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Bruce v. Sayre

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 10, 2017

VINCENT BRUCE, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL SAYRE, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT DOCKET NO. 36

          NANDOR J. VADAS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner, proceeds with a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that defendants, Dr. Ikegbu and Dr. Adam, provided inadequate medical care for his shoulder and back pain. On January 13, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 36.) Defendants had previously filed a motion for summary judgment on November 10, 2015. (Doc. 22.) Plaintiff did not file an opposition to the first motion for summary judgment and instead sought additional discovery. On July 5, 2016, the court ordered additional discovery to be provided to plaintiff. (Doc. 32.) On August 15, 2016, plaintiff sought an additional 30 days to file an opposition after receiving the additional discovery. (Doc. 33.) Because plaintiff had received additional discovery, the court terminated the motion for summary judgment without prejudice and ordered defendants to refile it after several months so that plaintiff would have sufficient time to prepare his opposition. (Docs. 34, 35.) It was refiled on January 13, 2017. (Doc. 36.) On February 9, 2017, plaintiff requested an additional 90 days to file an opposition because he had approaching deadlines in other cases. (Doc. 43.) The court denied the extension in part and provided plaintiff an additional 28 days to file an opposition. (Doc. 44.) The court noted that plaintiff had had more than 14 months to review the motion for summary judgment.[1] Several months have passed since plaintiff was provided the extension, and he has not filled an opposition or otherwise communicated with the court. The court will still look to the merits of the motion for summary judgment and for the reasons set forth below the motion is granted.

         DISCUSSION

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits show there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See id.

         A court shall grant summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial[, ] . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” See id. at 324 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (amended 2010)).

         For purposes of summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party; if the evidence produced by the moving party conflicts with evidence produced by the nonmoving party, the court must assume the truth of the evidence submitted by the nonmoving party. See Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1158 (9th Cir. 1999). The court's function on a summary judgment motion is not to make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence with respect to a disputed material fact. See T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). A determination of “deliberate indifference” involves an examination of two elements: the seriousness of the prisoner's medical need and the nature of the defendant's response to that need. Id. at 1059. A “serious” medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Id. The existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain are examples of indications that a prisoner has a “serious” need for medical treatment. Id. at 1059-60.

         A prison official is deliberately indifferent if he or she knows that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable steps to abate it. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). The prison official must not only “be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, ” but he “must also draw the inference.” Id. If a prison official should have been aware of the risk, but was not, then the official has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how severe the risk. Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1188 (9th Cir. 2002). “A difference of opinion between a prisoner-patient and prison medical authorities regarding treatment does not give rise to a § 1983 claim.” Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1344 (9th Cir. 1981).

         Facts

         Despite plaintiff's failure to file an opposition, the court has looked to plaintiff's verified amended complaint. The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted.

         Dr. Ikegbu

         Dr. Ikegbu first treated plaintiff on July 18, 2011. Motion for Summary Judgment (“MSJ”) Ikegbu Decl. at 2. She diagnosed plaintiff with chronic left shoulder pain, most likely due to rotator cuff strains, and found a full range of motion without tenderness. Id. Plaintiff did not complain of chronic back pain. Id.

         On July 28, 2011, another doctor provided a cardiology consultation for plaintiff, who did not complain of shoulder or back pain. Id. On August 9, 2011, a nurse treated plaintiff for shoulder and hip pain, prescribing Ibuprofen, 600 mg, for 60 days. Id. On September 14, 2011, Dr. Ikegbu administered a steroid injection of Lidocaine to plaintiff's right hip to address hip ...


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