United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER GRANTING
DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Anthony Jeffrey Christensen, a pre-trial detainee at Sanpete
County Jail (SCJ), seeks remedy for alleged civil-rights
violations by county employees regarding his conditions of
confinement. See 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 (2019).
Specifically asserting inadequate medical treatment, the
Complaint names as defendants: Dr. Bruce Burnham, Nurse Lisa
Estey, Sgt. Gretchen Nunnley, Sgt. Ross Bailey, Dept. Brandon
Brown, Lt. Brad Bown, Captain Robert Braithwaite, Dep. Trevor
Larsen, and Sgt. Jeff Nielsen. (Doc. No. 5.)
now move for summary judgment. The Court grants the motions, but
first screens out several defendants.
SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL
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). 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 each defendant's personal participation 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.
2008)). Plaintiff may not name an individual as a defendant
based solely on his or her supervisory position. See
Mitchell v. Maynard, 80 F.2d 1433, 1441 (10th Cir. 1996)
(stating supervisory status alone does not support §
1983 liability). And, "denial of a grievance, by itself
without any connection to the violation of constitutional
rights alleged by plaintiff, does not establish personal
participation under § 1983." Gallagher v.
Shelton, No. 09-3113, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 25787, at *11
(10th Cir. Nov. 24, 2009).
the Third Circuit has persuasively advised regarding
inadequate-medical-treatment claims that nonmedical
correctional staff may not be "considered deliberately
indifferent simply because they failed to respond directly to
the medical complaints of a prisoner who was already being
treated by the prison doctor." Durmer v.
O'Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 69 (3d Cir. 1993). Expanding
on this, the court stated:
If a prisoner is under the care of medical experts . . ., a
non-medical prison official will generally be justified in
believing that the prisoner is in capable hands. This follows
naturally from the division of labor within a prison. Inmate
health and safety is promoted by dividing responsibility for
various aspects of inmate life among guards, administrators,
physicians, and so on. Holding a non-medical prison official
liable in a case where a prisoner was under a physician's
care would strain this division of labor.
Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 236 (3d Cir. 2004).
CLAIM NOT LINKED TO NAMED DEFENDANTS
has not affirmatively linked his claim to these defendants:
Bailey, Brown, Bown, Braithwaite, Larsen, Nielsen, and
Nunnley. None of these defendants was in a position to
provide medical care. Each of them solely provided
supervision or referred Plaintiff to medical personnel or
denied grievances. None of these activities support a
civil-rights claim; thus, all these defendants are 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).
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.
claim here is based on Plaintiff's complaints of
hemorrhoids. (Compl., Doc. No. 5, at 4.) He sought help from
remaining Defendants Burnham and Estey from January 12, 2018,
when he “filled out a medical request, ”
(id.), until he filed the Complaint on February 28,
2018, (id.).He asserts that after a ...