United States District Court, D. Nevada
JAMES K.W. MATLEAN, Plaintiff,
JAMES DZURENDA, et al., Defendants.
J. Dawson United States District Judge
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by defendant
James Dzurenda (#26). Plaintiff James Matlean responded (#36),
and Dzurenda replied (#36).
Matlean is an inmate at the Saguaro Correctional Center. He
allegedly suffers from Short Bowel Syndrome, which affects
the way his digestive system absorbs nutrients from his diet.
Matlean claims that prison staff and doctors have been
deliberately indifferent to his condition in violation of the
Eighth Amendment. Dzurenda moves for summary judgment on
Matlean's Eighth Amendment claim, arguing that
Matlean's Short Bowel Syndrome is not a serious medical
need, and even if it were, prison officials have adequately
treated his condition. Alternatively, Dzurenda claims
qualified immunity. The Court agrees that Matlean has not
shown that that his short bowel syndrome is a serious medical
condition. He has similarly failed to demonstrate that prison
staff were indifferent to his medical needs. And so, the
Court grants summary judgment on Matlean's Eighth
Matlean has been legally incarcerated since at least December
of 2012. It was then that Matlean claims he first notified
prison doctors that he suffered from Short Bowel Syndrome.
See Compl. 4-A, ECF No. 7. At the time, Matlean
“consulted numerous times” with Dr. Koehn to
“develop a comprehensive treatment plan” for his
condition. Id Short Bowel Syndrome generally results
from damage or removal of a portion of the small intestine.
See Short Bowel Syndrome, Nat'l Inst. Of
Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,
(last visited Sep. 27, 2019) (“SBS Facts”). Left
untreated, short bowel syndrome can cause bloating, cramping,
diarrhea, vomiting, and malnutrition. Id. Generally,
however, nutritional support and an augmented diet alleviate
the condition's effects. Id.
claims he began the grievance process to request necessary
nutritional support in February of 2014. Compl. at 4-B. The
following May, Matlean was transferred from Ely to Northern
Nevada Correctional Center. Id Matlean claims that
he promptly alerted prison officials of his condition and
requested nutritional assistance (see id), but there
is no evidence of that. Doctors at Northern Nevada
Correctional Center prescribed Zantac, Pepto Bismol, and
Reguloids to alleviate Matlean's stomach pain.
Id At the end of 2014, Matlean was again
transferred, this time to High Desert State Prison in Indian
Springs, Nevada. Id at 5-B. From there, Matlean was
transferred to Southern Desert Correctional Center.
Id at 4-C-4-D. Matlean claims he was not seen by a
doctor for more than a month while prison officials processed
his final transfer. Compl. at 4-C.
April of 2016, Matlean began the grievance process at
Southern Desert to receive nutritional assistance. Matlean
requested additional calorie intake to offset the nutrients
that his intestines were unable to absorb. Southern Desert
Correction Center's physician, Dr. Vicuna, prescribed
medication and a multivitamin to help Matlean's stomach
and ordered a nutritional drink and a snack at night to
increase Matlean's calorie intake. Def's Mot. Summ.
J. 6, ECF No. 26 (citing Compl. at 4-F). Matlean again filed
a grievance, claiming that the medication, multivitamin, and
increased snacks were not enough and that he needed 100% more
calories each day. Id. at 7. Prison officials denied
that request, however, because they determined Matlean had
not complied with Dr. Vicuna's prior orders and was not
drinking the nutritional drink or retrieving his pills
regularly. Grievance Report 3, ECF No. 26 Ex. A.
prison staff refused to further augment Matlean's diet,
he brought this suit. Matlean brought two causes of action:
(1) a violation of the Eighth Amendment right to be free from
cruel and unusual punishment and (2) a violation of
Matlean's right to medical treatment under 42 U.S.C.
§ 12010. Compl. at 4, 5. Matlean requested
“damages in excess of $500, 000, ” punitive
damages, compensatory damages, and declaratory and injunctive
relief. Id. at 9. The Attorney General's Office
accepted service on every defendant except Jo Gentry, Dr.
Koehn, Dr. Vicuna, and SL Clark. ECF No. 15. Matlean
requested, and the Court granted, an extension of time to
serve Gentry, Koehn, Vicuna, and Clark. See ECF No.
18. Matlean has since served all but SL Clark. ECF Nos. 40,
43, 44. Dzurenda now moves for summary judgment on
Matlean's Eighth Amendment claim.
Court construes Matlean's pro se pleading liberally and
in his favor. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007). Despite that leeway, Matlean is still “bound
by the rules of procedure.” Ghazali v. Moran,
46 F.3d 52, 53 (9th Cir. 1995). Rule 56 allows summary
judgment where there exists no genuine issue of fact and when
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party
bears the burden of showing the absence of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to
the nonmoving party to show specific facts demonstrating a
genuine factual dispute for trial. See Masushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
Court makes all justifiable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.
However, the nonmoving party may not merely rest on the
allegations in the pleadings. Rather, the nonmoving party
must produce specific facts-by affidavit or other
evidence-showing a genuine issue of fact. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). And
summary judgment is not appropriate if a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248.
argues that Matlean's Eighth Amendment claim fails as a
matter of law because Matlean does not suffer from a serious
medical need, and prison officials' response to
Matlean's condition was constitutionally adequate.
Dzurenda further argues that even if Matlean could prove a
deliberate indifference claim, these officials would be
entitled to qualified immunity. The Court agrees.
Eighth Amendment, applicable to the states by the Fourteenth
Amendment, prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
Historically, “cruel and unusual punishment” was
punishment unauthorized by statute or punishment that was
disproportionate to the charged offense. Gregg v.
Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 167-70 (1976). The Framers'
adoption of the term proscribed “torture and other
barbar(ous) methods of punishment.” Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) (internal quotations
omitted). The Eighth Amendment's protections, however,
have evolved to include the “broad and idealistic
concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and
decency.” Id. (quoting Jackson v.
Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 579 (9th Cir. 1968). As a result,
the Amendment prohibits ...