United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
RONALD J. BIANCHI, Plaintiff,
WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.
ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND MODIFYING REPORT AND
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”) of the Honorable
Theresa L. Fricke, United States Magistrate Judge (Dkt. 37),
and Plaintiff Ronald J. Bianchi's (“Bianchi”)
objections to the R&R (Dkt. 39).
2015, Bianchi filed suit in Clallam County Superior Court
against Defendants Washington State Department of Corrections
(“DOC”), Katrina Henry (“Henry”),
Dale Robertson (“Robertson”), and Clifford
Johnson (“Johnson”), claiming negligence and
medical malpractice. Dkt 5-1 at 7. On April 25, 2016 Bianchi
amended his complaint to add a section § 1983 claim
against Defendants. Dkt 1-2 at 2. On May 23, 2016,
Bianchi's lawsuit was removed to this Court. Dkt. 1.
1, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment to dismiss
Bianchi's complaint. Dkt. 16. On August 6, 2017, Bianchi
filed his opposition to Defendants' motion for summary
judgment. Dkt. 24. On August 7, 2017, Bianchi filed his
amended opposition to Defendants' motion for summary.
Dkt. 26. On November 30, 2017, Judge Fricke recommended
granting Defendants' motion as to Bianchi's Eighth
Amendment claims. Dkt. 37. Judge Fricke also recommended
declining supplemental jurisdiction over Bianchi's
medical negligence claims under state law. Id. On
December 18, 2017, Bianchi objected to the R&R. Dkt. 39.
On January 3, 2018, Defendants responded to Bianchi's
objections. Dkt. 40.
March 14, 2018, the Court entered an order adopting the
R&R in part and requesting supplemental briefing. Dkt.
42. The Court adopted the R&R in part, dismissing
Bianchi's claims against individually named defendants
and his monetary claims against the DOC. Id. The
Court declined to adopt the R&R as it pertained to
Bianchi's Eighth Amendment claim against the DOC for
injunctive relief and requested supplemental briefing on (1)
the merits of that claim and (2) whether the claim had become
moot. Id. On March 29, 2018, Bianchi filed his
supplemental brief. Dkt. 44. On March 30, 2018, the DOC filed
its supplemental brief. Dkt. 43.
district judge must determine de novo any part of the
magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly
objected to. The district judge may accept, reject, or modify
the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or
return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.
31, 2018, Bianchi filed a status report. Dkt. 51. He is no
longer in DOC custody and his trial has been rescheduled to
October 22, 2018. Id. Depending on the outcome of
the trial, Bianchi may never return to DOC custody. Under
these circumstances, the Court concludes that Bianchi's
remaining claim for injunctive relief should be dismissed
without prejudice as moot. See Dilley v. Gunn, 64
F.3d 1365, 1368(9th Cir. 1995) (“An inmate's
release from prison while his claims are pending generally
will moot any claims for injunctive relief relating to the
prison's policies.”). Bianchi has failed to
establish that judicial economy or some other consideration
would be served by entering a stay pending the outcome of his
trial in state court. Because Bianchi's claims are
dismissed as moot, he may file a new lawsuit against the DOC
seeking injunctive relief pursuant to the Eighth Amendment if
he is ever returned to DOC custody.
the Court notes that it previously deferred ruling on the
R&R's recommendation that supplemental jurisdiction
be declined. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) provides that:
(c) The district courts may decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a) if-(1) the
claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or
claims over which the district court has original
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it
has original jurisdiction, or
(4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling
reasons for declining jurisdiction.
light of the dismissal of Plaintiff's remaining federal
claim for injunctive relief, it would be appropriate for the
Court to adopt the recommendation set forth in the R&R,
decline supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state
law negligence claim, and remand the matter to state court.
However, the merits of Plaintiff's medical negligence
claims were fully briefed on summary judgment and the record
presents a straight-forward basis as to why Bianchi's
negligence claim should be dismissed.
has failed to present admissible evidence, or even adequately
articulate, how the medical staff against whom he asserts his
negligence claims rendered or failed to provide medical care
in a manner falling below a defined standard of care.
“[T]o defeat summary judgment in almost all medical
negligence cases, the plaintiffs must produce competent
medical expert testimony establishing that the injury was
proximately caused by a failure to comply with the applicable
standard of care.” Seybold v. Neu, 105 Wn.App.
666, 676 (2001). Nonetheless, expert testimony is not
necessary if the medical facts are observable to the lay
person. Bauer v. White, 95 Wn.App. 663, 667 (1999).
Bianchi's medical negligence claims are premised
exclusively on a theory that Defendants Henry, Johnson, and
Robertson “knew of the pain caused by the
Plaintiff's hernia and refused to treat the pain or fix
the hernia that was causing the pain.” Dkt. 26 at 18,
26-27. Contrary to Bianchi's statements, however, the
record plainly shows that the named defendants did provide
care for his hernia, even if such treatment stopped short of
surgical repair. In fact, each time Bianchi met with
Defendant Robertson, Robertson agreed to reauthorize
Bianchi's request for an abdominal binder. Even though
Defendant Johnson presented Bianchi's case to the Care
Review Committee (“CRC”) to propose a surgical
repair, the Committee voted against the repair on the basis
that it was not medically necessary at that time. Dkt. 1-2 at
70. Bianchi's claims of medical negligence boil down to
an assertion that his treating practitioners failed to render
adequate medical care, but he fails to account for the fact
that the denial of any requested treatment was directly
attributable to the decision of the CRC in directing the use
of its limited medical resources. Bianchi has failed to
provide any competent evidence to support a theory that the
unspecified treatment he purportedly should have received was
withheld because of a failure on the part of any defendant to
adequately assess the extent or immediacy ...