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Yeley v. Skrah

United States District Court, D. Oregon

June 13, 2017



          Michael McShane, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Two Rivers Correctional Institution (TRCI), filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging deliberate indifference to his health and serious medical needs while he was a pretrial detainee at the Klamath County jail. Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, and plaintiff did not respond to the motion after receiving the requisite summary judgment notice from the court. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted.


         Plaintiff was confined at the Klamath County jail from January 4 to April 14, 2016. Davidson Decl. at 2. During that time, plaintiff alleges that defendants denied him medical treatment for an extremely painful inguinal hernia. Compl. at 5. Plaintiff also claims that on February 18, 2016, he was “placed in a cell that had fecal matter clogging the vent and all over the walls.” Compl. at 4.[1] Plaintiff alleges that defendants did not clean his cell and denied him cleaning supplies for several days. Construing his complaint liberally, plaintiff alleges claims of deliberate indifference under the Fourteenth Amendment. Anderson v. Cnty. of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1312, as amended on denial of reh'g, 75 F.3d 448 (9th Cir. 1995) (“the convicted inmates' challenge is evaluated under the Eighth Amendment, and the pretrial detainees' challenge is evaluated under the Fourteenth Amendment”); id. at 1314 (“subjection of a prisoner to lack of sanitation that is severe or prolonged can constitute an infliction of pain” supporting a claim of deliberate indifference); see also Johnson v. Lewis, 217 F.3d 726, 731 (9th Cir. 2000) (“Prison officials have a duty to ensure that prisoners are provided adequate shelter, food, clothing, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.”).

         Defendants now move for summary judgment. To prevail on their motion, defendants must show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court must construe the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Torres v. City of Madera, 648 F.3d 1119, 1123 (9th Cir. 2011).

         A. Unsanitary Cell Conditions

         Defendants move for summary judgment on grounds that plaintiff was “housed in a reasonably clean cell.” Defs.' Mot. at 8. Defendants further argue that even if a question of fact existed as to the cell's cleanliness, it is undisputed that plaintiff suffered no harm rising to the level of a constitutional deprivation. I agree.

         The standard of deliberate indifference applies to Fourteenth Amendment claims alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement. Helling, 509 U.S. at 30 (“where the claim alleges inhumane conditions of confinement or failure to attend to a prisoner's medical needs, the standard for that state of mind is the ‘deliberate indifference' standard”); Anderson, 45 F.3d at 1313. Deliberate indifference is shown when a prison official knew or should have known a detainee faced a “substantial risk of serious harm” and failed to take reasonable measures to abate the risk. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994); Castro v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1071-72 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc), cert denied, Los Angeles Cnty. v. Castro, 137 S.Ct. 831 (2017); Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057-58 (9th Cir. 2004) (negligence is insufficient to state a claim for deliberate indifference).[2]

         According to the evidence presented by defendants, plaintiff was transferred to cell AP-4 on February 18, 2016 after an altercation with another inmate. Warren Decl. Ex. 1 at 6-7 (Yeley Dep. at 14-15). Although plaintiff asserts that the cell had brown smudges on the walls and an unpleasant odor, he did not inform deputies that his cell smelled of fecal matter or was otherwise unsanitary. Id. Ex. 1 at 8-9, 11 (Yeley Dep. at 16-17, 20). Further, plaintiff complained of no significantly adverse effects caused by the odor and experienced no medical issues related to the cleanliness of his cell. Id. Ex. 1 at 17 (Yeley Dep. at 30). On February 22 and February 28, 2016, plaintiff requested and received cleaning supplies and used them to clean his cell. Id. Ex. 1 at 14-16 (Yeley Dep. at 25-26, 28).

         Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, he was housed in cell with several fecal smudges and an unpleasant odor for a total of four days until he obtained cleaning supplies. While the Ninth Circuit has held that unsanitary conditions and nonworking toilets can rise to the level of deliberate indifference, the conditions in this case, as a matter of law, did not present a substantial risk of serious harm to plaintiff's health. See, e.g., Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1042-43 (9th Cir. 2005) (serious health hazards in a prison yard lasting nine months - including non-working toilets, rusted sinks, insect-infested pools of water, and no cold water during 100-degree temperatures - stated a claim for deliberate indifference); Johnson, 217 F.3d at 732 (“substantial” deprivation of food, drinking water, sunscreen, and toilet access stated viable constitutional violations). Plaintiff did not endure substantially unsanitary conditions for a prolonged period of time, and he presents no evidence that jail officials knew or should have known of any serious health risk.

         Aside from the merits, plaintiff's claim is barred because he did not file a grievance with jail officials regarding the conditions of his cell. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, an inmate must exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing a federal claim to redress prison conditions or incidents. 42 U.S.C § 1997e(a); Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1855-56 (2016); Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85, 89-91 (2006) (PLRA exhaustion requirement is mandatory and requires compliance with both procedural and substantive elements of the prison grievance processes). Accordingly, defendants' motion is granted as to this claim.

         B. Serious Medical Needs

         Defendants move for summary judgment on grounds that the evidence does not demonstrate deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs. Again, I agree.

         “[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)). Specifically, plaintiff must show: 1) the existence of “a serious medical need”; and 2) “the defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent.” Id. “A ‘serious' medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'” Doty v. Cnty. of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Prison officials may demonstrate deliberate indifference by denying, delaying, or intentionally interfering with medical treatment, or by the manner in which they provide medical ...

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