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Howell v. Allen

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 25, 2019

SHERIFF CHUCK ALLEN, et al., Defendants.



         I. SUMMARY

         Plaintiff David Howell a/k/a Andre Gilliam brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. There are two Report and Recommendations (“R&Rs”) before the Court from Magistrate Judge William G. Cobb (ECF Nos. 85, 86) concerning separate motions for summary judgments filed by Defendants Sean Smith and Heather Hagan (ECF No. 57) and Sheriff Chuck Allen (ECF No. 63). Plaintiff filed an objection to the R&Rs (“Objection”) (ECF No. 87). Smith, Hagan and Allen filed responses. (ECF Nos. 88, 89.) For the reasons stated below, the Court overrules Plaintiff's Objection and accepts and adopts the R&Rs in entirety.[1]


         Plaintiff is currently in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”). The R&Rs clarify that the events giving rise to this case occurred while Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee housed at the Washoe County Detention Facility (WCDF)[2] on June 22, 2017. (E.g., ECF No. 85 at 10-12; ECF No. 86 at 4-7.) The crux of Plaintiff's allegations is that on the noted date he was exposed to toxic gases and fumes from construction on the roof of the unit where Plaintiff was housed.

         On screening, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed with the following claims. As against Smith and Hagan, Plaintiff was permitted to move forward with a Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause claim and an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to safety claim. (ECF No. 12.) Both claims are based on allegations that Smith and Hagan left Plaintiff in a cell that was heavy with toxic fumes while they released other similarly-situated inmates because Plaintiff was asleep and Plaintiff was sickened by the fumes which required treatment from the infirmary. (Id. at 6-7, 9.) As against Allen, Plaintiff was also permitted to proceed with an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to safety claim. (Id. at 8.) This claim is based on allegations that Allen knew of the roof construction and toxic materials being used, but took no steps to protect the inmates, including Plaintiff, from the fumes. (Id. at 5.)

         Further background regarding Plaintiff's allegations and Defendants' responses are explained in detail in the R&Rs (ECF Nos. 85, 86), which this Court adopts.


         A. Review of Magistrate Judge's Recommendation

         This Court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Where a party timely objects to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, then the court is required to “make a de novo determination of those portions of the [report and recommendation] to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In light of Plaintiff's Objection, this Court engages in a de novo review to determine whether to adopt Magistrate Judge Cobb's R&Rs.

         B. Summary Judgment Standard

         “The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials when there is no dispute as to the facts before the court.” Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir. 1994). Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). An issue is “genuine” if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable fact-finder could find for the nonmoving party and a dispute is “material” if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The moving party bears the burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Zoslaw v. MCA Distrib. Corp., 693 F.2d 870, 883 (9th Cir. 1982). Once the moving party satisfies Rule 56's requirements, the burden shifts to the party resisting the motion to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The nonmoving party “may not rely on denials in the pleadings but must produce specific evidence, through affidavits or admissible discovery material, to show that the dispute exists, ” Bhan v. NME Hosps., Inc., 929 F.2d 1404, 1409 (9th Cir. 1991), and “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Orr v. Bank of Am., NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764, 783 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Moreover, a court views all facts and draws inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Kaiser Cement Corp. v. Fischbach & Moore, Inc., 793 F.2d 1100, 1103 (9th Cir. 1986).

         IV. ...

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