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York v. Peters

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

March 4, 2014

COLLETTE PETERS, Director, Oregon Department of Corrections, in her individual and official capacities, RICK COURSEY, Superintendent of EOCI, in his individual capacity, DR. JOSEPH H. DIEHL, M.D., at EOCI, in his individual capacity, NURSE-PRACTITIONER MS. SMITH-LEE, at EOCI in her individual capacity, MR. PHELPS, Plumber at EOCI, in his individual capacity, CORRECTIONS OFFICER ENDERSBY, at EOCI, in his individual capacity, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HARRISON, at EOCI, in his individual capacity, CORRECTIONS OFFICER NEWSOM, at EOCI, in his individual capacity, Defendants.


MICHAEL W. MOSMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Brian W. York, an inmate at Santiam Correctional Institution and formerly at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution ("EOCI"), asserts Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims against Defendants arising from a slip-and-fall incident. Defendants moved [59] for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, I GRANT Defendants' motion.


On November 25, 2011, Mr. York slipped and fell on a wet bathroom floor in his housing unit at EOCI. (Compl. [4] at ¶ 13.) He alleges that a leaking toilet produced a pool of standing water. Id. Defendant Matthew Endersby, a correctional officer, heard the fall and asked whether Mr. York required medical attention. (Ofc. Endersby's Decl. [61] at ¶ 5.) According to Officer Endersby, Mr. York declined, while Mr. York recalls saying "I don't know." ( Id. ; Resp. [85] at ¶ 30.) Mr. York walked back to his bunk, reportedly in excruciating pain. (Compl. [4] at ¶ 14.)

Later in the day, Stuart Harrison, another correctional officer, learned that Mr. York wanted to visit Health Services in connection with his slip and fall. (Ofc. Harrison's Decl. [62] at ¶ 6.) Officer Harrison declares that Mr. York told him he was able to walk on his own, while Mr. York recalls saying the opposite. ( Id. at ¶ 8; Resp. [85] at ¶ 30.) Officer Endersby and a third officer, Newsom, [1] arrived to escort Mr. York to Health Services. (Ofc. Endersby's Decl. [61] at ¶ 7; Compl. [4] at ¶ 16.) According to Mr. York, the officers ordered him to walk despite his complaints of pain. (Compl. [4] at ¶ 16-17.)

At Health Services, Mr. York received an ice pack and a ten-day supply of Tylenol and Ibuprofen. (Dr. Shelton's Decl. [64] at ¶ 6.) He returned numerous times in the following weeks, complaining of pain in his right leg and back. Id. at ¶ 7-8. On December 21, 2011, Joseph H. Diehl, M.D., ordered an X-ray of Mr. York's lumbar spine. Id. at ¶ 9. On December 27, Donna Smith-Lee, N.P., a radiologist, performed the X-ray. Id. at ¶ 10. Mr. York asserts that Nurse Smith-Lee "shoved [him] nearly 18" in his lower back" as he lay on his side on the X-ray table. (Compl. [4] at ¶ 21.) Later, on January 30, 2012, Mr. York again saw Dr. Diehl, this time demanding an MRI. (Dr. Shelton's Decl. [64] at ¶ 12.) Dr. Diehl forwarded Mr. York's X-ray exam results to the Therapeutic Level of Care Committee, who denied the MRI request. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. Mr. York asserts that Dr. Diehl falsified the X-ray results. (Compl. [4] at ¶ 38; Resp. [85] at ¶ 12.) In a later visit, on March 5, 2012, Nurse Smith-Lee diagnosed Mr. York with severe degenerative disc disease and placed him on reduced work duty. (Dr. Shelton's Decl. [64] at ¶ 16.)

Mr. York alleges that each named defendant violated his right under the Eighth Amendment to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. (Compl. [4] at ¶¶ 36-49.) He asserts that Colette Peters, Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections ("ODOC"), and Rick Coursey, Superintendent of EOCI, "failed to provide [him] a reasonably safe living space." Id. at ¶¶ 36-37. Against Dr. Diehl, Nurse Smith-Lee, and the three correctional officers, he alleges the conduct summarized above. Id. at ¶¶ 38-47. Finally, he alleges that Tyler Phelps, Assistant Physical Plant Manager at EOCI, showed deliberate indifference in failing to prevent the bathroom floor from becoming wet, and that the three officers failed to post warnings of the floor's wet condition. Id. at ¶¶ 47-48.


Summary judgment is proper where "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). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing in his favor all reasonable inferences from the facts. T.W. Elec. Serv. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630-31 (9th Cir. 1987).

The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis of its motion and providing evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If that burden is met, the nonmoving party must "present significant probative evidence tending to support its claim or defense." Intel Corp. v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co., 952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991) (internal quotation omitted). The nonmoving party fails to meet its burden if "the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

Here, Defendants argue that many of Mr. York's claims, including all asserted against Ms. Peters, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. They also contend that Mr. York's Eighth Amendment claims against Ms. Peters and Mr. Coursey improperly invoke vicarious liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Finally, Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity.

I. Eleventh Amendment

The Eleventh Amendment bars suit in federal court against a state for damages without the state's consent. Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 68 (1985). This immunity extends to suits against a public officer in her official capacity. Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985). However, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar suit against state officials in their individual capacities under § 1983, Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 30-31 (1991), nor prevent plaintiffs from suing to enjoin conduct that violates the Constitution, Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 664 (1974) (citing Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)).

In his complaint, Mr. York alleges that Officers Endersby and Harrison were negligent in "failing to inspect the restrooms [and] failing to post any warning signs, caution tape or orange safety cones for water on the floors." (Compl. [4] at ¶ 47.) He alleges further that Mr. Phelps was negligent in "allow[ing] one of the toilets to leak water onto the floor" and "failing to oversee the actual plumbing repairs being ...

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