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Alvarado v. Warden Crossroad Correctional Center

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

December 18, 2017

THOMAS ALVARADO, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN CROSSROAD CORRECTIONAL CENTER, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          John Johnston, United States Magistrate

         Plaintiff Thomas Alvarado, an inmate proceeding in forma pauperis and without counsel, filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 9) alleging Defendants denied him medical care. (Doc. 9.) The Court screened the Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Because Mr. Alvarado was a federal prisoner at the time his allegations arose, his claims were construed as being brought pursuant to pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). The Court determined that Defendants Sharpe, Yaskew, Finn/Linn, Weaver, Randolph, and Correctional Corporation of America were required to respond to Mr. Alvarado's allegations that he was denied over-the-counter pain relievers and/or other treatment for his broken finger and injured knee from November 5, 2013 to November 11, 2013. (Doc. 10 at 8.) Defendants have now filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Mr. Alvarado cannot bring a Bivens claim against the named Defendants. (Doc. 79.) The Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted.[1]

         I. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). If the moving party makes a prima facie showing that summary judgment is appropriate, the burden shifts to the opposing party to show the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. On summary judgment, all inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Id. at 159.

         A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         By notice provided on September 25, 2017 (Doc. 84), Mr. Alvarado was advised of the requirements for opposing a motion brought pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998)(en banc); Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1988).

         II. FACTS

         Mr. Alvarado was convicted in federal court and sentenced on October 21, 2013 to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. See United States v. Alvarado, 13-CR-00026-BLG-SPW, Doc. 127. He was held at Crossroads Correctional Center (“CCC”) in Shelby, Montana, at various times, first, from 4/12/13 to 5/9/13, again from 5/30/13 to 10/2/13, and last from 10/23/13 to 11/12/13. (Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 81 (“SUF”) at ¶ 1.) At all times while Mr. Alvarado was housed at CCC, he was an inmate in the custody of the United States Marshals Service. (SUF at ¶ 2.) Mr. Alvarado fell in his cell and injured his knee and little finger on Sunday, November 3, 2013. (SUF at ¶ 4.) He claims Defendants denied him x-rays and failed to provide him with any pain relief for his injuries. (SUF at ¶ 5; Complaint, Doc. 2.)

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Bivens Claims

         Crossroads is a private prison where Mr. Alvarado was incarcerated under an agreement with the United States Marshals. Even though the Crossroads' employees are private individuals, Mr. Alvarado was in federal custody while incarcerated at Crossroads, therefore Defendants are considered federal actors rather than state actors for purposes of this case. Pollard v. GEO Group, Inc., 607 F.3d 583, 588-89 (9th Cir. 2010), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Minneci v. Pollard, 565 U.S. 118 (2012); see also Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., Inc., 457 U.S. 922, 940-41 (1982); Florer v. Congregation Pidyon Shevuyim, N.A., 639 F.3d 916, 922 (9th Cir. 2011).

         Normally an action for constitutional violations committed by federal actors can be brought under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). The United States Supreme Court, however, has made clear that a prisoner cannot assert a Bivens claim for damages against private prison employees or the corporations who own and operate private correctional facilities. Minneci, 565 U.S. 118; Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61 (2001).

         In Minneci, the plaintiff was a federal inmate, housed at a facility operated by a private company, who sought relief against its employees for the deprivation of adequate medical care. Minneci, 565 U.S. at 121. The Supreme Court declined to extend Bivens in this situation, because the plaintiff could seek a remedy under state tort law. Id. at 131. Specifically, the Court stated:

[W]here . . . a federal prisoner seeks damages from privately employed personnel working at a privately operated federal prison, where the conduct allegedly amounts to a violation of the Eighth Amendment, and where that conduct is of a kind that typically falls within the scope of traditional state tort law (such as the conduct involving improper medical care at issue here), the ...

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