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Paxton v. Idaho Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 31, 2014

WILLIAM ELDRIDGE PAXTON, Plaintiff,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, CORPORAL SHILLING, [1] WARDEN BLADES, and CORIZON MEDICAL, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

RONALD E. BUSH, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is proceeding in this prisoner civil rights case against only Corporal Schillings. Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's Second Discovery Request (Dkt. 28), Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time to File Reply (Dkt. 29), Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time on Discovery (Dkt. 33), and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 37). Both parties that have appeared have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to enter final orders in this case. (Dkt. 23.) See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73.

After reviewing the parties' arguments and exhibits, and the record in this matter, the Court concludes that oral argument is unnecessary. Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order granting in part and denying in part the Motion for Summary Judgment and addressing the parties' other motions.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's pleadings in this matter have been difficult to decipher. (Dkt. 3, 9.) Plaintiff is an 80-year-old inmate who suffers from diabetes, chronic back pain, peptic ulcer disease, and Reynaud's Phenomenon.[2] He is housed in the Medical Annex at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI). (Dkt. 3, p. 2.) Plaintiff was permitted to proceed on a limited conditions of confinement claim asserted in his Amended Complaint (Dkt. 9), based on the following allegations: (1) that the temperatures within the Medical Annex on winter days when the windows and doors were open are essentially the same as the outside temperatures, which on at least one occasion was no more than 39 degrees; (2) that Plaintiff was not given adequate winter clothing to counter the chill caused by open windows and doors, despite his requests; and (3) that exposure to cold temperatures during the winter of 2012 resulted in a blood clot and loss of vision in Plaintiff's left eye. (Dkt. 11, p. 3.)

Although Plaintiff named Warden Randy Blades and Corporal Schillings in the Amended Complaint, the Court permitted Plaintiff to proceed against only Corporal Schillings on the claim for violations that occurred in the winter of 2012. In addition, the Court did not permit Plaintiff to proceed on claims that the windows in the handicap shower area were left open in the winter, letting cold air blow onto inmates who were showering, or on a variety of other conditions of confinement claims too vague to state viable claims. After Plaintiff was given an opportunity to amend, the Court dismissed all of the claims against all Defendants without prejudice except those stated above against Corporal Schillings, upon which Plaintiff was permitted to proceed.

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages, as well as any other appropriate relief.

On January 4, 2013, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies. (Dkt. 19.) The motion was denied. (Dkt. 24.) The discovery deadline was set for October 31, 2013, with the summary judgment motion deadline set for December 31, 2013. Rather than file an answer, Defendant Schillings filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on December 17, that is now fully briefed. (Dkt. 37.) See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(b) (motion for summary judgment may be filed at any time within limits set by Court).

MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

1. Standard of Law

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 rule "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 might affect the outcome of the suit." Id. at 248. Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment. Id.

The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if that party shows that each material 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 adverse party is unable to produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). The Court must consider "the cited materials, " but it may also consider "other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, then the burden shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine dispute 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]." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

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). If a party "fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact, " the Court may consider that fact to be undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). The Court may 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).

The Court does not determine the credibility of affiants or weigh the evidence of the non-moving party. Although all reasonable inferences which can be drawn from the evidence must be drawn in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence, McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991).

Where conditions of confinement are challenged under the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause, a plaintiff must make two showings. First, the plaintiff must make an "objective" showing that the deprivation was "sufficiently serious" to form the basis for an Eighth Amendment violation. Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 731 (9th Cir. 2000).

Second, the plaintiff must make a "subjective" showing that the prison official acted "with a sufficiently culpable state of mind." Id. To violate the Eighth Amendment a prison official must act in a manner that amounts to "deliberate indifference, " which is "more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interests or safety, " but "something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835.

Stated another way, deliberate indifference exists when an "official knows of and [recklessly] disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety, " which means that he or she "must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 838. To rebut the subjective inquiry, prison officials may present evidence that they reasonably responded to the risk. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844-45. Mere negligence is not sufficient to establish deliberate indifference; rather, the official's conduct must have been wanton. Id. at 835.

A prisoner must be confined under conditions that do not violate the Eighth Amendment. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832; Johnson, 217 F.3d at 731. The Eighth Amendment "embodies broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). While conditions of confinement may be harsh and uncomfortable without being a violation of the Eighth Amendment, they cross the line of acceptability when they (1) involve "the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, " (2) are "grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime warranting imprisonment, " (3) result "in unquestioned and serious deprivation of basic human needs, or (4) deny an inmate "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). "The circumstances, nature, and duration of a deprivation of these necessities must be considered in determining whether a constitutional violation has occurred." Johnson, 217 F.3d at 731.

The "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" includes adequate shelter. Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347. Under the Eighth Amendment, inmates have a right to protection from extremely cold indoor temperatures. Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1433 (7th Cir.1996). Cold temperatures in a prison cell need not imminently threaten an inmate's health to violate the Eighth Amendment. Dixon v. Godinez, 114 F.3d 640, 644 (7th Cir. 1997) ("Viewing the record in Dixon's favor, it appears that a material dispute remains as to whether the prison's standard-issue clothing and bedding provided Dixon with the constitutionally necessary minimum protection against severe cold, particularly for daytime activities. That precludes summary judgment on this issue.").

In addition, continued exposure to short periods of unreasonably cold temperatures can violate the Eighth Amendment. In Del Rarine v. Williford, 32 F.3d 1024, 1050-51 (7th Cir. 1994), the court held that a prisoner could proceed on his claim that he was routinely placed in a cell with unreasonably low temperatures and ...


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