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Harper v. Kennedy

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

September 8, 2014

DR. CRIS KENNEDY, Defendant.


THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 24), and Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed and for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 39). This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the briefing and the record and files herein, and is fully informed.


This case involves a prisoner's allegations that his medical care provider, Dr. Cris Kennedy, denied him proper treatment for his chronic back problem.


Plaintiff Charleston D. Harper, appearing pro se, is a prisoner at the Washington State Corrections Center. Defendant Cris Kennedy is a medical provider associated with Spokane County Jail. Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges that he has an "ongoing chronic back problem, " for which he sought treatment from Defendant Cris Kennedy. ECF No. 12 at 3. Plaintiff maintains that Dr. Kennedy said he did not believe Plaintiff had sufficient pain, said that he "wasn't buying it, " and refused to refer Plaintiff to another medical provider. Id. Plaintiff claims that because he has not gotten proper care over the last nine months, "it has made his medical issue very serious, " to the point that he is "in so much pain that [he] cannot sleep during the night, " is in "constant extreme pain, " he is "unable to stand straight without agonizing pain, " and has "resulted in further injury." Id. at 3-4.


Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges a civil rights violation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on grounds that his medical provider, Defendant Cris Kennedy, failed to provide proper care for Plaintiff's "ongoing chronic back problem." ECF No. 12 at 3. Plaintiff maintains that Dr. Kennedy's refusal to provide proper care has resulted in further injury and "agonizing pain." Id. at 3-4. Defendant argues that the case should be dismissed pursuant to the Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and because Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint failed to comply with the Court's order. ECF No. 24 at 4. Alternatively, Defendant moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims, arguing that the undisputed facts of the case do not support Plaintiff's bare allegations that Dr. Kennedy refused to provide him with proper care or medical treatment. ECF No. 24 at 9-10. Plaintiff also moved for summary judgment and opposed Defendant's motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. ECF No. 39.

The Court first generally examines Plaintiff's rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and as a prisoner receiving medical care.


Section 1983 requires a claimant to prove (1) a person acting under color of state law (2) committed an act that deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 632-33 (9th Cir. 1988). A person deprives another "of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 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 deprivation of which [the plaintiff complains]." Redman v. Cnty. of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1439 (9th Cir. 1991) (brackets in the original), ab rogated in part on other grounds, Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

A complaint must set forth the specific facts upon which the plaintiff relies in claiming the liability of each defendant. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Even a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of a claim that the plaintiff failed to plead. Id. at 268. To establish liability pursuant to § 1983, Plaintiff must set forth facts demonstrating how the Defendant caused or personally participated in causing a deprivation of Plaintiff's protected rights. Arnold v. IBM, 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Plaintiff must present a causal connection between the defendant and the conduct of which he complains. See Hamilton v. Endell, 981 F.2d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 1992), abrogated in part on other grounds, Estate of Ford v. Ramirez-Palmer, 301 F.3d 1043, 1045 (9th Cir. 2002).


A convicted inmate's challenge to the conditions of his confinement is evaluated under the Eighth Amendment, and a pretrial detainee's challenge is evaluated under the Fourteenth Amendment. Redman, 942 F.2d at 1440. Regardless, the Eighth Amendment provides a minimum standard of care for determining a person's right as a pretrial detainee. Jones v. Johnson, 781 F.2d 769, 771 (9th Cir. 1986), overruled on other grounds, Peralta v. Dillard, 744 F.3d 1076 (9th Cir. 2014). Under the Eighth Amendment, the pertinent inquiry is (1) whether the alleged violation constitutes an infliction of pain or a deprivation of the basic human needs, such as adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, and medical care, and (2) if so, whether prison officials acted with the requisite culpable intent such that the infliction of pain is "unnecessary and wanton." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).

For an inmate to state a claim under § 1983 for medical mistreatment or denial of medical care, the prisoner must allege "acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). "Because 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, 503 U.S. at 9 ( citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103-104).

A serious medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.... The 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 ...

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