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Jones v. Meddly

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 19, 2019

ARTHUR R. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
E. MEDDLY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 29)

         Plaintiff Arthur R. Jones is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), both parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge. (ECF Nos. 8, 17, 18, 21.) Currently before the Court is Defendant E. Meddly's[1] motion for summary judgment, filed September 14, 2018. (ECF No. 29.)

         I.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed this action on January 24, 2017, and following screening, the Court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend. (ECF Nos. 1, 9.) Plaintiff's action proceeds on his first amended complaint filed June 7, 2017, bringing a claim against Defendant for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's health and safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 10.) On September 15, 2017, Defendant filed an answer. (ECF No. 15.) On September 20, 2017, the Court issued a discovery and scheduling order, which was amended on March 2, 2018. (ECF Nos. 16, 28.)

         On September 14, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 29.) On October 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed what he titled: 1) “Declaration; Response & Rejection to Defendant E. Meddly [sic] Summary Judgment. In support to plaintiff [sic] declaration;” 2) “Summary Judgment Response Motion of Response of Summary Judgment [sic]. In support the [sic] Rejection & Support of Plaintiff [sic] Declaration;” and 3) a declaration from Plaintiff. (Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“Opp'n”), ECF No. 32.) The Court construes the filings collectively as Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment. In the same filing, Plaintiff submitted a request for extension of time to respond to Defendant's motion for summary judgment, which was not docketed separately as an ex parte request or motion, and which the Court did not address previously. (ECF No. 32 at 7.)[2] On October 16, 2018, Defendant filed a reply to Plaintiff's opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 33.) On November 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed what he titled Plaintiff's response to Defendant's motion of opposition of summary judgment, which was subsequently stricken by the Court because the Court construed the filing as an improper surreply. (ECF Nos. 34, 35.)

         Given that Plaintiff is an incarcerated pro se litigant, and because the Court was previously unaware that Plaintiff had submitted a request for an extension of time when he submitted his filings on October 9, 2018 (ECF No. 32 at 7), the Court will vacate its order striking Plaintiff's November 5, 2018 filing (ECF No. 35) and accept the November 5, 2018 filing (ECF No. 34) as Plaintiff's surreply.[3]

         Defendant's motion for summary judgment is deemed submitted for review, without oral argument. L.R. 230(1).

         II.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Any party may move for summary judgment, and the Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant 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) (quotation marks omitted); Washington Mut. Inc. v. U.S., 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). 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 judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Summary of Allegations in Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint

         On January 23, 2016, while Defendant was escorting Plaintiff to his cell after showering, Plaintiff explained to Defendant that he has a hard time maintaining balance with his hands handcuffed behind his back. Plaintiff also explained to Defendant that the ground was slippery and wet from the other prisoners who showered previously and therefore, Plaintiff explained that he needed assistance trying to walk back to his cell while wearing shower thongs. Plaintiff states that he asked Defendant to assist him and maintain a secure hold of Plaintiff's arm to assure balance. Plaintiff notes that this request is per departmental procedures[4] and common practice while escorting inmates with their hands cuffed behind their backs. Defendant failed to assist Plaintiff and only stated “you'll be O.K.”

         As Plaintiff was mid-way up the metal staircase he lost his balance and fell face-first. Plaintiff briefly lost consciousness and was dazed and confused. Plaintiff suffered a chipped tooth, lacerations to his gums, and a deep gash wound to his upper lip which required Plaintiff to be immediately transported to an outside hospital facility to receive emergency medical care. The upper lip injury required medical reconstruction via sutures and medical glue. Plaintiff states he continues to suffer from migraine headaches and tremors.

         Plaintiff brings his claim under the Eighth Amendment arguing Defendant violated his rights of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment by being deliberately indifferent, failing to act, and failing to provide safe conditions. Plaintiff argues the injuries would not have occurred if not for Defendant ignoring his problems regarding balancing while handcuffed. Plaintiff seeks $35, 000.00 for pain and suffering, and $25, 000.00 in punitive damages.

         B. Statement of Undisputed Facts

         The Court has reviewed the undisputed facts set forth below which are derived from Defendant's statement of undisputed facts submitted with his motion for summary judgment. While Plaintiff, a pro se prisoner, did not submit his own statement of undisputed facts or a filing that outlines whether Plaintiff accepts or disputes each of Defendant's submitted facts, the Court refers to Plaintiff's first amended complaint which was signed with a declaration of truthfulness under penalty of perjury, and also refers to the full transcript of Plaintiff's deposition, and notes potential areas of dispute below.

1. During all times relevant to the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Arthur Jones (AR8412) was an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”), ECF No. 10; Pl.'s Dep., Ex. D, ECF No. 29-5 at 34.)
2. During all times relevant to the First Amended Complaint, Defendant Officer E. Medley was employed by CDCR as a Correctional Officer at KVSP. (FAC 2; Decl. of E. Medley (“Medley Decl.”) ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 29-4; Pl.'s Dep., Ex. D, ECF No. 29-5 at 34.)
3. On January 23, 2016, Plaintiff was housed at KVSP on Facility B, Building 6, A section, cell 208.[5] (Pl.'s Dep. 12:7-20.)
4. On January 23, 2016, pursuant to Program Status Report (PSR) No. PSRKVSP-B-16-001, Facility B was on “lockdown” because of a recent riot. (Pl.'s Dep. 14:6-15; Pl.'s Dep., Ex. D, ECF No. 29-5 at 34.)
5. Under the terms of PSR No. PSR-KVSPB-16-001, anytime inmates were out of their cell, they were to be escorted in handcuffs-including to and from the showers. (Medley Decl. ¶ 3; Pl.'s Dep. 15:2-19, Ex. D.)
6. Plaintiff's cell, 208, was located on the second tier of Building 6. (Pl.'s Dep. 12:25-13:3; Medley Decl. ¶ 5.)
7. The second tier is accessible via a staircase. (Medley Decl. ¶ 6; Decl. of M. Betzinger (“Betzinger Decl.”) ¶ 2, ECF No. 29-3; Betzinger Decl., Ex. A, ECF No. 29-3 at 8-10.)
8. The staircase is fifteen steps high. (Medley Decl. ¶ 6; Betzinger Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. A at 8-9.)
9. Each step of the staircase is comprised of a metal grate with a grid of cutouts that prevent water from pooling on the steps. (Medley Decl. ¶ 9; Betzinger Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. A at 10-11; Pl.'s Dep. 26:11-27:4.)
10. The front lip of each step is textured for grip. (Medley Decl. ¶ 10; Betzinger Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. A at 11.)
a. The Court notes that when asked if there is any kind of texture or grip to the stairs, Plaintiff stated no, it's “straight metal.” (Pl.'s Dep. at 27:5-6.) A photograph of the stairs shows there is in fact a bumpy texture on the edge portion of each of the stairs. (Medley Decl. ¶ 10; Betzinger Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. A at 11.)
11. The first and last step are also painted yellow for visibility and safety. (Medley Decl. ¶ 11; Betzinger Decl. ¶ 2; Betzinger Decl., Ex. A at 8-10.)
12. The staircase has tubular steel handrails on each side that run the full length of the staircase. (Medley Decl. ¶ 7; Betzinger Decl. ¶ 2; Betzinger Decl., Ex. ...

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