Edwards v. Branch et al, No. 3:2016cv06668 - Document 33 (N.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NOs. 23 & 32) by Judge Charles R. Breyer: Granting 23 Motion for Summary Judgment. (lsS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/30/2018)
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Edwards v. Branch et al Doc. 33 1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 DARWIN C. EDWARDS, AH9825, Plaintiff, 8 v. 9 Case No. 16-cv-06668-CRB (PR) ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF Nos. 23 & 32) 10 ROSELLE BRANCH, M.D., Defendant. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Plaintiff Darwin C. Edwards, a prisoner currently incarcerated at California State Prison, 12 13 Corcoran (CSP – Corcoran), filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging inadequate 14 medical care while he was incarcerated at: (1) the California Training Facility (CTF) from early 15 2014 through January 2016, (2) Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) from January 2016 16 through September 2016, and (3) Valley State Prison (VSP) from September 2016 through 17 November 2016. Plaintiff was transferred to CSP – Corcoran shortly after he filed this action. 18 Per order filed on May 24, 2017, the court (Ryu, M.J.) found that plaintiff’s allegations 19 that, while he was incarcerated at CTF, Dr. Roselle Branch failed to treat his right sided 20 inflammation and pain state a cognizable § 1983 claim for damages against Dr. Branch for 21 deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment and ordered 22 the United States Marshal to serve Dr. Branch at CTF. The court dismissed plaintiff’s claims for 23 damages against the named prison officials at CVSP and VSP without prejudice to filing in the 24 25 proper venue (Central District and Eastern District, respectively) and dismissed as moot any claims for injunctive relief against the named prison officials at CTF, CVSP and VSP.1 26 1 27 28 Although the magistrate judge dismissed claims without the consent of all named defendants, the undersigned has reviewed de novo plaintiff’s complaint and similarly dismisses plaintiff’s claims for damages against the named prison officials at CVSP and VSP without prejudice to filing in the proper venue and dismisses as moot any claims for injunctive relief against the named prison Dockets.Justia.com 1 Dr. Branch now moves for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 2 on the ground that there are no material facts in dispute and that she is entitled to judgment as a 3 matter of law. Plaintiff has filed an opposition and Dr. Branch has filed a reply. BACKGROUND 4 5 6 Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed: While plaintiff was incarcerated at CTF, he complained of “stomach” and “right side inflammation and pain.” Compl. (ECF No. 1) ¶ 5. Dr. Branch and other health care providers at 7 CTF ordered and showed plaintiff various labs and tests that came back normal, and had plaintiff 8 “complete[]” treatment for Helicobacter Pylori (bacterial infection of the stomach and duodenum 9 causing frequent abdominal pain).” Branch Decl. (ECF No. 23-2) ¶ 4. But plaintiff continued to 10 11 complain of “hepatis diabetic-like symptoms.” Compl. ¶ 12. By July 1, 2014, Dr. Branch began to wonder if plaintiff had a “somatoform disorder, United States District Court Northern District of California which refers to a syndrome consisting of physical findings that cause substantial distress and 12 13 14 psychosocial impairment and are not explained by a known general medical disease,” and decided to refer him to mental health. Branch Decl. ¶ 5. Despite her suspicion of a somatoform disorder, on July 15, 2014 Dr. Branch sent plaintiff 15 to Natividad Medical Center for an upper GI endoscopy (EGD). “Nothing [remarkable] was 16 found and the examining doctor assessed plaintiff’s condition as Gastritis (inflammation of the 17 stomach lining).” Id. ¶ 6; accord EGD Report at 1-2 (ECF No. 1-3 at 3-4). On August 8, 2014, Dr. Branch sent plaintiff for a CT scan of his abdomen. The CT scan 18 report noted that “[t]he liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, spleen, pancreas, left kidney, and adrenal 19 glands are unremarkable. There is a small cyst in the lower pole [of] the right kidney.” CT Scan 20 Report at 1 (ECF No. 1-3 at 11). The report also noted that “[t]he visualized gastrointestinal tract 21 is unremarkable without evidence of obstruction or inflammatory pathology. The appendix is 22 visualized as a normal structure.” Id. The radiologist concluded, “No intra-abdominal pathology 23 24 25 26 identified.” Id. Plaintiff “claimed the test had not been done correctly.” Branch Decl. ¶ 7. By March 16, 2015, plaintiff still believed that he was diabetic and had hepatitis, “despite numerous tests and assurances that he did not have these problems.” Id. ¶ 9; accord Mar. 30, 2016 Second Level HC Appeal Response at 1-2 (ECF No. 1-2 at 75-76) (summarizing lab reports showing plaintiff was not diabetic and did not have hepatitis). 27 28 officials at CTF, CVSP and VSP. 2 On September 4, 2015, Dr. Branch requested a renal ultrasound in response to plaintiff’s 1 persistent complaints of right flank pain. “The results were returned on September 22, 2015 as 2 unremarkable, normal kidneys and bladder.” Branch Decl. ¶ 11. 3 On September 16, 2015, an interdisciplinary meeting was convened to discuss how best to 4 treat plaintiff. The meeting was attended by Dr. Branch, nurses Grant and Deluna, and 5 psychologists Keller and Wynn. “It was concluded that plaintiff should continue to receive 6 medical and mental health care as needed.” Id. ¶ 12. By November 21, 2015, plaintiff’s primary diagnosis was listed as somatoform disorder. 7 8 9 “Somatization disorder is believed to be due to psychological causes.” Id. ¶ 13. On January 4, 2016, plaintiff was transferred to CVSP. “A mental health referral for his history of Somatization disorder was ordered.” Id. ¶ 14. 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 DISCUSSION A. Standard of Review Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the 16 17 nonmoving party. Id. The moving party for summary judgment bears the initial burden of identifying those 18 portions of the pleadings, discovery and affidavits which demonstrate the absence of a genuine 19 issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving 20 party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no 21 reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. But on an issue for which the opposing party will have the burden of proof at trial, as is the case here, the moving party need 22 only point out “that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.” Id. 23 Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the 24 pleadings to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact by “citing to specific 25 parts of materials in the record” or “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence 26 or presence of a genuine dispute.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A triable dispute of material fact exists 27 only if there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party to allow a jury to return a verdict 28 3 1 for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. If the nonmoving party fails to make this showing, “the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. 2 There is no genuine issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the 3 nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. If the 4 evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. 5 Id. at 249-50. 6 B. 7 Analysis Prison officials violate the Eighth Amendment if they are “deliberate[ly] indifferen[t] to [a 8 prisoner’s] serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A medical need is 9 serious if failure to treat it will result in “significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Peralta v. Dillard, 744 F.3d 1076, 1081 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc) (citation and 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 internal quotation marks omitted). A prison official is “deliberately indifferent” to that need if she 12 “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 13 837 (1994). 14 A difference of opinion between a prisoner and a physician – or between medical 15 professionals – concerning what medical care is appropriate does not amount to deliberate 16 indifference. Snow v. McDaniel, 681 F.3d 978, 987 (9th Cir. 2012); Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 17 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). Even proof that a physician was negligent or committed medical 18 malpractice is insufficient to make out a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 19 835-36 & n.4; Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1058, 1060 (9th Cir. 2004). To show deliberate 20 indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment, the prisoner-plaintiff must show that the 21 course of treatment the doctors chose was medically unacceptable under the circumstances and 22 that they chose this course in conscious disregard of an excessive risk to plaintiff’s health. Snow, 23 681 F.3d at 988; Toguchi, 391 F. 3d at 1058; Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 24 1996). 25 Plaintiff claims that Dr. Branch was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs 26 because she discounted his complaints of right sided inflammation and pain as “unfounded or 27 made up in his head.” Compl. ¶ 10. But the undisputed evidence in the record shows that Dr. 28 Branch did not disregard plaintiff’s complaints. Despite her documented belief that plaintiff may 4 1 hav had a som ve matoform dis sorder, Dr. Branch referr plaintiff for an EGD, abdominal CT scan and B red , d 2 ren ultrasoun and order various laboratory te nal nd, red ests. None of these studi or tests sh ies howed any 3 inte ernal obstruc ction, inflam mmation or pathology, or indicated th plaintiff had diabetes or p r hat s 4 hep patitis. Plain ntiff’s conten ntion that Dr Branch sh ould have qu r. uestioned th results of t he the 5 stu udies/tests an done more is not enou for a rea nd e ugh asonable jury to find that she was del y t liberately 6 ind different to plaintiff’s ser p rious medica needs. Pla al aintiff sets fo no evidence showin that the forth ng 7 stu udies/tests we unreliabl and that Dr. Branch kn this and ignored it, or that Dr. B ere le D new d Branch 8 ign nored any oth obvious risk to plain her ntiff’s health. See Toguc 391 F.3d at 1057 & n.4 (prison . chi, d 9 off ficial does no violate 8th Amendmen if she sho ot h nt ould have bee aware of risk, but wa not). en as Dr. Bra anch is entitled to summa judgmen on plaintif § 1983 c ary nt ff’s claim for dam mages for 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 del liberate indif fference to serious medic needs. D cal Despite his a assertions to the contrary plaintiff y, 12 has not set fort any probat evidenc for a reaso s th tive ce onable jury t find that th course of treatment to he f 13 Dr. Branch cho was med ose dically unacc ceptable und the circum der mstances and that she ch d hose this 14 cou in consc urse cious disrega of an exc ard cessive risk t plaintiff’s health. See Snow, 681 F.3d at to s e 15 988 Toguchi, 391 F. 3d at 1058; Jacks 90 F.3d at 332. Tha plaintiff’s symptoms a 8; son, at allegedly 16 con ntinued at CV VSP, VSP and CSP – Co a orcoran does not compe a different conclusion.2 s el 17 / CONCLU USION 18 19 For the foregoing re easons, Dr. Branch’s mo B otion for sum mmary judgm (ECF N 23) is ment No. GR RANTED. IT IS SO ORDER S RED. 20 21 Da ated: July 30, 2018 , ___ __________ ___________ __________ ________ CH HARLES R. BREYER Un nited States D District Judg ge 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 Pl laintiff’s mot tion (ECF No. 32) for a court order r N requiring CS – Corcora officials t refer him SP an to to a private me edical facility for various tests is DEN y s NIED witho prejudice to bringing in a out e g sep parate action in the Easte District of California where CSP – Corcoran lies. n ern o a, P n 5 1 2 UNITED STATES D D DISTRICT C COURT 3 NORTHER DISTRIC OF CALI RN CT IFORNIA 4 5 DARWIN C. EDWARDS D S, Case No. 3 3:16-cv-0666 68-CRB Plaintiff, 6 v. CERTIFIC CATE OF S SERVICE 7 8 ROSELLE BR RANCH, . Defendant. 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 I, the un ndersigned, hereby certify that I am an employe in the Offi of the Clerk, U.S. ee ice Dis strict Court, Northern Di istrict of Cal lifornia. 12 13 14 15 16 That on July 30, 20 I SERVE a true an correct co n 018, ED nd opy(ies) of th attached, by placing he said copy(ies) in a postage paid envelo addressed to the pers i ope d son(s) herein nafter listed, by dep positing said envelope in the U.S. Mail, or by pla d n M acing said co opy(ies) into an inter-off delivery o ffice y rec ceptacle loca in the Cl ated lerk's office. . 17 18 19 Da arwin C. Edw wards ID: AH H9825 CS SATF G2-32-4 up P.O Box 5244 O. 4 Corcoran, CA 93212 20 21 22 23 Da ated: July 30, 2018 , Su usan Y. Soon ng Cl lerk, United States Distr Court d rict 24 25 26 By y:_________ ___________ _______ La ashanda Sco Deputy C ott, Clerk to the H Honorable CH HARLES R. BREYER 27 28 6