Mester v. Galen Church, et al.,

Filing 21

FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Craig M. Kellison on 02/03/17 recommending that this action be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Referred to Judge Troy L. Nunley. Objections due within 14 days. (Plummer, M)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 MORRIS MESTER, 11 12 13 14 15 16 No. 2:16-CV-0651-TLN-CMK-P Plaintiff, vs. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS GABRIEL WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants. / Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 17 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff’s first amended complaint (Doc. 11). 18 The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief 19 against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. 20 § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or 21 malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief 22 from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, 23 the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a “. . . short and plain 24 statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). 25 This means that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne, 26 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied 1 1 if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff’s claim and the grounds upon 2 which it rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must 3 allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support 4 the claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is 5 impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague 6 and conclusory. 7 8 9 I. PLAINTIFF’S ALLEGATIONS Plaintiff names the following prison doctors as defendants: (1) Dr. Church; (2) Dr. 10 Williams; (3) Dr. Williamson; (4) Dr. Nguyen; and (5) Dr. Mansour. Plaintiff complains that 11 these doctors are not providing him adequate medical care. Specifically, he challenges the 12 doctors’ decision not to provide him with injections for chronic arthritic hip pain. In this regard, 13 documents attached to plaintiff’s complaint reflect that injections were not indicated because 14 plaintiff’s “pain is too diffuse and there is no specific injection that will take away the pain.” 15 16 17 II. DISCUSSION The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which the 18 prisoner is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel 19 and unusual punishment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993); Farmer v. Brennan, 20 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment “. . . embodies broad and idealistic concepts 21 of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 22 (1976). Conditions of confinement may, however, be harsh and restrictive. See Rhodes v. 23 Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Nonetheless, prison officials must provide prisoners with 24 “food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.” Toussaint v. McCarthy, 25 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir. 1986). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only 26 when two requirements are met: (1) objectively, the official’s act or omission must be so serious 2 1 such that it results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities; and (2) 2 subjectively, the prison official must have acted unnecessarily and wantonly for the purpose of 3 inflicting harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Thus, to violate the Eighth Amendment, a prison 4 official must have a “sufficiently culpable mind.” See id. 5 Deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury, or risks of serious 6 injury or illness, gives rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 7 105; see also Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This applies to physical as well as dental and mental 8 health needs. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir. 1982). An injury or illness is 9 sufficiently serious if the failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant 10 injury or the “. . . unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 11 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). 12 Factors indicating seriousness are: (1) whether a reasonable doctor would think that the condition 13 is worthy of comment; (2) whether the condition significantly impacts the prisoner’s daily 14 activities; and (3) whether the condition is chronic and accompanied by substantial pain. See 15 Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). 16 The requirement of deliberate indifference is less stringent in medical needs cases 17 than in other Eighth Amendment contexts because the responsibility to provide inmates with 18 medical care does not generally conflict with competing penological concerns. See McGuckin, 19 974 F.2d at 1060. Thus, deference need not be given to the judgment of prison officials as to 20 decisions concerning medical needs. See Hunt v. Dental Dep’t, 865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir. 21 1989). The complete denial of medical attention may constitute deliberate indifference. See 22 Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986). Delay in providing medical 23 treatment, or interference with medical treatment, may also constitute deliberate indifference. 24 See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131. Where delay is alleged, however, the prisoner must also 25 demonstrate that the delay led to further injury. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. 26 Negligence in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not, however, give 3 1 rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Moreover, a 2 difference of opinion between the prisoner and medical providers concerning the appropriate 3 course of treatment does not give rise to an Eighth Amendment claim. See Jackson v. McIntosh, 4 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996). 5 In this case, it is clear from the documents attached to the complaint that plaintiff 6 was being provided health care. The gravamen of plaintiff’s complaint amounts to a difference 7 of opinion with the medical providers regarding the effectiveness of injections. Such a dispute 8 does not give rise to a cognizable constitutional claim. 9 10 III. CONCLUSION 11 Because it does not appear possible that the deficiencies identified herein can be 12 cured by amending the complaint, plaintiff is not entitled to leave to amend prior to dismissal of 13 the entire action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). 14 15 Based on the foregoing, the undersigned recommends that this action be dismissed for failure to state a claim. 16 These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District 17 Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within 14 days 18 after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written 19 objections with the court. Responses to objections shall be filed within 14 days after service of 20 objections. Failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal. 21 See Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 22 23 24 25 DATED: February 3, 2017 ______________________________________ CRAIG M. KELLISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 26 4

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