Santos v. Santa Clara Co. Main Jail Medical Facility

Filing 23

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton granting 9 Motion for Summary Judgment (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (nahS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/30/2014)

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1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 OAKLAND DIVISION 6 7 LARRY EUGENE SANTOS, Jr., Plaintiff, 8 9 v. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SANTA CLARA CO. MAIN JAIL, Defendant. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 No. C 13-4885 PJH (PR) / 12 13 This is a civil rights case brought pro se by a prisoner. His claims arise from his 14 detention in the Santa Clara County Jail. Plaintiff alleges that the jail was deliberately 15 indifferent to his serious medical needs in treating his toenail fungus. Plaintiff also alleges 16 the jail has a policy not to treat his type of condition with the medical drug Lamasil. 17 Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that there are no undisputed 18 material facts and that plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Plaintiff 19 has not filed an opposition or otherwise communicated with the court since filing the 20 complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment is granted. 21 22 DISCUSSION Motion for Summary Judgment 23 A. Standard of Review 24 Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show 25 that there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to 26 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Material facts are those which may 27 affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). 28 A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury 1 2 to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. The moving party for summary judgment bears the initial burden of identifying those 3 portions of the pleadings, discovery and affidavits which demonstrate the absence of a 4 genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Nissan 5 Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). When the moving 6 party has met this burden of production, the nonmoving party must go beyond the 7 pleadings and, by its own affidavits or discovery, set forth specific facts showing that there 8 is a genuine issue for trial. If the nonmoving party fails to produce enough evidence to 9 show a genuine issue of material fact, the moving party wins. Id. B. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment's 12 proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 13 (1976); McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other 14 grounds by WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en 15 banc). A determination of "deliberate indifference" involves an examination of two 16 elements: the seriousness of the prisoner's medical need and the nature of the defendant's 17 response to that need. Id. at 1059.1 Eighth Amendment 18 A "serious" medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could 19 result in further significant injury or the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Id. 20 “The existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and 21 worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 It is not entirely clear if plaintiff was a prisoner or detainee during the relevant time, and he appears to no longer be in custody in the jail or in state prison. Regardless, even though pretrial detainees' claims arise under the Due Process Clause, the Eighth Amendment serves as a benchmark for evaluating those claims. See Carnell v. Grimm, 74 F.3d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1996) (8th Amendment guarantees provide minimum standard of care for pretrial detainees). The Ninth Circuit has determined that the appropriate standard for evaluating constitutional claims brought by pretrial detainees is the same one used to evaluate convicted prisoners' claims under the Eighth Amendment. "The requirement of conduct that amounts to 'deliberate indifference' provides an appropriate balance of the pretrial detainees' right to not be punished with the deference given to prison officials to manage the prisons." Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1443 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (citation omitted). 2 1 affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain are 2 examples of indications that a prisoner has a ‘serious’ need for medical treatment.” Id. at 3 1059-60. 4 A prison official is deliberately indifferent if he or she knows that a prisoner faces a 5 substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable steps 6 to abate it. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). The prison official must not only 7 “be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious 8 harm exists,” but he “must also draw the inference.” Id. If a prison official should have 9 been aware of the risk, but was not, then the official has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how severe the risk. Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 1188 (9th Cir. 2002). 12 Local governments are "persons" subject to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 where 13 official policy or custom causes a constitutional tort, see Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 14 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978); however, a city or county may not be held vicariously liable for 15 the unconstitutional acts of its employees under the theory of respondeat superior, see 16 Board of Cnty. Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997); Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. To 17 impose municipal liability under § 1983 for a violation of constitutional rights, a plaintiff must 18 show: (1) that the plaintiff possessed a constitutional right of which he or she was deprived; 19 (2) that the municipality had a policy; (3) that this policy amounts to deliberate indifference 20 to the plaintiff's constitutional rights; and (4) that the policy is the moving force behind the 21 constitutional violation. Plumeau v. School Dist. #40 Cnty. of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 22 (9th Cir. 1997). 23 C. 24 The following of defendant’s facts are undisputed as plaintiff has not filed an 25 opposition. On May 4, 2013, plaintiff presented to medical staff with a complaint of toenail 26 fungus. Motion for Summary Judgment (“MSJ”) at 1. An examination indicated that he had 27 athlete’s foot. Id. Plaintiff was prescribed Miconazole Nitrate (2% strength), a topical 28 cream, and was instructed to use the cream twice a day for two weeks. Id. He was also Facts 3 1 given clean socks daily for two weeks. Id. Plaintiff again presented with a complaint of 2 toenail fungus on November 5, 2013, and he was again prescribed Miconazole Nitrate (2% 3 strength). Id. Plaintiff did not complain again of any toenail fungus or other foot-related 4 ailments. Id. 5 Miconazole Nitrate (2% strength), or a similar topical cream, is the standard 6 treatment provided to inmates with athlete’s foot at Santa Clara County Jail. Id. A stronger 7 treatment, such as the prescription drug Lamasil that plaintiff had requested, is only 8 prescribed to county inmates on a case by case basis when deemed medically necessary. 9 Id. at 2. Toenail fungus is not considered a serious medical condition for non-diabetics by the jail. Id. For non-diabetics such as plaintiff, toenail fungus does not have malevolent 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 side effects, only cosmetic ones and the possibility of developing athlete’s foot. Id. 12 Oral medication for the treatment of toenail fungus, such as that requested by 13 plaintiff must be taken daily for three to six months to assure its effectiveness. Id. It also 14 requires monthly liver function tests to assure that the patient does not develop liver failure, 15 which medications such as Lamasil can cause. Id. Because plaintiff’s time in the jail was 16 temporary, there was no guarantee that he could finish the course of treatment and receive 17 the liver tests. Id. 18 D. 19 Defendant first argues that plaintiff’s toenail fungus was not a serious medical need Analysis 20 under the Eighth Amendment. As plaintiff only had two isolated instances of toenail fungus 21 that led to athlete’s foot which seem to have been properly treated with the topical cream 22 supplied by doctors, this does not appear to be a serious medical need. Regardless, even 23 if it were a serious medical need, there was no constitutional violation, based on the 24 treatment provided by the jail, nor was there a policy in place at the jail not to treat this type 25 of condition. 26 It is undisputed that plaintiff was provided the topical cream treatment on the two 27 occasions that he complained of the toenail fungus and that it appears to have successfully 28 treated the condition. Plaintiff alleges in the complaint that he was not provided with a 4 prescription for Lamasil. Yet, “[a] difference of opinion between a prisoner-patient and 2 prison medical authorities regarding treatment does not give rise to a § 1983 claim." 3 Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1344 (9th Cir. 1981). Similarly, a showing of nothing 4 more than a difference of medical opinion as to the need to pursue one course of treatment 5 over another is insufficient, as a matter of law, to establish deliberate indifference. See 6 Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1058-60 (9th Cir. 2004). Moreover, defendant was wary 7 of prescribing Lamasil due to plaintiff possibly leaving the jail and not having his liver 8 functions properly monitored and completing the course of treatment. Defendant has also 9 shown that there is no policy of not prescribing Lamasil because it can be prescribed under 10 certain circumstances. For all these reasons, summary judgment is granted for defendant.2 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 1 12 CONCLUSION 13 1. The motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 9) is GRANTED. 14 2. The clerk shall close the file. 15 IT IS SO ORDERED. 16 Dated: July 30, 2014. PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON United States District Judge 17 18 19 20 G:\PRO-SE\PJH\CR.13\ 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 2 28 As the court has not found a constitutional violation, the argument that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies will not be addressed. 5

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