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Rankins v. Liu

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 17, 2019

ALEXANDER LIU, Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims defendant violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Presently before the court is defendant's fully briefed motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below the court will recommend that defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted.


         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on May 29, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) The original complaint was dismissed during the screening process and plaintiff was given leave to amend. (ECF No. 11.) Plaintiff's first amended complaint (ECF No. 16) presented a cognizable claim and the magistrate judge assigned to the case at that time ordered service appropriate for defendant, Dr. Liu. (ECF No. 17.)

         After being served defendant moved to dismiss. (ECF No. 28.) Plaintiff then filed a motion to amend. (ECF No. 35.) The court granted plaintiff's motion to amend and denied defendant's motion to dismiss as moot. (ECF No. 39.)

         Plaintiff filed a third amended complaint (TAC). (ECF No. 40.) Thereafter, defendant filed a second motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 41.) The undersigned recommended that defendant's motion to dismiss be denied and the recommendations were adopted by the district judge. (ECF Nos. 45, 48.) Following discovery, defendant filed the instant motion for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 53, 54.) After requesting and being granted several extensions of time, plaintiff filed an opposition to the summary judgment motion. (ECF No. 70.) Defendant filed a reply. (ECF No. 71.) Upon reviewing plaintiff's opposition (ECF No. 70), the court observed that plaintiff referenced exhibits in his opposition but had not attached any exhibits to the opposition. The court granted plaintiff the opportunity to file the referenced exhibits. (ECF No. 73.) Thereafter, plaintiff filed an additional document captioned “Opposition.” (ECF No. 75.) In light of plaintiff's pro se status, the court has reviewed and considered both documents captioned as oppositions in its resolution of the pending summary judgment motion.

         II. Allegations in the Complaint

         Plaintiff claims that defendant violated his right to adequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff had a transurethral resection of the prostate (“TURP”) procedure performed by defendant on March 14, 2014. (ECF No. 40 at 7.) Plaintiff alleges he informed defendant of post-operative complaints at a follow-up appointment on March 20, 2014. (Id.) Specifically, plaintiff indicated that he was in excruciating pain and could only urinate if straining to do so. (Id.) Plaintiff claimed defendant told him he was too busy to perform an examination. (Id.) Plaintiff repeated his symptoms and begged defendant to examine him. (Id.) However, plaintiff alleges defendant stated he would see plaintiff again in two weeks and if plaintiff was still symptomatic he would examine him at that time. (Id.)

         On April 7, 2014, plaintiff had a second follow-up appointment with defendant. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff claimed after he informed defendant his symptoms were worse, defendant performed a flexible cystoscopy and found debris from the TURP procedure was blocking plaintiff's urethral channel causing plaintiff's pain and difficulty urinating. (Id.)

         On May 9, 2014, defendant performed a second TURP procedure in response to plaintiff's continued symptoms. (Id. at 9.) Plaintiff saw defendant for a follow-up appointment on May 22, 2014 and informed defendant he no longer had control of his bladder. (Id.) Defendant told plaintiff his complete incontinence was permanent. (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims defendant demonstrated callous indifference when he delayed examining plaintiff on March 20, 2014, causing him to suffer unnecessary pain, develop an umbilical hernia, and become permanently incontinent. (Id.)


         Defendant argues he is entitled to summary judgment because the undisputed facts show that he provided constitutionally adequate treatment and plaintiff cannot show a causal connection between the alleged constitutional violation and his harm. (ECF No. 54.)

         In his opposition, plaintiff argues that he informed defendant of his symptoms and defendant failed to treat him in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. (ECF No. 70.) Plaintiff's specifically disputes defendant's account and report regarding the March 20, 2014 appointment.

         In his reply, defendant argues summary judgment should be granted because plaintiff has failed to meet his burden of proof on a necessary element of deliberate indifference. (ECF No. 71 at 4.) Defendant claims that plaintiff's only evidence in this action is that at the March 20, 2014 appointment he complained of pain and difficulty urinating. However, these are both common post-surgical complaints. (ECF No. 71 at 4.) Defendant further argues that even if plaintiff's disputed claim that defendant did not perform an exam on March 20, 2014 is true, it did not change plaintiff's outcome. (ECF No. 71 at 4.) Defendant additionally argues that plaintiff cannot claim that defendant's failure to treat him caused him to develop a hernia because such a claim is contradicted by plaintiff's deposition testimony. (ECF No. 71 at 5.)

         I. Legal Standards A. Summary Judgment Standards under Rule 56

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Under summary judgment practice, “[t]he moving party bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The moving party may accomplish this by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” ...

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