United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendants Samuel Pierson and Grant Roberts'
Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. 22. The motion is fully
briefed and at issue. For the reasons explained below, the
Court will grant Defendants' motion.
Molina is currently an inmate in the custody of the Idaho
State Correctional Center (“ISSC”). On April 19,
2017 Mr. Molina filed a complaint alleging, inter
alia, that Mr. Roberts and Mr. Pierson interfered with
or otherwise delayed physician-recommended cataract eye
surgery, which caused him to suffer harm and temporarily lose
vision in his right eye. See Dkt. 24. In their
motion for summary judgment, Defendants argue that there is
no evidence to support Mr. Molina's allegations. Dkt.
22-1 at 10.
February 28, 2017, Mr. Molina first started complaining of
vision loss in his right eye. Dkt. 22-2 at ¶ 1. Three
days later, he was evaluated by a nurse, who referred Mr.
Molina to a health care provider to assess the problem.
Id. at ¶ 1-2. Within a week, Mr. Molina was
sent to an emergency room and was diagnosed with a tentative
retinal problem. Id. Two days later, Mr. Molina went
to an off-site ophthalmologist, Dr. Scott Simpson, who
specializes in retinal issues. Id. Dr. Simpson
diagnosed a cataract in Mr. Molina's right eye, and
indicated that “[t]there would be no contraindications
to proceed with cataract extraction from a retinal
standpoint.” Id. Mr. Molina was then scheduled
for a follow-up visit with a health care provider to discuss
Dr. Simpson's diagnosis and next steps. Id. at
¶ 4. But Mr. Molina failed to attend his follow-up
appointment with his provider on March 20, 2017, and again
when it was rescheduled on April 13, 2017. Id.
March 24, 2017, Mr. Molina submitted his first official
grievance regarding his vision, complaining that he had not
received proper treatment. Id. at ¶ 5. Prior to
their review of Mr. Molina's grievances, neither
Defendant had any knowledge of Plaintiff's medical
problems. Id. Defendant Pierson responded first to
this grievance as a “first level responder, ” and
reviewed Plaintiff's then-existing medical records.
Id. Defendant Roberts did the same as a
“second level responder.” Id. On April
5, 2017, both Defendants denied Mr. Molina's grievance,
suggesting that Mr. Molina follow-up with his providers
regarding next steps. Id; see also Dkt. 22-4 at 2-3.
April 10, 2017, Mr. Molina appealed Defendants'
decisions. Id. In his appeal Mr. Molina insisted
that the “off-sight [sic] provider [Dr. Simpson]”
had recommended surgery; that his right “eye ha[d]
gotten worst [sic]”; and that he “can't see
at all” out of that eye. Dkt. 22-4 at 3. Mr.
Roberts then discussed the grievance appeal with Rona
Siegert, the Health Services Director at ISCC. Dkt. 22-2 at
¶ 6. The two agreed that, though Dr. Simpson had not
clearly recommended cataract surgery, and though Molina had
repeatedly failed to meet with his providers to discuss next
steps, it was appropriate to seek approval for the removal of
the cataract in Plaintiffs right eye. Id.
April 27, 2017, Ms. Siegert responded to Mr. Molina's
appeal. Id. at ¶ 6. Ms. Siegert explained that
Dr. Simpson had diagnosed Mr. Molina with “a cataract
in [his] right eye and a cataract extraction was
recommended.” Dkt. 22-4; Dkt. 24 at 1-2. Ms. Siegert
also explained that “facility medical staff had
scheduled Molina three times for an off-site follow up
appointment to discuss a treatment plan, ” and that
each time Mr. Molina left before being seen. Dkt. 22-4. Ms.
Siegert reminded Mr. Molina to “stay for [his]
appointments so the provider can discuss the specialist's
recommendation and further treatment.” Id. Ms.
Siegert also stated that a consultation had been requested on
April 25, 2017. Id. at ¶ 6.
Dr. Simpson is a retina specialist who does not perform
cataract extraction surgeries, it was necessary to locate
another provider to evaluate Plaintiff and perform this
procedure. Id. at ¶ 7. Mr. Molina was scheduled
to see ophthalmologist Dr. Lawrence Anderson on August 14,
2017, which was Dr. Anderson's first available
6, 2017, Mr. Molina submitted his second grievance
complaining that he still had not yet had surgery on his
right eye. Id. at ¶ 8. As a first-level
responder, Mr. Pierson again reiterated that Mr. Molina
needed to attend his appointments with providers to discuss
his condition, and emphasized that Dr. Simpson had not
recommended a cataract extraction procedure. Id.
Nevertheless, Mr. Pierson responded to Mr. Molina that an
appointment with an ophthalmologist had been scheduled.
Id. As the second level responder, Mr. Roberts
stated that Mr. Molina was scheduled to be seen and, while
“[w]e try to schedule appointment as soon as possible .
. . we are at the mercy of the community to get our patients
seen timely.” Id. at ¶8. Neither
Defendant subsequently had any involvement in Mr.
Molina's care or any related grievances. Id. at
¶ 8. Mr. Roberts' and Mr. Pierson's only
involvement was to respond to Mr. Molina's two
grievances, filed in March and June of 2017. Id.
14, 2017, Dr. Simpson saw Mr. Molina again to ensure that his
condition was not becoming more severe, and to re-assess his
diagnosis. Id. at ¶ 9. At that visit, Dr.
Simpson noted no pain and measured Plaintiff's eye
pressure as 12 in both eyes. Id. Dr. Anderson then
conducted a pre-surgical consultation with Mr. Molina on
August 14, 2017. Id. Dr. Anderson confirmed that a
cataract extraction procedure on Mr. Molina's right eye
was appropriate, noted no eye pain, measured normal eye
pressure, and suggested for the first time that Mr. Molina
had a milder cataract in his left eye. Id. Dr.
Anderson measured Mr. Molina's vision in his left eye as
20/40. Id. Dr. Anderson suggested that a second
cataract extraction procedure could be performed on
Plaintiffs left eye sometime after he recovered from the
procedure on his right eye. Id. Dr. Anderson
performed a cataract extraction on Mr. Molina's right eye
on October 14, 2017, the earliest available date following
the August 14 evaluation. Id. at ¶ 11.
2018, Dr. Oliver Mullins tested Mr. Molina's vision in
his right eye as 20/20-2, or nearly normal, and 20/63 in his
left eye, with normal eye pressure in each. Id. at
¶ 12. A cataract extraction was performed on
Mr. Molina's left eye just a month later, in July of
2018. Id. Mr. Molina has since stated that his
vision is “very good” and that he has no
complaints. Id. at ¶ 13.
Summary Judgment Standard
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). There must be a
genuine dispute as to any material fact-a fact “that
may affect the outcome of the case.” Id. at
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 inferences from circumstantial evidence.
McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).
The Court must be “guided by the substantive
evidentiary standards that apply to the case.”
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. If a claim requires
clear and convincing evidence, the question on summary
judgment is whether a reasonable jury could conclude that
clear and convincing evidence supports the claim.
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine dispute as to material facts.
Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir.
2001)(en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need
not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or
deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of
evidence to support ...