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Feldmeier v. Hauser

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 12, 2018

Ronald M. Feldmeier, Plaintiff,
P. Hauser, et al., Defendants.


          David G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ronald M. Feldmeier, who is currently confined in Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California, brought this civil rights case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) Defendants move for summary judgment, and Plaintiff opposes.[1](Docs. 69, 74.) The Court will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and terminate the action.

         I. Background

         In his single-count Complaint, Plaintiff sued La Palma Correctional Center (LPCC)[2] Case Manager P. Hauser, LPCC Unit Manager R. Williams, and Unknown Call Box Staff for injuries he sustained when he was assaulted by his cellmate on October 5, 2011. (Doc. 1.) On screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), the Court determined that Plaintiff stated an Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim against Defendants Hauser and Williams and directed them to answer. (Doc. 9.) The Court dismissed the remaining Defendant. (Id.)

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         A court must grant summary judgment “if 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The movant bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         If the movant fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmovant need not produce anything. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). But if the movant meets its initial responsibility, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate the existence of a factual dispute and that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250 (1986); see Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmovant need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor, First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968); however, it must “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal citation omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

         At summary judgment, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In its analysis, the court must believe the nonmovant's evidence and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 255. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider any other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         B. Failure to Protect

         Under the Eighth Amendment, prison officials must take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). In particular, prison officials have an affirmative duty “to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.” Id. at 832. A prison official's failure to protect an inmate from attacks by other inmates violates the Eighth Amendment only when two elements are met: (1) the objective element, which requires a prisoner to show that the complained of conditions posed a “substantial risk of serious harm”; and (2) the subjective element, which requires a prisoner to show that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to that risk. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297-98 (1991)). A prison official is deliberately indifferent “if he knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and [he] disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844.

         Under the objective prong, “[w]hat is necessary to show sufficient harm for the purposes of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause depends on the claim at issue.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). For a failure-to-protect claim, a plaintiff must show that he was placed into conditions that posed a substantial risk of serious harm. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). A prisoner need not wait until he is actually assaulted to bring an Eighth Amendment claim, see Farmer, 511 U.S. at 845; however, “[g]eneral intimidation, harassment, and nonspecific threats . . . do not demonstrate a constitutionally intolerable risk of harm.” Chandler v. Amsberry, No. 3:08-CV-00962-SI, 2014 WL 1323048, at *7 (D. Or. March 28, 2014) (citing cases).

         The subjective prong requires “more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interest or safety.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835 (quotation omitted). To prove deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must show that the official knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to inmate safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and the official must also draw the inference. Id. at 837. A plaintiff bringing a failure-to-protect claim need not show that the defendant acted or failed to act believing that harm would actually befall the inmate; “it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. at 842. To prove knowledge of the risk, the plaintiff may rely on circumstantial evidence; in fact, the very obviousness of the risk may be sufficient to establish knowledge. Id.

         In the context of a failure-to-protect claim, deliberate indifference “does not require that the guard or official believe to a moral certainty that one inmate intends to attack another at a given place at a time certain before that officer is obligated to take steps to prevent such an assault, ” but it does require that the official “have more than a mere suspicion that an attack will occur.” Berg v. Kincheloe, 794 F.2d 457, 459 (9th Cir.1986) (citations omitted). Negligence and even gross negligence are not enough to amount to an Eighth Amendment violation. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. Deliberate indifference is not shown by merely stating that a defendant should have known of a risk; “an official's failure to alleviate a ...

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