Robledo #250767 v. Taylor et al

Filing 205

ORDER granting 89 Defendant Taylor's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Clerk shall enter judgment in favor of Defendants, Plaintiff shall take nothing. Signed by Senior Judge James A Teilborg on 2/24/17.(LSP)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Paul Anthony Robledo, 10 Plaintiff, 11 ORDER v. 12 No. CV-14-01864-PHX-JAT (DMF) Nicole Taylor, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 15 As a result of the screening of Plaintiff’s second amended complaint, one count 16 remained in this case: an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical 17 needs claim against Defendant Taylor. 18 pending is Defendant Taylor’s motion for summary judgment on this remaining claim. 19 (Docs. 89 and 90). Plaintiff received a Rand warning (Doc. 91). Plaintiff then filed a 20 response to Defendant Taylor’s motion (Doc 145) and a statement of facts (Doc. 146). 21 Defendant filed a reply. (Doc. 152). Defendant also objected to Plaintiff’s statement of 22 facts and filed a supplemental statement of facts therewith. (Doc. 153). Defendant 23 included certain sealed exhibits with the supplemental statement of facts. (Doc. 157). 24 Plaintiff then filed a controverting statement of facts to Defendant’s supplemental 25 statement of facts. (Doc. 198). 26 I. (Doc. 16 at 7). Following discovery, now Background 27 Plaintiff is suing Defendant Taylor, who was a psychologist at ASPC-Lewis, for 28 allegedly denying him constitutionally adequate medical care. This Court previously 1 summarized the remaining count as follows: 2 In Count One, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Taylor denied him constitutionally adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment. On December 12, 2012, one of Plaintiff’s alternate personalities took control of his mind and body causing him to become mute. Plaintiff submitted a health needs request regarding his muteness on December 18, 2012, and Defendant Taylor “refused to perform a mental health assessment” or refer Plaintiff to a different medical provider. Plaintiff and Defendant Taylor did have a “session” on December 18, 2012, and Plaintiff communicated to Defendant Taylor that he was suffering from some kind of mental illness and was not able to speak. Plaintiff alleges that his session with Defendant Taylor on December 18 was not recorded and that she falsified her reports of their December 18 and March 13, 2013 sessions. Plaintiff claims that muteness can become permanent if it goes untreated. Plaintiff further claims that he has been diagnosed with muteness stemming from a mental illness. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Doc. 16 at 3. 12 Notwithstanding the allegations of the complaint, as of today Plaintiff is arguing 13 he suffers from “aphasia” and that Defendant Taylor’s liability stems from her treatment 14 of Plaintiff’s aphasia. (Doc. 145 at 5). 15 Initially in her motion, Defendant Taylor summarizes Count One as it is recounted 16 by Plaintiff in the second amended complaint. (Doc. 89 at 2). Later in her motion, and 17 with her reply, Defendant Taylor presents evidence that Plaintiff’s new theory of aphasia 18 is not supported by medical evidence because Plaintiff did not suffer the requisite brain 19 injury to have this condition. (Doc. 89 at 8; Doc. 152 at 5). 20 II. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment 21 Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any 22 material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. 23 Civ. P. 56(a). A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must 24 support that assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record,” including 25 depositions, affidavits, interrogatory answers or other materials, or by “showing that 26 materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an 27 adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Id. 56(c)(1). Thus, 28 summary judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient -2- 1 to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that 2 party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 3 (1986). 4 Initially, the movant bears the burden of pointing out to the Court the basis for the 5 motion and the elements of the causes of action upon which the non-movant will be 6 unable to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to 7 the non-movant to establish the existence of material fact. Id. A material fact is any 8 factual issue that might affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive 9 law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The non-movant “must 10 do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts” 11 by “com[ing] forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” 12 Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586–87 (1986) (quoting 13 Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). A dispute about a fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a 14 reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 15 477 U.S. at 248. The non-movant’s bare assertions, standing alone, are insufficient to 16 create a material issue of fact and defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 247–48. 17 However, in the summary judgment context, the Court construes all disputed facts in the 18 light most favorable to the non-moving party. Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1075 19 (9th Cir. 2004). 20 At the summary judgment stage, the trial judge’s function is to determine whether 21 there is a genuine issue for trial. There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient 22 evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. 23 Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249–50. If the evidence is merely colorable or is not 24 significantly probative, the judge may grant summary judgment. Id. 25 III. Legal Standard for a Deliberate Indifference Claim 26 “Denial of medical attention to prisoners constitutes an Eighth Amendment 27 violation if the denial amounts to deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of the 28 prisoner.” Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Estelle v. -3- 1 Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). There are two prongs to the deliberate-indifference 2 analysis: an objective prong and a subjective prong. Under the objective prong, a prisoner 3 must show a “serious medical need.” Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) 4 (citations omitted). “A ‘serious’ medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner’s 5 condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton 6 infliction of pain.” McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on 7 other grounds by WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en 8 banc) (citation omitted). 9 Under the subjective prong, a prisoner must show: “(a) a purposeful act or failure 10 to respond to a prisoner’s pain or possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the 11 indifference.” Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1122 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Jett, 12 439 F.3d at 1096). The state of mind required for deliberate indifference is subjective 13 recklessness; however, the standard is “less stringent in cases involving a prisoner’s 14 medical needs . . . because ‘the State’s responsibility to provide inmates with medical 15 care ordinarily does not conflict with competing administrative concerns.’” McGuckin, 16 974 F.2d at 1060 (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992)). Whether a 17 defendant had requisite knowledge of a substantial risk of harm is a question of fact, and 18 a factfinder may conclude that a defendant knew of a substantial risk based on the fact 19 that the risk was obvious. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842 (1994). 20 “Prison officials are deliberately indifferent to a prisoner’s serious medical needs 21 when they deny, delay, or intentionally interfere with medical treatment.” Hallett v. 22 Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 744 (9th Cir. 2002) (quotations and citations omitted). Deliberate 23 indifference may also be shown by the way in which prison officials provide medical 24 care, Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d 390, 394 (9th Cir. 1988), “by circumstantial 25 evidence when the facts are sufficient to demonstrate that a defendant actually knew of a 26 risk of harm,” Lolli v. Cty. of Orange, 351 F.3d 410, 421 (9th Cir. 2003), or by a 27 purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner’s pain or possible medical need, even if 28 a prisoner cannot show that his harm was substantial, Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096; see also -4- 1 McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060 (“[A] finding that the defendant’s activities resulted in 2 ‘substantial’ harm to the prisoner is not necessary.”). Nevertheless, the deliberate- 3 indifference doctrine is limited; an inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care or 4 negligence in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not support an Eighth 5 Amendment claim. Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1122 (citations omitted). Further, a mere 6 difference in medical opinion does not establish deliberate indifference. Jackson v. 7 McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996). 8 IV. 9 Discussion A. Serious Medical Need 10 First, the Court must consider whether Plaintiff had a serious medical need. As 11 stated above, “[a] ‘serious’ medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner’s 12 condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton 13 infliction of pain.” McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059. The harm Plaintiff claims to have 14 suffered in this case is that he is mute and that the muteness may become permanent. 15 (Doc. 13 at 4). 16 Defendant Taylor has presented medical experts who opine that Plaintiff has 17 exaggerated or fabricated his symptoms for secondary gain, including: a preferred 18 housing assignment, a change in custody level, a sentence reduction, and to aid the appeal 19 of his criminal sentence. (Doc. 89 at 11; Doc. 90 at 8, ¶ 31(C); Doc. 152 at 7; Doc. 153 20 at 9-10, ¶¶ 38, 43-44). Plaintiff has not offered any conflicting medical opinions. 21 Further, Defendant Taylor has presented evidence that Plaintiff actually can speak 22 and has recounted two instances where Plaintiff did speak after his meeting with 23 Defendant Taylor. (Doc. 89 at 5, 11; Doc. 90 at 5, ¶¶ 20-21). Plaintiff admits he spoke 24 on these two occasions. (Doc. 90 at 5, ¶¶ 20-21). 25 Additionally, Defendant Taylor notes that no medical professional has ever 26 diagnosed Plaintiff with the conditions (aphasia and mutism1) he claims to have. (Doc. 27 1 28 Defendant Taylor also argues that no medical expert has ever diagnosed Plaintiff with Dissociative Identity Disorder. (Doc. 89 at 2; Doc. 90 at 6, ¶¶ 25-26). However, Plaintiff appears to have abandoned this self-diagnosis as a cause of his mutism. (Doc. -5- 1 89 at 8, 12). Thus, Defendant Taylor concludes that Plaintiff does not have a serious 2 medical need based on his self-diagnosed conditions. Plaintiff has offered no medical 3 evidence to refute Defendant Taylor’s conclusion. Further, Plaintiff does not dispute that 4 he has had numerous mental health assessments during which he could have obtained a 5 conflicting diagnosis if one was warranted. (Doc. 146-3 at 16 (June 17, 2015 report); 6 Doc. 146-3 at 20 (June 12, 2015 report); Doc. 146-3 at 28 (June 11, 2015 report); Doc. 7 146-3 at 32 (April 13, 2015 report); Doc. 146-3 at 36 (January 30, 2015 report); Doc. 8 146-3 (January 13, 2015 report)).2 9 Plaintiff responds and argues that a health care provider made an “aphasia” 10 notation in his medical records. (Doc. 145 at 4). Plaintiff does not cite to where in his 48 11 page statement of facts or 296 pages of exhibits the Court might find this notation. (See 12 generally Doc. 146). Nonetheless, the Court has reviewed the documents and has found 13 (by way of example) that at Doc. 146-3, page 17, on June 17, 2015, a psychology 14 associate did an assessment of Plaintiff, which included the following: “Aphasia [784.3]” 15 “Assessed”. In this same report, the assessment notes state, “anxious but stable, future- 16 oriented, adequate coping”. (Doc. 146-3 at 17). No treatment is ordered in the report and 17 no medications are ordered in the report. (Id.). The report does not include an overall 18 conclusion. (Id. at 16-19). In his response to Defendant Taylor’s motion for summary 19 judgment, Plaintiff does not argue that any condition other than aphasia is impacting him. 20 (Doc. 145- at 1-7). 21 On this record, the Court finds nothing that shows Plaintiff has been diagnosed 22 with aphasia or any other condition that would cause his claimed mutism. The reports the 23 Court has located referencing aphasia show that Plaintiff was assessed for the condition, 24 but the reports do not show Plaintiff was diagnosed with the condition. (For example, 25 Plaintiff was assessed for eight other conditions in the June 17, 2015 report, but does not 26 27 28 145 at 1-7). 2 The Court has only recounted mental health reports included by Plaintiff in his statement of facts. Defendant Taylor included additional reports with her exhibits. -6- 1 appear to have been diagnosed with having any of them. (Doc. 146-3 at 17)). Moreover, 2 Defendant Taylor presented evidence that Plaintiff does not meet the medical definition 3 of aphasia because he did not suffer the prerequisite injury required for such a diagnosis 4 and, thus, does not have this condition. (Doc. 89 at 5 and n. 1, 6, 8; Doc. 90 at 7-8 ¶¶ 28, 5 31; Doc. 152 at 4-5.). Finally, Plaintiff has not argued, nor produced evidence, that he 6 suffered from a different serious medical need that required treatment. 7 Based on this undisputed medical evidence, the Court finds Plaintiff did not have a 8 serious medical need that Defendant Taylor failed to treat. Accordingly, Defendant 9 Taylor is entitled to judgment in her favor. 10 B. Defendant’s Taylor’s Actions 11 Alternatively, assuming Plaintiff could show a serious medical need, the Court 12 will consider whether Defendant Taylor acted with deliberate indifference. As stated 13 above, to show this component of a deliberate indifference to a serious medical need 14 claim, a prisoner must show: “(a) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner’s 15 pain or possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the indifference.” Wilhelm, 680 16 F.3d at 1122 (citing omitted). 17 In his second amended complaint, Plaintiff claims that his harm of muteness arose 18 on December 12, 2012. (Doc. 16 at 3). Plaintiff claims he submitted a request for 19 treatment on December 18, 2012. 20 examined him that same day. (Id.). (Id.). Plaintiff further claims Defendant Taylor 21 In his response to summary judgment Plaintiff complains that Defendant Taylor 22 did not record the December 18, 2012 encounter. (Doc. 145 at 2). Plaintiff argues that a 23 failure to record the encounter means that Defendant Taylor did not perform a mental 24 health assessment. (Id.). At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that Defendant Taylor 25 examined him (looked at him) and made a conclusion. (Doc. 146 at 16). But Plaintiff 26 argues this care was inadequate because Defendant Taylor failed to document (record) 27 the examination. (Doc. 146 at 29-30). As discussed above, deliberate indifference 28 requires a purposeful act or failure to respond to Plaintiff’s pain or possible medical need -7- 1 and resulting harm. The Court finds that, assuming Defendant Taylor failed to make 2 written or oral notes of the December 18, 2012 examination, such a failure to make notes 3 was not a failure to respond to a possible medical need. 4 Additionally, Plaintiff offers nothing beyond his own argument that a failure to 5 make a record equates to a failure to provide mental health treatment. It is undisputed 6 that Plaintiff received an examination on the day he requested it. Plaintiff’s unhappiness 7 with the result of that examination does not rise to the level of deliberate indifference to a 8 serious medical need. See Shields v. Kunkel¸ 442 F.2d 409, 410 (9th Cir. 1971) (holding 9 that a difference of opinion between the patient and the physician does not state a 10 deliberate indifference claim). 11 summary judgment on this prong of Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference to a serious 12 medical need claim.3 Thus, alternatively, Defendant Taylor is entitled to 13 Moreover, even if Defendant Taylor’s care equated to a failure to respond to a 14 serious medical need, Plaintiff cannot show a resulting harm. Specifically, as of January 15 6, 2016, Dr. Bertel evaluated Plaintiff and determined that Plaintiff “continues elective 16 mutism.” (Doc. 153 at 9 ¶ 40). Because the harm Plaintiff claims to suffer, mutism, is 17 “elective”, Defendant Taylor’s treatment or lack thereof did not harm Plaintiff. 18 V. Conclusion 19 Based on the foregoing, 20 IT IS ORDERED withdrawing the reference to the Magistrate Judge as to 21 Defendant Taylor’s motion for summary judgment (Doc. 89). 22 /// 23 /// 24 3 25 26 27 28 Plaintiff repeatedly argues that Defendant Taylor violated the “standard of care” by failing to make a record of the December 18, 2012 examination. (See e.g., Doc. 146 at 32). The record in this case does not establish that the “standard of care” requires a recording of the examination. But, even assuming such a recording would be required to meet the “standard of care,” the test for a malpractice claim is not the same as a deliberate indifference claim. See Shields, 442 F.2d at 410 (“Simple malpractice does not give rise to an action under section 1983”). Thus, even a failure to meet the standard of care would not overcome Defendant Taylor’s entitlement to summary judgment on Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim. -8- 1 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 89) 2 is granted. The Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor of Defendants,4 Plaintiff 3 shall take nothing. 4 Dated this 24th day of February, 2017. 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 See also (Doc. 16 at 8). -9-

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