Washington v. California Department of Corrections

Filing 10

ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Craig M. Kellison on 9/22/16 ORDERING that plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with leave to amend; and plaintiff shall file an amended complaint within 30 days of the date of service of this order. (Dillon, M)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 WILLIAM NATHANIEL WASHINGTON, 12 13 14 No. 2:15-cv-2302-MCE-CMK-P Plaintiff, vs. ORDER CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., 15 Defendant. 16 17 18 19 / Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff’s complaint (Doc. 1). The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief 20 against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. 21 § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or 22 malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief 23 from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, 24 the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a “short and plain statement 25 of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This means 26 that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1 1 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied if the 2 complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff’s claim and the grounds upon which it 3 rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege 4 with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support the 5 claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is 6 impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague 7 and conclusory. 8 9 I. PLAINTIFF’S ALLEGATIONS In plaintiff’s complaint, he claims his Eighth Amendment right to receive 10 adequate medical care is being violated due to the deliberate indifference of the defendants. He 11 alleges x-rays have confirmed he has a fractured bone. He names as defendants the California 12 Department of Corrections (CDCR), Solano State Prison (CSP-Solano), E. Arnold as Warden of 13 CSP-Solano, and Chief Medical Examiner M. Kuersten. Specifically, plaintiff alleges CDCR is 14 the employer of the defendants violating his rights. He fails to specify how CSP-Solano is 15 violating is rights, other than stating the prison is responsible for employing the doctors. 16 Similarly, he alleges Warden Arnold is the overseer of the prison. Finally, he alleges Dr. 17 Kuersten is denying him adequate medical care regardless of the recommendations from two 18 physicians. Plaintiff states that an x-ray confirms a fracture, but medical personnel are refusing 19 treatment. More specifically, plaintiff alleges that Dr. Kuersten stated in his denial that plaintiff 20 was required to see a physical therapist instead of treating the bone fracture. He claims the delay 21 in treatment is causing him pain and possibly more extensive treatment. 22 II. DISCUSSION 23 A. General Provisions 24 As to plaintiff’s complaint in general, § 1983 imposes liability upon any person 25 who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of a federally protected right. 42 U.S.C. § 26 1983 (1982). “To make out a cause of action under section 1983, plaintiffs must plead that (1) 2 1 the defendants acting under color of state law (2) deprived plaintiffs of rights secured by the 2 Constitution or federal statutes.” Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1338 (9th Cir.1986). 3 To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege an actual connection or link 4 between the actions of the named defendants and the alleged deprivations. See Monell v. Dep’t 5 of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). “A person 6 ‘subjects’ another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he 7 does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act 8 which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” 9 Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations 10 concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See 11 Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Rather, the plaintiff must set forth 12 specific facts as to each individual defendant’s causal role in the alleged constitutional 13 deprivation. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). Supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their 14 15 employees. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (holding that there is no 16 respondeat superior liability under § 1983). A supervisor is only liable for the constitutional 17 violations of subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations. See id. The 18 Supreme Court has rejected the notion that a supervisory defendant can be liable based on 19 knowledge and acquiescence in a subordinate’s unconstitutional conduct because government 20 officials, regardless of their title, can only be held liable under § 1983 for his or her own conduct 21 and not the conduct of others. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). 22 Supervisory personnel who implement a policy so deficient that the policy itself is a repudiation 23 of constitutional rights and the moving force behind a constitutional violation may, however, be 24 liable even where such personnel do not overtly participate in the offensive act. See Redman v. 25 Cnty of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc). 26 /// 3 1 When a defendant holds a supervisory position, the causal link between such 2 defendant and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. 3 Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 4 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of supervisory personnel 5 in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th 6 Cir. 1982). “[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the 7 official’s own individual actions, has violated the constitution.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1948. 8 The Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from hearing suits brought 9 against a state both by its own citizens, as well as by citizens of other states. See Brooks v. 10 Sulphur Springs Valley Elec. Coop., 951 F.2d 1050, 1053 (9th Cir. 1991). This prohibition 11 extends to suits against states themselves, and to suits against state agencies. See Lucas v. Dep’t 12 of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th 13 Cir. 1989). A state’s agency responsible for incarceration and correction of prisoners is a state 14 agency for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment. See Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 15 (1978) (per curiam); Hale v. Arizona, 993 F.2d 1387, 1398-99 (9th cir. 1993) (en banc). 16 In this case, plaintiff names CDC, CSP-Solano, and Warden Arnold. As set forth 17 above, § 1983 imposes liability only upon a person. Neither a state nor state agencies and 18 subdivisions are “persons” within the meaning of § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dept. of State 19 Police, 497, U.S. 58, 65-66 (1989); Hale v. State of Ariz., 993 F.2d 1387, 1388 (9th Cir. 1993). 20 In addition, the Eleventh Amendment protects the state agencies. Accordingly, this action cannot 21 be maintained against either the CDC or CSP-Solano. 22 Similarly, the claims set forth in plaintiff’s complaint fail to state a claim against 23 Warden Arnold. The only allegations against Warden Arnold are based on his position as a 24 supervisor of the prison as a whole. There are no allegations that Warden Arnold is directly 25 involved in plaintiff’s treatment or denial of treatment. Rather, plaintiff attempts to state a claim 26 against Warden Arnold for his role as overseer of the prison, which is insufficient to state a 4 1 claim. 2 B. Eighth Amendment 3 The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which the 4 prisoner is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel 5 and unusual punishment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993); Farmer v. Brennan, 6 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment “. . . embodies broad and idealistic concepts 7 of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 8 (1976). Conditions of confinement may, however, be harsh and restrictive. See Rhodes v. 9 Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Nonetheless, prison officials must provide prisoners with 10 “food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.” Toussaint v. McCarthy, 11 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir. 1986). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only 12 when two requirements are met: (1) objectively, the official’s act or omission must be so serious 13 such that it results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities; and (2) 14 subjectively, the prison official must have acted unnecessarily and wantonly for the purpose of 15 inflicting harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Thus, to violate the Eighth Amendment, a prison 16 official must have a “sufficiently culpable mind.” See id. 17 Deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury, or risks of serious 18 injury or illness, gives rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 19 105; see also Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This applies to physical as well as dental and mental 20 health needs. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir. 1982). An injury or illness is 21 sufficiently serious if the failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant 22 injury or the “. . . unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 23 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). 24 Factors indicating seriousness are: (1) whether a reasonable doctor would think that the condition 25 is worthy of comment; (2) whether the condition significantly impacts the prisoner’s daily 26 activities; and (3) whether the condition is chronic and accompanied by substantial pain. See 5 1 Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). The requirement of deliberate indifference is less stringent in medical needs cases 2 3 than in other Eighth Amendment contexts because the responsibility to provide inmates with 4 medical care does not generally conflict with competing penological concerns. See McGuckin, 5 974 F.2d at 1060. Thus, deference need not be given to the judgment of prison officials as to 6 decisions concerning medical needs. See Hunt v. Dental Dep’t, 865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir. 7 1989). The complete denial of medical attention may constitute deliberate indifference. See 8 Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986). Delay in providing medical 9 treatment, or interference with medical treatment, may also constitute deliberate indifference. 10 See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131. Where delay is alleged, however, the prisoner must also 11 demonstrate that the delay led to further injury. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Negligence in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not, however, give 12 13 rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Moreover, a 14 difference of opinion between the prisoner and medical providers concerning the appropriate 15 course of treatment does not give rise to an Eighth Amendment claim. See Jackson v. McIntosh, 16 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996). 17 Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. Kuersten is not clear. Plaintiff 18 claims Dr. Kuersten stated in his denial that he must complete physical therapy. Plaintiff does 19 not agree with that decision. It is unclear to the court whether Dr. Kuersten has actually denied 20 plaintiff treatment, or whether he reviewed another doctor’s decision as to the proper treatment 21 through the inmate grievance process. In addition, it is unclear whether whether the treatment 22 plaintiff is requesting is necessary or simply a difference in opinion between him and Dr. 23 Kuersten. 24 If Dr. Kuersten is simply reviewing another doctor’s decision through the inmate 25 grievance system, plaintiff would not be able to state a claim against the reviewing doctor. See 26 Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988); Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th 6 1 Cir. 2003) . Similarly, if it is simply a difference of opinion between plaintiff and the doctor, that 2 would not be sufficient to state a claim. While it may be possible for plaintiff to state an Eighth 3 Amendment claim against Dr. Kuersten, his complaint as written fails to make sufficient 4 connections between necessary medical treatment and the actions of Dr. Kuersten. While Rule 8 5 contemplates brevity, it also requires that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. 6 As the defects in this claim are also curable, plaintiff will be granted leave to amend this claim. 7 However, he is reminded that he must allege sufficient facts to state a claim, and specify who is 8 violating his Eighth Amendment rights and how. III. CONCLUSION 9 10 Because it is possible that some of the deficiencies identified in this order may be 11 cured by amending the complaint, plaintiff is entitled to leave to amend prior to dismissal of the 12 entire action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). 13 Plaintiff is informed that, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original 14 complaint. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992). Thus, following 15 dismissal with leave to amend, all claims alleged in the original complaint which are not alleged 16 in the amended complaint are waived. See King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987). 17 Therefore, if plaintiff amends the complaint, the court cannot refer to the prior pleading in order 18 to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. See Local Rule 220. An amended complaint 19 must be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. See id. 20 If plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate how the 21 conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights. See 22 Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). The complaint must allege in specific terms how 23 each named defendant is involved, and must set forth some affirmative link or connection 24 between each defendant’s actions and the claimed deprivation. See May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 25 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). 26 /// 7 1 Because some of the defects identified in this order cannot be cured by 2 amendment, plaintiff is not entitled to leave to amend as to such claims. Plaintiff, therefore, now 3 has the following choices: (1) plaintiff may file an amended complaint which does not allege the 4 claims identified herein as incurable, in which case such claims will be deemed abandoned and 5 the court will address the remaining claims; or (2) plaintiff may file an amended complaint which 6 continues to allege claims identified as incurable, in which case the court will issue findings and 7 recommendations that such claims be dismissed from this action, as well as such other orders 8 and/or findings and recommendations as may be necessary to address the remaining claims. 9 Finally, plaintiff is warned that failure to file an amended complaint within the 10 time provided in this order may be grounds for dismissal of this action. See Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 11 1260-61; see also Local Rule 110. Plaintiff is also warned that a complaint which fails to comply 12 with Rule 8 may, in the court’s discretion, be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(b). 13 See Nevijel v. North Coast Life Ins. Co., 651 F.2d 671, 673 (9th Cir. 1981). 14 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 15 1. Plaintiff’s complaint is dismissed with leave to amend; and 16 2. Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint within 30 days of the date of 17 service of this order. 18 19 20 21 DATED: September 22, 2016 ______________________________________ CRAIG M. KELLISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 22 23 24 25 26 8

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