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Metcalf v. Key

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

December 9, 2019

JAMES CARL METCALF, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES KEY, Superintendent AHCC, PATRICK PETERSON, Medical Provider - P. A., and DON MCINTYRE, Health Service Manager, Defendants.

          ORDER RE: CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          STANLEY A. BASTIAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Plaintiff s Motion of Summary Judgment, ECF No. 30, and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 31. The motions were considered without oral arguments. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and Defendants are represented by Michelle Hansen from the Washington State Attorney General's Office. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by denying him access to medical care for chronic back pain. Having considered the motions, the responses and replies, and the relevant case law, the Court denies Plaintiff s Motion for Summary Judgment and grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Material Facts Not in Dispute

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Airway Heights Correctional Center (AHCC). During his time at AHCC, Plaintiff has been seen repeatedly by prison medical officials for chronic low back pain related to an injury he suffered as a teenager prior to his incarceration. ECF No. 9 at 7; ECF No. 39 at ¶ 8. On October 15, 2017, Plaintiff alleges that he woke up with extreme back pain and signed up for an urgent care appointment for October 19th. ECF No. 9 at 5. Defendant Peterson-a physician's assistant with the AHCC urgent care clinic-was on call on October 19, 2017; he walked Plain tiff from the waiting room back to the examination room, observing Plaintiffs gait to assess for any problems. ECF No. 9 at 5; ECF No. 39 at ¶ 8. In addition, Defendant Peterson reviewed his medical records from previous encounters with Plaintiff. ECF No. 39 at ¶ 8. Defendant Peterson concluded that Plaintiff s condition was not so severe that he required an urgent care visit, as Plaintiff s pain was considered a chronic condition. Id. Defendant Peterson then told Plaintiff that he could not circumvent his primary care physician by making an urgent care appointment and instructed him to schedule an appointment with his primary care provider to follow up on his chronic pain. Id. Defendant Peterson then escorted Mr. Metcalf back to the waiting room and ended the appointment. Id. Later this same day, Plaintiff was examined by Tracy Porter, RN, who noted that Plaintiff reported chronic low back pain, but was not in a state of medical emergency. ECF No. 31 at 4. On October 21, Plaintiff was also seen by Chenelle Patrick, RN, who also noted that Plaintiff reported chronic low back pain but was not in a state of medical emergency. ECF No. 38.

         Shortly after his appointment with Defendant Peterson, Plaintiff sent a kite declaring a medical emergency; Defendant Peterson cancelled the kite on grounds that Plaintiff had already been seen that day. ECF No. 39 at ¶ 9. Plaintiff also filed an emergency medical grievance complaint, wherein he asserted that he wanted "medical to do theirjob." ECF No. 9 at 5; ECF No. 39 at ¶ 10. AHCC Custody Unit Supervisor Paul Duenich reviewed the complaint and, after consultation with Defendant Peterson, determined that it did not meet the criteria for an emergent medical complaint and directed the complaint to proceed through normal channels. ECF No. 34 at ¶ 3; ECF No. 46 at ¶ 2. Defendant McIntyre-Health Services Manager 2 at AHCC-reviewed the denial of Plaintiff s initial grievance and concluded that the grievance was baseless. ECF No. 35. Defendants Key- Superintendent of AHCC-reviewed the emergency grievance and appeals of the initial grievance and concluded that the complaint was not emergent in nature. ECF No. 34. Following these grievances, Plaintiff did not seek medical attention again until November 27, 2017, when he saw his primary care provider Ruth Oman, RN. ECF No. 46 at ¶ 3.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that 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). The movingparty has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of fact for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). An issue of material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence of a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010). The non-moving party cannot rely on conelusory allegations alone to create an issue of material fact. Hansen v. United States, 7 F.3d 137, 138 (9th Cir. 1993). If the moving party meets its initial burden, the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings and "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. "Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248(1986). The parties must support assertions by citing to particular parts of the record or show that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). However, a court may neither weigh the evidence nor assess credibility; instead, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. "Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; see also Cortez v. Skol, 776 F.3d 1046, 1050 (9th Cir. 2015).

         In addition to showing there are no questions of material fact, the moving party must also show it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Smith v. Univ. of Wash. Law Sch., 233 F.3d 1188, 1193 (9th Cir. 2000). The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of a claim on which the non-moving party has the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         When considering a motion for summary judgment, a court may neither weigh the evidence nor assess credibility; instead, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. When parties file simultaneous cross-motions for summary judgment, the court reviews each motion and the appropriate evidentiary material identified in support of the motion separately, giving the nonmoving party for each motion the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Brunozzi v. Cable Commc'ns, Inc., 851 F.3d 990, 995 (9thCir. 2017).

         Eighth Amendment Standard

         The Eighth Amendment guarantees that an incarcerated person be free from cruel and unusual punishment during their term of confinement. This protection extends to guarantee prisoners' right to adequate medical treatment while incarcerated. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976). This right is violated when a prison official acts with deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of a prisoner. Id. A prisoner has a serious medical need if he has "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), overruled on other grounds by WMXTech., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997).

         In order to state an Eighth Amendment claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a prisoner must satisfy a two-part test. Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004). First, the prisoner must demonstrate that the prison official objectively deprived him of the "minimal civilized measure of life necessities. "Id. This element is satisfied if the prisoner shows the risk posed by the deprivation is obvious. Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010). Second, the prisoner must show that the prisoner official acted with deliberate indifference in depriving the prisoner of medical attention. Id. A prison official acts with deliberate indifference if the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety. Id. A defendant must purposefully ignore or fail to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need in order to establish deliberate indifference. McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. In addition, the inmate must show that the prison official had no reasonable justification for their actions in light of the risk posed to the inmate. Thomas, 611 F.3d at 1150; Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (finding deliberate indifference where a prison doctor failed to ensure that plain tiff prisoner received necessary orthopedic care for a broken thumb, causing the fracture to not heal properly).

         Regardless of the basis for an Eighth Amendment claim, "vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violates are not sufficient to withstand" a motion for summary judgment for failure to state a cognizable claim. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982); see, e.g., Evans v. Skolnik, 673 F. App'x285, 288 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003)) ("an allegation that a prison official inappropriately denied or failed to adequately respond to a grievance, without more, does not state a claim under § 1983.").

         Qualified ...


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