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Hatfield v. Oregon Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 8, 2014


Wayne D. Landsverk, Michael Mohr, MILLER NASH LLP, Portland, Oregon, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Ellen F. Rosenblum, ATTORNEY GENERAL, Michael R. Washington, SENIOR ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, Department of Justice Salem, Oregon, Attorneys for Defendant.


MARCO A. HERNANDEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Timothy Hatfield, a former inmate at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution (DRCI), brings this 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 claim against Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) Lieutenant Rochelle Frost[1], alleging that Frost violated the Eighth Amendment by ordering him to move to an upper bunk despite medical conditions allegedly requiring that he be assigned to a bottom bunk. The case was tried to the Court on September 23, 2014. These are my Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). As explained below, Plaintiff fails to establish that Frost violated his Eighth Amendment rights.


Plaintiff was an inmate in ODOC custody from October 2006 to March 2012. Def.'s Ex. 501. Plaintiff is obese and suffers from a number of health problems. See generally Def.'s Ex. 508 (Plaintiffs ODOC medical records). Because he has sleep apnea, he uses a CPAP machine[2]. He also has a history of injuries to his right knee.

On several occasions during his incarceration, Plaintiff received orders restricting him to a lower bunk. Pl.'s Ex. 5 at 5 (Nov. 6, 2006); at 4 (Mar. 24, 2008); at 3 (Nov. 13, 2009); at 2 (Nov. 12, 2010). Three of those orders included a restriction to a lower tier as well. Id. at 5 (Nov. 6, 2006); at 3 (Nov. 13, 2009); at 2 (Nov. 12, 2010). The March 24, 2008 order, however, expressly stated that a top tier and stairs were "ok" and indicated that the lower bunk restriction was because of Plaintiffs CPAP machine and not because of his other medical conditions. Id. at 4. The medical records noted that the lower bunk and lower tier orders were each effective for one year. Pl.'s Ex. 5 at 2-5. Typically, lower bunk restrictions for medical reasons are obtained by inmates who request the restriction from the prison medical staff. Although Plaintiffs lower bunk restrictions were intermittently ordered and sometimes had actually expired, Plaintiff never had a top bunk assignment during his ODOC incarceration.

On February 3, 2012, while housed at DRCI, Plaintiff received a "72 Hour Conduct Order" restricting him to his cell/bunk for 72 hours as a result of being in an unauthorized area and engaging in disrespectful conduct. Def.'s Ex. 503. Aside from the low bunks reserved for inmates with medical needs, low bunks are used as an incentive to reward those inmates who have at least thirty days of good conduct. As a result of Plaintiffs misconduct order, he was ineligible for an incentive-based low bunk assignment. Because his last low bunk restriction from Health Services was issued on November 12, 2010 and had expired one year later in 2011, he no longer had an effective medically-related low bunk restriction. Accordingly, Plaintiff was reassigned to a top bunk.

On the morning of February 5, 2012, ODOC Sergeant Maximo Platiro told Plaintiff he had to move to the top bunk. Platiro and Plaintiff agree that Plaintiff told Platiro that Plaintiff was fat, had a bad knee, and did not want to move to the top bunk. They also agree that Plaintiff indicated a need for a low bunk because of his CPAP machine. Their testimony diverged, however, as to whether Plaintiff told Platiro that climbing to the top bunk created a risk of injury to Plaintiff because it was dangerous for him to do so. Platiro testified Plaintiff did not make such a statement; Plaintiff testified that he did. I need not resolve the issue of what Plaintiff said to Platiro because I assume, for the purposes of this decision, that Plaintiff told Platiro that climbing to the top bunk posed some risk of injury to Plaintiff.

Platiro responded to Plaintiffs concerns by first looking at the ODOC computer record referred to as the "400." There, he found no current lower bunk restriction for Plaintiff. Because the "400" does not contain all relevant information about an inmate's medical condition, Platiro next called DRCI's Health Services staff to inquire if Platiro had "missed something" in looking up the records. Health Services confirmed that Plaintiff had no lower bunk restriction. At that point, Platiro called the "Officer-in-Charge, " or OIC, who was Defendant Frost[3].

Platiro testified that his practice is to call the OIC whenever there is a "situation, " which in this case was Plaintiff resisting the move to the top bunk. Platiro called Frost to confirm the top bunk order. He told her that Plaintiff had no lower bunk restriction, that he had looked this up on the "400, " and that he talked with Health Services. Neither Frost nor Platiro recalled that Platiro told Frost the reasons why Plaintiff was refusing to go to the top bunk. Frost gave Platiro a directive to move Plaintiff to the top bunk because he had no lower bunk restriction.

Based on Frost's directive, Platiro gave Plaintiff a direct order to move to the top bunk or be placed in segregation. Platiro also gave Plaintiff a laundry bag to hold Plaintiffs CPAP machine, telling him to hang it from the top bunk while it was still plugged in. Platiro advised Plaintiff that he could sign up for the next day's sick call and request a lower bunk restriction from Health Services at that time. Platiro then left the area.

Plaintiff tried to climb up the ladder to the top bunk. He could not make it and while trying to get back down, he fell and landed on the floor. He hurt his elbow and his shoulder. ODOC Corrections Officer Jayvee Mata responded to Plaintiffs cell area and found Plaintiff lying on the ground. Plaintiff was moaning and groaning and holding his shoulder. Health Services staff arrived within a few minutes and took Plaintiff by wheelchair to examine him.

Jerrie Melton, R.N. noted Plaintiffs chief complaints as elbow and knee pain. Def.'s Ex. 508 at 99. She noted a developing bruise on the left elbow and red marks on the left knee. Id . Plaintiff, however, had full range of motion to his left arm, although he complained of pain. Id . Melton educated Plaintiff on the proper dose of ibuprofen. Id . ...

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