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Harris v. O. Shelland

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 9, 2017

O. SHELLAND, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Dwayne Harris, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, commenced this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights while incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) in San Diego, California. See Doc. No. 1.[1] Plaintiff's unverified complaint sets forth four causes of action against Defendant O. Shelland and three unnamed defendants, Does 1-3, for violations of his constitutional rights.[2] Id. Defendant Shelland, a Culinary Officer at RJD in the Facility where Plaintiff was housed, moves for summary judgment as to all claims against him. See Doc. No. 34-1.

         After the Court's initial review, two causes of action remain viable: (1) deliberate indifference to serious medical needs and excessive use of force in violation of the Eighth Amendment against Defendant Shelland; and (2) racial harassment and intimidation in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against Defendant Shelland. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant Shelland's motion for summary judgment.


         1. Plaintiff's Version of Facts as Set Forth in Unverified Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 22, 2015, at approximately 7:00 a.m., Defendant Shelland closely followed him towards the exit of the RJD Facility “A” dining hall after he picked up his special medical diet lunch. Defendant Shelland approached Plaintiff and grabbed his upper left arm at the location where Plaintiff had a surgically implanted arterio-venous (“AV”) graft and dialysis shunt. In an angry manner, he then asked why Plaintiff was taking two hot meals in violation of CDCR policy. While gripping his arm very tightly, Defendant Shelland swung Plaintiff around, forcing him face-first against the concrete wall in a violent manner. While holding Plaintiff against the wall, Defendant Shelland grabbed or knocked Plaintiff's special diet meal out of his hand, and smashed it with his foot. Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly pleaded for Defendant Shelland to let go of his arm at the location of the dialysis shunt, and that Defendant Shelland not only maintained an injurious grip on his arm, but at times grabbed harder and shook his arm while saying, “Oh. This arm.” Doc. No. 1 at 4. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Shelland then proceeded to yell into his ear; making racist remarks about Plaintiff's ethnicity as an African American, including calling Plaintiff, “Boy, ” “Black-ass Bitch, ” and other racially offensive terms for at least two minutes. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff further alleges that the first time he received dialysis following this incident medical staff informed him something was wrong with his dialysis shunt, which caused profuse bleeding when the dialysis needle was removed. Plaintiff claims he was scheduled for emergency surgery in order to correct the damage to the shunt on January 23, 2015. On January 26, 2015, Plaintiff claims he was transported back to Alvarado hospital to have the malfunctioning shunt completely replaced.[3]

         2. Undisputed Material Facts[4]

         In or about 2003, Plaintiff was diagnosed with kidney failure. In November 2012, Plaintiff received an autologous AV fistula device inserted into his left arm to allow him to receive dialysis treatments three times a week. Clots formed on the AV fistula on at least three occasions before physicians implanted a fully synthetic AV graft into Plaintiff's left arm on July 22, 2014. Clots also formed on the synthetic AV graft in January 2015 and March 2016.

         On January 22, 2015, the date of the incident giving rise to this action, Defendant Shelland was supervising inmates entering and exiting the dining hall. At approximately 7:00 a.m., Plaintiff went to RJD's “A” Facility dining hall to eat breakfast. Prior to entering the hall, Plaintiff picked up his regular meal of hot food, as well as a special diet meal, which consisted of a brown paper bag and a second hot tray of food. Inmates are permitted only one hot tray of food per meal service unless they receive a doctor's approval, in the form of a medical chrono, to receive a special diet.

         Defendant Shelland stopped and questioned Plaintiff after seeing he had two hot trays. Plaintiff informed Defendant Shelland he had a medical chrono allowing him the two meals. Defendant Shelland requested to see the chrono and Plaintiff handed him both a handwritten, and an expired type-written chrono. Defendant Shelland contacted the medical department at RJD to verify the handwritten chrono, and was informed that Plaintiff's chrono had expired. Defendant Shelland then told Plaintiff he could not have the second tray of food.

         Defendant Shelland either took or knocked the tray of food from Plaintiff and stepped on it prior to ordering him to submit to a routine pat-down search. Plaintiff did not resist or speak to Defendant Shelland as he complied with the search. After the search, Defendant Shelland ordered Plaintiff to leave the area, and Plaintiff went to the program office to inform the sergeant about the incident as well as request an additional meal. Plaintiff completed a written statement soon after the events occurred and, pursuant to CDCR policy, participated in a video recorded interview regarding his complaint later the same day.

         Approximately two hours after the incident, Plaintiff underwent a physical examination by a Licensed Vocational Nurse (“LVN”). The LVN did not make note of any observable injury or indicate that Plaintiff mentioned experiencing any pain or injury apart from stating that “[Defendant Shelland] grabbed [his] left arm.” Doc. 29-6 at 2. Plaintiff was not referred for any further medical attention. At approximately 12:05 p.m. the same day, Plaintiff was seen by his primary care physician for a previously scheduled, unrelated appointment. The doctor prepared a detailed medical report and renewed Plaintiff's chrono. The doctor made no notation of injury to Plaintiff's upper left arm or complaint of pain.

         According to Plaintiff's medical records, he appeared for his regularly scheduled dialysis treatments at DaVita Health Care on January 23, 26, and 28, 2015. DaVita staff made no mention of problems with Plaintiff's AV graft in their reports. On January 30, 2015, a DaVita staff member noted that Plaintiff's AV graft clotted. Plaintiff was transferred immediately to Alvarado Hospital to declot the graft. The attending physician reported that Plaintiff's AV graft suffered from high-grade stenosis (narrowing) at the ...

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