Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Needham v. Roberts

United States District Court, D. Utah

October 4, 2019

AARON DAVID TRENT NEEDHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
SIDNEY ROBERTS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          CLARK WADDOUPST JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff, Aaron David Trent Needham, asserts that Defendant, Sidney Roberts, violated his right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 (2019). Specifically, he contends Defendant provided inadequate medical care during his stay at Utah State Prison (USP). (Doc. No. 37.) His claim is worded as follows in his Fourth Amended Complaint:

[P]etitioner's infections got worse as the reduction of antibiotics by medical to 25% of the recommended dose by Dr. Roberts kept petitioner sick during his time in the infirmary so when he got to Baker Block another type of infection attacked petitioner. Dr. Roberts spoke with petitioner's doctors to verify medications and treatment that have resulted in the loss of petitioner's right kidney.

(Id. at 12.) This is the sole language implicating Defendant and it is therefore the only matter the Court will address in this Order.[1]

         Defendant filed a Martinez report[2] with medical and other records and his declaration as to Plaintiff's treatment. (Doc. No. 84-85 & 121-22.) Plaintiff's relevant evidentiary response to the Martinez report consists of copies of medical records, scattered throughout a variety of documents and many of them duplicative of Defendant's filings. (E.g., Doc. Nos. 92, 105, 120 & 124.) The Court has examined them all thoroughly.

         Defendant now moves for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity.

         QUALIFIED IMMUNITY STANDARD

         When determining whether to grant summary judgment, this Court must examine the evidence filed by the parties to determine whether any genuine issues of material fact exist and, if not, correctly apply relevant substantive law to the undisputed facts. Grissom v. Roberts, 902 F.3d 1162, 1167 (10th Cir. 2018).

Individual defendants sued for damages under § 1983 may raise a defense of qualified immunity. “Qualified immunity attaches when an official's conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S.Ct. 1148, 1152 (2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). This standard arises from balancing two important but contrary interests. On the one hand, “an action for damages may offer the only realistic avenue for vindication of constitutional guarantees.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 814 (1982). On the other hand, exposing public officials to liability for damages presents its own “social costs[, ] includ[ing] the expenses of litigation, the diversion of official energy from pressing public issues, and the deterrence of able citizens from acceptance of public office.” Id. And, perhaps most significantly, “there is the danger that fear of being sued will dampen the ardor of all but the most resolute, or the most irresponsible public officials, in the unflinching discharge of their duties.” Id. (brackets and internal quotation marks omitted).
“Because the focus is on whether the officer had fair notice that her conduct was unlawful, reasonableness is judged against the backdrop of the law at the time of the conduct.” Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S.Ct. 1148, 1152 (2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, when a defendant has raised qualified immunity as a defense, the plaintiff must establish (1) that the defendant's action violated a federal constitutional or statutory right; and (2) that the right violated was clearly established at the time of the defendant's actions. See Thomson v. Salt Lake City, 584 F.3d 1304, 1312 (10th Cir. 2009). Under this test, “immunity protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Kisela, 138 S.Ct. at 1152 (internal quotation marks omitted).
The test imposes a “heavy two-part burden.” Casey v. W. Las Vegas Indep. Sch. Dist., 473 F.3d 1323, 1327 (10th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). If the plaintiff fails to satisfy either part of the two-part inquiry, a court must grant the defendant qualified immunity. See Medina v. Cram, 252 F.3d 1124, 1128 (10th Cir. 2001). The court has discretion to decide which of the two prongs of the qualified-immunity analysis to address first. See Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009). “If, and only if, the plaintiff meets this two-part test does a defendant then bear the traditional burden of the movant for summary judgment....” Clark v. Edmunds, 513 F.3d 1219, 1222 (10th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Id. at 1167-68.

         To educate Plaintiff about his duty in responding to a summary-judgment motion, the Court stated in an order, Plaintiff is notified that if Defendant moves for summary judgment Plaintiff may not rest upon the mere allegations in the complaint.

Instead, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e), to survive a motion for summary judgment Plaintiff must allege specific facts, admissible in evidence, showing that there is a genuine issue remaining for trial.

(Doc. No. 10, at 5-6.)

         Based on the undisputed material facts below, the Court concludes that, under the qualified immunity defense, Plaintiff has not established the first necessary prong of his burden: that Defendant's actions violated a federal constitutional right.

         UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS

         • Before arriving at USP, Plaintiff had been treated for coccidioidomycosis (Disease) in St. George, Utah, at Dixie Regional Medical Center (DRMC), by Dr. Jamal Horani, infectious disease specialist. (Doc. No. 85-3, at 4.)

         • Disease is pulmonary- or hematogenous-disseminated disease caused by the fungi Coccidioides immitis. (Id.) Plaintiff was prescribed anti-fungal medicine fluconazole (brand name: Diflucan) to treat Disease. (Id.)

         • 5/9/11 - Plaintiff's potential Disease symptoms treated by Dr. Zahabia. (Doc. No. 85-1, at 2-4.)

         • 4/17/12 - Dr. William Cobb's Out Patient Clinic Note indicating Disease blood work done and Diflucan at 800MG per day prescribed. (Id. at 67.)

         • 7/17/12 - Dr. Horani's Out Patient Clinic Note indicating Disease blood work done and Diflucan at 800MG per day prescribed. (Id. at 65-66.)

         • 10/18/12 - Dr. Horani's Outpatient Clinic Report indicating Disease blood work done and Diflucan at 1000MG ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.