Hancock v. Union County et al
OPINION AND ORDER: Granting Motion for Summary Judgment 29 . Signed on 10/05/2017 by Judge Ann L. Aiken. (jw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF OREGON
TYSON ARTHUR HANCOCK,
Case No. 2: 16-cv-00815-AA
OPINION AND ORDER
UNION COUNTY; SHERIFF BOYD
RASMUSSEN; TAD BUTCHER;
COMMANDER LORI LUCAS; JOHN
DOE JAIL NURSE,
AIKEN, District Judge:
Plaintiff, a former inmate at the Union County jail, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and interference with his
legal mail. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all claims under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted.
Plaintiff has Type I Diabetes. On April 1, 2015, plaintiff was booked into the Union
County jail as a pretrial detainee on pending charges. Lucas Deel. at 2. His blood glucose levels
OPINION AND ORDER
were above normal, dropped over night, and began to rise the next day. Cary Deel. at 2. On the
evening of April 2, 2015, plaintiff was given Humulin, a long-acting insulin, which staff
administers in two 12-hour doses. Id. On April 3, 2015, medical staff started a Diabetic Flow
Sheet to track plaintiffs blood glucose levels and insulin dosages. Id. at 3 & Ex. 2.
During his approximate seven-week incarceration, plaintiff was permitted to selfadminister Humulin, test his blood glucose levels at any time, and take regular-acting insulin
between the Humulin doses. Id. Further, at plaintiffs request, he was provided with glucose
tablets for emergencies and allowed a late-night sandwich to eat between the dinner and
breakfast meals. Id.
On May 1, 2015, plaintiff filed a grievance related to his diabetes medication. Lucas
Deel. at 3. On May 6, 2015, the Sheriffs Office responded and recounted staff efforts to control
plaintiffs blood glucose levels. Lucas Deel. at 3 & Ex. 8.
On May 18, 2015, plaintiff was released from the jail. Id. at 2.
On November 4, 2015, plaintiff again was booked into the Union County jail at
approximately midnight. Lucas Deel. at 2. Medical staff tested his blood glucose level found it to
be very high. From his home, Nurse Cary authorized an immediate insulin injection which
normalized plaintiffs blood glucose levels. Cary Deel. at 3 & Ex. 3. Subsequently, plaintiffs
blood glucose levels dropped further and he was given a sandwich. Id.
Medical staff again prepared a Diabetic Flow Sheet to track plaintiffs blood glucose
levels and insulin dosages. Id. at 3-4 & Ex. 4. Plaintiff was given blood glucose testing at his
request and regular-acting insulin between Humulin doses. Id. at 4. He also was provided with
glucose tablets for emergencies and a sandwich between the dinner and breakfast meals. Id.
2 - OPINION AND ORDER
·on December 11, 2015, plaintiff was released from the jail on his own recognizance.
Lucas Deel. at 2. On December 18, 2015, plaintiff was against booked into the jail. Id.
On April 29, 2016, plaintiff filed a grievance and complained that his legal mail was
returned to him for insufficient postage. The Jail Commander responded and explained to
plaintiff that his mail was required to comply with postage allocated on the envelopes and that
his legal mail to the courts was delivered free of charge. Id. at 4 & Ex. 9.
On July 15, 2016, plaintiff was released from the jail. Id. at 2.
In his complaint, plaintiff alleges the following claims for relief: deliberate indifference
to his serious medical needs based on defendants' failure to provide adequate medication for his
diabetes in March and November 2015 (Claims 1 and 2); deliberate indifference based on
defendants' failure to provide and prepare meals appropriate for a diabetic (Claims 3 and 5); and
interference with his legal mail (Claim 4). (ECF No. 2) Defendants contend that plaintiff failed
to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to several claims and that plaintiffs claims
fail on the merits. To prevail, defendants must show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court must construe the evidence and draw all
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Torres v. City of Madera, 648 F.3d
1119, 1123 (9th Cir. 2011).
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), inmates must exhaust all available
administrative remedies before filing a court action to redress prison conditions or incidents. 42
U.S.C § 1997e(a). The exhaustion requirement is mandatory and requires compliance with both
OPINION AND ORDER
procedural and substantive elements of prison grievance processes. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S.
81, 90 (2006). In other words, inmates must complete the administrative review process and
comply with all applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, by appealing a grievance
decision to the highest level before filing suit. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 218 (2007).
However, the PLRA does not require exhaustion when administrative remedies are "effectively
unavailable." Sapp v. Kimbrell, 623 F.3d 813, 823 (9th Cir. 2010). Rather, an administrative
remedy must be available "as a practical matter" and "capable of use" by the inmate. Brown v.
Valojf, 422 F.3d 926, 937 (9th Cir. 2005); see, e.g., Marella v. Terhune, 568 F.3d 1024, 1027
(9th Cir. 2009) (per curiam) (administrative remedies may be effectively unavailable where the
prisoner lacks the necessary forms or is informed that he cannot file a grievance).
The Union County jail has a five-step grievance process. Lucas Deel. at 3 & Ex 7. First,
the inmate must verbally attempt to resolve the issue with a floor deputy or the jail nurse before
filing a grievance. If the staff member cannot resolve the issue, the inmate may request and
submit a Grievance Form within three days of the event in question. The Jail Corporal must
respond to the grievance in writing within five business days. If the issue is not resolved by the
Corporal, the Grievance Form is forwarded to the Jail Commander who must answer within five
business days. If the Jail Commander cannot resolve it, the Grievance Form follows the chain of
command, ending with the Union County Sheriff. Id.
Defendants maintain that plaintiff did not submit a Grievance Form related to his medical
care during his November 4, 2015 to December 11, 2015 detention. Lucas Deel. at 4. Similarly,
defendants contend that plaintiff did not submit Grievance Forms related to nutrition or food
preparation at any time. Id. Plaintiff does not dispute defendants' assertions, and the evidence he
has submitted supports defendants' assertions. See Pl.'s Suppl. (ECF No. 27) (copies of
4 - OPINION AND ORDER
Grievance Forms). Further, plaintiff does not contend that the grievance process was unavailable
to him. Accordingly, Claims 2, 3, and 5 are barred for failure to exhaust. 1
B. Medical Care
Plaintiff alleges that he was not provided adequate treatment for his diabetes during his
detention beginning in March 2015. Compl. at 4. However, plaintiff was not confined at the
Union County jail until April 1, 2015. Lucas Deel. at 2. Accordingly, the court reviews plaintiffs
medical care during his detention from April 1, 2015 to May 18, 2015.
Plaintiffs claim of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs is evaluated under
the Fourteenth Amendment because he was a pretrial detainee. Anderson v. Cnty. of Kern, 45
F.3d 1310, 1312, as amended on· denial ofreh'g, 75 F.3d 448 (9th Cir. 1995) (stating that the
"convicted inmates' challenge is evaluated under the Eighth Amendment, and the pretrial
detainees' challenge is evaluated under the Fourteenth Amendment"). To defeat summary
judgement, plaintiff must present evidence showing: 1) the existence of "a serious medical
need"; and 2) deliberate indifference on the part of defendants. Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091,
1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). 2
Deliberate indifference under the Fourteenth Amendment is shown when a prison official
knew or should have known that a detainee faced a "substantial risk of serious harm" and failed
to take reasonable measures to abate the risk. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994); see
Even if these claims were exhausted, they fail on the merits. For the reasons explained
below, plaintiffs medical care did not constitute deliberate indifference to his serious medical
needs. See Cary Deel. & Exs. 3-4. Further, defendants maintain that the jail provided plaintiff
with a balanced, nutritional diet approved by a licensed dietician for diabetic patients due to its
low sugar and balance of proteins. Lucas Deel. at 4 & Ex. 10. Plaintiff does not dispute this fact.
"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."' Doty v. Cnty. of
Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Defendants do not dispute that
plaintiffs diabetes is a serious medical need.
5 - OPINION AND ORDER
also Castro v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1070-71 (9th Cir. 2016) (en bane), cert
denied, Los Angeles Cnty. v. Castro, 13 7 S. Ct. 831 (2017). 3 Prison officials may demonstrate
deliberate indifference by denying, delaying, or intentionally interfering with medical treatment,
or by the manner in which they provide medical treatment. Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096; Hallett v.
Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 744 (9th Cir. 2002). Here, the record clearly shows that defendants were
not deliberately indifferent to plaintiffs medical needs.
Defendants closely monitored plaintiffs diabetic condition throughout his incarceration
at the Union County Jail. Medical staff monitored his blood glucose levels, administered insulin,
allowed plaintiff to self-monitor and self-administer insulin, and provided plaintiff with glucose
tablets and between-meal snacks. Plaintiff even admitted in May 2015 that he felt "good and
healthy." Cary Deel. & Exs. 1-4; Lucas Deel. at 4 & Ex. 10. Even if the record could be
construed as reflecting a difference of opinion between plaintiff and medical staff regarding the
best course of treatment, allegedly inadequate treatment due to differences in judgment between
an inmate and medical personnel does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Gamble,
429 U.S. at 105-06. Given the undisputed facts of record, no genuine issue of fact precludes
summary judgment on plaintiffs claims for relief alleging deliberate indifference to his medical
The Eighth Amendment standard for deliberate indifference includes a subjective
element; "the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a
substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer, 511 U.S. at
837. However, the Ninth Circuit has held that deliberate indifference under the Fourteenth
Amendment differs and does not require pretrial detainees to establish subjective intent or
awareness when alleging failure-to-protect claims. Castro, 833 F.3d at 1068-71 (discussing
Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S. Ct. 2466 (2015)). The Ninth Circuit has not indicated whether
the "objective" deliberate indifference test applies to pretrial detainee claims of inadequate
medical treatment, and I consider both standards. Regardless, "any possible divergence" from the
subjective Eighth Amendment standard does not affect my decision in this case. Anderson, 45
F.3d at 1313, n.1.
6 - OPINION AND ORDER
C. Legal Mail
Plaintiff also alleges that Jail Commander Lucas interfered with his legal mail three times
by returning his mail for insufficient postage. Compl. at 7. On April 26, 2016, plaintiff filed a
Grievance Form related to his mail. Lucas Deel. at 4 & Ex. 9. Lucas responded that his mail was
"too thick - way over limit." Id Lucas also informed plaintiff that the jail would send his local
legal mail to the court and would mail his indigent legal mail without charge. Id
Plaintiff did not explain what type of mail was returned to him, aside from describing it
as "legal" mail addressed to the Attorney General, "Attorney Defense Council Commission,"
the Oregon State Bar Association, the Ninth Circuit, and the Oregon Health Authority. Compl.
at 7. However, a prison need not treat all mail sent to government agencies and officials as legal
mail. See O'Keefe v. Van Boening, 82 F.3d 322, 326 (9th Cir. 1996). To the extent plaintiff
alleges a violation of his right of access to the courts, plaintiff must allege an actual injury
arising from defendants' actions; namely, that defendants' conduct hindered a non-frivolous
legal claim. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 351-53 (1996). Plaintiff makes no such allegation.
Therefore, no genuine issue of material fact precludes summary judgment.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 29) is GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
this~ of October, 2017.
United States District Judge
7 - OPINION AND ORDER
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?