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Lee v. Loredo

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 30, 2019

ROBERT E. LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY LOREDO, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY; AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS, United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 filed by Plaintiff Robert E. Lee, a state prisoner currently housed at the San Quentin State Prison (“SQSP”), alleging constitutional violations at SQSP relating to retaliatory actions against his usage of the administrative grievance process, including being fired from his hand sander job on July 29, 2017. The operative complaint is the amended complaint, in which Plaintiff alleges a cognizable First Amendment claim against Defendants SQSP California Prison Industry Authority (“CALPIA”) Plant Manager Gary Loredo, SQSP CALPIA Supervisor Ron Glass, and SQSP CALPIA Branch Manager Chuck Pattillo. Dkt. 11 at 2, 13.[1] He seeks monetary damages. Id. at 5.

         In an Order dated July 10, 2018, the Court screened Plaintiff's amended complaint. See Dkt. 12. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff did not re-allege his claims seeking compensation for working at prison or alleging an equal protection violation. See Dkt. 11. Instead, Plaintiff amended only his retaliation claim. Therefore, in its July 10, 2018 Order, the Court found that any claims seeking compensation for working at prison or alleging an equal protection violation were deemed dismissed for failure to state a claim for relief. Dkt. 12 at 4. As for his claim of retaliation, Plaintiff amended his conclusory retaliation claim by specifically alleging that Defendants Loredo and Glass retaliated against him for filing an administrative grievance on December 20, 2016, and that Defendant Pattillo retaliated against him by failing to act to prevent the acts of retaliation by Defendants Loredo and Glass. Dkt. 11 at 4, 13-14. As mentioned above, the Court found that Plaintiff stated a cognizable retaliation claim. Id. The Court then directed the Clerk of the Court to serve the amended complaint, and it issued a briefing schedule for the served Defendants to file a dispositive motion. See Dkt. 12 at 6-10.

         The parties are presently before the Court on Defendants' dispositive motion. Dkt. 29. Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), as to his claim that Defendants Loredo and Pattillo retaliated against him; and (2) no genuine issues of material fact in dispute exist because the indisputable evidence shows that Defendants did not retaliate against Plaintiff. Dkt. 29 at 6-7. In addition, Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. Id. at 7. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 30. Defendants have filed a reply to Plaintiff's opposition. Dkt. 33.

         Also before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery. Dkt. 24. Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion. Dkt. 25.

         Having read and considered the papers submitted herewith, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery and GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         II. PRELIMINARY ISSUE - PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY

         Before addressing the merits of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the Court first resolves Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery.

         On December 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel Defendants to answer his requests for admissions. Dkt. 24. Defendants counter that they responded to Plaintiff's requests for admissions in a timely manner, stating as follows:

Plaintiff served his requests for admissions by mail to Defendants Loredo and Glass on November 5, 2018. (See Quinn [Dec. 13, 2018][2] Declaration, Ex. “A.”) Because the thirty-third day after Plaintiff's requests were served fell on Saturday, December 8, 2018, Defendant Glass and Loredo's responses to the request for admissions were timely served on December 10, 2018. (See Quinn [Dec. 13, 2018] Declaration, Ex. “B.”) Because Defendants responded to Plaintiff's requests in a timely manner, the motion to compel should be denied.

Dkt. 25 at 2 (brackets and footnote added).

         First, the Court finds that Plaintiff's motion to compel is improper because Plaintiff failed to first meet and confer, in violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Court's Local Rules. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(2)(A) (providing that a motion to compel must include certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with non-disclosing party in an effort to secure disclosure without court action); Civ. L.R. 37-1 (same). Had Plaintiff met and conferred with Defendants then he would have discovered that Defendants were in the process of answering his requests for admissions. See Dkt. 25 at 2. In any event, the record shows that Defendants have since submitted responses to Plaintiff's request for admissions. See Quinn [Dec. 13, 2018] Decl., Ex. B. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion to compel is DENIED. Dkt. 24.

         III. DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         A. Factual Summary[3]

         1. Plaintiff's Retaliation Claim

         In its July 10, 2018 Order, the Court noted that Plaintiff provided the following time line to give some background on his retaliation claim, stating as follows:

In 2010, Plaintiff started having problems with his hands because of the sander at his job. Id. at 3. Plaintiff claims that he reported his problems to Defendant Loredo, who told Plaintiff that his hands would be “fixed.” Id. From 2010 through 2016, Plaintiff claims he had four surgeries, but “to no avail.” Id. Plaintiff claims that he was informed that “his hands could not be fixed and were fused together leaving permanent damage and pain.” Id. (Plaintiff claims that he is currently on “permanent pain medication.” Id.) On May 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Worker's Compensation Claim of which Defendants Loredo and Glass were given notice. Id. at 3-4. On December 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed an administrative grievance requesting to receive “worker['s] compensation benefits and any other be[ne]fits that [he is entitled to] and no retaliation.” See Dkt. 1 at 7.
On an unknown date in 2017 (presumably before Plaintiff was fired on July 29, 2017), Plaintiff indicates that Defendants Loredo and Glass found out about his aforementioned grievance. Dkt. 11 at 4. Plaintiff states that Defendant Loredo “got angry and directed Plaintiff to clean pipes with asbestos dirt covering, [and] ordered Plaintiff to clean paint . . . around dangerous chemical[s] in an attempt to make Plaintiff quit his job . . . .” Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Glass “filed false documents trying to get Plaintiff fired, a 128 chrono, stating Plaintiff left work early falsely and [Defendant Glass] ordered Plaintiff to clean toilets and mop floor[s] [which] is not his job.” Id. Plaintiff further alleges that he had informed Defendants Loredo and Glass “numerous times” about the asbestos exposure from “May and June 2016-17.” Id. at 14. Finally, Plaintiff claims Defendant Pattillo worked with Defendants Loredo and Glass during the time frame at issue and “knew of a substantial risk . . . with regard to the asbestos exposure” and “engaged in retaliatory behavior against [Plaintiff] for bringing a legal civil suit action . . . .” Id. at 14. Thus, it seems that Plaintiff claims that Defendant Pattillo failed to act to prevent the acts of retaliation by Defendants Loredo and Glass. See Id. As mentioned above, Plaintiff was ultimately discharged by Defendant Glass on July 29, 2017. Id. at 5.

Dkt. 12 at 4-5 (footnote omitted). As mentioned above, the Court found that, liberally construed, Plaintiff's allegations satisfied the pleading requirements for a First Amendment retaliation claim ...


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