United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ORDER GRANTING IN PART
 DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
NUFFER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Edgardo Mata, an inmate at Utah State Prison (USP), seeks
relief for alleged civil-rights violations by state employees
regarding his conditions of confinement. See 42
U.S.C.S. § 1983 (2018). In his Amended Complaint, (Doc.
No. 33), Plaintiff names as defendants: Alfred Bigelow
(warden), Craig Buchannon (gang sergeant), Joseph Coombs
(physician assistant), Scott Crowther (warden), Aaron Douglas
(nurse), FNU Harris (gang sergeant), Jason Hutchinson
(sergeant), Jason Nicholes (captain), Dustin Nielson (housing
officer), Christopher North (narcotics agent), FNU
Rentmiester (gang sergeant), Sidney G. Roberts (doctor),
Dallas Ray (lieutenant), Dane Thurston (physician assistant),
Pete Walters (gang investigator), Ronald Wilson (captain),
and Kelly Worley (gang sergeant).
Amended Complaint contains claims of inadequate medical
treatment regarding knee injury and mental health (Eighth
Amendment); retaliation (First Amendment); failure to protect
(Eight Amendment); and, due-process and equal-protection
violations as to gang and housing
now move for summary judgment. As explained below, the Court
grants the motion in part. But, first, the Court screens out
Plaintiff's claim of inadequate mental-health treatment.
SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL
evaluating the propriety of dismissing claims for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, this Court
takes all well-pleaded factual assertions as true and regards
them in a light most advantageous to the plaintiff. Ridge
at Red Hawk L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177
(10th Cir. 2007). Dismissal is appropriate when, viewing
those facts as true, the plaintiff has not posed a
"plausible" right to relief. See Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Robbins
v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247-48 (10th Cir. 2008).
"The burden is on the plaintiff to frame a
'complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to
suggest' that he or she is entitled to relief."
Robbins, 519 F.3d at 1247 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). When a civil-rights complaint contains
"bare assertions," involving "nothing more
than a 'formulaic recitation of the elements' of a
constitutional . . . claim," the Court considers those
assertions "conclusory and not entitled to" an
assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1951 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
554-55). In other words, "the mere metaphysical
possibility that some plaintiff could prove
some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims
is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to
believe this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood
of mustering factual support for these claims."
Red Hawk, 493 F.3d at 1177 (italics in original).
Court must construe pro se "'pleadings
liberally,' applying a less stringent standard than is
applicable to pleadings filed by lawyers. Th[e] court,
however, will not supply additional factual allegations to
round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal
theory on a plaintiff's behalf." Whitney v. New
Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997)
(citations omitted). In the Tenth Circuit, this means that if
this Court can reasonably read the pleadings "to state a
valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should
do so despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper
legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his
poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity
with pleading requirements." Hall v. Bellmon,
935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). Still, it is not
"the proper function of the district court to assume the
role of advocate for the pro se litigant." Id.;
see also Peterson v. Shanks, 149 F.3d 1140, 1143
(10th Cir. 1998) (citing Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d
1188, 1197 (10th Cir. 1989) (per curiam)).
complaint must clearly state what each individual defendant
did to violate Plaintiff's civil rights. See Bennett
v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976)
(stating personal participation of each defendant is
essential allegation). "To state a claim, a complaint
must 'make clear exactly who is alleged to have
done what to whom.'" Stone v.
Albert, No. 08-2222, slip op. at 4 (10th Cir. July 20,
2009) (unpublished) (emphasis in original) (quoting
Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1250 (10th Cir.
CLAIM NOT LINKED TO NAMED DEFENDANT
Amended Complaint has a section entitled, “Plaintiff is
being denied necessary mental health treatment. (Am. Compl.,
Doc. No. 33, at 46.) In it, he details his attempts, between
June 22 and September 13, 2016, to see a psychiatrist.
(Id. at 46-47.) He identifies people he spoke with
and wrote to requesting to see a psychiatrist. (Id.
at 46-47.) However, he does not link his failed efforts to
any of the named defendants. The lack of an affirmative link
to named defendants renders this potential claim invalid and
it is dismissed.
Court shall grant summary judgment when “the movant
shows 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). A party may support factual
assertions by “citing to particular parts of materials
in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes
of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or
other materials.” Id. at 56(c)(1). Summary
judgment's purpose “is to isolate and dispose of
factually unsupported claims or defenses.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).
movant has the “initial burden to demonstrate an
absence of evidence to support an essential element of the
non-movant's case.” Johnson v. City of
Bountiful, 996 F.Supp. 1100, 1102 (D. Utah 1998). Once
movant meets this burden, “the burden then shifts to
the non-movant to make a showing sufficient to establish that
there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding the
existence of that element.” Id. To do so, the
non-movant must “go beyond the pleadings and ‘set
forth specific facts' that would be admissible in
evidence in the event of a trial from which a rational trier
of fact could find for the nonmovant.” Adler v.
Wal-Mart Stores, 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1999)
(citation omitted). In ruling on a summary-judgment motion,
this Court must “examine the factual record and
reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable
to the party opposing the motion.” Sealock v.
Colorado, 218 F.3d1205, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000).
Court notified Plaintiff that, in response to a
summary-judgment motion, “Plaintiff cannot rest upon
the mere allegations in the complaint. Instead . . .
Plaintiff must allege specific facts, admissible in evidence,
showing that there is a genuine issue remaining for
trial.” (Docket No. 11, at 5-6.)
assertion of qualified immunity modifies the summary-judgment
review. Asserting qualified immunity, a state employee
creates a rebuttable presumption that she is immune from the
plaintiff's § 1983 claims. See Medina v.
Cram, 252 F.3d 1124, 1129 (10th Cir. 2001). And rather
than “focus[ing] on the existence of genuine disputes
of material fact, ” the court must
“'determine whether plaintiff's factual
allegations are sufficiently grounded in the record such that
they may permissibly comprise the universe of facts that will
serve as the foundation for answering the legal
questions before the court.'” Spencer v.
Abbott, No. 16-4009, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 24668, at *10
n.6 (10th Cir. Dec. 5, 2017) (unpublished) (emphasis in
original) (quoting Cox v. Glanz, 800 F.3d 1231, 1243
(10th Cir. 2015)).
qualified immunity analysis has two parts: first, whether,
under the facts alleged by the plaintiff, the government
officials violated a constitutional right; and second,
“whether the right at issue was ‘clearly
established' at the time of the defendant's alleged
misconduct.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S.
223, 232 (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201
(2001)). If the plaintiff fails to satisfy either element of
his burden, the court must grant the defendant qualified
immunity. See Medina, 252 F.3d at 1128.
material facts are not disputed, the question of immunity
“is a legal one for the court to decide.”
Gomes v. Wood, 451 F.3d 1122, 1136 (10th Cir. 2006).
Such is the case here.
claims here are based on Plaintiff's circumstances after
he hurt his left knee on September 4, 2013. (Am. Compl., Doc.
No. 33, at 8.) During the following months, he sought
treatment from USP medical personnel.
defendants involved here are Coombs, Douglas, Roberts and
Thurston. The deprivations that Plaintiff alleges are as
(1) from November 18, 2013 to December 1, 2013, failure to
admit him to the infirmary as he requested (Defendants
Coombs, Douglas and Roberts); and
(2) from November 18, 2013 to December 2, 2013, denial of
treatment for postoperative period and for shower fall--e.g.,
pain medication, durable medical equipment, and follow-up
visits with UMC personnel (Defendants Coombs, Douglas,
Roberts, and Thurston).
Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment
requires prison officials to “provide humane conditions
of confinement” including “adequate . . . medical
care.” Craig v. Eberly, 164 F.3d 490, 495
(10th Cir. 1998)) (quoting Barney v. Pulsipher, 143
F.3d 1299, 1310 (10th Cir. 1998)). To state a cognizable
claim under the Eighth Amendment for failure to provide
proper medical care, “a prisoner must allege acts or
omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence
deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.”
Olson v. Stotts, 9 F.3d 1475, 1477 (10th Cir. 1993)
(emphasis in original) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).
Eighth Amendment claim must be evaluated under objective and
subjective prongs: (1) “Was the deprivation
sufficiently serious?” And, if so, (2) “Did the
officials act with a sufficiently culpable state of
mind?” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298
the objective prong, a medical need is “sufficiently
serious . . .if it is one that has been diagnosed by a
physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious
that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity
for a doctor's attention.” Sealock, 218
F.3d at 1209 (citations and quotation marks omitted).
subjective component requires the plaintiff to show that
prison officials were consciously aware that the prisoner
faced a substantial risk of harm and wantonly disregarded the
risk “by failing to take reasonable measures to abate
it.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847
(1994). “[T]he ‘inadvertent failure to provide
adequate medical care' tantamount to negligence does not
satisfy the deliberate indifference standard.”
Sparks v. Singh, 690 Fed.Appx. 598, 604 (10th Cir.
2017) (unpublished) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976)). Furthermore, “a prisoner who
merely disagrees with a diagnosis or a prescribed course of
treatment does not state a constitutional violation.”
Perkins v. Kan. Dep't of Corrs.,165 F.3d 803,
81110th Cir. 1999); see ...