Ledford v. State of California et al

Filing 24

ORDER signed by District Judge Troy L. Nunley on 7/4/2017 GRANTING 14 Motion to Dismiss and DENYING 19 Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint within 30 days of the filed date of this order. (Donati, J)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 SCOTT LEDFORD, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 No. 2:15-cv-02381-TLN-EFB v. ORDER THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 This matter is before the Court pursuant to two separate motions to dismiss Plaintiff Scott 17 18 Ledford’s Complaint (ECF No. 1). The State of California, by and through the California 19 Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of those named 20 as defendants in Counts 1 and 2 of the Complaint (collectively, the “Institutional Defendants”).1 21 (ECF No. 14.) Nagabhushana Malakkla, Chengjie Wei, and Barbara Woodward (collectively, the 22 “Individual Defendants”) filed a separate motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 19.) The Institutional 23 Defendants and the Individual Defendants are collectively referred to as “Defendants.” Plaintiff 24 filed a single opposition addressing both motions to dismiss. (ECF No. 20.) Defendants filed a 25 joint reply to Plaintiff’s opposition. (ECF No. 21.) The Court has carefully considered the 26 1 27 28 The Complaint names the State of California, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Deuel Vocational Institute, and Valley State Prison separately as defendants. The Institutional Defendants indicate that Deuel Vocational Institute and Valley State Prison are facilities of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation rather than separate entities. (ECF No. 14 at 3 n.2.) Resolution of the instant motions does not turn on this distinction. 1 1 arguments raised by the parties. For the reasons set forth below, the Institutional Defendants’ 2 motion is GRANTED and the Individual Defendants’ motion is DENIED. 3 I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS 4 This case arises out of the incarceration of a man who needs eyeglasses to see but who 5 spent nearly eight months imprisoned without them. (See ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 14, 37.) Plaintiff was 6 convicted of state felony charges and placed in the custody of the California Department of 7 Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) at Deuel Vocational Institute (“DVI”) on or about 8 August 9, 2013. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that, according to CDCR policy, an 9 evaluation by an optometrist is required if an inmate’s visual acuity is worse than 20/70. (ECF 10 No. 1 at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff has a visual acuity of 20/200 without corrective lenses. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 11 2.) During an initial medical screening, Plaintiff told medical staff that he is visually impaired 12 and cannot see at any distance without corrective lenses, which he did not have with him. (ECF 13 No. 1 at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff indicates that a “corrected vision of no more than 20/200 is considered 14 legally blind.” (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 2 n.1.) While at DVI, Plaintiff asserts that he filed 15 “Accommodation Requests and Health Care Appeals, seeking treatment for his vision 16 impairment[.]” (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 15.) 17 Plaintiff alleges that on or about October 16, 2013, Defendant Wei, a registered nurse, 18 examined Plaintiff and asked him to read a Snellen Chart.2 (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 6, 16.) Plaintiff 19 indicated he was unable to read any portion of the Snellen Chart, and Defendant Wei terminated 20 the examination and denied Plaintiff’s request for corrective lenses. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 16.) 21 Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Wei purposefully misreported his visual acuity to be 20/70 in 22 order to deny Plaintiff an evaluation by an optometrist. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 17, 20.) Plaintiff never 23 received an examination by an optometrist, corrective lenses, or any other treatment for his vision 24 impairment while housed in DVI. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 21, 25.) 25 /// 26 2 27 28 According to Plaintiff, a Snellen chart is an eye chart that can be used to measure visual acuity that is 20/200 or better. (See ECF No. 1 at ¶ 16 & n.3.) Generally, the chart is printed with eleven lines of letters; the first line consists of one very large letter; subsequent lines have increasing numbers of letters that decrease in size. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 16 n.2.) 2 1 Plaintiff alleges that his lack of treatment caused him to suffer frequent headaches from 2 squinting, and caused him to perform poorly on the Test of Adult Basic Education (“TABE”). 3 (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 22.) His poor TABE results disqualified him from certain jobs, programs, and 4 educational opportunities that would have otherwise been available to him. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 22.) 5 Plaintiff further alleges that he could not enjoy television, read books from the prison library, or 6 identify visual hazards because he did not receive treatment for his vision. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 23.) 7 Similarly, Plaintiff alleges that, without treatment, he suffered from fear and anxiety because he 8 was unable to determine other inmates’ intentions from nonverbal cues. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 23–24.) 9 On or about December 2, 2013, Plaintiff was transferred from DVI to Valley State Prison 10 (“VSP”). (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 26.) Plaintiff alleges that while there he repeatedly requested to be 11 evaluated by an optometrist and receive corrective lenses. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 27.) Likewise, he 12 filed “Accommodation Requests and/or Health Care Appeals while at VSP for treatment of his 13 visual impairment.” (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 28.) On December 10, 2013, Plaintiff received a “vision 14 impaired vest.” (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 29.) Plaintiff alleges that he was prohibited from “any 15 assignments that require ability to read or see distances[.]” (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 29.) 16 Plaintiff alleges that on January 2, 2014, he fell into a small hole while walking through 17 the facility’s D-1 yard. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 30.) He suffered a Hills-Sachs fracture and a torn left 18 rotator cuff. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 31.) Plaintiff alleges that the hole would have been visible to him if 19 he had corrective lenses. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 30.) Plaintiff further alleges that the fall caused him to 20 experience numbness and tingling in his left hand, a restricted range of motion in his left arm, 21 neck spasms, and difficulty sleeping. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 32.) 22 Plaintiff alleges that on January 8, 2014, he received an optometry evaluation and was 23 prescribed glasses, which he received on March 25, 2014. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 33, 37.) The 24 “supervising” registered nurse requested that Plaintiff contact “medical” immediately if unable to 25 carry out his activities of daily living in a safe manner, until his glasses arrived. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 26 33.) 27 On February 18, 2014, Plaintiff was evaluated by Carmelino Galang, M.D. at San Joaquin 28 General Hospital. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 34.) Dr. Galang ordered an MRI to rule out a rotator cuff tear 3 1 and indicated that Plaintiff would be “reevaluated after the MRI is done.” (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 34.) 2 Accordingly, an MRI was scheduled for Plaintiff for March 10, 2014. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 35.) 3 Plaintiff claims that on March 4, 2014, he was informed that Defendants Woodward and 4 Malakkla cancelled the MRI because it was too close to his scheduled release date of April 15, 5 2014. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 36.) 6 After Plaintiff’s release on or about April 15, 2014, Plaintiff received an MRI, which 7 confirmed Plaintiff had a torn left rotator cuff. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 40.) Plaintiff’s physician 8 promptly approved surgery after this MRI. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 40.) Plaintiff alleges that he 9 experienced pain and suffering while awaiting surgery, which was delayed due to the cancellation 10 of his March 10, 2014 MRI by Defendants Woodward and Malakkla. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 41.) As of 11 the date of the Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he continued to experience numbness and tingling 12 in his fingertips of his left hand, restricted range of motion in his left arm, neck spasms, and 13 difficulty sleeping. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 42.) Additionally, as of the date of the Complaint, Plaintiff 14 asserted that he would soon have a second surgery on his rotator cuff. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 42.) 15 Plaintiff claims to have been billed $32,614.72 in medical expenses relating to his fall. 16 (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 43.) He further asserts the State of California, CDCR, DVI, and VSP receive 17 federal funding. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 44.) 18 II. STANDARD OF LAW 19 A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under 20 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. 21 Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a 22 pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to 23 relief.” See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678–79 (2009). Under notice pleading in federal 24 court, the complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim . . . is and the grounds 25 upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations 26 omitted). “This simplified notice pleading standard relies on liberal discovery rules and summary 27 judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims.” 28 Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). 4 1 On a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. 2 Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). A court is bound to give plaintiff the benefit of every 3 reasonable inference to be drawn from the “well-pleaded” allegations of the complaint. Retail 4 Clerks Int’l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). A plaintiff need not allege 5 “‘specific facts’ beyond those necessary to state his claim and the grounds showing entitlement to 6 relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. 7 Nevertheless, a court “need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of 8 factual allegations.” United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 9 1986). While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an 10 unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A 11 pleading is insufficient if it offers mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the 12 elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 13 (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory 14 statements, do not suffice.”). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff “can prove 15 facts that it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not 16 been alleged[.]” Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 17 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). 18 Ultimately, a court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff has alleged “enough 19 facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 697 (quoting 20 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual 21 content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the 22 misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Only where a plaintiff fails to 23 “nudge[ ] [his or her] claims . . . across the line from conceivable to plausible[,]” is the complaint 24 properly dismissed. Id. at 680. While the plausibility requirement is not akin to a probability 25 requirement, it demands more than “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” 26 Id. at 678. This plausibility inquiry is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to 27 draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. 28 In ruling upon a motion to dismiss, the court may consider only the complaint, any 5 1 exhibits thereto, and matters which may be judicially noticed pursuant to Federal Rule of 2 Evidence 201. See Mir v. Little Co. of Mary Hosp., 844 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1988); Isuzu 3 Motors Ltd. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 12 F. Supp. 2d 1035, 1042 (C.D. Cal. 4 1998). 5 If a complaint fails to state a plausible claim, “‘[a] district court should grant leave to 6 amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading 7 could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.’” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 8 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (quoting Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 484, 497 (9th Cir. 1995)). 9 10 III. ANALYSIS Plaintiff’s Complaint sets out four claims: (1) violation of Title II of the Americans with 11 Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., against the Institutional Defendants; (2) 12 violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. § 794, against the 13 Institutional Defendants; (3) violation of the Eighth Amendment against Defendant Wei, pursuant 14 to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (4) violation of the Eighth Amendment against Defendants Woodward 15 and Malakkla, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 16 Defendants move to dismiss each of the claims in the Complaint for failure to state a 17 claim upon which relief may be granted. The Institutional Defendants move to dismiss the first 18 and second claims. Defendant Wei moves to dismiss the third claim. Defendants Woodward and 19 Malakkla move to dismiss the fourth claim. Additionally, the Individual Defendants move the 20 Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s request for punitive damages. The Court will address the claims in 21 order, discussing the first two claims together due to their similarity. 22 A. ADA and RA Claims 23 Plaintiff alleges a violation of Title II of ADA and § 504 of the RA. Due to the similarity 24 of the claims, the Court will analyze these claims together. See Weinreich v. Los Angeles Cty. 25 Metro. Transp. Auth., 114 F.3d 976, 978 (9th Cir. 1997) (noting that “Title II of the ADA was 26 expressly modeled after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act”). 27 28 Title II of the ADA and § 504 of the RA “both prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.” Lovell v. Chandler, 303 F.3d 1039, 1052 (9th Cir. 2002). Title II of the ADA 6 1 provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be 2 excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of 3 a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Section 504 of 4 the RA provides that “no otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by 5 reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or 6 be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial 7 assistance . . . .” 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). Both apply to inmates within state prisons. Pennsylvania 8 Dept. of Corrections v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206, 210 (1998); Armstrong v. Wilson, 124 F.3d 1019, 9 1022–23 (9th Cir.1997). 10 “To establish a violation of Title II of the ADA, a plaintiff must show that (1) she is a 11 qualified individual with a disability; (2) she was excluded from participation in or otherwise 12 discriminated against with regard to a public entity’s services, programs, or activities; and (3) 13 such exclusion or discrimination was by reason of her disability.” Lovell, 303 F.3d at 1052. 14 “Similarly, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, a plaintiff must show: (1) he is an 15 ‘individual with a disability’; (2) he is ‘otherwise qualified’ to receive the benefit; (3) he was 16 denied the benefits of the program solely by reason of his disability; and (4) the program receives 17 federal financial assistance.” Weinreich, 114 F.3d at 978 (emphasis removed). “To recover 18 monetary damages” under either “a plaintiff must prove intentional discrimination on the part of 19 the defendant.” Duvall v. Cty. of Kitsap, 260 F.3d 1124, 1138 (9th Cir. 2001). 20 The Institutional Defendants’ argument with respect to these claims can be summarized 21 into a single sentence: “Plaintiff’s complaint fails to allege the State discriminated against him 22 because of his disability.” (ECF No. 14 at 8:18–20 (emphasis retained).) 23 Ninth Circuit precedent is clear “[t]he ADA prohibits discrimination because of disability, 24 not inadequate treatment for disability.” Simmons v. Navajo Cty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1022 (9th 25 Cir. 2010). “[T]he same is true for section 504 of the [RA][.]” Figueira ex rel. Castillo v. Cty. of 26 Sutter, No. 2:15-cv-00500-KJM-AC, 2015 WL 6449151, at *9 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2015); see also 27 Tandel v. Cty. of Sacramento, No. 2:11-cv-00353-MCE-AC, 2:09-cv-00482-MCE-GGH, 2015 28 WL 1291377, at *18 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2015). Simply put, “[i]nadequate treatment or lack of 7 1 treatment for Plaintiff’s medical condition does not in itself suffice to create liability under either 2 statutory scheme.” Tandel, 2015 WL 1291377, at *18 (emphasis added). “Inadequate medical 3 care does not provide a basis for an ADA claim unless medical services are withheld by reason of 4 a disability.” Marlor v. Madison Cty., Idaho, 50 F. App’x 872, 873 (9th Cir. 2002) (emphasis 5 retained); see also McNally v. Prison Health Servs., 46 F. Supp. 2d 49, 58 (D. Me. 1999) 6 (denying the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s ADA claim where the 7 plaintiff introduced evidence in support of his contention that he was “discriminated against . . . 8 because of his HIV-positive status, not by providing him with inadequate care, but by denying 9 him immediate access to prescribed medications, a service provided to detainees in need of 10 11 prescriptions for other illnesses”). As currently drafted, Plaintiff’s ADA and RA claims fail to state a claim upon which 12 relief can get granted. This is illustrated in a paragraph repeated verbatim in the Complaint under 13 both claims: 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 “Here, [Plaintiff] is a qualified individual with a disability because his uncorrected vision is 20/200, which significantly affects his ability to perform basic daily functions and, if uncorrected, significantly increases his chances of sustaining an injury. [Plaintiff] was either excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of a public entity’s services, programs, or activities, or was otherwise discriminated against because in denying treatment [Plaintiff] suffered frequent headaches, performed poorly on TABE and therefore was disqualified from programs, jobs and educational opportunities, was unable to enjoy television or read books from the prison’s library, suffered constant fear and anxiety because he was unable to understand the nonverbal cues of other inmates, was unable to identify most otherwise visible environmental hazards and ultimately stepped in a hole suffering injuries.” (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 48, 54 (emphasis added).) Quite simply, Plaintiff alleges that he was 23 excluded from participating in or receiving the benefits of certain services, programs, or activities 24 as a byproduct of inadequate vision correction treatment. (See also e.g., ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 22–23.) 25 He does not allege that his vision was not corrected because of his disability. Plaintiff’s argument 26 in his opposition cannot cure this. Frenzel v. AliphCom, 76 F. Supp. 3d 999, 1009 (N.D. Cal. 27 2014) (“[I]t is axiomatic that the complaint may not be amended by the briefs in opposition to a 28 motion to dismiss.”); see also Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001) 8 1 (“[W]hen the legal sufficiency of a complaint’s allegations is tested by a motion under Rule 2 12(b)(6), review is limited to the complaint.”) (internal quotation marks and modifications 3 omitted). 4 5 For the foregoing reasons, the Institutional Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s first and second claims is GRANTED. 6 B. Eighth Amendment Claim Against Defendant Wei 7 Defendant Wei moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s third claim for two reasons. First, Defendant 8 Wei argues that Plaintiff has not alleged a sufficiently serious medical need to state a claim for 9 violation of the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. (ECF 10 No. 19 at 7.) Second, Defendant Wei argues “misreport[ing]” the results of an eye exam is at 11 most medical malpractice, not a constitutional violation. (ECF No. 19 at 7.) Each argument must 12 be rejected. 13 “The government has an obligation to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing 14 by incarceration, and failure to meet that obligation can constitute an Eighth Amendment 15 violation cognizable under § 1983.” Colwell v. Bannister, 763 F.3d 1060, 1066 (9th Cir. 2014) 16 (internal quotation marks omitted). “In order to prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim for 17 inadequate medical care, a plaintiff must show deliberate indifference to his serious medical 18 needs.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “This includes both an objective standard — that 19 the deprivation was serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment — and a 20 subjective standard — deliberate indifference.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “To meet 21 the objective element of the standard, a plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of a serious 22 medical need.” Id. “A prison official is deliberately indifferent under the subjective element of 23 the test only if the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety.” 24 Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). 25 Defendant Wei’s first argument is inconsistent with Colwell. There, the Ninth Circuit 26 held blindness in one eye is a “serious medical need.” Colwell, 763 F.3d at 1066. In that case, 27 the prisoner was blind in one eye due to a cataract but he had 20/20 vision in his other eye. Id. at 28 1063–65. Here, Plaintiff’s alleged loss of vision is more acute than the prisoner in Colwell 9 1 because he is functionally blind in both eyes. Moreover, Colwell also made clear that in the case 2 of prisoners with visual deficiencies the vision loss itself need not be painful in order to constitute 3 a serious medical need. Id. at 1066–67. Plaintiff’s allegation that he has 20/200 visual acuity and 4 is unable “to see at any distance” without corrective lenses constitutes a serious medical need for 5 Eighth Amendment purposes. 6 Defendant Wei’s second argument mischaracterizes the nature of Plaintiff’s third claim. 7 Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Wei “purposefully misreported” the results “in order to deny him” 8 an optometrist evaluation after Plaintiff informed Defendant Wei his vision was so poor he could 9 not even see the chart. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶16–17, 20.) Plaintiff is not seeking to constitutionalize a 10 negligent slip of the pen as Defendant Wei suggests, or even a cover up of an already-made 11 mistake. There is a difference between a medical professional negligently misreporting which of 12 an inmate’s limbs or organs should be removed and doing so purposefully in order have the 13 wrong limb or organ removed. Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant Wei’s purposeful conduct left 14 him without the use of his eyes. 15 16 For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Wei’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s third claim is DENIED. 17 C. Eighth Amendment Claim Against Woodward and Malakkla 18 Plaintiff claims that Defendants Woodward and Malakkla’s cancellation of his MRI due to 19 his scheduled release demonstrates deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Defendants 20 move to dismiss this claim for three reasons. Each reason must be rejected. 21 First, they argue that the “crux of Plaintiff’s complaint centers around a difference in 22 medical opinions, including a difference in opinions as to the urgency of Plaintiff’s need for an 23 MRI.” (ECF No. 19 at 5.) This is not what Plaintiff alleges. Plaintiff alleges Defendants 24 Woodward and Malakkla cancelled his MRI “because the procedure . . . . was . . . too close to his 25 discharge date.” (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 36, 70 (emphasis added).) It is Defendants Woodward and 26 Malakkla that allege that the decision to “delay” the MRI resulted from an exercise of medical 27 judgment. (ECF No. 19 at 5–6.) It is just that — a factual allegation. At this stage in the 28 proceedings, it is Plaintiff whose factual allegations are taken as true and who is given the benefit 10 1 of every reasonable inference from his well-pleaded factual allegations. For this reason, 2 Defendants Woodward and Malakkla’s first argument must be rejected. 3 Second, Defendants Woodward and Malakkla argue that a delay in medical treatment 4 must lead to “further injury” in order to make out an Eighth Amendment claim. (ECF No. 19 at 8 5 (emphasis retained).) If Defendants’ argument were accepted, a prison official fully aware that a 6 prisoner was suffering from the most excruciating pain conceivable could leave him to suffer 7 indefinitely without violating the Eighth Amendment because the prisoner’s pain could not get 8 any worse. This is not the law. See, e.g., Fields v. Gander, 734 F.2d 1313, 1315 (8th Cir. 1984) 9 (“Fields claims that Gander knew of the pain he was suffering during late April or early May of 10 1983, observed swelling in Fields’ face, and still refused to provide dental care for him for up to 11 three weeks. In our view, Fields’ allegations could support a finding of an eighth amendment 12 deprivation in violation of section 1983.”). Not surprisingly, the cases cited by Defendants do not 13 support such an extreme proposition. See, e.g., Hunt v. Dental Dep’t, 865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir. 14 1989) (citing Fields with approval); see also Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 746 (9th Cir. 2002) 15 (“[D]elay in providing a prisoner with dental treatment, standing alone, does not constitute an 16 eighth amendment violation.”) (quoting Hunt, 865 F.2d at 200). Ninth Circuit precedent provides that an inmate can show a “serious medical need” by 17 18 demonstrating that “failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant injury 19 or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 20 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted). Assuming the first prong is met, the inmate must also 21 show “the defendant’s response to the need was deliberately indifferent.” Id. “This second prong 22 . . . is satisfied by showing (a) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner’s pain or 23 possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the indifference.” Id. “Indifference may appear 24 when prison officials deny, delay or intentionally interfere with medical treatment[.]” Id. 25 (internal quotation marks omitted). “A prisoner need not show his [resulting] harm was 26 substantial.” Id. 27 /// 28 /// 11 1 Here, Plaintiff alleges that he was suffering pain from his fall-related injuries while 2 awaiting surgery. (See, e.g., ECF No. 1 at ¶ 41.) Plaintiff further alleges the cancellation of his 3 already-scheduled MRI by Defendants Woodward and Malakkla due to his release date evinced 4 deliberate indifference to this suffering. (See, e.g., ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 70–71.) He claims his 5 surgery was promptly scheduled after his MRI was ultimately conducted. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 40.) 6 Consequently, the cancellation resulted in harm to him — unnecessarily prolonged pre-surgery 7 suffering. For these reasons, Defendant Woodward and Malakkla’s second argument must be 8 rejected. 9 Third, Defendants Woodward and Malakkla contend they are entitled to qualified 10 immunity. The Court finds that it cannot conclude that qualified immunity is appropriate at this 11 stage in the proceedings. “Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense that must be raised by a 12 defendant.” Groten v. California, 251 F.3d 844, 851 (9th Cir. 2001). Therefore, dismissal under 13 Rule 12(b)(6), “is not appropriate unless [the court] can determine, based on the complaint itself, 14 that qualified immunity applies.” Id. 15 Here, aside from indirectly referencing their first two arguments that the Court has already 16 rejected, Defendants Woodward and Malakkla raise two additional arguments for why they are 17 entitled to qualified immunity. Each turns in part on factual allegations not contained in the 18 Complaint and, therefore, are not appropriately decided at the motion to dismiss stage. First, 19 Defendants Woodward and Malakkla argue they would have “no reason to believe they would be 20 violating Plaintiff’s constitutional rights by delaying a diagnostic test that could not be 21 recommended, approved, scheduled, completed, and followed up with treatment by a specialist, . . 22 . within the month remaining on the Plaintiff’s sentence.” (ECF No. 19 at 11 (emphasis added).) 23 Because the MRI had already been ordered and scheduled, this argument is premised on the 24 factual assertion that Plaintiff could not have received follow-up treatment while he was 25 incarcerated. This is not contained in the Complaint. Thus, the Court cannot conclude that 26 Defendants Woodward and Malakkla are entitled to qualified immunity on said basis at this stage 27 in the proceedings. 28 Second, these Defendants ask the court to “find they reasonably believed their actions 12 1 were lawful” and assert that they “had no knowledge of any actual injury” by Plaintiff. (ECF No. 2 19 at 9.) Again, what these Defendants allege they believed and knew are factual assertions not 3 contained in the Complaint. Thus, even assuming that such belief and knowledge would entitle 4 them to qualified immunity, this argument must also be rejected at this stage in the proceedings. 5 For the foregoing reasons, Defendants Woodward and Malakkla’s motion to dismiss 6 Plaintiff’s fourth claim is DENIED. 7 D. Punitive Damages 8 The Individual Defendants move to “dismiss the punitive damages allegations against” 9 them. (ECF No. 19 at 9.) “[A] jury may be permitted to assess punitive damages in an action 10 under § 1983 when the defendant’s conduct is shown to be motivated by evil motive or intent, or 11 when it involves reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of others.” 12 Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 56 (1983). 13 The Individual Defendants argue as follows: “Nothing in the Complaint supports a claim 14 for punitive damages against [the Individual Defendants]. The reasoned denial of an MRI 15 especially does not suggest evil motive or intent, or recklessness or callous indifference on the 16 part of Defendants Malakkla and Woodward.” (ECF No. 19 at 9:19–21.) These two sentences 17 are wholly inadequate and warrant only a brief response. The Complaint specifically identifies 18 why Plaintiff thought punitive damages were appropriate for each of the Individual Defendants. 19 (See, e.g., ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 62–63, 70–71.) It is the movant’s burden to demonstrate that 20 Plaintiff’s request for punitive damages should be dismissed. See Anderson v. Fishback, No. CV- 21 05-0729-ROS (PC), 2009 WL 2423327, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 6, 2009). This has not been met. 22 With respect to Defendants Woodward and Malakkla, for the reasons already discussed, the Court 23 cannot accept Defendants Malakkla and Woodward’s factual assertion that they cancelled the 24 MRI as the result of “reasoned decision.” As the Individual Defendants have not bothered to 25 discuss Defendant Wei substantively, the Court declines to do so. 26 IV. 27 For the foregoing reasons, the Institutional Defendants’ motion is GRANTED and the 28 CONCLUSION Individual Defendants’ motion is DENIED. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint within 13 1 2 3 thirty (30) days of the date this Order is filed. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: July 4, 2017 4 5 Troy L. Nunley United States District Judge 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 14

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?