United States District Court, D. Nevada
SEAN T. DOUTRE, Plaintiff,
ROMEO ARANAS, et al., Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT. NO. 21) AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION DKT. NO. 27).
RICHARD F. BOULWARE, II, District Judge.
Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 21) filed by Defendants Romeo Aranas, Benedicto Gutierrez, and Cheryl Dressler and a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (Dkt. No. 27) filed by Plaintiff Sean Doutre. For the reasons discussed below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is denied with respect to Defendant Aranas and deferred with respect to Defendants Gutierrez and Dressler. The Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is denied without prejudice.
Plaintiff Sean Doutre, proceeding pro se in this action, is currently incarcerated at Southern Desert Correctional Center (SDCC). Doutre brought an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Aranas, Gutierrez, and Dressler alleging the violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Doutre also named Brandon Oliver, James Cox, James Bannister, and an unnamed Doe defendant in his complaint. All defendants were named in their individual and official capacities. On October 30, 2012, the Court screened Doutre's complaint (Dkt. No. 3) and dismissed the Eighth Amendment claims against Cox and Bannister as well as Doutre's claims for damages against all defendants in their official capacities. The Court determined that Doutre's Eighth Amendment claims against Aranas, Gutierrez, Dressler, Oliver, and the Doe defendant could proceed. Following a 90-day stay during which no settlement was reached, the Attorney General accepted service on behalf of Aranas, Gutierrez, and Dressler; no service was accepted on behalf of Oliver, who is no longer an employee of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), or the Doe defendant. The Court's analysis of the motions currently before it thus pertains to Defendants Aranas, Gutierrez, and Dressler only.
Doutre suffers from ulcerative colitis, a chronic intestinal condition. In his complaint, Doutre alleges that between September and December of 2011, Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. In September 2011, Doutre began to experience symptoms of ulcerative colitis, including abdominal pain, cramps, and rectal bleeding. On September 23, Doutre saw Aranas, a doctor employed by NDOC who works two days a week at SDCC, for an appointment. During the appointment, Doutre reported that he had been bleeding rectally and experiencing abdominal pains for approximately two weeks. During the appointment, Dr. Aranas performed a rectal examination of Doutre. Doutre claims that this examination was done without any warning and that he believes it was done out of anger and frustration due to Doutre disagreeing with Dr. Aranas regarding the type of medication he should be taking. Defendants maintain that Doutre "did not object" to the examination, Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. at 2, that a rectal examination is standard practice given such symptoms, and that Dr. Aranas, as a matter of professional practice, always informs his patients prior to administering such examinations. Id. at Ex. B. Following the examination, Dr. Aranas diagnosed Doutre as having an acute flare-up of ulcerative colitis, prescribed him several medications to treat his symptoms, and scheduled a follow-up appointment.
On October 10, 2011, Doutre had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Aranas where Doutre reported that his symptoms had improved. Doutre states that this visit took place in the open at the nurse's station. During this appointment, Doutre requested a special diet to help manage his symptoms. Defendants state that Dr. Aranas told Doutre that there was no special diet for colitis and directed him to take milk of magnesia. Doutre alleges that Dr. Aranas made no such statement, but rather that he said Doutre would not be put on any type of diet and that he "had better not push it, " Opp. Summ. J. at 4, and that Dr. Aranas then walked away and ended the visit.
Doutre was scheduled for two additional appointments, although the parties disagree as to the exact date. Defendants allege that Doutre was scheduled to come to the clinic on November 7, 2011 and December 5, 2011, and that Doutre did not show up for his appointments on either day. Doutre alleges that he believes his first appointment was scheduled for November 18 and that when he showed up, he stood "face to face" with Dr. Aranas as Dr. Aranas told a corrections officer that he would not see Doutre. On his next scheduled appointment on December 2, Doutre states that he again showed up to the clinic and observed Dr. Aranas tell a nurse that he would not see Doutre, at which point the nurse told Doutre to come back in three days' time. In three days, Doutre returned to the clinic and was told no doctor was available and to come back the next day. Doutre alleges that it was not until December 6 that he was seen by a doctor, at which point he was seen by Dr. Sanchez, another doctor at the clinic. At this appointment, Doutre informed Dr. Sanchez that he was experiencing bloody stool seven to eight times per day. Dr. Sanchez ordered a series of tests, including blood tests, a comprehensive metabolic panel, and a stool sample, and ordered Doutre to adhere to a diet of no milk or milk products. The blood test came back the following day, at which point Dr. Sanchez ordered further tests and directed Doutre to begin taking iron pills.
On December 8, 2011, Doutre states that he fainted while waiting in the pill call line. He was taken to see Dr. Sanchez, who diagnosed him with ulcerative colitis and anemia and ordered him transported to Valley Hospital Medical Center. Doutre was hospitalized for one week, during which time he was found to be severely anemic, received a blood transfusion and intravenous fluids, and experienced an episode of bradycardia in which his heart rate dropped to 30-40 beats per minute. Doutre was discharged from Valley Hospital on December 15, 2011 and returned to SDCC, where he reported to Dr. Sanchez that his symptoms had improved.
Throughout this period, Doutre filed several grievances and kites requesting additional medical attention for his symptoms and disagreeing with the way he had been treated. Doutre filed an informal grievance on October 10, 2011, in which he stated that he was filing a complaint against Dr. Aranas for being "negligent, hostile, and just plain pompous, " insisting on giving a rectal exam instead of taking a stool sample, and ignoring Doutre's subsequent complaints of worsening symptoms and requests for treatment. Pl.'s Opp. Summ. J., Ex. C. That grievance was denied by Defendant Gutierrez on October 27, 2011. Doutre filed a first-level grievance on November 8, 2011 in which he noted his disagreement with Gutierrez's decision. In this grievance, Doutre reiterated his allegations that Dr. Aranas was hostile and indifferent toward him and had ignored or delayed in responding to Doutre's symptoms. Doutre's first-level grievance was denied by Defendant Dressler on December 27, 2011 and was received by Doutre on January 18, 2012. Doutre filed a second-level grievance on January 17, 2012, alleging an inadequate response to his informal grievance and a total lack of response to his first-level grievance. He also complained of receiving absolutely no medical treatment between November 8, 2011 and December 6, 2011 despite filing an emergency grievance on November 22 and medical kites on November 17, November 22, and December 2 alerting the medical department at SDCC that his symptoms were worsening and stating that he was repeatedly sent away from the clinic without being seen.
In this action, Doutre alleges that Aranas, Gutierrez and Dressler were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in which they argue that Doutre failed to exhaust available administrative remedies with respect to his claims against Gutierrez and Dressler, that Gutierrez and Dressler cannot be held liable because they did not personally participate in Doutre's medical treatment, and that Dr. Aranas was not deliberately indifferent to Doutre's medical need.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When considering the propriety of summary judgment, the court views all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Johnson v. Poway Unified Sch. Dist., 658 F.3d 954, 960 (9th Cir. 2011). If the movant has carried its burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). Where a genuine dispute of material fact exists, however, the court will assume the version asserted by the non-moving party. See Bryan v. MacPherson, 630 F.3d 805, 823 (9th Cir. 2010); Coles v. Eagle, 704 F.3d 624, 629 (9th Cir. 2012) ("We must, in the context of summary judgment, resolve this disputed factual issue in favor of [the non-moving party and] draw all reasonable inferences in his favor....").
If the nonmoving party can show that, for specified reasons, it is unable to present essential facts in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, Rule 56(d) permits the court to defer consideration of the motion, deny the motion, allow for additional discovery, or issue any other appropriate order. Where the parties have not yet had the benefit of discovery, "summary judgment is disfavored... particularly in cases involving confined pro se plaintiffs." ...