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David v. Doe

United States District Court, D. Nevada

October 10, 2019

DR. JOHN DOE, et. al., Defendants



         This Report and Recommendation is made to the Honorable Robert C. Jones, United States District Judge. The action was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and the Local Rules of Practice, LR 1B 1-4.

         Before the court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 53, 53-1.) Plaintiff filed a response. (ECF No. 55.) Defendants filed a reply. (ECF No. 58.) Despite previously filing a response to the motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion "made to oppose the defendant's motion for summary judgment" where he seeks an order denying Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 61.) Defendants filed a response to that document. (ECF No. 62.)

         After a thorough review, it is recommended that Defendants' motion be granted, and that Plaintiff's motion for an order denying Defendants' motion be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         When he filed his pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), but the events giving rise to this action took place while he was a pretrial detainee at the Washoe County Detention Facility (WCDF). (Am. Compl., ECF No. 37.) He was housed at various facilities within NDOC, and according to NDOC's online offender database was paroled, and then recently filed a notice of change of address indicating he is currently housed at the WCDF again. Defendants are Jimmy Groves, LPN; Sandra Boxx-Fontes, LPN; Suzanna Goodman-Fisler, LPN; and Eloy Ituarte, M.D.

         On screening, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed with a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim of inadequate medical care by a pretrial detainee. All other claims were dismissed. (ECF No. 10.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on May 15, 2017, he was bit by a snake while at a friend's home, but was not concerned because the snake was not poisonous. On May 17, 2017, he awoke in his hotel room at the Sands Casino and his hand was swollen to the size of a baseball. He was concerned about his hand, and decided to seek medical treatment at a hospital. On his way, an officer stopped him for illegally crossing the street. He had a warrant out for probation violations, and he was arrested and taken to WCDF. He alleges that he informed medical staff on his arrival of his swollen hand. He avers that a WCDF employee said she could not do anything for him, and he would have to file a kite to receive medical treatment. He continued to complain about his swollen hand, but alleges that he received no medical attention.

         After a week of being in pain and not being scheduled to see a healthcare provider, he resorted to threats of suicide to seek medical treatment. He expressed concern that the swelling was getting worse, but nursing staff stated he had not been bitten by a snake. Nurses Sandra Boxx-Fontes and Suzanna Goodman-Fisler treated him with hand soaks and Silvadene cream. Nurse Jimmie Groves also treated him for his swollen hand. His hand condition continued to deteriorate, and at this point he asked to be taken to a hospital or to see an orthopedic doctor.

         Plaintiff saw Dr. Ituarte, who took him off penicillin and prescribed Tramadol. Plaintiff asked Dr. Ituarte if he needed to go to the hospital, and Dr. Ituarte said no, we will just keep it clean with day to day hand soaks and new hand wraps.

         Plaintiff was transferred to the custody of NDOC on June 14, 2017. He was seen by medical staff for his swollen hand, and was rushed to the hospital where he had his thumb amputated from the first knuckle to the nail. He asserts he was placed on antibiotics to keep him from losing his entire thumb, and also sustained permanent nerve damage in the infected area.

         Defendants move for summary judgment, arguing that they did not violate Plaintiffs Fourteenth Amendment rights because they provided Plaintiff with objectively reasonable and adequate medical care.


         The legal standard governing this motion is well settled: a party is entitled to summary judgment when “the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Cartrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). A fact is “material” if it could affect the outcome of the case. Id. at 248 (disputes over facts that might affect the outcome will preclude summary judgment, but factual disputes which are irrelevant or unnecessary are not considered). On the other hand, where reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.

         “The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials when there is no dispute as to the facts before the court.” Northwest Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24 (purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims"); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252 (purpose of summary judgment is to determine whether a case "is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law"). In considering a motion for summary judgment, all reasonable inferences are drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In re Slatkin, 525 F.3d 805, 810 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); Kaiser Cement Corp. v. Fischbach & Moore Inc., 793 F.2d 1100, 1103 (9th Cir. 1986). That being said, "if the evidence of the nonmoving party "is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-250 (citations omitted). The court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth or to make credibility determinations. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 249, 255; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court applies a burden-shifting analysis. “When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, ‘it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'… In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine [dispute] of fact on each issue material to its case.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rest., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party cannot establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will have the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Cartrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986).

         If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine dispute exists as to a material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The opposing party need not establish a genuine dispute of material fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (quotation marks and citation omitted). The nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine dispute of material fact for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.


         A. ...

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