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Anderson v. Sokoloff

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 26, 2017

M. SOKOLOFF and JOHN DOE #2, Defendants.


          YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS United States District Judge.


         Plaintiff Eric Zachary Anderson, a state prisoner, brought this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, concerning prison staff's responses to his medical needs on a “layover” at San Quentin State Prison (“SQSP”) during his transfer to Pelican Bay State Prison (“PBSP”) in November of 2013. On October 6, 2015, the Court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend in order to give Plaintiff the opportunity to correct certain deficiencies. Dkt. 15. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, which is the operative complaint in this action. Dkt. 16.

         On April 20, 2016, the Court found that Plaintiff's amended complaint adequately alleged a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs against Defendants SQSP Registered Nurse M. Sokoloff and John Doe #2, who Plaintiff describes as “M. Sokoloff['s] co-worker on 11-12-13 in R&R.” Dkt. 19 at 3-5 (citing Dkt. 16 at 3[1]). The Court dismissed Plaintiff's supervisory liability claim against Defendant John Doe #1 (described as “Medical Supervisor of M. Sokoloff”), because there is no vicarious liability under section 1983 and Plaintiff failed to include allegations showing that Defendant John Doe #1 personally was involved in the constitutional deprivation. Id. at 5-6 (citing Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989)). Finally, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the remaining Defendants who were listed in his original complaint, because Plaintiff failed to amend his claims against them in his amended complaint. Id. at 3. The Court then served the complaint upon Defendant Sokoloff and issued a briefing schedule for filing a dispositive motion. Id. at 6-9. The Court directed Plaintiff to provide the name of Defendant John Doe #2 by the date scheduled for Defendant Sokoloff to file a dispositive motion. Id. at 6. The Court warned Plaintiff that the failure to do so would result in the dismissal of any claims against Defendant John Doe #2 without prejudice to Plaintiff filing a new action against him or her.

         To date, Plaintiff has not provided the name of Defendant John Doe #2, and the deadline to do so has passed. Therefore, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant John Doe #2 is DISMISSED without prejudice. The only remaining Defendant in this action is Defendant Sokoloff (hereinafter “Defendant”).

         First, the Court notes that the parties have presented an issue relating to Defendant's gender. Plaintiff explains in his amended complaint and at his deposition how Defendant participated in the alleged acts of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs during the layover at SQSP, albeit Plaintiff referred this Defendant by the wrong gender (she/her). Dkt. 16 at 7-10; Dkt. 43-2, Ex. A, Pl.'s Dep. 32:13-15, 74-10-14; Dkt. 53, Pl.'s Dep. 34:22-25, 35:6-10. Meanwhile, in his declaration, Defendant, who is a male, concedes to being the medical staff member who examined Plaintiff during the layover in SQSP. Sokoloff Decl. ¶¶ 4-21. Therefore, the Court need not further address the issue of Plaintiff using the wrong gender.

         On January 20, 2017, Defendant filed the present motion for summary judgment on the grounds that he did not act with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs, that he did not cause Plaintiff any deprivation of his constitutional rights, and that he is entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable registered nurse in his position could have believed his conduct was lawful. Dkt. 43. On March 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendant's motion. Dkt. 48. On April 20, 2017, Defendant filed a reply to the opposition and evidentiary objections to Plaintiff's evidence submitted in support of the opposition. Dkts. 51, 52. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.


         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are not disputed by the parties.

         A. Stabbing Incident at California State Prison-Sacramento (“CSP-SAC”)

         On November 11, 2013, Plaintiff was stabbed by fellow inmates sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at CSP-SAC, where Plaintiff previously was incarcerated. Dkt. 43-2, Ex. A, Pl.'s Dep. 14:8-15. Plaintiff alleges he was jumped from behind by multiple inmates while he was on the yard exercising. Id. 14:16-25. Plaintiff also alleges that an officer in the tower shot and hit his upper right shoulder with a 40 millimeter rubber bullet. Id. 17:6-14. After the incident, Plaintiff was wheeled to the Correctional Treatment Center (“CTC”) at CSP-SAC and received Tylenol-3, two shots of morphine, and eight stitches in his right arm and abdomen. Id. 17:17-18:12. Plaintiff was not taken to an outside medical facility. Id. 18:13-14. Plaintiff received a prescription for Tylenol-3. Id. at 19:1-3. He was given one dose of Tylenol-3 on-site, but he could not receive any other doses because this medication had to be administered by a nurse, as inmates are not permitted to possess narcotic medication. Id. 19:1-3, 19:16 - 20:9.

         The following morning, on November 12, 2013 at 7:30 a.m., Plaintiff left CSP-SAC to be transferred to PBSP. Id. 20:10-21. A nurse at CSP-SAC administered Tylenol-3 before he was transported. Dkt. 54, Ex. A, Pl.'s Dep. 21:17-24. Plaintiff did not ask to be seen by medical staff before leaving CSP-SAC. Dkt. 43-2, Ex. A, Pl.'s Dep. 23:15-17.

         B. Layover at SQSP

         On November 12, 2013, while en route to PBSP, the bus Plaintiff was riding made an overnight stop at SQSP. Id. 25:22-25.

         On that date, Defendant was assigned to the Reception Center at SQSP. Sokoloff Decl. ¶ 3. His primary responsibility that evening was to assess the medical condition of newly convicted inmate/patients who were to remain at SQSP. Id.

         At approximately 5:35 p.m., Defendant was informed that a “layover”[3] patient (Plaintiff) was complaining of pain. Id. ¶ 4. At 5:45 p.m., after Defendant completed his duties with another patient he had been examining/treating, he attended to Plaintiff. Id. Defendant normally would call an officer to open an inmate's cell door to examine him, pursuant to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) policy. Id. ¶ 6. However, Plaintiff “appeared impatient and aggravated” and insisted that Defendant examine him immediately. Id. Before Defendant could call an officer to open his holding cell door, Plaintiff proceeded to display the wounds he received during an altercation in which he was involved at CSP-SAC. Id. Defendant asked if any of Plaintiff's wounds resulted from an injury during transportation, but Plaintiff “made it clear that they were not.” Id. ¶ 7. Defendant then completed a CDCR form 7219, Medical Report of Injury or Unusual Occurrence and, under “Brief Statement in Subject's Words of the Circumstances of the Injury or Unusual Occurrence, ” Defendant indicated the following: “ø Unusual Occurrence, ” which means “No Unusual Occurrence.” Id.; Dkt. 43-2, Ex. C. Defendant claims that the reason for documenting “No Unusual Occurrence” on Plaintiff's CDCR form 7219 “was to indicate that it did not appear that there were any issues during transport.” Sokoloff Decl. ¶ 28. Defendant claims that he “was not trying to conceal the fact that [Plaintiff] had pre-existing injuries.” Id. Defendant claims that “[t]here would be no reason for [him] to do this, since [he] did document all of [Plaintiff's] pre-existing injuries on his progress note . . . .” Id. Based on Defendant's observation and Plaintiff's narrative, it appeared that Plaintiff “had various puncture wounds, contusions, abrasions and lacerations affecting his torso and upper and lower extremities.” Id. ¶ 8. Defendant claims that all of Plaintiff's wounds, “[a]lthough numerous, ” appeared “superficial with no evident drainage and no signs or symptoms of infection.” Id. Defendant observed that Plaintiff had one laceration that had been treated recently with eight sutures. Id. However, Defendant “did not see any active bleeding, blood-soaked bandages, or any other physical signs of injury subsequent to the sutures which would necessitate further medical care.” Id. ¶ 9. Defendant believed Plaintiff's wounds had “obviously been well attended to, ” and Defendant asked Plaintiff what type of treatment he was seeking. Id.

         After a “rapid and lengthy narrative, ” Plaintiff responded that he needed pain medication. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff claimed that Tylenol-3 with codeine (“Tylenol-3” or “T3”) had been prescribed by a physician at CSP-SAC. Id. Plaintiff was insistent that Defendant administer this medication immediately. Id. Defendant informed Plaintiff that the passing of prescription medication was not part of his job duties that evening, but he would look into the matter and see that Plaintiff received any medication for which SQSP had an order. Id. Plaintiff did not ask Defendant Sokoloff for any medical care or treatment other than pain medication. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff indicated that “he had no need of wound care or bandage/dressing changes” and that “his only concern was pain medication.” Id. Defendant claims that after Plaintiff requested Tylenol-3, Defendant “wrote t3 on [Plaintiff's] 7219 as a memo to [himself] to look specifically for that medication for [Plaintiff] based on his request.” Id. ¶ 30.

         C. Plaintiff's Request for Pain Medication and Defendant's Response

         In his amended complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendant failed to provide him with pain management treatment for his injuries from the stabbing incident, stating:

I asked for my medication that the [doctor] in C.S.P. SAC prescribed me after getting my stitches Tylenol Three with Cod[e]ine. I was to get six a day and hadn[']t received anything. [Defendant] seemed irritated with my pleas for medical help. After approx. 2 and a half hours of pleading for medical attention, [Defendant] came to my holding cell and said “O Rite [sic] already I get it your [sic] in pain and need your T3's.” And [Defendant] wrote T3 on my body chart in order to make me think [Defendant] was going to get my meds. However, what [Defendant] really did was falsify my CDCR 7219 body chart to say I had no wounds at all in order for [Defendant] to not have to tend to my medical needs.

Dkt. 16 at 8-9.

         Meanwhile, Defendant's version is significantly different than Plaintiff's version. Defendant claims he had worked in the Inmate/Patient Transfers Department for approximately two years. Sokoloff Decl. ¶ 13. He was familiar with all the methods by which the medication Plaintiff was seeking would have been documented. Id. Defendant checked Plaintiff's transfer paperwork. Id. If a narcotic had been ordered at another institution, a Medication Administration Record (“MAR”) should have been included. Id. It was not. Id. Furthermore, a Physicians' Order and a progress note documenting recent treatment should also have been present, but no such order or note was included in Plaintiff's paperwork. Id. Defendant checked CDCR's online Pharmacy System, MAXOR. Id. No orders for narcotics were documented for Plaintiff in MAXOR. Id. Defendant checked the electronic Unit Health Record (“eUHR”). Id. There was no evidence of emergency medical treatment or a prescription for a narcotic. Id. It was well after hours, but Defendant called CSP-SAC to see if anyone had a record of this medication order. Id. There was no answer at the CSP-SAC Pharmacy. Id. Defendant spoke with the “third watch nursing supervisor, ” who could not provide useful information regarding whether Plaintiff had a prescription for Tylenol-3. Id. She told Defendant that the “Transfer Nurse” had left for the day. Id.

         Defendant “spent well over two hours researching [Plaintiff's] claim of a prescription for a narcotic, but found no record in any resource [he] accessed.” Id. ¶ 14. Defendant “performed a check of all available resources.” Id. (emphasis in original). Therefore, Defendant returned to speak with Plaintiff at that point. Id. ¶ 15. Defendant explained that he could find no record of an order for a narcotic having been written for Plaintiff and, therefore, he could not administer Tylenol-3. Id. Plaintiff would not accept the fact that Defendant could not administer the narcotic without a doctor's order and insisted that Defendant “reexamine his wounds and, based on [Defendant's] assessment, administer the narcotic accordingly.” Id. ¶¶ 15-16.

         Pursuant to state approved nursing protocols, Defendant offered Plaintiff the choice of “Tylenol, Naproxsyn [sic], [4] or Ibuprofen, ” which were within Defendant's scope of practice to administer. Id. ¶ 16. Defendant advised Plaintiff that the care he was requesting was beyond what he was licensed to provide due to the fact that the request was for narcotics. Id. ¶ 18. Defendant advised Plaintiff that, if his pain persisted or increased, he could choose another option: “call man down.” Id. In using the “Man Down” protocol, Plaintiff would be alerting custody that he had an Urgent/Emergent medical condition requiring immediate medical attention. Id. ¶ 19. He then would be taken to the Treatment and Triage Area (“TTA”) (CDCR's equivalent of an Emergency Room), where his condition could be assessed more thoroughly and, if appropriate, a narcotic then could be administered under the supervision of a doctor. Id. Plaintiff declined to use this protocol. Id.

         After explaining to Plaintiff the “Man Down” procedures, Defendant did not have any further interaction with Plaintiff for the remainder of the evening. Id. ¶ 21.

         At 8:30 p.m. on November 12, 2013, Defendant drafted a progress note documenting the aforementioned events and filed it with the Medical Records Department. Id; Dkt. 43-2, Ex. D. In Plaintiffs declaration in support of his opposition, he argues that the progress note was fabricated by Defendant. Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 13-14. As explained below, Plaintiff does not support his contention with any admissible evidence. Plaintiff also attempts to submit evidence that Defendant violated a department policy because he was found “guilty” of certain claims related to “falsifying [Plaintiffs] [CDCR form] 7219.” Id. ¶ 20, Ex. E. However, the Court also finds below that such a contention is not supported by admissible evidence and lacks foundation.

         The progress note on the record is handwritten, and, to the best the Court can decipher Defendant's handwriting, it states:

- I/P [Inmate/Patient] arrived as layover from CSP-SAC c/o [complaining of] [undecipherable] pain secondary to altercation <24 [hours] ago.
- I/P presents [with] mult. puncture wounds (?), contusions and lacerations on [both] U&L [upper and lower] extremities and torso. Lacerations appear clean & well-scabbed superficial in nature excepting one laceration on right FA [forearm] receiving eight sutures. ø [No] Bandage Dressing Present. Area appears moist [with] some swelling but ø [no] sg [serosanguanous[5] or purulent[6]drainage. Sutures intact [with] good approximation. ø [No] redness or S/S [signs or symptoms of] infection. I/P c/o [complaining of] pain 10/10.
- Alteration in comfort [secondary] to pain assoc. with recent altercation. [Undecipherable] Pain medication not on file in eUHR, MAXOR or transfer paperwork.
- I/P offered Tyl[enol], Ibu[profen] or Naproxsyn [sic] . . . via Nursing Protocols. I/P refused [undecipherable]. I/P refused TX [treatment]. I/P advised to go ...

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