plaintiff claims to have sustained as a result of the Incident. (Id. (citing Declaration of Dion Arguilez (“Arguilez Decl.”) ¶ 4, ECF No. 151-7, and Ex. A, ECF No. 151-10).)

         Defendant Donoghue also assessed Plaintiff prior to his admission into the CTC. (Id.) Donoghue documented that Plaintiff was uncooperative during the examination and refused to have his vital signs taken, but also checked a box titled “ABNORMAL BREATH SOUNDS.” (Id.; see also Id. Ex. C, at 10.) Prior to admission into the CTC, Donoghue determined that Plaintiff had not been medically cleared by the TTA, so he sent Plaintiff to the TTA for examination and an x-ray. (Defs.' MSJ Mem. 8 (citing Declaration of David Donoghue (“Donoghue Decl.”) ¶¶ 4-7, ECF No. 151-5).) Once at the TTA, Registered Nurse Lacorum evaluated Plaintiff for medical clearance prior to his admission to the CTC. (Id. at 9.)

         Defendant Davis also evaluated Plaintiff in the CTC on May 9, 2013, noting several external injuries. (Id. (citing Barnett Decl. ¶ 24, and Ex. C, at 12).) Plaintiff informed Davis that he had been kicked in the ribs and complained of difficulty breathing on his left side that caused him to cough a lot, which Davis explained could be a result of being kicked in the ribs. (Id. (citing Declaration of Robert J. Davis (“Davis Decl.”) ¶ 5, ECF No. 151-6).)

         Davis took Plaintiff's vital signs, which were all normal. (Id.) Davis noted crepitus[5] in Plaintiff's left lung and indicated that chest x-rays should be completed if not already done and ordered that x-ray when he completed his admission orders. (Id. (citing Davis Decl. ¶ 6, and Ex. C, 10-14).) Davis also assessed Plaintiff with depressive disorder, and ordered Plaintiff to be observed in the CTC and to have 24-hour per day one-to-one monitoring while in the CTC. (Id. (citing, e.g., Ex. C, at 15-16).) Notations of Plaintiff's activities every fifteen minutes documented that Plaintiff's respirations were unlabored, that he was eating his meals, and that he was sleeping. (Id. (citing Barnett Decl. ¶ 36, and Ex. C, at 17- 39).)

         On May 13, 2013, Plaintiff underwent another chest x-ray. (Id.) That same day the CTC Interdisciplinary Treatment Team, which included Dr. Davis and others, conferred and determined that Plaintiff did not need medical care and thus discharged Plaintiff from the CTC. (Id. (citing Barnett Decl. ¶¶ 31, 32, and Ex. C, at 54).)

         On May 16, 2013, Plaintiff's x-rays were read and the radiologist stated that Plaintiff had a left sided 30-40% pneumothorax (collection of air or gas in the chest or pleural space that causes part or all of a lung to collapse) of indeterminate age. (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff was transported to Alvarado Hospital for further evaluation. (Id. (citing Barnett Decl. ¶ 32, and Ex. C, at 59-75).) The hospital assessed him with 35-40% left lung pneumothorax, and, by May 20, 2013, four days after admission, Plaintiff underwent a thoracotomy (incision into the chest or pleural space) to address his injury. (Id. (citing Ex. C, at 64-69).) Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital back to RJD on May 25, 2013. (Id. (citing Barnett Decl. ¶¶ 37- 39, and Ex. C).) Shortly thereafter Plaintiff was sent back to the hospital to address an infection he contracted at the surgical site. (Id. (citing Barnett Decl. ¶¶ 37-39, and Ex. C, at 76-84).)


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a party may move for summary judgment as to a claim or defense or part of a claim or defense. Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists only if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. When the Court considers the evidence presented by the parties, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255.

         The initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact falls on the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party may meet this burden by identifying the “portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, '” that show an absence of dispute regarding a material fact. Id. When a party seeks summary judgment as to an element for which it bears the burden of proof, “it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” See C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Houghton v. South, 965 F.2d 1532, 1536 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         Once the moving party satisfies this initial burden, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. This requires “more than simply show[ing] 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). Rather, to survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “by her own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate ‘specific facts'” that would allow a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The non-moving party cannot oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by “rest[ing] on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.


         The Court considers each party's cross motion for summary judgment in turn, beginning first with Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendants move for summary judgment on several of Plaintiff's claims. First, Defendants argue that there are no genuine disputes of material fact which could support a finding that any Defendant violated the Eighth Amendment or that Davis and Cook violated Plaintiff's due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.[6] (Def.'s MSJ Mem. 6.) Second, Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. (Id.) The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         A. Eighth Amendment

         An inmate has an Eighth Amendment right to adequate physical and mental health care. Doty v. Cty. of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). Deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of an inmate is inconsistent with the basic standards of human decency and antithetical to the Eighth Amendment's proscription of “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976).

         A determination of deliberate indifference involves a two-step analysis consisting of both objective and subjective inquiries. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). First, the plaintiff must demonstrate a serious medical need such that failure to provide treatment could “result in further significant injury” or “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). Second, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's response to the medical need was deliberately indifferent. Id. (citing McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         Deliberate indifference consists of (1) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and (2) harm caused by the indifference. Id. Such indifference may be manifested when “prison officials deny, delay[, ] or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, or it may be shown by the way in which prison physicians provide medical care.” Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d 390, 394 (9th Cir. 1988). This standard is one of subjective recklessness. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 839-40. “To satisfy this subjective component of deliberate indifference, the inmate must show that prison officials ‘kn[e]w [ ] of and disregard[ed]' the substantial risk of harm, but the officials need not have intended any harm to befall the inmate; ‘it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.'” Lemire v. Cal. Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., 726 F.3d 1062, 1074 (9th Cir. 2013) (alterations in original) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837, 842). “‘Deliberate indifference is a high legal standard. A showing of medical malpractice or negligence is insufficient to establish a constitutional deprivation under the Eighth Amendment.'” Hamby v. Hammond, 821 F.3d 1085, 1092 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir. 2004)); Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106.

         1. Dr. Cook

         Defendants argue the undisputed facts demonstrate that Cook did not act with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs and thus she is entitled to summary judgment. (Defs.' MSJ Mem. 15.) Specifically, Defendants argue (1) Cook never actually examined Plaintiff; (2) Cook reasonably relied on Lacorum's observations in assessing Plaintiff's conditions; and (3) even if Cook did not fully examine ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.