Gonzalez v. San Mateo County Jail Medical Providers, No. 5:2019cv02404 - Document 20 (N.D. Cal. 2021)

Court Description: ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT by Judge Beth Labson Freeman. Granting 18 Motion for Summary Judgment. (tshS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/5/2021)Any non-CM/ECF Participants have been served by First Class Mail to the addresses of record listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF)
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Gonzalez v. San Mateo County Jail Medical Providers Doc. 20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 SIMON HERNANDEZ GONZALEZ, United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Plaintiff, ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT 12 v. 13 14 Case No. 19-02404 BLF (PR) CARLOS MORALES, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 (Docket No. 18) 17 18 Plaintiff, a state prisoner, filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 19 1983.1 The Court found the amended complaint, Dkt. No. 102, stated a cognizable claim of 20 deliberate indifference to serious medical needs under the Eighth Amendment against 21 Defendant Carlos Morales, the Director of Correctional Health Services (“CHS”) for San 22 Mateo County, for care Plaintiff received while housed at the San Mateo County Jail, 23 (“SMCJ”), and ordered the matter served on Defendant.3 Dkt. No. 14. On June 29, 2020, 24 25 26 1 The matter was reassigned to this Court on October 23, 2019, pursuant to Williams v. King, 875 F.3d 500, 501-02, 504 (9th Cir. 2017). Dkt. Nos. 11, 12. 2 27 All page references herein are to the Docket (ECF) pages shown in the header to each document and brief cited, unless otherwise indicated. 28 3 Plaintiff stated in the original complaint that the names of his primary care doctor and Dockets.Justia.com 1 Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff has not 2 established the essential elements for a deliberate indifference to serious medical needs 3 claim under the Eighth Amendment as a matter of law, and he is entitled to qualified 4 immunity. Dkt. No. 18.4 Plaintiff did not file opposition although given an opportunity to 5 do so. The last communication from Plaintiff in this action was a notice of change of 6 address filed on October 22, 2020. Dkt. No. 19. For the reasons stated below, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is 7 8 GRANTED. 9 DISCUSSION 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 I. Statement of Facts5 According to Plaintiff, he is 64 years old and has been a Type-1 diabetic for 25 12 13 years. Dkt. No. 10 at 3. This requires that he receive daily insulin shots of “25 lentos/8 14 movos,” the lack of which (or improper dosage) could result in shock, loss of limbs, 15 comma, organ failures, and even death. Id. Plaintiff claims that while housed at SMCJ, he 16 began to suffer sickness and chronic pain when he did not receive his medication on time 17 or in proper doses. Id. Plaintiff claims SMCJ medical providers administered improper 18 insulin doses over his objection based on his blood glucose levels at the time, and then 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 nurses were withheld, so he was unable to name them in this suit. Dkt. No. 9 at 3. There is no indication in the record that Plaintiff has conducted any discovery to identify the name of the nurse sued as “Nurse 1” or Does 1-5 over the 20 months period since he commenced this action. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to prosecute the case as to the unnamed defendants and allowance of further time to investigate and amend the complaint is not warranted. The Court dismisses the case as to all unidentified defendants. 4 In support of his motion, Defendant Morales submits his declaration, Dkt. No. 18-1, which is accompanied by the following exhibits: Exh. A, Correctional Health Services (“CHS”) policy on diabetes management and care; and Exh. B, a survey of SMJC by the Institute for Medical Quality (“IMQ”) regarding its quality management program, covering the years 2018 to 2020. Dkt. No. 18-1. 5 Because Plaintiff did not file an opposition or declaration, the Court will take into consideration the factual allegations in his verified amended complaint. Dkt. No. 10. 2 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 would wait until he was in severe condition before providing medical attention for his 2 diabetic condition. Id. at 3-4. He identifies three incidents of inadequate medical care on 3 February 27, 2018, March 14, 2018, and June 19, 2018. Id. at 5-7. Plaintiff claims that the 4 nurses were negligent and deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Id. at 7. 5 He claims that Defendant Morales failed to “adequately train and supervise his subordinate 6 nurses and to ensure that adequate medical care was being adequately administered to 7 Plaintiff” who suffered serious injuries “as the result of poor or no training and monitoring 8 of the nurses that are under the direct and specific supervision” of Defendant. Id. at 3. 9 Defendant Morales is the Director of CHS for San Mateo County Health, which is 10 an agency of San Mateo County. Morales Decl. ¶ 2. Defendant Morales’ responsibilities 11 including supervising five San Mateo County employees which include two clinical 12 services employees, two psychiatrists, and a fiscal manager, all of whom report directly to 13 Defendant. Id. ¶ 3. Defendant Morales also generally oversees the provision of medical 14 care, dental care, and mental health and substance abuse treatments of adults incarcerated 15 in San Mateo County, and the provision of medical and dental care to minors in San Mateo 16 County’s Juvenile Hall. Id. ¶ 4. Defendant Morales does not directly supervise or train 17 any of the nursing staff at the SMCJ, which is also known as the Maguire Correctional 18 Facility, or at any other San Mateo County facility. Id. ¶ 6. He is licensed by the State of 19 California as a clinical social worker and does not hold a medical license to qualify him to 20 either supervise or train nursing staff at SMCJ. Id. ¶¶ 2, 6. Defendant Morales neither 21 develops nor implements training programs for medical and nursing staff, and his role is 22 solely administrative, e.g., scheduling and coordinating for funding. Id. ¶ 7. Furthermore, 23 although Defendant Morales receives records from County employees certifying that 24 required trainings have been completed by medical and nursing staff in accordance with 25 relevant state-wide standards, he does not personally review or verify the content of these 26 records. Id. Rather, he relies on staff that directly report to him to do so. Id. The 27 individuals who train the CHS nursing staff do not report directly to Defendant. Id. 28 3 1 United States District Court Northern District of California 2 II. Summary Judgment Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show 3 that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to 4 judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A court will grant summary judgment 5 “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an 6 element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof 7 at trial… since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the 8 nonmoving party’s case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. 9 Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of 10 the lawsuit under governing law, and a dispute about such a material fact is genuine “if the 11 evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” 12 Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). 13 Generally, the moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of 14 the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex 15 Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue 16 at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other 17 than for the moving party. But on an issue for which the opposing party will have the 18 burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only point out “that there is an absence of 19 evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.” Id. at 325. If the evidence in opposition 20 to the motion is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may 21 be granted. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50. 22 The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “go beyond the pleadings and by 23 her own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on 24 file,’ designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Celotex 25 Corp., 477 U.S. at 324 (citations omitted); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). “This burden is not a 26 light one. The non-moving party must show more than the mere existence of a scintilla of 27 evidence.” In re Oracle Corporation Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 28 4 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 2010) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252). “The non-moving party must do more than 2 show there is some ‘metaphysical doubt’ as to the material facts at issue.” Id. (citing 3 Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). “In 4 fact, the non-moving party must come forth with evidence from which a jury could 5 reasonably render a verdict in the non-moving party’s favor.” Id. (citing Liberty Lobby, 6 477 U.S. at 252). If the nonmoving party fails to make this showing, “the moving party is 7 entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. 8 The Court’s function on a summary judgment motion is not to make credibility 9 determinations or weigh conflicting evidence with respect to a material fact. See T.W. 10 Elec. Serv., Inc. V. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass’n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). 11 The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and the 12 inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to the 13 nonmoving party. See id. at 631. It is not the task of the district court to scour the record 14 in search of a genuine issue of triable fact. Keenan v. Allen, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 15 1996). The nonmoving party has the burden of identifying with reasonable particularity 16 the evidence that precludes summary judgment. Id. If the nonmoving party fails to do so, 17 the district court may properly grant summary judgment in favor of the moving party. See 18 id.; see, e.g., Carmen v. San Francisco Unified School District, 237 F.3d 1026, 1028-29 19 (9th Cir. 2001). 20 A. 21 Deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious medical needs violates the Eighth Deliberate Indifference 22 Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A prison official violates the 23 Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) the deprivation alleged is, 24 objectively, sufficiently serious, and (2) the official is, subjectively, deliberately indifferent 25 to the inmate’s health or safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). 26 27 28 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.” Id. 5 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 The following are examples of indications that a prisoner has a “serious” need for medical 2 treatment: the existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find 3 important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that 4 significantly affects an individual’s daily activities; or the existence of chronic and 5 substantial pain. McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled 6 on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) 7 (en banc). 8 A prison official is deliberately indifferent if he knows that a prisoner faces a 9 substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable steps 10 to abate it. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. The official must both know of “facts from 11 which the inference could be drawn” that an excessive risk of harm exists, and he must 12 actually draw that inference. Id. If a prison official should have been aware of the risk, 13 but was not, then the official has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how 14 severe the risk. Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1188 (9th Cir. 2002). 15 Defendant asserts that Plaintiff cannot establish deliberate indifference to serious 16 medical needs because he has alleged no facts linking Defendant to the alleged harms. 17 Dkt. No. 18 at 11. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff claims he “failed to train or adequately 18 supervise employee nurses under his direction” but does not allege any particularized facts 19 indicating that Defendant himself trains or supervises the nurses or medical providers at 20 SMCJ. Id. Nor does Plaintiff allege or demonstrate that Defendant was responsible for 21 designing and implementing the training and supervision program for the medical 22 providers at SMCJ or that he personally participated in – or even had knowledge of – the 23 actions that caused Plaintiff’s alleged harms. Id. Moreover, Defendant asserts, Plaintiff 24 does not specify any particular deficiencies in the policies or training that allegedly caused 25 his harms. Id. Without such critical connections, Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s 26 allegations boil down to an attempt to hold Defendant liable “solely by the virtue of [his] 27 office,” which is an untenable theory under section 1983. Id. Plaintiff has filed no 28 6 1 2 A supervisor may be liable under section 1983 upon a showing of (1) personal 3 involvement in the constitutional deprivation or (2) a sufficient causal connection between 4 the supervisor’s wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Henry A. v. Willden, 5 678 F.3d 991, 1003-04 (9th Cir. 2012). Even if a supervisory official is not directly 6 involved in the allegedly unconstitutional conduct, “[a] supervisor can be liable in this 7 individual capacity for his own culpable action or inaction in the training, supervision, or 8 control of his subordinates; for his acquiescence in the constitutional deprivation; or for 9 conduct that showed a reckless or callous indifference to the rights of others.” Starr v. 10 United States District Court Northern District of California opposition in response. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1208 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). 11 An administrator may be liable for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need 12 if he or she fails to respond to a prisoner’s request for help. Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 13 1098 (9th Cir. 2006) (holding that evidence of prisoner’s letter to administrator alerting 14 him to constitutional violation sufficient to generate genuine issue of material fact as to 15 whether administrator was aware of violation, even if he denies knowledge and there is no 16 evidence the letter was received). Conversely, where there is no evidence that the 17 supervisor was personally involved or connected to the alleged violation, the supervisor 18 may not be liable. See Edgerly v. City and County of San Francisco, 599 F.3d 946, 961-62 19 (9th Cir. 2010) (no policy-based supervisory liability for police sergeant who was 20 responsible for day-to-day operations at the station when he was on duty, and who 21 provided only informal training to officers by responding to questions, but did not set 22 station policy and instead was required to enforce the rules and regulations set forth by his 23 supervising captain and other higher-ranking officers); id. at 961 (no liability for 24 supervisor based on personal involvement because evidence showed he was not aware of 25 arrest or search until after they were completed and he authorized officers to cite and 26 release plaintiff). 27 Based on the evidence submitted and viewing it in the light most favorable to 28 7 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 Plaintiff, the Court finds that there is an absence of disputed material facts with regards to 2 Defendant Morales’ liability as a supervisor for the alleged deficiencies in the medical 3 treatment Plaintiff received at SMCJ. First of all, nowhere in the amended complaint does 4 Plaintiff allege that Defendant Morales was personally involved in his medical treatment or 5 that Defendant Morales was even aware of Plaintiff’s medical needs. Accordingly, there is 6 no basis for supervisor liability under section 1983 based on Defendant’s personal 7 involvement in Plaintiff’s deficient medical care under the first prong of Henry A., 378 8 F.3d at 1003-04. See also Edgerly, 599 F.3d at 961-62. Rather, Plaintiff’s Eighth 9 Amendment claim against Defendant Morales is based on the second prong, i.e., that 10 Defendant is liable for his wrongful conduct in failing to “train and supervise” the nurses 11 who violated Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights to adequate medical care. Id. However, 12 Defendant Morales states in his declaration that while his responsibilities include general 13 oversight of medical care for incarcerated adults within the San Mateo County, he does not 14 directly supervise or train any nursing staff. See supra at 3. He also states that he neither 15 develops nor implements training programs for medical and nursing staff, and that his role 16 is solely administrative. Id. Furthermore, Defendant Morales states that he does not 17 directly supervise the individuals who actually train the nursing staff. Id. Accordingly, 18 Defendant Morales has demonstrated the absence of a genuine issue of material fact 19 regarding his liability as a supervisor under section 1983 based on the lack of any wrongful 20 conduct with regards to the training and supervision of the nurses who allegedly provided 21 deficient medical care. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. 22 In opposition, Plaintiff has filed no response to indicate that any of these facts are 23 in dispute, and none of his statements in the amended complaint provide sufficient 24 evidence to create a triable issue of fact. Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to establish a 25 genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Defendant Morales is liable as a supervisor 26 for the alleged deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s serious medical needs by the SMCJ 27 nurses. Defendant Morales is therefore entitled to summary judgment on this claim. See 28 8 1 Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. Based on the foregoing, Defendant has established the absence of a genuine issue of 2 3 material fact with regard to the Eighth Amendment claim against him based on supervisor 4 liability. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. In response, Plaintiff, having filed no 5 opposition, has failed to identify with reasonable particularity the evidence that precludes 6 summary judgment, id. at 324; Keenan, 91 F.3d at 1279, or to come forth with evidence 7 from which a jury could reasonably render a verdict in his favor, In re Oracle Corporation 8 Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d at 387; Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 25. Accordingly, 9 Defendant Morales is entitled to summary judgment on this claim. Celotex Corp., 477 10 U.S. at 323. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 CONCLUSION 12 For the reasons stated above, Defendant Carlos Morales’s motion for summary 13 14 judgment is GRANTED. Dkt. No. 18. The Eighth Amendment claim against him based 15 on supervisor liability is DISMISSED with prejudice.6 16 This order terminates Docket No. 18. 17 The Clerk shall terminate any other pending motions as moot and close the case. 18 IT IS SO ORDERED. 19 Dated: _February 5, 2021________ ____________________ BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge 20 21 22 23 24 Order Granting MSJ PRO-SE\BLF\CR.19\02404Gonzalez_grant.MSJ 25 26 27 28 6 Because the Court finds no constitutional violation occurred, it is not necessary to discuss Defendant’s qualified immunity argument. 9