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Adams v. Hamilton

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 5, 2019

HENRY DESEAN ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
DR. JESSICA HAMILTON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND ADDRESSING PENDING MOTIONS

          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 Henry Desean Adams, a state prisoner who is currently incarcerated at the California Men's Colony (“CMC”). The operative complaint in this action is the second amended complaint (“SAC”), in which Plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference to his medical needs during his previous incarceration at Martinez Detention Facility (“MDF”) from 2016 to 2017. Dkt. 20 at 3-6.[1]Plaintiff was transferred from MDF to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) custody on December 13, 2018 and then to CMC on April 25, 2019. Dkt. 52 at 1, fn. 1.

         The Court begins by outlining the procedural background of this matter. On January 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed his original complaint. Dkt. 1. On August 1, 2017, the Court reviewed Plaintiff's original complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and dismissed the complaint with leave to amend with various instructions to correct certain deficiencies, including that Plaintiff must file an amended complaint that complies with the joinder requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a). Dkt. 13. The Court provided Plaintiff with the rules regarding joinder of Defendants as well as other pleading requirements. See id. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed his amended complaint. Dkt. 14.

         On January 19, 2018, the Court reviewed Plaintiff's amended complaint and dismissed it with leave to amend with instructions to correct deficiencies, including that Plaintiff must establish legal liability of each person for the claimed violation of his rights. Dkt. 16.

         As mentioned, on January 31, 2018, Plaintiff filed his SAC, which is the operative complaint. Dkt. 17. In his SAC, Plaintiff named the following Defendants: MDF Medical Director Jessica Hamilton; MDF Nurse Provider Paul Manaut; and “MDF Pill Call Nursing Staff, ” including Licensed Vocational Nurses (“LVNs”) Stephanie Monahan, Maritess[2] Rayrao, and Mary Bolds, as well as Nurses “Sahara, Samaria, Vince, and Jennifer.”[3] Id. at 1. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id. at 3.

         In an Order dated July 5, 2018, the Court determined that the SAC raised a cognizable claim for deliberate indifference[4] to his serious medical needs against the above named Defendants. See Dkt. 20.

         On September 7, 2018, Defendants filed an answer to the SAC. Dkt. 28.

         The parties are now presently before the Court on Defendants' dispositive motion. Dkt. 34. Defendants move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs on the following grounds: (1) Defendants were not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs; (2) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; (3) issue preclusion bars this Court from reviewing Plaintiff's claim because a state court has already decided that Defendants were not deliberately indifferent; and (4) Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Id. Specifically, as to their first arguments on the merits of Plaintiff's claims, Defendants contend that “[t]here is insufficient evidence of a genuine issue of material fact” as to the following deliberate indifference claims: (a) for the administration of the “wrong medicine”; (b) for refusing to treat Plaintiff's H. Pylori and prostate infections; (c) for lying to Plaintiff regarding his medical test results and delaying treatment; (d) for refusing to perform certain medical testing; and (d) for administering medication to Plaintiff after being told by him that the medication caused him illness.

         Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion. Dkt. 50.

         Defendants have filed a filed a reply with objections to certain arguments, statements and documents submitted by Plaintiff in support of his opposition, which the Court will construe as a motion to strike. Dkt. 52 at 5-8. Specifically, Defendants assert they should be stricken because some of Plaintiff's exhibits contain inadmissible hearsay testimony. First, the federal rules of evidence provide that a witness may make any statement from his own personal knowledge. See Fed. R. Evid. 602. If any of these supporting arguments, statements and documents were not based on his personal knowledge or were not relevant to the issues, the Court has not considered them. Second, the Court concludes that even if any of them were admitted and accepted at face value, Defendants still would be entitled to judgment as a matter of law, as set forth below. Although some of the documents in question are discussed in its analysis, the Court also points out that such evidence is not sufficient to defeat summary judgment. Accordingly, Defendants' motion to strike is DENIED as moot. Dkt. 52.

         On November 6, 2018, Defendants also filed a Request for Judicial Notice in support Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. 36. Additionally, Defendants filed an Administrative Motion to File Under Seal on November 6, 2018. Id. On July 2, 2019, the Court granted Defendants Administrative Motion to File Under Seal.[5] Dkt. 53.

         On April 29, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion requesting hours at the law library and assistance in obtaining a lab specialist, medical examiner, and a doctor, along with other materials to prepare an effective case. Dkt. 51. On May 31, 2019, Defendants filed an opposition to Plaintiff's request. Dkt. 53.

         Having read and considered the papers submitted in connection with this matter, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim. Dkt. 34. Because the Court will resolve a similar deliberate indifferent claim in favor of the served Defendants, it also GRANTS summary judgment as to the deliberate indifference claim against unserved Defendants “Sahara, Samaria, Vince, and Jennifer.” The Court also addresses all other pending motions below. Dkts. 36, 51, 52.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[6]

         A. The Parties

         At the time of the events set forth in his SAC, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee who was incarcerated at MDF. See Dkt. 1.

         Defendant Hamilton is a Board Certified Family Practitioner and the lead physician for Contra Costa County Detention Health Services. Declaration of Jessica Hamilton (“Hamilton Decl.”) ¶¶ 2-3. Defendant Hamilton personally tended to Plaintiff at least six times and discussed Plaintiff's condition with the other coworkers who were also providing care to Plaintiff. Hamilton Decl. ¶ 4. Defendant Hamilton also reviewed Plaintiff's medical charts as part of the proposed treatment plan. Id.

         Defendant Manaut is a nurse practitioner employed with Contra Costa County Health Services. Declaration of Paul Manaut (“Manaut Decl.”) ¶ 3. He has personally met with Plaintiff approximately ten times, and reviewed Plaintiff's medical records and charts in the course of care that was provided to Plaintiff while incarcerated at MDF. Id. at ¶¶ 5-6.

         Defendants Rayrao, Monahan, and Bolds are all LVNs (collectively “LVN Defendants”) who provide medication to inmates at MDF among other duties. See e.g., Declaration of Maritess Rayrao, LVN (“Rayrao Decl.”) ¶ 4; Declaration of Mary Bolds, LVN, (“Bolds Decl.”) ¶ 4.

         B. MDF Medical Procedures

         Controlled medication is given to inmates either at a deputy desk within a given module at MDF, or at the cell door of patients who are not free to leave their cell. In both cases, an LVN administering the prescription watches the inmate-patient take the prescribed medication. Bolds Decl. ¶ 5. This process is informally called the “pill pass.” Id. When an inmate refuses to take a prescribed medication, LVN charts the refusal and typically has the patient sign a document entitled “refusal of medical care.” Any medication refused is noted in the detention facility's medical records. Bolds Decl. ¶ 7.

         A part of their duties, the LVN Defendants work as “pill pass nurses, ” who administer medication to inmates. Id. ¶ 10. (However, Defendant Rayrao has not administered medication to Plaintiff since April 2016, and works mostly with clinicians at the present time. See Rayrao Decl. ¶ 4.) As LVNs, these Defendants cannot decide whether to administer medications or not. Id. Only a clinician can start, stop, or change a prescription administered by the LVN Defendants; they have no control over what is given to Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 8; Rayrao Decl. ¶5; Hamilton Decl. ¶ 44.

         At MDF, appointments are made through request slips provided to deputies or nurses, and inmates are seen on a priority basis, depending on the seriousness of the issue and other factors. Manaut Decl. ¶ 21. Appointments may be delayed or rescheduled due to many factors, including the patient being in court, the sick call clinics being overbooked, the sick call clinics closing for the day, or there being no escort deputy available, as patients must be escorted to all doctor appointments by a deputy. Id.

         Outside appointments for inmate-patients, such as diagnostic testing beyond the capabilities of the detention center medical office, are scheduled through the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (“CCRMC”), which is responsible for determining who can conduct outside testing or treatment. Id. at ¶22. When scheduling appointments with inmate-patients the factors taken into consideration include available deputies, type of testing or treatment sought, and the availability of CCRMC staff to perform the requested medical care. Id. CCRMC and MDF medical staff do not delay or deny treatment to inmate-patients based on their incarceration status. Id. Defendants allege that all of Plaintiff's tests were taken in the normal course and scope of the operation of the health facilities at MDF and CCRMC. Hamilton Decl. ¶¶ 47-48.

         C. Plaintiff's Version

         Plaintiff claims that in the month of June 2016, he was provided with the “wrong medication” that caused adverse effects. Dkt. 17 at 3. Plaintiff further alleges that he consequently contracted “H. pylori and a prostate infection, ” which the MDF medical staff refused to treat. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that his blood and urine tests results were abnormal, but Defendants Hamilton and Manaut stated that the tests were normal and “lied about [the] test results on numerous of other occasions, ” delaying Plaintiff's proper medical attention. Id. at 4-5.

         Plaintiff also claims he was denied the following requests: (1) to be treated in a timely manner for his H. pylori and prostate infections by Defendants Hamilton and Manaut; (2) to have blood and urine work done for cancer, syphilis, type 2 diabetes, and prostate infection by Defendant Hamilton; and (3) to have proper medication administered to him by the “pill call nursing staff” at MDF, including “Nurses Stephanie, Marytes[s], Mary, Sahara, Samaria, Vince, and Jennifer, ” after they were told by Plaintiff that the medication caused him illness. See Id. at 4-6.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was successfully treated for the H. pylori infection on May 11, 2017 and for the prostate infection in November 2017[7]. Id. Additionally, as of January 26, 2018, he alleges he still experiences inflammation in the prostate region, as well as similar symptoms and pains. Id.

         D. Defendants' Version

         Defendants allege that Plaintiff's course of care with MDF is replete with testing and treatment. Dkt. 34 at 13. As stated in the declarations of Defendants Hamilton and Manaut, Defendants claim that Plaintiff's treatment was above community standards. Hamilton Decl. ¶ 53; Manaut Decl. ¶ 7.

         1. The “Wrong Medication”

         Plaintiff claims that he was given the “wrong medication” in June 2016, in the form of Zyrtec, which he asserts caused an H. Pylori infection and a prostate infection. Dkt. 20 at 2-3; Dkt. 17 at 3; Jason W. Mauck Declaration (Mauck Decl.), Ex. 1 (Pl.'s Dep.) 21:14-21 and 27:19-22. Zyrtec is used to treat rhinitis and allergies. Hamilton Decl. ¶¶ 6-7. Plaintiff was given Zyrtec between April 2016 and July 2016. Id. Allergies to Zyrtec are very rare and symptoms of adverse reactions do not include the symptoms that Plaintiff is claiming, including chest pains and abdominal pain. Id. at 8. Furthermore, Plaintiff admitted on April 6, 2016 that his chest pains started when he was having a bout of seasonal allergies, which was before the prescription for Zyrtec was issued. Hamilton Decl., Ex. 1 at CCC 122.

         In addition to Plaintiff's complaints of chest pains, his reported headaches were also intermittent, and not consistent throughout the time that he was taking Zyrtec. Id. at ¶ 10. Defendant Hamilton notes that intermittent headache complaints demonstrate that Plaintiff's concerns over headaches, dizziness or drowsiness are unrelated to any specific medication since the medication was consistent, but the alleged symptoms were not. Id.

         Plaintiff was administered a computed tomography (“CT”) scan[8] in response to repeated headache claims. The results of the scan were benign with no abnormality located within the imaging. Id. at ¶ 14. Since the CT scan, Plaintiff has not complained of headaches with sufficient regularity-or with other associated symptoms-to suggest that there are any serious medical conditions. Id. at ¶ 15. Defendant Hamilton believes that the chest pains, headaches, and dizziness that Plaintiff complains about are not related to Zyrtec. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff was prescribed Claritin for his allergies in July 2016, however, when offered Claritin, he refused it and elected to continue to use Zyrtec. Id. at ¶ 7. Defendants opine that, it is very unlikely that Zyrtec caused the symptoms reported by Plaintiff. Hamilton Decl. ¶¶ 5a, 11.

         2. Subsequent Treatment

         A summary of the most germane medical treatment is included in the declaration of Defendant Hamilton, however, the most pertinent treatment is as follows:

1. [Plaintiff] was administered a fecal immunological test on October 17, 2016. The test results were negative, meaning that there was a low chance of colorectal cancer, polyps, ulcers or other issue in the intestines that might manifest with blood in the stool-such as an H. Pylori infection[9]. Other tests, such as blood work, were performed at the same time and also revealed results within normal limits. Id. at ¶ 18.
2. Over the next few months [Plaintiff] was seen by nursing staff and medical providers to explain test results, which were all within normal limits. Id.
3. It was not until January 13, 2017 that a fecal exam showed the presence of H. Pylori in [Plaintiff's] stool. On that day, [Plaintiff] started prescriptions for Prilosec, Biaxin, and Flagyl to treat the H. Pylori. Id. at ¶ 19.
4. [Plaintiff] only took the medications together once, the evening of January 18th. He did not take them together afterwards. Id. at ¶ 20. The prescription changed on February 15, 2017, and was provided to [Plaintiff] for him to keep and take himself. His abdominal symptoms improved ...

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