Souza v. California Health Care Services et al

Filing 7

ORDER, FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan on 4/19/2017 ORDERING plaintiff's 2 application to proceed IFP. Plaintiff shall pay the $350.00 filing fee in accordance with the concurrent CDCR order. IT IS RECOMMENDED that this action be dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and the Clerk be directed to close the case. Referred to Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr.; Objections to F&R due within 14 days. (Yin, K)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 MICHAEL ANTHONY SOUZA, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 15 No. 2:16-cv-2207-GEB-EFB P v. CALIFORNIA CORRECTIONAL HEALTH CARE SERVICES, et al., ORDER GRANTING IFP AND RECOMMENDATION OF DISMISSAL PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A Defendants. 16 17 Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 18 19 20 U.S.C. § 1983. He has filed an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis Plaintiff’s application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). 21 22 Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect 23 and forward the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set forth in 28 U.S.C. 24 § 1915(b)(1) and (2). 25 II. Screening Requirement and Standards 26 Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek 27 redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. 28 § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion 1 of the complaint, if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which 2 relief may be granted,” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such 3 relief.” Id. § 1915A(b). 4 A pro se plaintiff, like other litigants, must satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) “requires a complaint to include a short and 6 plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the 7 defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. 8 Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554, 562-563 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). 9 While the complaint must comply with the “short and plaint statement” requirements of Rule 8, 10 its allegations must also include the specificity required by Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 11 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). 12 To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than “naked 13 assertions,” “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of 14 action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-557. In other words, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of 15 a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 16 678. 17 Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief must have facial plausibility. 18 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual 19 content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the 20 misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When considering whether a complaint states a 21 claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. 22 Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the 23 plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). 24 III. 25 Screening Order The court has reviewed plaintiff’s complaint (ECF No. 1) pursuant to § 1915A and finds it 26 must be dismissed. The complaint alleges that the California Correctional Health Care Services 27 (“CCHCS”) and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) breached 28 the confidentiality of plaintiff’s personal information and medical records when an unencrypted 2 1 laptop was stolen from the vehicle of a CCHCS employee. Plaintiff alleges he is now exposed to 2 identity theft as a result. Attached to the complaint is a letter from CCHCS notifying plaintiff of 3 this “potential breach.” ECF No. 1, Ex. A. The letter noted that the laptop was password 4 protected, and informed plaintiff as follows: 5 6 7 8 9 We do not know if any sensitive information was contained in the laptop. To the extent any sensitive information may have been contained in the laptop, we do not know if the information included any of your information. If your information was included, the nature of the information may have included confidential medical, mental health, and custodial information. To the extent any sensitive information may have been contained in the laptop, we estimate that it would have been limited to information related to your custody and care, if any, between 1996 and 2014. 10 11 Id. Plaintiff claims that the failure to encrypt the laptop was “deliberate,” that it violated various 12 state laws, the Fourth Amendment, and also demonstrates a conspiracy to deprive plaintiff of 13 equal protection and due process. Id. at 3. As set forth below, the complaint demonstrate a lack 14 of standing, names defendants who are immune from suit, and otherwise fails to state a 15 cognizable claim under the applicable standards. 16 First, plaintiff is required to establish standing for each claim he asserts. DaimlerChrysler 17 Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 352 (2006). If a plaintiff has no standing, the court has no subject 18 matter jurisdiction. Nat’l Wildlife Fed’n v. Adams, 629 F.2d 587, 593 n. 11 (9th Cir. 1980). 19 There are three requirements that must be met for a plaintiff to have standing: (1) the plaintiff 20 must have suffered an “injury in fact”—an invasion of a legally protected interest which is both 21 concrete and particularized and actual or imminent; (2) there must be a causal connection 22 between the injury and the conduct complained of; and (3) it must be likely that the injury will be 23 redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992); 24 Wash. Legal Found. v. Legal Found. of Wash., 271 F.3d 835, 847 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). 25 The constitutional right to informational privacy extends to medical information. 26 Norman-Bloodsaw v. Lawrence Berkeley Lab., 135 F.3d 1260, 1269 (9th Cir. 1998) (“The 27 constitutionally protected privacy interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters clearly 28 encompasses medical information and its confidentiality.”) (citing Doe v. Attorney Gen. of the 3 1 United States, 941 F.2d 780, 795 (9th Cir. 1991)). In this case, however, the disclosure of 2 plaintiff’s medical information, and therefore any injury, is entirely speculative. Plaintiff has not 3 shown he has actual standing to sue because the complaint and the referenced letter demonstrate 4 only a “potential” breach of plaintiff’s personal information. It is unknown whether the stolen 5 laptop contained any sensitive information at all and even if it did, plaintiff alleges no actual 6 misuse of such information. Plaintiff cannot state a claim for relief based upon the speculative 7 breach of his sensitive information. Any claim for violation of his constitutional right to 8 informational privacy should be dismissed without prejudice for lack of standing. See Fleck & 9 Assocs., Inc. v. City of Phoenix, 471 F.3d 1100, 1106-07 (9th Cir. 2006) (dismissal for lack of 10 11 standing is without prejudice). Second, state agencies, such as CDCR and CCHCS, are immune from suit under the 12 Eleventh Amendment. See Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989); Lucas 13 v. Dep’t of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (holding that prisoner’s Eighth 14 Amendment claims against CDCR for damages and injunctive relief were barred by Eleventh 15 Amendment immunity); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984) 16 (Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to state agencies); see also Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 17 30 (1991) (clarifying that Eleventh Amendment does not bar suits against state officials sued in 18 their individual capacities, nor does it bar suits for prospective injunctive relief against state 19 officials sued in their official capacities). 20 Third, plaintiff does not allege that any individual defendant is liable for any 21 constitutional violation. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) the violation of 22 a federal constitutional or statutory right; and (2) that the violation was committed by a person 23 acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Jones v. Williams, 24 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). An individual defendant is not liable on a civil rights claim 25 unless the facts establish the defendant’s personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or 26 a causal connection between the defendant’s wrongful conduct and the alleged constitutional 27 deprivation. See Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 28 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978). Plaintiff may not sue any official on the theory that the official is 4 1 liable for the unconstitutional conduct of his or her subordinates. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 2 679 (2009). He must identify the particular person or persons who violated his rights. He must 3 also plead facts showing how that particular person was involved in the alleged violation. 4 Fourth, the complaint fails to state a claim for violation of the Fourth Amendment, which 5 governs the reasonableness of government searches and seizures. Here, no government search or 6 seizure is alleged. See, e.g., ECF No. 1 at 3 (“The laptop was stolen from the inside of a personal 7 vehicle and it was unencrypted causing an illegal disclosure and a loss of integrity of my 8 confidential information which has been altered.”). The Fourth Amendment, therefore, appears to 9 be inapplicable. 10 Plaintiff also fails to state an equal protection claim. To state a § 1983 claim for violation 11 of the Equal Protection Clause, a plaintiff must show that he was treated in a manner inconsistent 12 with others similarly situated, and that the defendants acted with an intent or purpose to 13 discriminate against the plaintiff based upon membership in a protected class.” Thornton v. City 14 of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1166-67 (9th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations omitted). The 15 allegations present no basis upon which to base a claim for a violation of plaintiff’s equal 16 protection rights. 17 Nor does the complaint state a claim under the Due Process Clause, which protects 18 prisoners from being deprived of property without due process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 19 U.S. 539, 556. Although plaintiff complains of “deliberate intent” with respect to the alleged 20 breach of his sensitive information, the allegations fail to plausibly demonstrate any conduct 21 beyond negligence, and “[i]t is well established that negligent conduct is ordinarily not enough to 22 state a claim alleging a denial of liberty or property under the Fourteenth Amendment. “ See Doe 23 v. Beard, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95643, 2014 WL 3507196, *6 (C.D. Cal. July 14, 2014), citing 24 Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330 (1986); Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 347 (1986) 25 (“[T]he Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not implicated by the lack of due 26 care of an official causing unintended injury to life, liberty or property. In other words, where a 27 government official is merely negligent in causing the injury, no procedure for compensation is 28 constitutionally required.”). 5 1 As set forth above, the complaint demonstrates that plaintiff has no standing to pursue a 2 federal claim and otherwise fails to demonstrate a violation of plaintiff’s federal rights. As such, 3 the court declines to address plaintiff’s purported state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367. 4 Leave to amend in this case would be futile, as the complaint and its attachments reveal 5 that there is no actual or concrete injury to plaintiff. Because these deficiencies cannot be cured 6 by further amendment, the complaint must be dismissed without leave to amend. Silva v. Di 7 Vittorio, 658 F.3d 1090, 1105 (9th Cir. 2011) (“Dismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to 8 amend is proper only if it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be 9 cured by amendment.” (internal quotation marks omitted)); Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 10 497 (9th Cir. 1995) (“[A] district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend 11 the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not be cured by the allegation 12 of other facts.”). .”). Further, the dismissal is without prejudice should plaintiff’s claims ever 13 ripen to an actual case or controversy arising from an injury due to an actual disclosure of any of 14 his information. 15 IV. 16 Summary Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 17 1. Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2) is granted. 18 2. Plaintiff shall pay the statutory filing fee of $350. All payments shall be collected in 19 accordance with the notice to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation 20 filed concurrently herewith. 21 Further, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that this action be dismissed without 22 prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and the Clerk be directed to close the case. 23 These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge 24 assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days 25 after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written 26 objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned 27 “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations.” Failure to file objections 28 ///// 6 1 within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court’s order. Turner v. 2 Duncan, 158 F.3d 449, 455 (9th Cir. 1998); Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 3 DATED: April 19, 2017. 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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