Gonzales v. Uribe et al

Filing 29

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. ***Civil Case Terminated. Signed by Judge Richard Seeborg on 5/27/11. (Attachments: # 1 Appendix Certificate of Service)(cl, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/27/2011)

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1 2 *E-Filed 5/27/11* 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 8 SAN FRANCISCO DIVISION 11 12 No. C 10-2442 RS (PR) XAVIER GONZALES, 13 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Plaintiff, 14 v. 15 T. URIBE, et al., 16 17 18 19 Defendants. / INTRODUCTION This is a federal civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by a pro se state 20 prisoner. For the reasons stated herein, defendants’ motion for summary judgment is 21 GRANTED as to all claims against all defendants. 22 23 BACKGROUND This action arises from an attack on plaintiff on October 4, 2009 by Mark Gentle, 24 who, like plaintiff, was an inmate at Salinas Valley State Prison (“SVSP”). The following 25 facts are undisputed, unless noted otherwise. On October 4, 2009, plaintiff was housed in 26 Facility A of SVSP, categorized by prison authorities as a “Protective Custody/ Sensitive 27 Needs” inmate. Gentle was also in Facility C as an un-classified inmate pending his 28 No. C 10-2442 RS (PR) ORDER GRANTING MOT. FOR SUMM. J. assignment to appropriate housing. Around noon that day, an inmate returned to his cell, 2 which was next to Gentle’s. Correctional officer Uribe, working in the control booth, pushed 3 a button to open the door to that inmate’s cell. At the same time, Uribe pushed the button 4 that opened Gentle’s cell door. Uribe immediately tried to close Gentle’s door when she saw 5 what she had done. Gentle, however, forced his way past the cell door as it was closing. 6 Around this time, plaintiff was in the showers. After leaving his cell, Gentle ran down the 7 stairs to where plaintiff was standing and struck plaintiff with his fists. Uribe shouted at 8 Gentle to stop and lie on the floor.1 Correctional officers Valencia and Franklin, in response 9 to Uribe’s shout, turned to see Gentle and plaintiff fighting, sounded their alarms, and ran to 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 1 stop the fight, which, with some difficulty, they did. Plaintiff claims that defendants violated 11 his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from the attack by Gentle. More 12 specifically, plaintiff alleges that (1) Uribe was responsible for releasing Gentle; and 13 (2) Valencia and Franklin failed to supervise Gentle properly. 14 15 16 DISCUSSION I. Standard of Review Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits 17 demonstrate that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party 18 is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Material facts are those 19 which may affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 20 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a 21 reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. 22 The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of identifying those 23 portions of the pleadings, discovery and affidavits which demonstrate the absence of a 24 genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). On an 25 issue for which the non-moving party will have the burden of proof at trial, as is the case 26 1 Plaintiff asserts that Uribe did not issue a verbal order to Gentle before he attacked plaintiff, but he does not dispute that Uribe ordered Gentle to lie down during the attack. (Opp. 28 at 5–6.) 27 2 No. C 10-2442 RS (PR) ORDER GRANTING MOT. FOR SUMM. J. 1 here, the moving party need only point out “that there is an absence of evidence to support 2 the nonmoving party’s case.” Id. at 325. Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond 3 4 the pleadings and, by its own affidavits or discovery, “set forth specific facts showing that 5 there is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The court is only concerned with 6 disputes over material facts and “factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not 7 be counted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. It is not the task of the court to scour the record in 8 search of a genuine issue of triable fact. Keenan v. Allen, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 9 1996). The nonmoving party has the burden of identifying, with reasonable particularity, the United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 evidence that precludes summary judgment. Id. If the nonmoving party fails to make this 11 showing, “the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 12 323. 13 II. Eighth Amendment Duty to Protect 14 Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to 15 protect him from the violent attack by Mark Gentle. The Eighth Amendment requires that 16 prison officials take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of prisoners. Farmer v. 17 Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). In particular, prison officials have a duty to protect 18 prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners. Id. at 833. The failure of prison 19 officials to protect inmates from attacks by other inmates or from dangerous conditions at the 20 prison violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) the 21 deprivation alleged is, objectively, sufficiently serious; and (2) the prison official is, 22 subjectively, deliberately indifferent to inmate safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. 23 Regarding the deliberate indifference prong of this analysis, a prison official cannot be 24 held liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of 25 confinement unless the standard for criminal recklessness is met, i.e., the official knows of 26 and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. 27 The official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a 28 3 No. C 10-2442 RS (PR) ORDER GRANTING MOT. FOR SUMM. J. 1 substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference. See id. Neither 2 negligence nor gross negligence will constitute deliberate indifference. See at 835–36 & n.4; 3 Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Allegations in a pro se complaint sufficient to 4 raise an inference that the named prison officials acted with deliberate indifference — i.e, 5 that they knew that plaintiff faced a substantial risk of serious harm and disregarded that risk 6 by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it — states a “failure-to-protect” claim. 7 Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1041–42 (9th Cir. 2005). 8 A. 9 Plaintiff claims that Uribe violated his Eighth Amendment rights by causing the Uribe’s Release of Gentle United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 circumstances under which Gentle was able to escape his cell and attack plaintiff. As to 11 these claims, defendants have met their Celotex burden by (1) presenting evidence that 12 Uribe’s release of Gentle was an accident, and not the result of deliberate indifference, (MSJ, 13 Uribe Decl. ¶¶ 4–5), and (2) pointing out that plaintiff has not presented any evidence that 14 Uribe knew of, and disregarded, a risk to plaintiff’s safety when she pressed the button to 15 Gentle’s cell (MSJ at 8). 16 Plaintiff, however, has not met his burden. Plaintiff avers only that Uribe “just let” 17 Gentle out of his cell. (Pl.’s Opp. to MSJ (“Opp.”) at 6). “Just let” fails to show a triable 18 issue of material fact. First, plaintiff’s assertion appears in his unverified opposition, and not 19 in the verified declaration, and therefore cannot be considered evidence. Second, “just let,” 20 even interpreted broadly, shows at worst negligence or gross negligence, which is 21 insufficient to show deliberate indifference. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835–36 & n.4. Plaintiff 22 also attempts to show a triable issue by asserting that Uribe’s state of mind is a matter of fact 23 for a jury. Such statements are legal conclusions, not evidence. 24 B. 25 Plaintiff claims that Uribe, Valencia, and Franklin failed to take appropriate steps after Remedial Actions 26 Gentle’s release. Plaintiff asserts that Uribe could have, but did not, issue a direct order to 27 Gentle over the loudspeaker, activate an alarm, fire a non-lethal round at Gentle, or inform 28 4 No. C 10-2442 RS (PR) ORDER GRANTING MOT. FOR SUMM. J. 1 nearby correctional officers of Gentle’s escape. (Pl.’s Opp. to MSJ at 5–6.) Plaintiff also 2 asserts that correctional officers Valencia and Franklin failed to act when Gentle “ran” past 3 them on his way to attack plaintiff. (Id. at 6–7.) Defendants have met their Celotex burden by presenting evidence, undisputed by 4 5 plaintiff, that they took appropriate and timely action. First, Uribe asserts that she 6 immediately recognized her mistake and then attempted to prevent Gentle’s escape by 7 closing his door, though Gentle did escape. (MSJ, Uribe Decl. ¶¶ 4–5.) Second, defendants 8 have presented evidence, undisputed by plaintiff, that Valencia and Franklin could not act to 9 protect plaintiff until they became aware of Gentle’s presence, an apprehension delayed by United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 the fact that Gentle came from behind them. (Id., D. Franklin Decl. ¶¶ 3–4; P. Valencia 11 Decl. ¶¶ 3–4.) Defendants could not act until Gentle was actually in contact with plaintiff 12 because Gentle ran from behind Valencia and Franklin and then toward plaintiff. Plaintiff 13 asserts that Valencia and Franklin failed to use effective means and simply “stood by and 14 watched” as Gentle attacked plaintiff. This is an insufficient evidentiary showing. Plaintiff 15 does not state how long the officers allegedly “stood by and watched.” The record indicates 16 that whatever delay occurred arose from the time it took defendants to understand what 17 events were happening. As noted above, Gentle’s direction of movement and speed 18 prevented the correctional officers from intercepting him before he reached plaintiff, and 19 further prevented them from acting for a few moments after Gentle reached plaintiff. 20 Plaintiff also alleges that defendants knew, or should have known, that Gentle was 21 dangerous, and therefore knew of a risk to plaintiff’s safety. The undisputed facts, however, 22 show that the release of Gentle was accidental. Defendants could not have accidentally 23 disregarded a risk to plaintiff’s safety. On such a record, defendants’ motion for summary 24 judgment is GRANTED in favor of Uribe, Valencia, and Franklin as to all claims. 25 // 26 // 27 // 28 5 No. C 10-2442 RS (PR) ORDER GRANTING MOT. FOR SUMM. J. 1 CONCLUSION 2 Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 19) is GRANTED. The 3 Clerk will enter judgment in favor of defendants T. Uribe, P. Valencia, and D. Franklin as to 4 all claims, terminate Docket No. 19, and close the file. 5 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: May 26, 2011 RICHARD SEEBORG United States District Judge 7 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 No. C 10-2442 RS (PR) ORDER GRANTING MOT. FOR SUMM. J.

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