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Grimes v. Dunlap

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 23, 2019

JOSEPH GRIMES, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN DUNLAP, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT DKT. NOS. 61, 78, AND 79

          WILLIAM H. ORRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Joseph Grimes alleges in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit that defendants inflicted cruel and unusual punishment and violated his disability rights by denying him gloves to wear when he operated his wheelchair. Defendants move for summary judgment. Grimes failed to meet the California Probate Code’s requirements to sue the estate of one defendant (Chisum); he sued her supervisor (Dunlap), who never treated Grimes nor supervised his case; and there is no evidence of discrimination based on his treatment. Nor does the record show deliberate indifference. For these reasons, defendants’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This suit arises from the asserted denial of replacement wheelchair gloves by staff at Salinas Valley State Prison to Grimes.[1] Grimes is morbidly obese, uses a wheelchair, and was classified as DPO, which “designates inmates who do not require a wheelchair full time, but are medically prescribed a wheelchair for use outside of the assigned cell.” (Mot. for Summ. J. (MSJ), Dkt. No. 61 at 10.) Grimes suffers from other maladies: hypertension, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, schizophrenia, antisocial personality, gastroesophageal reflux disease and a history of poly substance abuse, and diabetes mellitus type-2. (Id. at 11.) His doctors prescribed many medications for these conditions, including pain pills. (Id.)

         A summary of Grimes’s relevant medical history and treatment follows.

         May 23, 2012: Dr. Moon examined Grimes at Corcoran State Prison in response to his complaints of back pain, walking difficulty, and a fall that had occurred a month prior. Grimes was morbidly obese at 311 pounds. Moon referred him to physical therapy, prescribed pain medication, and revised his “comprehensive chrono” to include the grant of a wheelchair. Other medical equipment was prescribed, but not gloves, which were not requested. A disability placement program verification form was also completed. Moon designated Grimes as an “intermittent wheelchair user, or DPO, ” which “designates inmates who do not require a wheelchair full time but are medically prescribed a wheelchair for use outside of the assigned cell.” (MSJ, Feinberg Decl., Dkt. No. 61-7 at 4, 5.)

         September 26, 2012, October 8, 2012, October 16, 2012, May 29, 2013, and June 11, 2013: At medical appointments on these dates, Grimes did not request wheelchair gloves nor did he complain of hand calluses or pain. (Id. at 5-6.)

         January 24, 2014: Dr. Hamkar saw Grimes in response to his complaint of a callus on his left foot, which Hamkar then shaved off. There were no complaints about hand calluses or “any physical problems attributable to a lack of wheelchair gloves.” (Id. at 6.)

         By this time, Grimes had used a wheelchair for about a year and a half (May 23, 2012-January 24, 2014). During this time, he never requested gloves, nor complained of hand calluses or pain, nor complained about a lack of gloves.

         March 5, 2014: Dr. Bourne saw Grimes regarding a grievance in which he requested morphine for chronic pain, an egg-crate mattress, a wheelchair cushion, wheelchair gloves, a back brace, and a wedge pillow. Morphine, the mattress, and the back brace were denied; the rest were granted. Bourne “prescribed wheelchair gloves for Grimes’s additional comfort and convenience, ” not because they were “medically necessary.” There were no complaints of hand pain or calluses, and Bourne noted no calluses. (MSJ, Bourne Decl., Dkt. No. 61-1 at 3.) Grimes received his wheelchair gloves on March 18, 2014 but lost them the same day. (Id.)

         Before March 2014, Grimes “never had a chrono for wheelchair gloves and never received wheelchair gloves.” There is also no notation that before March 2014 that Grimes complained of hand calluses or pain, even though he had used a wheelchair for well over a year. (Id., Feinberg Decl., Dkt. No. 61-7 at 7.)

         March 8, 2014: Grimes filed a health care services request in which he stated “I am feeling pain like a hundred needle[s] sticking me all the times [sic] [in my] legs, arms and hands.” The nurse’s response notes that the patient has a history of lower back pain and a “family history of diabetes, ” which is likely the cause of (“c/o”) the “feeling of pins and needles.” (Id., Feinberg Decl., Dkt. No. 61-9 at 32.)

         April 16, 2014, May 20, 2014, and June 5, 2014: Grimes did not complain about hand calluses or pain, or his lost gloves, during the examinations on these dates. (Id., Feinberg Decl., Dkt. No. 61-7 at 7.)

         June 6, 2014: For the first time, Grimes complained in person about having hand calluses, but he did not mention any pain. The examiner, Dr. Bourne, “made a notation of hand calluses and new wheelchair gloves, [b]ut during the examination I did not document hand calluses.” Bourne did note foot calluses, however. He prepared a comprehensive chrono which contained a prescription for wheelchair gloves for six months. The gloves were prescribed for “additional comfort and convenience, ” not because they were medically necessary. (Id., Bourne Decl., Dkt. No. 61-1 at 3.) This was the first notation of hand calluses and wheelchair gloves in Grimes’s medical record. (Id., Feinberg Decl., Dkt. No. 61-7 at 7-8.) There had been no prior complaint about either. (Id. at 8.)

         Grimes filed a grievance on this date against “state worker Kathy medical supply.” (Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 28-2 at 33.)

         June 9, 2014: Three months after losing his gloves, Grimes submitted a health care services request in which he complained of hand pain. He told a nurse the pain was caused by calluses, which had been caused by a lack of gloves. The nurse noted “small calluses near left and right thumb, ” and “middle and index fingers.” (MSJ, Feinberg Decl., Dkt. No. 61-7 at 8.)

         June 15, 2014: Grimes filed another request, this one to see a nurse about pain. He was seen the next day. He asked for gloves and was told a new approved chrono had been sent to the medical supply department. Calluses were noted by staff. (Id.)

         June 20, 2014: Grimes met with Dr. Bourne because he had been refusing his diabetes medications. There were no complaints of hand calluses or pain. (Id., Bourne Decl., Dkt. No. 61-1 at 4.)

         June 25, 2014: Dr. Bourne saw Grimes regarding a grievance related to a prison transfer. There were no complaints of hand calluses or related pain. (Id.) However, that same day Grimes requested an appointment regarding his hand calluses. (Id., Feinberg Decl., Dkt. No. 61-7 at 8.)

         June 28, 2014: Grimes was seen by a nurse regarding his June 25th request, which involved “unwanted calluses that cause pain.” The “onset” of the condition was said to be four years. An examination showed “multiple peasized hard masses in both hands.” In the comments section, a nurse noted that “Inmate/Patient wanted to have a new pair of gloves. He has chrono for it. Claims to have lost his gloves.” (Id. at 8-9.)

         June 29, 2014: Grimes asked for an appointment regarding “painful calluses” and to contact the medical supplies department. Grimes said he hadn’t received the new wheelchair gloves. The examining nurse noted that “patient denies any pain right now, but just wants to know what’s going on with his wheelchair gloves.” (Id. at 9)

         August 4, 2014: Grimes met with a doctor, Do-Williams, and discussed various health matters. He did not complain about hand calluses or pain or a lack of gloves. (Id.)

         August 6, 2014: A nurse saw Grimes about a grievance he had filed. Grimes pointed to calluses on his thumbs. He was told that “per HCM/CMO wheelchair gloves are not a medical necessity. Only one pair per year will be issued. You may request ...


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