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Dixon v. Arizona Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 11, 2016

Sharon L. Dixon, Plaintiff,
Arizona Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants.



Before the Court are the summary judgment motions filed on behalf of Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”) and Defendants State of Arizona (“State”), Former Arizona Department of Corrections (“ADOC”) Health Services Division Director Michael Adu-Tutu, ADOC Health Services Contract Monitoring Bureau Assistant Director Arthur Gross, ADOC Inspector General Greg Lauchner, ADOC Health Services Division Interim Director Richard Pratt, and ADOC Director Charles Ryan (collectively “Named State Defendants”). (Docs. 158, 160.) The motions are fully briefed.[1] For the following reasons, the motions are granted.


Gary Dixon was an inmate at the ADOC Eyman Facility. (Doc. 159, ¶ 2; Doc. 161, ¶ 1.) On January 13, 2010, upon intake screening and evaluation, it was noted that Dixon had numerous health conditions, including hepatitis C, a supraumbilical hernia, and cirrhosis. (Doc. 159, ¶¶ 2, 12; Doc. 161, ¶ 1.) Throughout his incarceration, Dixon received medical treatment for his conditions-including blood tests, abdominal sonograms and ultrasounds, and esophagogastroduodenoscopies-from both in-house and outside medical providers. (Doc. 159, ¶ 37; Doc. 161, ¶¶ 2-10.)

Beginning July 1, 2012, ADOC contracted with Wexford to provide medical services to state prison complexes. (Doc. 159, ¶ 32.) The contract required Wexford to follow ADOC’s policies regarding inmate medical care. (Doc. 159, ¶¶ 33-34.) During the relevant time period, it was ADOC’s policy to “consider organ transplantation as a medical treatment option for inmates if it is determined to be medically necessary.” (Doc. 159, ¶ 35; Doc. 161, ¶ 12.) Dixon’s in-house and outside medical providers were responsible for determining whether organ transplantation was necessary, and none recommended that he be evaluated for a liver transplant. (Doc. 159, ¶¶ 36-37; Doc. 161, ¶ 11.)

On January 22, 2013, Dixon had a sudden decompensation from sepsis, likely related to a urinary tract infection. (Doc. 161, ¶ 26.) He was admitted to the hospital, but his condition deteriorated rapidly and he died on January 28, 2013. (Id.)

Plaintiff Sharon Dixon brought this action in her capacity as Dixon’s spouse and personal representative of his estate, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act (“APSA”), A.R.S. § 46-451, et seq., and a claim for wrongful death. (Doc. 159, ¶ 1; Doc. 55 at 16-18.) Plaintiff alleges that liver transplantation was the only definitive treatment for Dixon’s end-stage liver disease, that he died because he was not evaluated for and did not receive a liver transplant, and that liver transplantation would have reduced the discomfort caused by Dixon’s hernias. (Doc. 55, ¶¶ 70-72.) Defendants move for summary judgment on all counts.


Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates “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 seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Substantive law determines which facts are material and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A fact issue is genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Thus, the nonmoving party must show that the genuine factual issues “‘can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.’” Cal. Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250). Furthermore, the party opposing summary judgment “may not rest upon mere allegations of denials of pleadings, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture, 53 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). If the nonmoving party’s opposition fails to specifically cite to materials either in the court’s record or not in the record, the court is not required to either search the entire record for evidence establishing a genuine issue of material fact or obtain the missing materials. See Carmen v. S.F. Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1028-29 (9th Cir. 2001); Forsberg v. Pac. N.W. Bell Tel. Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1417-18 (9th Cir. 1988).


Preliminarily, Plaintiff’s response brief, separate statement of facts, and controverting statement of facts do not comply with LRCiv 56.1. Plaintiff fails to support many statements of fact with citations to admissible portions of the record. LRCiv 56.1(a)-(b). Further, Plaintiff fails to support the vast majority of assertions made in her response memorandum with citations to the specific paragraphs in her statement of facts. LRCiv 56.1(e). Accordingly, for purposes of this order the Court deems admitted any assertion not appropriately denied by Plaintiff, and disregards all assertions that are not supported by citation to admissible portions of the record. See Szaley v. Pima Cty., 371 F. App’x 734, 735 (9th Cir. 2010).

I. Section 1983

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for those who have been deprived of their constitutional rights by persons acting under color of law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It is a mechanism “for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred, ” and "is not itself a source of substantive rights." Thornton v. City of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1164 (9th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations and citation omitted). To succeed on a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must show “(1) that a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of State law.” Long v. Cty. of L.A., 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006).

“[T]o maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on prison medical treatment, an inmate must show ‘deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.’” Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). This is a two-part inquiry:

First, the plaintiff must show a “serious medical need” by demonstrating that “failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant injury or the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.’” Second, the plaintiff must show the defendant’s response to the need was deliberately indifferent. This second prong . . . is satisfied by showing (a) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner’s pain or possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the indifference. Indifference “may appear when prison officials deny, delay, or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, or it may be shown by the way in which prison physicians provide medical care.”

Id. (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1991), overruled on other grounds by WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997)). Deliberate indifference is a higher standard than mere negligence; “medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106.

Plaintiff brings her ยง 1983 claim against Wexford and the Named State Defendants. She alleges that the failure to evaluate Dixon for a liver transplant ...

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