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Salgado v. Williams

United States District Court, District of Nevada

March 26, 2015

Octavio Salgado, Plaintiff
v.
Brian Williams, et al., Defendants

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. 20]

Jennifer A. Dorsey, United States District Judge

Pro se prisoner plaintiff Octavio Salgado claims that he suffers from headaches and vertigo that led to what he calls several “man-down” incidents during his incarceration in the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”).[1] Salgado contends that NDOC staff were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, and that they violated his due-process rights by baselessly accusing him of faking medical episodes so that he could transfer to an outside hospital-an accusation that he believes caused him a parole denial.[2]

The defendants move for summary judgment on Salgado’s § 1983 claims, [3] arguing that several of them did not personally participate in the alleged conduct, that Salgado received the necessary medical care and all process due in his grievance process, and that each of them enjoys qualified immunity from this suit. Because the record establishes that NDOC staff was not deliberately indifferent to Salgado’s medical needs and afforded him due process in his disciplinary proceeding, I grant summary judgment.[4]

Discussion

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and admissible evidence “show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[5] When considering summary judgment, the court views all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[6] If reasonable minds could differ on material facts, summary judgment is inappropriate because summary judgment’s purpose is to avoid unnecessary trials when the facts are undisputed, and the case must then proceed to the trier of fact.[7]

If the moving party satisfies Rule 56 by demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the party resisting summary judgment to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”[8] The nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”; he “must produce specific evidence, through affidavits or admissible discovery material, to show that” there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable fact finder could find in his favor.[9] The court only considers properly authenticated, admissible evidence in deciding a motion for summary judgment.[10]

A. Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs

The Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment “embodies broad idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.”[11] A prisoner who claims inadequate medical care must show “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners” by prison officials.[12] Courts apply a two-part test. First, the objective analysis asks whether the plaintiff has “show[n] a serious medical need by demonstrating that failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.”[13] The subjective analysis then asks whether prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs.[14] The plaintiff can prove this prong by showing the defendants’ “purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner’s pain or possible medical need and . . . harm caused by the indifference.”[15]

The deliberate-indifference bar is a high one. “Mere indifference, negligence, or medical malpractice will not support this cause of action.”[16] If the plaintiff can show that prison officials denied, delayed, or intentionally interfered with medical treatment-and that delay or interference caused further injury-this is enough to establish deliberate indifference.[17] But it is not enough for an inmate to merely disagree with the diagnosis or course of treatment provided to him in prison.[18]

Salgado states that he was in a serious car accident in February 1998 that “resulted in trauma to the brain, blood clots within the brain, and brain surgery to remove said clots.”[19] His treating physician advised him that he was at high risk of developing future blood clots and that, if clots went undiagnosed by MRI, the consequences could be as severe as death.[20] Starting in 1998, Salgado suffered dizziness, vertigo, and headaches.[21] Six times between July 2010 and January 2013, or about once every five months, these symptoms caused what Salgado terms “man-down medical episodes” during his incarceration.[22] Salgado filed six medical grievances and repeatedly saw NDOC doctors.[23] He was diagnosed with vertigo, but believes he needs an MRI to check for blood clots.[24]

I first consider whether, objectively speaking, Salgado has established a serious medical need. Taking the facts in the light most favorable to Salgado, I note that his post-car-accident spells have been ongoing since 1998, the man-down incidents appear to have been persistent, the cause was not identified sufficiently to stop his incidents, and his post-accident treating physician warned him that he would need to monitor his symptoms to avoid serious injury or death. On this analysis, I find that Salgado satisfies the serious-medical-need prong of the deliberate-indifference test.

The second prong requires a showing that NDOC officials subjectively, deliberately ignored Salgado’s medical needs, resulting in harm. A 12-page history of Salgado’s medical treatment in the NDOC shows he received continuous medical attention from the time he entered NDOC facilities in February 2003 to the time the report was created in August 2013, several months after this litigation began.[25] Salgado received five examinations and follow-up appointments with Dr. Aranas, High Desert State Prison’s senior physician; he saw Dr. Sanchez at least once or twice.[26] Dr. Aranas testifies that, through the time he examined Salgado, the plaintiff’s “objective physical findings were essentially normal. Laboratory results, ECG, P.E., and symptoms all got better with medication. There was no indication that further referral and evaluation was needed at that time.”[27] Rather than showing deliberate indifference, the record reflects deliberate attention.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits purposeful indifference to inmates’ medical needs; it is not a guarantee of every medical test an inmate desires. While it is understandable that Salgado asks why his symptoms persist, NDOC doctors believe they found the appropriate way to treat his symptoms.[28] Contrary to Salgado’s arguments, NDOC medical staff was not obligated to “tak[e] every possible preventative and exploratory process[].”[29] The only potentially actionable, purposeful act is the defendants’ decision not to refer Salgado for an MRI diagnosis. The record shows, however, that they based the decision on objective medical data. This claim boils down to what Salgado wrote in a grievance: “I don’t agree with the findings.”[30] And it is well established that an inmate’s disagreement with a diagnosis does not give rise to a deliberate-indifference claim. On his deliberate-indifference claim, Salgado also sues Chief Medical Officer Bannister, Director of Nursing Services Dressler, and medical staff member Gutierrez for denying his medical grievances.[31] Because there is no Eighth Amendment violation in the manner in which Salgado‚Äôs medical ...


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