United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis
with a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff alleges defendants Lankford and Pomazal were
deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of
the Eighth Amendment. Before the court are defendants'
motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth
below, the undersigned recommends both motions be denied.
Allegations in the Complaint
case is proceeding on plaintiff's complaint filed here on
May 28, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that he
underwent back surgery and was subsequently sent to High
Desert State Prison (“HDSP”) for treatment for an
infection which included the intravenous administration of
drugs. According to plaintiff, he arrived at HDSP with
specific orders from his surgeon for pain medication, but on
the following day defendant Dr. Pomazal did not provide such
pain medication to him. Plaintiff further alleges that all of
his pain medications were discontinued while he was at HDSP.
Plaintiff alleges that he saw defendant Dr. Lankford and
complained about not receiving his pain medication during the
inmate appeals process, but that Dr. Lankford rudely stated
“what else do you want morphine or some heroin?”
and did not assist him in any way. (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 3
plaintiff named four defendants in his complaint, on
screening the court found plaintiff stated cognizable claims
against only Drs. Lankford and Pomazal. (Oct. 9, 2015 Order
(ECF No. 7).) On February 2, 2016, defendants answered the
complaint. (ECF No. 14.) On March 21, 2017, defendant
Lankford filed a summary judgment motion (“Lankford
MSJ”). (ECF No. 37.) On April 3, 2017, defendant
Pomazal filed a summary judgment motion (“Pomazal
MSJ”). (ECF No. 38.) On May 1, 2017, plaintiff filed an
opposition to defendant Pomazal's motion (ECF No. 39),
and on July 17, 2017 filed an opposition to defendant
Lankford's motion (ECF No. 42). On May 8, 2017, Pomazal
filed a reply. (ECF No. 40.) On July 19, 2017, Lankford filed
his reply. (ECF No. 43.)
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
contends that he was sent to HDSP for the purpose of
receiving intravenous (“IV”) treatment for an
infection, not for the purpose of adjusting his medications.
Plaintiff states that defendant Pomazal prescribed inadequate
pain medication and defendant Lankford failed to correct the
problem when plaintiff filed an appeal.
Pomazal argues he followed accepted medical standards when he
weaned plaintiff off morphine and prescribed non-narcotic
pain medications for plaintiff's back pain. In his
motion, defendant Lankford argues he was not deliberately
indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs when he denied
plaintiff's appeal in which plaintiff sought narcotic
pain relief or a transfer back to Mule Creek State Prison
Summary Judgment Standards under Rule 56
judgment is appropriate when the moving party “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). Under summary judgment practice, the
moving party “initially bears the burden of proving the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re
Oracle Corp. Sec. Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th
Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The moving party may accomplish this
by “citing to particular parts of materials in the
record, including depositions, documents, electronically
stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials”
or by showing that such materials “do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B).
the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial,
“the moving party need only prove that there is an
absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case.” Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.). See also
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Indeed, summary judgment should be
entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
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. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at
322. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an
essential element of the nonmoving party's case
necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.”
Id. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should
be granted, “so long as whatever is before the district
court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary
judgment . . . is satisfied.” Id. at 323.
moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden
then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine
issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the
existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party
typically may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its
pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific
facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery
material, in support of its contention that the dispute
exists. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1);
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party
must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material,
i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv.,
Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d
626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine,
i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v.
Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir.
endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the
opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact
conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the
claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge
to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth
at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631.
Thus, the “purpose of summary judgment is to
‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order
to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'”
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citations omitted).
evaluating the evidence to determine whether there is a
genuine issue of fact, ” the court draws “all
reasonable inferences supported by the evidence in favor of
the non-moving party.” Walls v. Central Contra
Costa Transit Auth., 653 F.3d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 2011).
It is the opposing party's obligation to produce a
factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn.
See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp.
1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d
898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine
issue, the opposing party “must do more than simply
show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead
a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party,
there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'”
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).
Other Applicable Legal Standards
Civil Rights Act Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides
Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects,
or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States .
. . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable
to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or
other proper proceeding for redress.
42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an
actual connection or link between the actions of the
defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered
by the plaintiff. See Monell v. Dept. of Social
Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode,
423 U.S. 362 (1976). “A person ‘subjects'
another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within
the meaning of §1983, if he does an affirmative act,
participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to
perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes
the deprivation of which complaint is made.”
Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).
personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the
actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat
superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a
supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the
claimed constitutional violation must be specifically
alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862
(9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438,
441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations
concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil
rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board
of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).
Deliberate Indifference under the Eighth Amendment
Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of “cruel and
unusual punishments.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The
unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain constitutes cruel
and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986);
Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 670 (1977);
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976).
Neither accident nor negligence constitutes cruel and unusual
punishment, as “[i]t is obduracy and wantonness, not
inadvertence or error in good faith, that characterize the
conduct prohibited by the Cruel and Unusual Punishments
Clause.” Whitley, 475 U.S. at 319.
needed to show unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain
“varies according to the nature of the alleged
constitutional violation.” Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992) (citing
Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320). In order to prevail on a
claim of cruel and unusual punishment, however, a prisoner
must allege and prove that objectively he suffered a
sufficiently serious deprivation and that subjectively prison
officials acted with deliberate indifference in allowing or
causing the deprivation to occur. Wilson v. Seiter,
501 U.S. 294, 298-99 (1991).
prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim arises in the context
of medical care, the prisoner must allege and prove
“acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence
deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.”
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. An Eighth Amendment
medical claim has two elements: “the seriousness of the
prisoner's medical need and the nature of the
defendant's response to that need.” McGuckin v.
Smith, 974 ...