Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Millner v. Woods

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 19, 2019

JAMES W. MILLNER, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. WOODS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR AN IMPARTIAL DENTAL EXPERT WITNESS FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANTS' RENEWED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NOS. 44, 46, 47)

         Plaintiff James W. Millner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         I.

         RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This action proceeds on Plaintiff's first amended complaint against Defendants Dr. Woods and Dr. Hashem for deliberate indifference to a serious dental need in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF Nos. 8, 9.) On August 24, 2017, Defendant Dr. Woods filed an answer to Plaintiff's first amended complaint. (ECF No. 15.) On October 27, 2017, the Court issued the discovery and scheduling order. (ECF No. 24.)

         On November 16, 2017, default was entered against Defendant Dr. Hashem. (ECF No. 28.) On January 25, 2018, Defendant Dr. Hashem filed a motion to set aside default. (ECF No. 31.) On March 5, 2018, the Court granted Defendant Dr. Hashem's motion to set aside default. (ECF No. 34.) Also, on March 5, 2018, Defendant Dr. Hashem filed an answer to Plaintiff's first amended complaint. (ECF No. 35.) On March 6, 2018, the Court issued an order extending the discovery and scheduling order to Defendant Dr. Hashem. (ECF No. 36.)

         On September 7, 2018, Defendants Dr. Woods and Dr. Hashem filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 38.) On September 24, 2018, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' summary judgment motion. (ECF No. 41.) On September 28, 2018, the Court denied Defendants' summary judgment motion without prejudice on the ground that the Defendants fails to provide Plaintiff with an appropriate Rand notice. (ECF No. 43.) The Court granted Defendants 10 days in which to file a new summary judgment motion and provide Plaintiff with the appropriate Rand notice. (Id.). Finally, the Court told Plaintiff to provide written notice to the Court whether he intends to stand on his September 24, 2018 opposition or file a new opposition within twenty-one days of the filing and service of Defendants' new summary judgment motion and Rand notice. (Id.)

         On October 3, 2018, Defendants Dr. Woods and Dr. Hashem filed and served a renewed motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 44.) Defendants' renewed summary judgment motion included an appropriate Rand notice. (ECF No. 44-1.)

         On October 24, 2018, Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 46.) Plaintiff also filed a motion for appointment of an impartial dental expert witness. (Id.)

         On October 31, 2018, Defendants filed a reply to their renewed motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 47.) Defendants did not file an opposition to Plaintiff's motion for appointment of an impartial dental expert witness and the time to file an opposition has expired.

         Accordingly, Defendants' renewed motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's motion for appointment of an impartial dental witness are deemed submitted for review, without oral argument. Local Rule 230(1).

         II.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff's Motion for Appointment of an Impartial Dental Expert Witness

         Plaintiff requests that the Court appoint an impartial dental expert witness “to evaluate the dental records and films” and to “giv[e] the Plaintiff and the Defendants a non bias [sic] evaluation concerning the argument in this case.” (ECF No. 46, at 13.) In support of his request, Plaintiff asserts that, due to the fact that the dental records at issue in this case date from 2008 to the present, he is unable to pay for the cost of an expert witness regarding dental care, he is unable to view the dental x-rays at issue in this case, and he does not have the qualifications to properly evaluate the complex dental records and films, the Court should appoint an impartial dental expert witness “[t]o make this argument fair between the two parties[.]” (Id.)

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides, in relevant part, that “[a] witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify in the form of an opinion” if “the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue[.]” Fed.R.Evid. 702(a). Under Federal Rule of Evidence 706, a Court has discretion to appoint an expert witness on its own motion or pursuant to the motion of any party to the action. Fed.R.Evid. 706(a). “A Rule 706 expert typically acts as an advisor to the court on complex scientific, medical, or technical matters.” Armstrong v. Brown, 768 F.3d 975, 987 (9th Cir. 2014). Rule 706 “only allows a court to appoint a neutral expert.” Gorton v. Todd, 793 F.Supp.2d 1171, 1177 (citation omitted). In other words, a party may not seek appointment of an expert witness under Rule 706 “for his own benefit[.]” Id. at 1177 n.6.

         “The decision of whether to appoint an expert witness under Rule 706 is discretionary.” Id. at 1178. “Expert witnesses should not be appointed under Rule 706 where not necessary or significantly useful for the trier of fact to comprehend a material issue in a case.” Id. at 1181. “Expert witnesses are rarely appointed under Rule 706 because the adversary system is usually sufficient to promote accurate factfinding.” Id. at 1182.

         After reviewing Plaintiff's motion for appointment of an impartial dental expert witness and Defendants' renewed motion for summary judgment, the Court concludes that the issues in this case are not so complex as to require the opinion of a court-appointed expert on dental care to assist the trier of fact. This action proceeds on Plaintiff's first amended complaint against Defendants Woods and Hashem for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious dental needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 9.) To successfully oppose Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff must demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious dental needs. See Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006). In this case, the determination of whether Plaintiff's dental needs were sufficiently serious to amount to an Eighth Amendment violation will depend on Plaintiff's testimony regarding the extent of his injuries and how his injuries impacted his daily life. See McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds by WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc) (“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.”). Further, “whether a prison [dentist] acted with deliberate indifference depends on that [dentist's] state of mind[, ]” so an expert would not be able to given an opinion or testify that a prison [dentist] was “deliberately indifferent” without giving “a false impression” that the expert knows the answer, when it is the trier of fact that must decide the issue of whether the prison dentist was deliberately indifferent. Woods v. Lecureux, 110 F.3d 1215, 1221 (6th Cir. 1997); see also Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 359-60 (7th Cir. 1997). Therefore, under these circumstances, the assistance of a court-appointed expert on dental care would not be “significantly useful for the [Court] to comprehend a material issue” in this action. Gorton, 793 F.Supp.2d at 1181.

         Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for appointment of an impartial dental expert witness is denied.

         B. Defendants' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment

         1. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, disclosure materials, discovery, and any affidavits provided establish 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). A material fact is one that may affect the outcome of the case under the applicable law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable [trier of fact] could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         The party seeking summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The exact nature of this responsibility, however, varies depending on whether the issue on which summary judgment is sought is one in which the movant or the nonmoving party carries the ultimate burden of proof. See Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). If the movant will have the burden of proof at trial, it must “affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.” Id. (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). In contrast, if the nonmoving party will have the burden of proof at trial, “the movant can prevail merely by pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Id.

         If the movant satisfies its initial burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the allegations in its pleadings to “show a genuine issue of material fact by presenting affirmative evidence from which a jury could find in [its] favor.” F.T.C. v. Stefanchik, 559 F.3d 924, 929 (9th Cir. 2009) (emphasis omitted). “[B]ald assertions or a mere scintilla of evidence” will not suffice in this regard. Id. at 929; see also Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (“When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56[], its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”) (citation omitted). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

         Each party's position, whether it be that a fact is disputed or undisputed, must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, but it is not required to do so. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001); accord Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).

         In resolving a summary judgment motion, “the court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence.” Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. Instead, “[t]he evidence of the [nonmoving party] is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [its] favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Inferences, however, are not drawn out of the air; the nonmoving party must produce a factual predicate from which the inference may reasonably be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898 (9th Cir. 1987).

         2. Discussion

         a. Summary of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint

         The incidents alleged in the first amended complaint occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Kern Valley State Prison (“KVSP”). (First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 8, at 7, ¶ 3.)[1] Plaintiff names Dr. Woods and Dr. Hashem, dentists at KVSP, as defendants. (Id. at 7, ¶¶ 4-5.)

         Prior to December 2014, Plaintiff had damage to his lower teeth, which required him to have a lower partial denture. (Id. at 7, ¶ 7.) On December 29, 2014, after his lower partial denture had been taken during a cell search at KVSP, Plaintiff paid for a new lower partial denture. (Id. at 7, ΒΆ 8.) After a year of not receiving his lower partial denture, Plaintiff made it clear to Defendant Woods that, because of the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.