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Sheridan v. Reinke

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 27, 2013

MICHAEL SHERIDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BRENT REINKE; CMS d/b/a CORIZON, INC.; PHILIP VALDEZ; NORMA RODRIGUEZ; MADDOX; JUSTIN ACOSTA; CHRISTOPHER ROSE; SERGEANT KERR; CHARLES FLETCHER; and CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are the following motions: (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Affidavit (Dkt. 85); (2) CCA Defendants' Objection to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Affidavit and Motion to Strike Affidavit (Dkt. 86); (3) CCA Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 91); (4) Defendant Corizon, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 95); (5) Defendant Reinke's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 96); (6) Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15 Fed. R. Civ. Procedure (Dkt. 107); and (7) Motion for Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15(d) Fed. R. Civ. Procedure (Dkt. 108.) The Court finds that the decisional process would not be aided by oral argument. After reviewing the record, the arguments of the parties, and the relevant case law, the Court enters the following Order addressing all pending motions.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this civil rights action on July 16, 2010, alleging that certain prison officials' conduct and the conditions of confinement at Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) violated his rights guaranteed by the Eighth and Fourteenth constitutional amendments and Title II, Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Dkt. 1.) In the Court's Initial Review Order, Plaintiff was permitted to proceed only with his Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Rodriguez and Valdez (CCA Defendants) regarding the conditions of confinement at ICC. (Dkt. 14, pp.8-10.) Plaintiff subsequently filed an Amended Complaint (Dkt. 20), and in the Court's Initial Review of the Amended Complaint and Scheduling Order (Dkt. 47), Plaintiff was permitted to proceed with his Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Reinke and Corizon, Inc. for their alleged deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs, and with his First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Reinke for Plaintiff's out-of-state transfer to a facility in Oklahoma in July 2008 and his September 2010 transfer from Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI) to ICC. ( Id., pp.4-7, 10-11.) All other claims and defendants were dismissed.

During the discovery period in this case, Plaintiff was deposed by Defendants' counsel on December 14, 2012. (Dkt. 91-6, p.2.) Plaintiff then filed two separate affidavits with the Court regarding the manner in which the deposition was conducted and identified some alleged technical errors that occurred in the taking of the deposition. (Dkts. 82, 85.)

On February 20, 2013, CCA Defendants timely filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 91), and on February 28, 2013, Defendants Corizon and Reinke each timely filed their respective Motion for Summary Judgment as well. (Dkts. 95, 96.) All three Motions for Summary Judgment have been fully briefed and were ripe as of April 11, 2013.

Two months later, on June 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15 Fed. R. Civ. Procedure (Dkt. 107) and a Motion for Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15(d) Fed. R. Civ. Procedure (Dkt. 108). In these Motions Plaintiff requests a stay of the proceedings in this case so that he can obtain additional evidence that Defendants allegedly failed to disclose during discovery.

PRELIMINARY MOTIONS

1. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Affidavit (Dkt. 85) and CCA Defendants' Objection to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Affidavit and Motion to Strike Affidavit (Dkt. 86)

After Plaintiff was deposed on December 14, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Affidavit on December 26, 2012 regarding the deposition and the three defense attorneys who questioned him during the deposition. (Dkt. 82.) The next month, Plaintiff filed the pending Motion for Leave to File Affidavit, and in the accompanying Affidavit Plaintiff describes the following errors or omissions related to the same deposition: (1) there is no audio file of the deposition available to Plaintiff; (2) Plaintiff did not receive a true and correct copy of the transcript; (3) the deposition was not properly concluded in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(5)(C); and (4) in two instances in the middle of the deposition, Attorney Stoll did not state "off the record, " the time they went off the record, or "back on the record" when the deposition resumed. (Dkt. 85-1, pp.1-2.) Although Plaintiff points out these alleged technical errors, he does not state how he was prejudiced or otherwise harmed by them, nor does he inform the Court of what remedy he is seeking. Indeed, because "[t]here are no relevant pending motions to which the affidavits relate, " CCA Defendants argue "there is simply no reason for the affidavits, " so they object to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Affidavit and request that the Court strike the December 26, 2012 Affidavit. (Dkt. 86, p.2.)[1]

Because the deposition at issue is relied upon in the pending Motions for Summary Judgment, the Court will grant Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Affidavit and deny CCA Defendants' Motion to Strike Affidavit. Nonetheless, the deposition transcript will remain part of the record and the Court will consider it when rendering its decision on the pending Motions for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff has complained about his deposition solely on technical grounds but has not shown how he was prejudiced or harmed thereby, nor has he provided any legitimate reason why technical errors such as the ones he has delineated in his Affidavit "cannot be rectified in the absence of bona fide prejudice" to Plaintiff. Pogue v. Woodford, 2009 WL 2777768 *2 (E.D. Cal. 2009); see also Lake's Unlimited, Inc. v. Allen, 1997 WL 268453 *2 (9th Cir. 1997) (trial court properly admitted deposition transcript when petitioner objected to its inclusion solely on technical grounds). Thus his Affidavits will remain in the record, but so will the deposition transcript itself.

2. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15 (Dkt. 107) and Motion for Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15(d) (Dkt. 108)

Two months after the briefing was completed on the three Motions for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15 Fed. R. Civ. Procedure (Dkt. 107) and a Motion for Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15(d) Fed. R. Civ. Procedure (Dkt. 108). In these Motions Plaintiff alleges that, because Defendants have failed to disclose "critical evidence" to him, he is entitled to a stay of the proceedings in this case so that he can obtain that evidence. The "critical evidence" Plaintiff requests is: (1) the so-called "Higgins Report", which is a letter prepared by an IDOC investigator dated August 7, 2008 and addressed to the Warden at ICC regarding an "initial analysis of violence at ICC"; and (2) evidence purportedly requested in another case pending before this Court regarding CCA being understaffed, CCA admitting to falsifying staffing reports, and CCA ceding too much power to the inmate gangs. (Dkt. 108, pp.1-2.) Defendants object to Plaintiff's Motions as being untimely and procedurally and factually improper. (Dkts. 110, 111.)

Federal Rule 15(d) is used when a party seeks to supplement the pleadings to allege facts occurring after the original pleadings were filed. See Cabrera v. City of Huntington Park, 159 F.3d 374, 382 (9th Cir.1998) ("Rule 15(d) permits the filing of a supplemental pleading which introduces a cause of action not alleged in the original complaint and not in existence when the original complaint was filed.") (quotation omitted). Specifically, Federal Rule 15(d) provides as follows:

On motion and reasonable notice, the court may, on just terms, permit a party to serve a supplemental pleading setting out any transaction, occurrence, or event that happened after the date of the pleading to be supplemented. The court may permit supplementation even though the original pleading is defective in stating a claim or defense. The court may order that the opposing party plead to the supplemental pleading within a specified time.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(d). Thus, Rule 15(d) applies only to pleadings, which are the complaint, answer, reply and sur-reply. It is not the proper rule or procedure to request a stay of the proceedings, or to obtain evidence allegedly withheld during the discovery period. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15 Fed. R. Civ. Procedure and Motion for Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15(d) Fed. R. Civ. Procedure will be denied to the extent Plaintiff has not filed any supplemental pleading with these Rule 15(d) Motions or made a request to do so.

Nonetheless, the Court will liberally construe Plaintiff's Rule 15(d) Motions as a singular Rule 16(b) motion to reopen discovery. In doing so, however, there are two competing alleged dilatory actions at issue: one is that Plaintiff was not diligent in timely propounding any discovery requests upon Defendants that would have covered the Higgins Report and similar evidence ( see Dkt. 111-1, p.2); the other issue is that Defendants did not produce to Plaintiff the Higgins Report and possibly other evidence that may have fallen under their Rule 26 voluntary duty of disclosure. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(1)(A). The Court also acknowledges that one of its primary goals is "to get cases decided on the merits of issues that are truly meritorious and in dispute." In re Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) Prods. Liab., 460 F.3d 1217, 1227 (9th Cir. 2006).

To balance the parties' interests and reduce the anticipated delay attendant with Plaintiff's belated request, the Court will permit Plaintiff to submit and rely on the Higgins Report to supplement his Response to the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment, but will not permit him to conduct any other discovery, including Plaintiff's vague reference that evidence being sought in another case regarding alleged wrongdoings by CCA is relevant to this case. ( See Dkt. 108, p.2.) An important factor in the Court's decision is that, even assuming for the sake of argument that the Higgins Report and other evidence put Defendants on notice of a substantial inmate-on-inmate violence problem at ICC, Plaintiff still has not brought forward any facts upon which a jury could find that the violence caused the injuries and damages of which Plaintiff complains, namely an exacerbation of his PTSD symptoms. This lack of causation is discussed further in the Court's analysis of Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment below. In summary, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15 Fed. R. Civ. Procedure and Motion for Supplemental Pleadings Rule 15(d) Fed. R. Civ. Procedure will be denied to the extent Plaintiff has not filed any supplemental pleading with these Rule 15(d) Motions, but Plaintiff's request to submit the Higgins Report in support of his response to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment will be granted.

MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Defendants have filed three separate Motions for Summary Judgment. (Dkts. 91, 95, 96.) The Court will set forth the governing standard of law as to all three motions, followed by a separate analysis of each motion for summary judgment along with its relevant undisputed facts and applicable law.

1. Standard of Law

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, "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). 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 (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." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The requirement is that there be no genuine dispute as to any material fact. "Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case." See id. at 248. The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if that party shows that each material issue of fact cannot be disputed. To show that the material facts are not in dispute, a party may cite to particular parts of materials in the record, or show that the materials cited do not establish the presence of a genuine dispute, or that the adverse party is unable to produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)&(B); see T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). The Court must consider "the cited materials, " but it may also consider "other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

Material used to support or dispute a fact must be "presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). Affidavits or declarations submitted in support of or in opposition to a motion "must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

The Court does not determine the credibility of affiants or weigh the evidence set forth by the non-moving party. All inferences which can be drawn from the evidence must be drawn in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 630-31 (internal citation omitted). 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 actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

The existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient. Rather, "there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Rule 56(e)(3) authorizes the Court to grant summary judgment for the moving party "if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3).

B. Section 1983 Claims

Plaintiff brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the civil rights statute. To have a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must show the existence of four elements: "(1) a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute (2) proximately caused (3) by conduct of a person' (4) acting under color of state law." Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991).[2] Section 1983 is "not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'" Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)).

An essential element of a § 1983 case is that the plaintiff show that the defendants' actions caused the deprivation of a constitutional right. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Arnold v. International Business Machines Corp., 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981). "The causation requirement of § 1983... is not satisfied by a showing of mere causation in fact[;] [r]ather, the plaintiff must establish proximate or legal causation." Id. The Ninth Circuit has explained: "A person subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivations of which he complains." Id. (internal citation omitted); see also Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 988 (9th Cir. 2007).

2. CCA Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 91)

A. Undisputed Facts

This section includes facts that are undisputed and material to the resolution of the issues in this case. Where material facts are in dispute, the Court has included Plaintiff's version of facts, insofar as that version is not contradicted by clear documentary evidence in the record.

Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC). Beginning April 7, 2000, Plaintiff was initially incarcerated at ISCI and then transferred to Idaho Maximum Security Institution (IMSI) on April 19, 2000. (Dkt. 91-11, p.2.) On January 5, 2001, Plaintiff was transferred to ICC, a private prison operated by CCA. Plaintiff resided there for over seven years until he was transferred to an out-of-state facility in Oklahoma on July 21, 2008. Prior to the transfer to the Oklahoma facility (when Plaintiff was housed at ISCI, IMSI and ICC between April 2000 and July 2008), Plaintiff's unit, block or bunk assignment was ...


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