Harbridge v. Hickman, Case No. 1:10-cv-00473-AWI-JLT (PC)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
PartiesCHRISTOPHER HARBRIDGE, Plaintiff, v. HICKMAN, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 1:10-cv-00473-AWI-JLT (PC)
Decision Date11 February 2016

HICKMAN, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 1:10-cv-00473-AWI-JLT (PC)


February 11, 2016


(Doc. 103)


Plaintiff is proceeding in this action against a number of Defendants on claims based on events that occurred over the course of three months. He claims the events stem from his refusal to accept a cellmate. For the reasons discussed below, the Court recommends Defendants' motion for summary judgment be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.1

I. Plaintiff's Claims

In this action, Plaintiff is proceeding on the following claims: Claim 1 against Defendants Trimble, Williams, Brown and Reeves, Munoz and Singleton for deliberate indifference related to the temperature of his cell; Claim 9 against Defendants Brown, Reeves,

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and Collier for denial of exercise due to a lack of appropriate clothing for the weather; Claims 12, 13, and 14 against Defendants Redding and Franco for use of excessive force and against Defendant McBride for failing to intervene on Plaintiff's behalf; Claim 16 against Defendants McBride and Herrera for holding Plaintiff in a standing-room only cage for over an hour despite knowing his ankle was likely broken; and Claim 17 against Defendants Hall, McBride, Herrera, Lee and Tucker for deliberate indifference to his medical condition.

II. Defendants' Motion

Defendants seek summary judgment on following basis: (1) that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies on his claims in this action, other than his claim against Defendant Tucker (Doc. 103-1, MSJ, at pp. 15-19); (2) Claims 1 and 9 are not supported by an objectively serious risk and Defendants did not know that Plaintiff was exposed to cold temperatures (id., at pp. 19-22); (3) there is no evidence that Sgt. McBride knew of and disregarded a substantial risk to Plaintiff's safety in Claims 12 and 14 (id., at pp. 22-23); (4) there is no evidence shows that Lt. Herrera and Sgt. McBride were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical need in Claim 16 (id., at pp. 23-24); (5) there is no evidence to show that LVN Hall, Sgt. McBride, and C/O Lee ignored Plaintiff's serious medical need, or interfered with his access to medical care in Claim 17 (id., at pp. 24-25); and (6) that all of the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity (id., at pp. 25-28).

III. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate where 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); Washington Mutual Inc. v. U.S., 636 F.3d 1207, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). An issue of fact is genuine only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact finder to find for the non-moving party, while a fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1422, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987). The Court determines only whether there is a genuine issue for trial and in doing so, it must liberally construe Plaintiff's filings because he is a pro se prisoner. Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

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In addition, Rule 56 allows a court to grant summary adjudication, or partial summary judgment, when there is no genuine issue of material fact as to a particular claim or portion of that claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Lies v. Farrell Lines, Inc., 641 F.2d 765, 769 n.3 (9th Cir. 1981) ("Rule 56 authorizes a summary adjudication that will often fall short of a final determination, even of a single claim . . .") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The standards that apply on a motion for summary judgment and a motion for summary adjudication are the same. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (a), (c); Mora v. Chem-Tronics, 16 F.Supp.2d 1192, 1200 (S.D. Cal. 1998).

Under Rule 56, each party's position must be supported by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including but not limited to depositions, documents, declarations, or discovery; or (2) showing that the materials cited do not establish the presence or absence of a genuine dispute or that the opposing party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1) (quotation marks omitted). The Court may consider other materials in the record not cited to by the parties, but it is not required to do so. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3); Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001); accord Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010).

Defendants do not bear the burden of proof at trial and, in moving for summary judgment on the merits of Plaintiff's claims, they need only prove an absence of evidence to support Plaintiff's case. In re Oracle Corp. Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986)). If Defendants meet their initial burden, the burden then shifts to Plaintiff "to designate specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial." In re Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323). This requires Plaintiff to "show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence." Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). An issue of fact is genuine only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable fact finder to find for the non-moving party, while a fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1422, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

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On the other hand, whether Plaintiff has exhausted his claims under the PLRA is an affirmative defense that Defendants bear the burden of proving. Wyatt, 315 F.3d at 1119. "[T]there can be no 'absence of exhaustion' unless some relief remains 'available,' a defendant must demonstrate that pertinent relief remained available, whether at unexhausted levels of the grievance process or through awaiting the results of the relief already granted as a result of that process." Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 937 (9th Cir. 2005) ref. Brown v. Croak, 312 F.3d 109, 112 (3d Cir.2002) (holding that because failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA, a complaint cannot be dismissed where the prisoner submits evidence showing, and the defendants do not disprove, that no remedy was "available"). Relevant evidence includes "statutes, regulations, and other official directives that explain the scope of the administrative review process; documentary or testimonial evidence from prison officials who administer the review process; and information provided to the prisoner concerning the operation of the grievance procedure in this case, such as in the response memoranda in these cases. With regard to the latter category of evidence, information provided the prisoner is pertinent because it informs [a] determination of whether relief was, as a practical matter, 'available.'" Id., at 937.

Similar to a motion for summary judgment on the merits of Plaintiff's claims, if defendants meet their initial burden regarding exhaustion issues, the burden then shifts to Plaintiff "to come forward with evidence showing that there is something in his particular case that made the existing and generally available administrative remedies effectively unavailable to him." Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172, citing Hilao v. Estate of Marcos, 103 F.3d 767, 778 (9th Cir. 1996) ("[T]he burden shifts to the plaintiff to rebut by showing that the local remedies were ineffective, unobtainable, unduly prolonged, inadequate, or obviously futile.") Plaintiff must meet this burden by showing ". . . more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence." In re Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986)). "However, as required by Jones, the ultimate burden of proof remains with the defendant." Albino, 747 F.3d at 1172.

In judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless Inc., 509

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F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted), and it must draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether a genuine issue of material fact precludes entry of judgment, Comite de Jornaleros de Redondo Beach v. City of Redondo Beach, 657 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and citation omitted), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1566 (2012). The court may not draw inferences out of thin air. Rather, the nonmoving party must produce a factual predicate from which the inference may reasonably be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898 (9th Cir. 1987).

Further "[a] verified complaint may be treated as an affidavit to oppose summary judgment to the extent it is 'based on personal knowledge' and 'sets forth specific facts admissible in evidence.'" Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1090 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting McElyea v. Babbitt, 833 F.2d 196, 197-98 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1987) (per curiam)), amended by 135 F.3d 1318 (9th Cir. 1998); see also Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 922-23 (9th Cir. 2004); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1132 n. 14 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc); Schroeder v. MacDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 460 (9th Cir. 1995); Lew, 754 F.2d at 1423. If Plaintiff states that the facts in the complaint are true under penalty of perjury, the pleading is "verified." Schroeder, 55 F.3d at 460 n. 10.

V. Analysis

A. Eighth Amendment Conditions of Confinement

The Eighth Amendment protects...

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