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Hill v. United States

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 21, 2013

SEAN C. HILL, Plaintiff,


B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.


Before The Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Negligence and Proximate Cause filed in their medical malpractice action against the United States. (Dkt. 32). Having reviewed the record and the briefing, the Court determines that oral argument is not necessary. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion.


Plaintiff Sean Hill visited the Terry Reilly Health Services Clinic in Caldwell on two separate occasions; both times with the primary complaint of severe "back pain." Kluksdal Aff. ¶¶1, 13, Dkt. 36-1. During the first visit on September 29, 2009, Hill was treated by physician's assistant Janine Franco, who believed Hill to be a drug-seeking patient. Id. at 1-2. Franco gave Hill Flexeril and Ibuprofen but ran no further tests to determine if there was a reason for the pain. Id. at 2.

Hill then returned to the clinic on November 23, 2009, and was seen by another physician's assistant, Kyle George. Id. at 13. Hill informed George that he had taken Ibuprofen since his previous visit, and although it had helped with the pain, he was still in discomfort. Hill Dep. 39:4-18, Dkt. 36-2. During the visit, Hill stated that his back pain was "messing with [his] breathing, " and that he was nauseous. Kluksdal Aff. ¶ 13, Dkt. 36-1. Hill also told George that he was worried about tuberculosis. Id.

Based on Hill's symptoms, George ordered several tests including an EKG, a urine profile, a tuberculosis test, and a chest x-ray. Id. ¶ 15. The urine analysis showed that Hill did not take any drugs prior to his visit, and that his kidneys and liver were functioning normally. George Dep. 85:8-86:10, Dkt. 36-3. Hill also tested negative for tuberculosis. Kluksdal Aff. ¶ 22, Dkt. 36-1.

As ordered by George, Hill went to the clinic's Nampa location on November 24, 2009 and had x-rays taken of his lungs and spine. Hill Dep. 40:21-22, Dkt. 36-2. Dr. John H. Truska, a radiologist, evaluated the x-rays. Kluksdal Aff. ¶ 21, Dkt. 36-1. He prepared an evaluation stating that Hill had a loss of intervertebral disc space, which suggested developmental blocked vertebrae. Id. Dr. Truska recommended that "if clinically indicated, " an MRI should be used for further evaluation. Id.

George left for a family vacation on November 25, 2009, and did not return to the clinic's Caldwell location until December 8, 2009. George Dep. 99:8-100:18, Dkt. 36-3. During this time, the Caldwell clinic received the results of the x-rays. Id. The Caldwell clinic, however, did not have a system in place to ensure that patient test results would be reviewed while the ordering physician was away from the office. Id. 97:8-98:22. George therefore had not asked anyone on the medical staff to review his files while he was away from the office. Id. 100:24-101:4. As a result, Hill's x-rays were not reviewed by anyone in the clinic until December 8, 2009. Id.

While George was away from the Caldwell clinic, Hill's pain worsened. Hill Dep. 49:1-51:3, Dkt. 36-2. Hill tried on several occasions to contact a physician at the clinic to receive the results of his tests. Id. 49:1-53:3. On each occasion Hill was told that a physician would have to get back to him with the information. Id.

On November 7, 2009, Hill woke up and was unable to move his legs, and EMTs took him to the hospital. Id. 51:14-52:17. An MRI revealed an epidural abscess in Hill's spine. George Dep. 111:20-22, Dkt. 36-3. Hill underwent emergency surgery, but still lost mobility in his lower extremities. Id.


One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims...." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut, " but is instead the "principal tool by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir.1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable ...

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