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Gonzalez v. DeGuzman

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 4, 2019



          Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge.

         Currently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 by Defendant M. DeGuzman (ECF No. 67). After he was notified of the requirements for opposing summary judgment pursuant to Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 962-63 (9th Cir. 1998) (ECF No. 67-4), and granted an extension of time (ECF No. 70), Plaintiff filed his Opposition (“Opp'n”) (ECF No. 71). DeGuzman filed no Reply.

         On June 10, 2019, the Court found the matter suitable for disposition on the moving papers and ordered the matter submitted without oral argument pursuant to S.D. Cal. CivLR 7.1.d.1 (ECF No. 72). On June 18, 2019, the Court vacated its pretrial briefing schedule pending resolution of Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 74). For the reasons explained, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary (ECF No. 67), DIRECTS the Clerk of the Court to enter judgment in favor of DeGuzman, and terminates the case.

         I. Procedural Background

         On February 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Correctional Officers DeGuzman[1] and Rodrin violated his Eighth Amendment rights while he was incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) on April 6, 2015, by closing a cell door on his hand and failing to provide him medical care afterward. (See ECF No. 1 at 8-13, 23-24.) On April 18, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, screened his Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A, and directed U.S. Marshal service on his behalf. (See ECF No. 4.)

         On August 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). (See ECF No. 18.) On November 14, 2017, the Court granted Defendant Rodrin's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's FAC, denied DeGuzman's Motion for Joinder as moot, and granted Plaintiff leave to amend (ECF No. 33). On December 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), re-naming Defendants Rodrin and DeGuzman, and adding O. Calderon as a Defendant. (See ECF No. 34.) On December 21, 2017, Rodrin and DeGuzman filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's SAC, see ECF No. 36, and after being served, Calderon quickly followed suit. (See ECF No. 44.)

         On April 12, 2018, the Court dismissed all Eighth Amendment claims alleged in Plaintiff's SAC as to Rodrin and Calderon, and any conspiracy claims alleged as to all Defendants pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 49). Only the Eighth Amendment claims alleged as “Count 1” in Plaintiff's SAC against DeGuzman remain. (See Id. at 16; SAC at 17-18.)

         On April 26, 2018, DeGuzman filed an Answer to Plaintiff's SAC (ECF No. 50). The parties later submitted a joint discovery plan (ECF No. 60), and on May 9, 2019, after being granted an ex parte extension of time, DeGuzman filed a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (See ECF No. 67.)

         II. Plaintiff's Claims & Evidence

         In both his SAC, [2] and in his sworn declaration in Opposition to Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff claims to have reported Correctional Officer Orosco[3] to the Office of the Inspector General[4] in March 2015, alleging that Orosco had “tried to batter[] and kill [him] with the help of other C/Os” while he was housed in RJD's Building #15. (See SAC at 5 ¶ 10; Pl.'s Decl. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 71 [hereafter “Pl.'s Decl.”] at 4 ¶ 4.) After that, Plaintiff moved to “the most far building” in RJD's “C” Facility, Building #11, and was assigned to cell #201, which he shared with Juan Rocha. (See SAC ¶¶ 11, 13; Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 4-6.)

         “Since the first day in cell #201” Plaintiff claims to have “observed that the door … did not work good, ” and that “when the officer in the control booth tried to open the door, [it] opened about 5 or 6 inches and shackled.” Plaintiff claims to have “informed the floor officers of … Building 11 regard[ing] the problem, ” and “request[ed] they send staff to repair[] [it].” (See Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 7; SAC at ¶ 14.) But “every time” he and Rocha went out of the cell, Plaintiff “had to insert[] [his] right hand in the little space of 5 or 6 inches, ” in order to “pull the door … open.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 8; SAC ¶ 15.)

         On April 6, 2015, at approximately 7:20 a.m., and after having lived in cell # 201 for approximately one week, Plaintiff claims DeGuzman, who was “working that day in the control [booth] … of Building #11, ” opened the door “about 5 or 6 inches.” (SAC ¶ 17; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff claims he “heard the shackle when the door stopped, … saw the little space opened, [and] … inserted [his] right hand [in the space] with the purpose to pull the door open as [he] did in past days.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 11; SAC ¶ 20.) Plaintiff denies having any appointment that day, claims he “did not request five to ten minutes to get ready … because no appointment [e]xisted, ” and that there was “no reason” for DeGuzman to open his door at 7:20 a.m.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 10, 18.) However, Plaintiff alleges he and Rocha “were ready to go to the dining room to eat the breakfast” when the door started to open. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 11; SAC ¶ 28; see also Opp'n at 38 [hereafter “Rocha Decl.”].)

         “When Defendant DeGuzman saw [his] right hand trying to pull the door, he closed the door clinching [Plaintiff's] right hand.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 12; SAC ¶ 21.) Plaintiff claims DeGuzman “saw [his] right hand trying to pull the door, because [Plaintiff] seen [sic] in direction to him when [Plaintiff] inserted [his] right hand in the little space to make sure he was ready to keeping open the door with [Plaintiff's] help.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff claims the “blunt force impact in [his] right hand with the iron door was strong, ” the “pain in [his] right hand and arm was unbearable (a[n] agonizing pain), '” and he “vociferated ‘Open the Door[!]' to Defendant DeGuzman a couple times until he opened the door again.” (Pl.'s Decl., ¶¶ 13, 18; SAC at ¶ 22; Rocha Decl. at 39.)

         In his SAC, Plaintiff alleges DeGuzman “knew about the problem with [his] door” and “actually knew about the substantial risk of serious harm from the very fact that if he close[d] the door when Plaintiff inserted his right hand to pull the door to open, the risk to cause serious injuries was obvious.” (SAC ¶¶ 17, 18.) Plaintiff also claims that “[a]fter [his] right hand was harm[ed], ” DeGuzman “revealed … his malicious and sadistic plan, ” because he “made a sign corroborating his intentional ‘setting up' enjoying his act, ” see Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 15, and “enjoying his crime[].” (SAC ¶ 25.)

         After the door opened and Plaintiff was able to remove his right hand, he “saw [his] fingers with deep cuts bleeding, ” and “waited a couple minutes expecting … DeGuzman [to] provide him with emergency care services, ” to “call[] the nurse to the building, ” or to let him go to the clinic. (SAC ¶ 33.) “After some minutes, ” Plaintiff “understood that DeGuzman d[id] not want[] to help, ” (id.), so he called a porter, “showed [his] injuries” through the cell window, and asked the porter to “explain to C/O Rodrin that [he] had a medical emergency.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 14, 17; SAC ¶ 33-34.) Plaintiff claims he saw the porter speak to Rodrin, but Rodrin also “did nothing to get care for [him].” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 16; SAC ¶ 34.)[5]

         After about an hour, Plaintiff claims that instead of releasing the inmates in Building 11 to “walk[] to the dining hall” for breakfast that day, kitchen staff delivered breakfast trays to the building. DeGuzman then opened all the building's cell doors so all inmates could pick up their trays. (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 18; SAC ¶ 35.)

         Plaintiff came out from his cell, picked up his tray with his left hand, and stopped to show Rodrin his “open wounds” and “still bleeding … fingers.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 19; SAC ¶ 36.) He requested “immediate health care services, ” but Rochin “ordered [him] back to [his] cell.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 19; SAC ¶ 36.) Plaintiff remained in his cell “suffering … a prolonged, manifest and agonizing pain, ” see SAC ¶ 37, until “suddenly” at “approximately 9:00 a.m., ” “[t]he door opened again.” (id.; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff again approached Rodrin and requested immediate help, but Rodrin “refused to assist[].” Plaintiff then asked for the name of the control booth officer, and Rodrin replied, “DeGuzman.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 20; SAC ¶ 37.)

         Later that afternoon, Plaintiff submitted two “HCSRF (medical request)” forms, describing his “health problem[s]” as a result of the “battery.” (Pl.' Decl. ¶ 21, SAC at 42, 43.) In one, Plaintiff reported to suffer “shame, humiliation, and mental distress because [at] about 7:00 am Officer [DeGuzman] working in the control clinch[ed] [his] right hand intentional[ly] cutting part of [his] fingers” and “after that … insinuate[d] that he put [Plaintiff] [in] a trap.” (See SAC at 42.) In another, Plaintiff reported his “nerves received damage[] and [his] arm's bones [were] in pain.” (Id. at 43.) Both these requests were classified as “routine, ” and on the next day, April 7, 2015, [6] Plaintiff was summoned to the clinic, interviewed, and examined by a nurse, Defendant O. Calderon. (Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 24-25; SAC at 43.)[7] Calderon's encounter notes indicate Plaintiff was ambulatory, and he presented with swelling, bruising, and discoloration on his right hand, but was “able to make a fist.” (SAC at 43, 62; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 26.) Calderon also noted several “small” ½ cm lacerations on his 2d, 3rd & 4th digits, recommended Plaintiff follow up with his primary care physician “as scheduled, ” advised him to continue on a previously prescribed dose of Naproxen, and told him: “It will heal.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 26; SAC ¶ 62.) Calderon's April 7, 2015 encounter form further notes Plaintiff “state[d] [the] cell door got closed on his hand, ” and “then stated the cell door was stuck and he pulled it and it closed on his hand.” (SAC at 43.)

         During the second week of April, another inmate, Efren Silva, claims he saw Plaintiff “walk[ing] around the yard, ” and asked him to do pull-ups. (See Opp'n at 49 [hereafter “Silva Decl.”].) Plaintiff told Silva “no because he had serious injuries on the fingers of his right hand, ” and Plaintiff reported to Silva he could “not use his right hand and arm.” (Id.) Silva attests he saw “deep cuts” on Plaintiff's fingers at the time. (Id.) “At the beginning of May, ” Silva “talked with [Plaintiff] again, ” and when Plaintiff “showed … [him] his right hand, the cuts on his fingers were healing.” (SAC at 49.)

         On September 27, 2015, Plaintiff submitted another HCSRF form complaining that even after “5 months and 3 weeks, ” “the bones of [his] hand were still in pain.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 31; SAC at 45.) He was evaluated the following day, his musculoskeletal complaint was classified as “routine, ” and he was again referred to his primary care physician “as scheduled.” (SAC at 45.)

         Almost two years later, on July 25, 2017, Plaintiff submitted an additional HCSRF claiming he “still had problems with the mobility in [his] fingers, ” and requesting that Rodrin “stop the pattern of wanton misconduct” in “den[ying] … [him] health care services.” (Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 32; SAC at 80.) On October 19, 2017, he was evaluated by Dr. Richard N. Gray, via a telemedicine conference held at Mule Creek State Prison. (SAC at 81; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 34.) Gray noted Plaintiff reported suffering from “headaches, cLBP, testicular disfunction, myopia, and a seizure disorder, ” but an interim hospitalization and antibiotics had resolved his testicular infection. (SAC at 81.) Plaintiff also complained of 10 years of progressive back pain, to have suffered a seizure in 2016, and reported having his right hand “slammed in a door” two years earlier in 2015. (Id.) Gray's Medical Progress Notes indicate Plaintiff reported his hand pain had resolved, but that he “did not have control” or “use of that hand that he has previously.” (Id.) Gray noted Plaintiff's right hand grip as “decreased at IV/V.” (Id.)

         III. Defendant's ...

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