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Pena v. Lossman

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 12, 2014

FERNANDO PEÑA, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON and SCOTT LOSSMAN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 23). Plaintiff filed a Response, and Defendants filed a Reply. (Dkt. 30, 31.) Having fully reviewed the record and the materials submitted by the parties, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record, and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. See Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d)(1). Accordingly, based on the record before it, the Court will deny the Motion for Summary Judgment.

CONSIDERATION OF MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

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. The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, and all reasonable 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 (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]." 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 state a claim under § 1983, 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).

"Liability under section 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant." Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). In other words, Plaintiff must show that 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 United States Court of Appeals for 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).

C. Eighth Amendment Claims of Inadequate Medical Care

To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must show that he is incarcerated "under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, " or that he has been deprived of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (internal citation omitted). An Eighth Amendment claim requires a plaintiff to satisfy "both an objective standard-that the deprivation was serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment-and a subjective standard- deliberate indifference." Snow v. McDaniel, 681 F.3d 978, 985 (9th Cir. 2012).

Regarding the objective standard for prisoners' medical care claims, the Supreme Court of the United States has explained "[b]ecause society does not expect that prisoners will have unqualified access to health care, deliberate indifference to medical needs amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation only if those needs are serious.'" Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992).

The Ninth Circuit has defined a "serious medical need" in the following ways:

failure to treat a prisoner's condition [that] could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain[;]... [t]he existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain....

McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted), overruled on other grounds, WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc).

As to the subjective standard, a prison official acts with "deliberate indifference... only if the [prison official] knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety." Gibson v. Cnty. of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "Under this standard, the prison official must not only be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, ' but that person must also draw the inference.'" Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). "If a [prison official] should have been aware of the risk, but was not, then the [official] has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how severe the risk." Gibson, 290 F.3d at 1188 (citation omitted). Nonetheless, "whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, ... and a factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842; see also Lolli v. County of Orange, 351 F.3d 410, 421 (9th Cir. 2003) (deliberate indifference to medical needs may be shown by circumstantial evidence when the facts are sufficient to demonstrate that defendant actually knew of a risk of harm).

Differences in judgment between an inmate and prison medical personnel regarding appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment are not enough to establish a deliberate indifference claim. Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). "[T]o prevail on a claim involving choices between alternative courses of treatment, a prisoner must show that the chosen course of treatment was medically unacceptable under the circumstances, ' and was chosen in conscious disregard of an excessive risk' to the prisoner's health." Toguchi, 391 F.3d at 1058 (alteration omitted) (quoting Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996)).

Mere indifference, medical malpractice, or negligence will not support a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment. Broughton v. Cutter Labs., 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980) (per curiam). Nor does the Eighth Amendment provide a right to a specific treatment. See Forbes v. Edgar, 112 F.3d 262, 267 (7th Cir. 1997) ("[The plaintiff] is not entitled to demand specific care. She is not entitled to the best care possible. She is entitled to reasonable measures to meet a substantial risk of serious harm to her."). Finally, a mere delay in treatment does not constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment unless the delay causes further harm. McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060.

D. Standard of Law re: Private Entity Performing State Function

To bring a § 1983 claim against a municipality (local governmental entity) or a private entity performing a government function, a plaintiff must allege that the execution of an official policy or unofficial custom inflicted the injury of which the plaintiff complains. Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Serv. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); Tsao v. Desert Palace, Inc., 698 F.3d 1128, 1139 (9th Cir. 2012) ( Monell applicable to private entities performing government functions). That is, "a municipality [or entity] can be found liable under § 1983 only where the municipality [or entity] itself causes the constitutional violation at issue." City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989).

Requisite elements of a § 1983 policy-based claim against a municipality or entity are the following: (1) the plaintiff was deprived of a constitutional right; (2) the municipality or entity had a policy; (3) the policy amounted to deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's constitutional right; and (4) the policy was the moving force behind the constitutional violation. Mabe v. San Bernardino County, Dep't of Pub. Soc. Servs., 237 F.3d 1101, 1110-11 (9th ...


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