Bradford v. Ogbuehi et al

Filing 31

ORDER GRANTING Plaintiff's 28 Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint; ORDER DIRECTING Clerk of Court to File Amended Complaint; FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS Regarding Dismissal of Certain Claims signed by Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on 2/9/2018. Referred to Judge Anthony W. Ishii. Objections to F&R due within Fourteen (14) Days. (Sant Agata, S)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 RAYMOND ALFORD BRADFORD, Case No. 1:15-cv-01918-AWI-BAM (PC) 10 ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT [ECF No. 28] Plaintiff, 11 v. 12 C. OGBUEHI, et al., 13 ORDER DIRECTING CLERK OF COURT TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT [ECF No. 29] Defendants. 14 15 17 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DISMISSAL OF CERTAIN CLAIMS 18 FOURTEEN-DAY DEADLINE 16 19 20 Plaintiff Raymond Alford Bradford is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma 21 pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 22 Currently before the Court is Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file an amended complaint 23 and declaration in support thereof, filed on January 29, 2018. (ECF No. 28.) Plaintiff has also 24 lodged a proposed amended complaint with his motion. (ECF No. 29.) 25 I. Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint 26 On December 13, 2017, the Court found service of Plaintiff’s complaint appropriate, and 27 ordered that this action would proceed on his claim against Defendants Nietas and Ogbuehi for 28 deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 1 1 20.) The Court further ordered for Plaintiff to submit documents for service of process on the 2 Defendants within thirty days. (Id.) Plaintiff states that after receiving the Court’s December 13, 2017 order, he reviewed his 3 4 complaint and “was not satisfied with what he said and how he said it, due to the fact that at the 5 time of filing he was heavily medicated with psychotropic medications.” (ECF No. 28 at 2.) 6 Plaintiff further states that he would like to amend his complaint because he believes he will not 7 “win” his case without amending, and “does not stand a chance of defeating a summary 8 judgment motion based on what is stated thus far[.]” (Id. at 5.) 1 A. 9 Legal Standard Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may amend the party’s 10 11 pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served. 12 Otherwise, a party may amend only by leave of the court or by written consent of the adverse 13 party. “Rule 15(a) is very liberal and leave to amend ‘shall be freely given when justice so 14 requires.’” AmerisourceBergen Corp. v. Dialysist West, Inc., 465 F.3d 946, 951 (9th Cir. 2006) 15 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)). However, courts “need not grant leave to amend where the 16 amendment: (1) prejudices the opposing party; (2) is sought in bad faith; (3) produces an undue 17 delay in litigation; or (4) is futile.” Id. 18 B. Discussion 19 Considering the relevant factors here, leave to amend should be granted. Plaintiff asserts 20 that he intends to plead his original claims with further clarity, in good faith. In reviewing the 21 amended complaint’s allegations, which are discussed in more detail below, the Court finds that 22 the amendment is not futile. Plaintiff pleads different, but not inconsistent, facts as he has 23 previously alleged, asserting the same claims against the same parties as in his original 24 complaint. Further, Plaintiff has not previously amended his complaint, it has not yet been 25 served, and no responsive pleading has been filed or served. 26 Plaintiff also states that he disagrees with the Court’s determination regarding his earlier attempt to amend his complaint, which was construed as a request to file a supplemental pleading. Plaintiff filed 28 separate objections regarding that ruling, (ECF No. 27), which the Court will address in a separate order. 27 1 2 1 For these reasons, leave to amend will be granted, and the Clerk of the Court will be 2 directed to file Plaintiff’s amended complaint on the docket. The Court next turns to screening 3 Plaintiff’s amended complaint. 4 II. Screening Requirement and Standard 5 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a 6 governmental entity and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 7 1915A(a). Plaintiff’s complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or 8 malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary 9 relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). 10 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 11 pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not 12 required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 13 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 14 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 15 (2007)). While a plaintiff’s allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge 16 unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) 17 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 18 To survive screening, Plaintiff’s claims must be facially plausible, which requires 19 sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable 20 for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); 21 Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a 22 defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of 23 satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks 24 omitted); Moss, 572 F.3d at 969. 25 A. Allegations in Complaint 26 Plaintiff is currently housed at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility. The events giving rise 27 to this action are alleged to have occurred while Plaintiff was housed at Kern Valley State Prison 28 (“KVSP”) in Delano, California. 3 1 Plaintiff names the following defendants, each of whom is employed at KVSP: (1) C. 2 Ogbuehi, M.D., a physician; and (2) Registered Dietitian Nietas. Both of the defendants are sued 3 in their individual and official capacity. 4 Plaintiff alleges as follows: Defendant Ogbuehi was acting under color of state law when 5 he illegally denied/delayed Plaintiff’s treatment for his bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, and 6 weight loss, to inflict unnecessary wanton and pain upon Plaintiff, knowing that he suffers from 7 ulcerative colitis. Defendant’s delay, denial, and interference caused Plaintiff’s ailment to 8 deteriorate and/or worsen. Defendant used state-derived authority in acting to Plaintiff’s 9 detriment. 10 Defendant Nietas was acting under color of state law when she illegally delayed, denied, 11 and interfered with Plaintiff’s treatment for his weight loss, stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, 12 pain and discomfort to inflict unnecessary pain upon Plaintiff, knowing that he suffers from 13 ulcerative colitis. Defendant’s actions caused Plaintiff’s illness to worsen. Moreover, Defendant 14 used state-derived authority in acting to Plaintiff’s detriment. 15 From August 5, 2015 to August 29, 2017, Plaintiff complained to both Defendant 16 Ogbuehi and Nietas about his active flare-up of his ulcerative colitis, bloody diarrhea, stomach 17 cramps, and weight loss. He was repeatedly denied treatment. 18 The dietician denied, delayed, and interfered with treatment by deliberately withholding 19 treatment for Plaintiff’s severe weight loss, bloody diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Defendant 20 allowed Plaintiff’s illness to go untreated for several months, knowing that Plaintiff suffered 21 from colitis. She interfered with treatment by suggesting to the doctor that Plaintiff did not have 22 the condition, and therefore no treatment was necessary or needed. As a result, Defendant 23 Ogbuehi denied and delayed treatment, causing Plaintiff unnecessary harm, and his illness to 24 deteriorate. Plaintiff experienced bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, pain, discomfort, and weight 25 loss for several months, on a daily basis. Defendant Ogbuehi would interfere with treatment by 26 suggesting to Dr. Ulit that Plaintiff should not receive the medically-indicated treatment to 27 control Plaintiff’s active flare up of his ulcerative colitis, and pain and discomfort. Plaintiff’s 28 inmate emergency 602 appeal was denied, and his condition would deteriorate as a result. 4 1 On August 5, 2015, Defendants Ogbuehi and Nietas violated Plaintiff’s Eighth 2 Amendment rights. He was without treatment for several months. He lost 30 pounds, and 3 suffered pain daily, and would eventually be hospitalized. The Defendants’ actions show that the 4 course of treatment they chose was medically unacceptable under the circumstances, and that 5 they chose to deny, delay, and interfere with treatment in conscious disregard of an excessive 6 risk to his health. Defendants Ogbuehi and Nietas purposefully acted and/or failed to respond to 7 his pain and medical need, and as a result, harmed Plaintiff by their indifference. 8 Plaintiff asserts a claim under the Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference to 9 serious medical needs against Defendants. He also seeks a declaration judgment that his rights 10 were violated, compensatory and punitive damages, and a jury trial. 11 B. Discussion 12 1. Official Capacity – Eleventh Amendment 13 Plaintiff attempts to bring suit against Defendants in both their individual and official 14 capacities. 15 The Eleventh Amendment prohibits suits for monetary damages against a State, its 16 agencies, and state officials acting in their official capacities. Aholelei v. Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 17 488 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2007). A suit against a state official in his official capacity equates 18 to a suit against the state employing that official, Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991), 19 effectively barring a plaintiff from bringing suit on these grounds. However, the Eleventh 20 Amendment does not bar a suit for monetary damages against a state official sued in his 21 individual capacity. Id. 22 Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants in their official capacities are tantamount to 23 bringing suit against the State. As a result, Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants in their official 24 capacities cannot stand and are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. However, Plaintiff is not 25 precluded from bringing a suit for monetary damages against defendants in their individual 26 capacities. 27 /// 28 /// 5 1 2. Eighth Amendment 2 “[T]o maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on prison medical treatment, an 3 inmate must show ‘deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.’” Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 4 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). Plaintiff must 5 show (1) a serious medical need and (2) defendant’s response to the need was deliberately 6 indifferent. Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096. Deliberate indifference is shown by “a purposeful act or 7 failure to respond to a prisoner’s pain or possible medical need, and harm caused by the 8 indifference.” Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096 (citing McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1060 (9th Cir. 9 1992). 10 At the pleading stage, Plaintiff’s complaint is sufficient to state a claim for deliberate 11 indifference to serious medical needs against Defendants Nietas and Ogbuehi. Plaintiff has 12 alleged that these defendants, despite knowing Plaintiff had ulcerative colitis and being informed 13 of his flare-ups and symptoms, denied him treatment for bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps and 14 weight loss. He further alleges that this denial caused him not only pain, but also a worsening of 15 his condition. 16 3. Declaratory Judgment 17 In addition to monetary damages, Plaintiff seeks a declaration that his rights were 18 violated. “A declaratory judgment, like other forms of equitable relief, should be granted only as 19 a matter of judicial discretion, exercised in the public interest.” Eccles v. Peoples Bank of 20 Lakewood Village, 333 U.S. 426, 431 (1948). “Declaratory relief should be denied when it will 21 neither serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relations in issue nor terminate 22 the proceedings and afford relief from the uncertainty and controversy faced by the parties.” 23 United States v. Washington, 759 F.2d 1353, 1357 (9th Cir. 1985). 24 In the event that this action reaches trial and the jury returns a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, 25 that verdict will be a finding that Plaintiff’s constitutional rights were violated. Accordingly, a 26 declaration that any defendant violated Plaintiff’s rights is unnecessary. 27 /// 28 /// 6 1 III. Conclusion and Recommendations 2 For the reasons explained above, the Court HEREBY ORDERS as follows: 3 1. Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file an amended complaint, filed on January 29, 4 2018 (ECF No. 28), is granted; and 5 2. The Clerk of the Court is directed to file Plaintiff’s amended complaint, lodged 6 on January 29, 2018 (ECF No. 29), on the docket. *** 7 8 Further, for the reasons discussed, the Court finds that Plaintiff has stated a cognizable 9 claim against Defendants Ogbuehi and Nietas in their individual capacity for deliberate 10 indifference to his serious medical need in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff claim 11 against these Defendants in their original capacity, and his claim for declaratory relief, should be 12 dismissed, as the defects with those claims cannot be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 13 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (district court should grant leave to amend unless the pleading 14 could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts); Hartmann v. Cal. Dep’t of Corrs. 15 and Rehab., 707 F.3d 1114, 1130 (9th Cir. 2013) (“A district court may deny leave to amend 16 when amendment would be futile.”). 17 Accordingly, the Court HEREBY RECOMMENDS as follows: 18 1. This action should proceed on Plaintiff’s amended complaint against Defendants 19 Ogbuehi and Nietas in their individual capacity for deliberate indifference to his serious medical 20 need in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and, 21 2. Plaintiff’s claim against Defendants Ogbuehi and Nietas in their official 22 capacities, and for a declaratory judgment, should be dismissed for the failure to state a claim 23 upon which relief may be granted. 24 These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the United States District 25 Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within 26 fourteen (14) days after being served with these findings and recommendations, Plaintiff may 27 file written objections with the Court. The document should be captioned “Objections to 28 Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendation.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file 7 1 objections within the specified time may result in the waiver of the “right to challenge the 2 magistrate’s factual findings” on appeal. Wilkerson v. Wheeler, 772 F.3d 834, 839 (9th Cir. 3 2014) (citing Baxter v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1391, 1394 (9th Cir. 1991)). 4 5 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: /s/ Barbara February 9, 2018 A. McAuliffe _ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?