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Wheaten v. Knoll

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 7, 2020

S. KNOLL, et al., Defendants.


          Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendants Knoll, Capocciama, Gilliam, and Wildes move for summary judgment. (Doc. 35.) Plaintiff Derrick Wheaten filed an amended opposition to Defendants' motion on December 9, 2019, to which Defendants replied. (Docs. 58-60.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Defendants' motion be granted and this action be dismissed.


         Plaintiff underwent surgery on July 19, 2016, to remove tumors in his forehead, left arm, and buttocks. (Doc. 1 at 2.) Plaintiff contends that the staples on his buttocks were removed “too early” post-surgery, causing the “wound to reopen prematurely and forc[ing] plaintiff to get packing 3 to 4 times per week to stop excessive blood discharge and drainage.” (Id. at 3.) On August 5, 2016, a doctor at Federal Correctional Institution, Mendota, provided Plaintiff with an accommodation “chrono” for a lower bunk, valid until August 31, 2016. (Id.) For unknown reasons, the chrono was not entered into the prison's inmate information system, SENTRY. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts, No. 9, Doc. 35-4 at 2; Pl.'s Amended Opposition to Statement of Undisputed Facts, No. 9, Doc. 59 at 3-4.)

         On August 18, 2016, Correctional Counselor Wildes ordered Plaintiff to relocate to a cell with an inmate who also had a “lower bunk chrono, ” forcing Plaintiff to sleep on an upper bunk in violation of his doctor's prescription. (See Wheaten Decl., ¶¶ 11, 26, Doc. 58 at 19, 21.) Plaintiff protested to Correctional Lieutenant Knoll and Correctional Counselor Capocciama, but neither altered Wilde's order. (See id., ¶¶ 16, 18-20, 29-32, 34-35.) On August 24, 2016, “Medication Tech Ana Sharma rescinded [Plaintiff's] lower bunk accommodation without [his] knowledge.” (Id., ¶ 36.) On August 27, 2016, as he was “attempting to climb down from the upper bunk [Plaintiff's] leg got caught in [his] blanket and [he] fell, ” injuring his elbow, knee, and lower back. (Id., ¶ 37.) Plaintiff was transferred to a hospital for emergency treatment. (Id., ¶ 38.)

         Plaintiff brought suit on June 28, 2018. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff's operative claims are against Knoll, Capocciama, Wildes, and Health Services Administrator Gilliam for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See Doc. 15 at 1.)


         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). In summary judgment practice, the moving party “initially 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, ” or by showing that such materials “do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). When the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, as Plaintiff does here, “the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B).

         Summary judgment should be entered 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. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for the entry of summary judgment … is satisfied.” Id. at 323.

         If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of his pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits or admissible discovery material in support of its contention. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11; Orr v. Bank of Am., NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002) (“A trial court can only consider admissible evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., that it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party, see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250; Wool v. Tandem Computs. Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

         To show a factual dispute, the opposing party need not prove a material fact conclusively in her favor. It is sufficient that the “factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the “purpose of summary judgment is to ‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citations omitted).

         “In evaluating the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of fact, ” the court draws “all inferences supported by the evidence in favor of the non-moving party.” Walls v. Cent. Contra Costa Cty. Transit Auth., 653 F.3d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 2011). But, it is still the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party “must do more than simply show … some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts…. Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).


         Defendants argue that summary judgment is appropriate in this action because (1) Plaintiff fails to show that Defendants' actions were the actual or proximate cause of his injuries, (2) based on the “special factors” analysis articulated in Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843 (2017), the Court should decline to extend the remedy under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) to the “new context” at issue in this case, (3) Defendants are entitled to ...

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