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Henderson v. Lewis

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 10, 2019

J. LEWIS, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff, an inmate at California State Prison, Sacramento (“CSP-SAC”) filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that prison officials at Salinas Valley State Prison (“SVSP”) where he was previously incarcerated were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when they failed to provide him with diabetic snacks. Now before the Court are plaintiff's and defendants' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.


         The following factual allegations are undisputed unless stated otherwise. Plaintiff is diabetic and takes insulin for his diabetes. He was incarcerated at SVSP from May 27, 2016 to January 12, 2017. While at SVSP his blood sugar levels were checked twice per day, and he was prescribed glucose pills to take if he felt symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Plaintiff requested that he be given a daily diabetic snack (two packages of cheese and crackers or peanut butter and crackers plus one fresh fruit) in order to eat the snack if he felt signs of hypoglycemia. This request was denied as not medically indicated.

         Plaintiff was seen by medical provider Dr. Tuvera three times while he was at SVSP: on June 1, 2016; July 1, 2016; and September 30, 2016. (Defendants' Mot. For Summary Judgment (“MSJ”), Tuvera Decl., ¶ 2.) At each appointment, Dr. Tuvera noted that plaintiff had, among other conditions, type 2 diabetes and obesity. (Id. at ¶ 3; Ex. A.) At the first appointment, Dr. Tuvera discussed with plaintiff the importance of taking glucose gel (also referred to as glucose tablets) if he experienced symptoms of hypoglycemia. (Id. at ¶ 6; Ex. A.) At the second and third appointments Dr. Tuvera noted that plaintiff had no hypoglycemia. (Id. at Exs. B and C.)

         On June 1, 2016, plaintiff submitted health care appeal SVSP-HC-16055478. (MSJ, Gamboa Decl., Ex. A.) In this appeal plaintiff requested that he be given a diabetic snack, arguing that it was mandatory under Plata[1] and that SVSP was withholding the snack from insulin-dependent diabetics as a form of punishment. (Id.) He requested that SVSP acknowledge his previous prescribed treatment of a daily snack which began in 2005, and declare that the policy of not issuing diabetic snacks violated Plata. (Id.)

         The first level response, issued by Dr. Fu and defendant Gamboa, partially granted plaintiff's request, referring him to the dietician for an assessment regarding diabetic snacks and to his primary care provider for a diabetes assessment. (Defendants' MSJ, Gamboa Decl., Ex. B.) Plaintiff appealed to the second level of administrative review, stating he was dissatisfied and still not receiving a diabetic snack, and that SVSP was in breach of Plata. (Id. at Ex. A.)

         The second level response issued by defendant Kumar states that plaintiff's second level appeal indicated that he was still waiting to be seen for his diabetic assessment. (Defendants' MSJ, Kumar Decl., Ex. D.) Because records showed that he was seen for the assessment on July 1, 2016, Kumar ultimately granted the second level appeal. (Id.)

         Plaintiff appealed to the third level of review stating that despite the second level decision granting his appeal, he was still not receiving a diabetic snack, and stating that under Plata CDCR doctors and dieticians have no discretion in determining a course of action concerning nourishment for inmates treated with insulin. (Defendants' MSJ, Gamboa Decl., Ex. A.) The appeal was denied at the third level of review. (Defendants' MSJ, Lewis Decl., Ex. 1.) The third level decision was signed by S. Gates for Lewis and stated that plaintiff had been seen by both his primary care provider and a dietician and that neither recommended a diabetic snack. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's second health care appeal, SVSP-HC-16056045, submitted on August 10, 2016 stated that a nurse named “Rodriqez” was denying him diabetic snacks and saying that it did not matter that his appeal was granted. (Defendants' MSJ, Gamboa Decl., Ex. C.) Plaintiff requested that SVSP recognize Volume 4 Medical Services, Chapter 20A and 20B, which he asserted required that all inmates treated with insulin receive diabetic snacks. (Id.)

         At the first level of review Dr. Fu and Gamboa partially granted the appeal as to recognizing Chapter 20 of Volume 4 Medical Services, but denied plaintiff's request for a diabetic snack. (Id. at Ex. D). The decision notes that plaintiff was assessed by a primary care physician and dietician, neither of whom recommended a snack; that plaintiff had not received a snack for several months; and that the dietician was not able to successfully discuss the matter with him and had to terminate the appointment. (Id.)

         Plaintiff appealed to the second level of review, stating that his interview with dietician Watson had ended without incident, and that SVSP's refusal to give diabetic inmates a snack was deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. (Id. at Ex. B.) Plaintiff asserted that SVSP was in violation of Plata and had implemented a discretionary policy in place of Plata's mandatory policy.

         At the second level of review, Kumar and another reviewer, B. Brizendine, denied the request for a diabetic snack and granted the request to recognize Volume 4, Chapters 20A and 20B. (Defendants' MSJ, Kumar Decl., Ex. F.) Plaintiff appealed the second level decision, arguing that his blood sugar was not well controlled, that prior prisons had always honored his standing order for a diabetic snack, and that SVSP's policy to deny diabetic snacks was not an individual diagnosis but rather a policy that was applied to all diabetic inmates as a form of punishment. (Defendants' MSJ, Gamboa Decl., Ex. B.)

         At the third level of review this appeal was denied, again by S. Gates for Lewis. (Defendants' MSJ, Lewis Decl., Ex. 2.) The decision states that that the policies in Volume 4 Chapter 20.2 are that a diabetic snack may be issued to patients with juvenile onset type 1 diabetes mellitus or brittle diabetes with indication, but that diabetic snacks are not indicated as mandatory. (Id.) Further, the decision states that the request for a snack is duplicative of plaintiff's request in his other administrative appeal which was already decided at the third level, and therefore would not be addressed again in the appeal response. (Id.)


         A. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See id.

         A court shall grant summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial[, ] . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” See Id. at 324 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (amended 2010)). The nonmoving party must show more than “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence.In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252). “In fact, the non-moving party must come forth with evidence from which a jury could reasonably render a verdict in the non-moving party's favor.” Id. (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252). If the nonmoving party fails to make this showing, “the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323.

         For purposes of summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party; if the evidence produced by the moving party conflicts with evidence produced by the nonmoving party, the court must assume the truth of the evidence submitted by the nonmoving party. See Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1158 (9th Cir. 1999). The court's function on a summary judgment motion is not to make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence with respect to a disputed material fact. See T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). When, however, “opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). When the parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must consider all of the evidence submitted in support of both motions to evaluate whether a genuine issue of material fact exists precluding summary judgment for either party. The Fair Housing Council of Riverside County, Inc. v. Riverside Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1135 (9th Cir. 2001).

         B. ...

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