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Williams v. State of California

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 6, 2017

STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., Defendants.


          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR., United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' combined motion for summary judgment and motion to dismiss. Dkt. Nos. 6, 8 (motion and amended motion). For the reasons detailed below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies and, therefore, GRANTS the motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Dwain Williams, a California prisoner currently incarcerated at the California Health Care Facility, alleges that he was transferred to Soledad Correctional Training Facility on December 23, 2015, because he had received death threats while in custody at the Chowchilla Correctional Training Facility. Dkt. No. 1-1 ¶ 11 ("Compl."). On January 16, 2016, Plaintiff alleges that he was unprotected by prison guards or other staff when he was thrown over a railing. Id. He sustained "severe injuries" as a result, including "severe head trauma and fractured limb [sic]:' M¶¶ll, 17.

         B. Procedural Posture

         On February 15, 2017, the Monterey Superior Court appointed Sharyn Williams as Plaintiffs Guardian ad Litem. Compl., Ex. A at 17-18. That same day, Plaintiff, by and through his Guardian ad Litem, filed this action in Monterey Superior Court seeking monetary damages for his injuries. Id. On May 2, 2017, Defendants removed the action to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that the railings on the Soledad Correctional Training Facility's stairwells and landings are dangerously low. See Compl. ¶ 14. On this basis, he brings a premises liability claim against Defendants State of California, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), and Soledad Correctional Training Facility ("CTF") (collectively, "State Defendants"). He also brings a negligence claim and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Eighth Amendment rights against all Defendants, including the CTF warden and watch commander (collectively, "Individual Defendants").

         On May 10, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment, contending that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Dkt. Nos. 6, 8. On October 27, 2017, the Court held an evidentiary hearing regarding Defendants' exhaustion defense. See Dkt. No. 19, 41; see also Albino v. Baca, 141 F.3d 1162, 1168 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc) (permitting limited preliminary proceedings to "decide disputed questions of fact").


         A. Summary Judgment

         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., 411 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. Id.

         The 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.'" 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 % 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         B. Prison ...

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