Taylor v. Lewis et al

Filing 9

ORDER signed by Magistrate Judge Dennis M. Cota on 3/18/2019 DISMISSING 1 Complaint with leave to amend within 30 days of the date of service of this order. (Henshaw, R)

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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 JOE TAYLOR, 12 No. 2:18-CV-0149-DMC-P Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 J. LEWIS, et al., 15 ORDER Defendants. 16 17 Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 18 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is Plaintiff’s complaint (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleges 19 that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by 20 denying him proper medical treatment, specifically by failing to provide him adequate pain 21 management medication. 22 23 I. SCREENING REQUIREMENT AND STANDARD 24 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief 25 against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. 26 § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or 27 malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief 28 from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). 1 The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require complaints contain a “…short and 1 2 plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” See McHenry v. 3 Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1)). Detailed factual 4 allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, 5 supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 6 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). While a plaintiff’s 7 allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. 8 Wal–Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation 9 omitted). 10 Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their 11 pleadings liberally construed and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 12 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff’s claims must be 13 facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer 14 that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation 15 marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The 16 sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with 17 liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks 18 omitted); Moss, 572F.3d at 969. 19 20 21 II. PLAINTIFF’S ALLEGATIONS Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and 22 unusual punishment by denying him proper medical treatment when they failed to provide him 23 adequate pain medication. Plaintiff asserts he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in 2002 and 24 that he suffers from spinal arthritis. Plaintiff contends that he was initially prescribed Methadone 25 for pain control in 2011, until it was replaced with Tramadol in 2012. Plaintiff was later denied 26 continued use of the Tramadol and instead provided ibuprofen, which Plaintiff contends is 27 ineffective and has negative effects on his “gastro intestinal tract.” Plaintiff alleges that 28 Defendant J. Lewis was deliberately indifferent when he denied Plaintiff’s request for Tramadol 2 1 or medication of equal strength. Plaintiff Alleges that Defendant J. Ma was deliberately 2 indifferent when he failed to provide Plaintiff with Tramadol despite knowing the serious pain 3 and suffering that were affecting Plaintiff’s daily activities. Plaintiff alleges M. Bobbala was 4 deliberately indifferent in denying Plaintiffs second level inmate appeal requesting the use of 5 Tramadol. Plaintiff alleges P. Sahota was deliberately indifferent in denying Plaintiff’s request 6 for pain relief despite knowing the pain was “quite worse.” Finally, Plaintiff alleges that all 7 members of the Pain Management Committee, Does 1-5, were deliberately indifferent in denying 8 Plaintiff additional pain medication based on subjective information that Plaintiff contends was 9 false and misleading. 10 11 III. ANALYSIS 12 The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which the 13 prisoner is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel 14 and unusual punishment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993); Farmer v. Brennan, 15 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment “. . . embodies broad and idealistic concepts 16 of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 17 (1976). Conditions of confinement may, however, be harsh and restrictive. See Rhodes v. 18 Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Nonetheless, prison officials must provide prisoners with 19 “food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.” Toussaint v. McCarthy, 20 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir. 1986). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when 21 two requirements are met: (1) objectively, the official’s act or omission must be so serious such 22 that it results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities; and (2) 23 subjectively, the prison official must have acted unnecessarily and wantonly for the purpose of 24 inflicting harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Thus, to violate the Eighth Amendment, a prison 25 official must have a “sufficiently culpable mind.” See id. 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// 3 Deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury, or risks of serious 1 2 injury or illness, gives rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105; 3 see also Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This applies to physical as well as dental and mental health 4 needs. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir. 1982). An injury or illness is 5 sufficiently serious if the failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant 6 injury or the “. . . unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 7 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). 8 Factors indicating seriousness are: (1) whether a reasonable doctor would think that the condition 9 is worthy of comment; (2) whether the condition significantly impacts the prisoner’s daily 10 activities; and (3) whether the condition is chronic and accompanied by substantial pain. See 11 Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). 12 The requirement of deliberate indifference is less stringent in medical needs cases 13 than in other Eighth Amendment contexts because the responsibility to provide inmates with 14 medical care does not generally conflict with competing penological concerns. See McGuckin, 15 974 F.2d at 1060. Thus, deference need not be given to the judgment of prison officials as to 16 decisions concerning medical needs. See Hunt v. Dental Dep’t, 865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir. 17 1989). The complete denial of medical attention may constitute deliberate indifference. See 18 Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986). Delay in providing medical 19 treatment, or interference with medical treatment, may also constitute deliberate indifference. See 20 Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131. Where delay is alleged, however, the prisoner must also demonstrate 21 that the delay led to further injury. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. 22 Negligence in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not, however, give 23 rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Moreover, a 24 difference of opinion between the prisoner and medical providers concerning the appropriate 25 course of treatment does not give rise to an Eighth Amendment claim. See Jackson v. McIntosh, 26 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996). 27 /// 28 /// 4 1 Plaintiff’s allegations against each defendant relate to the medical determination to 2 modify Plaintiff’s pain medication. These allegations are all based on Plaintiff’s belief that the 3 modifications are ineffective at managing his pain despite several doctors and the Pain 4 Management Committee’s determination that the modification is proper based on Plaintiff’s 5 condition. This amounts to a difference of opinion between Plaintiff and the named Defendants 6 in this case. Such a difference of opinion, based on the facts alleged, does not state a claim 7 sufficient to establish a constitutional violation under the Eighth Amendment. See Jackson v. 8 McIntosh, 90 F.3d at 332. For that reason, Plaintiff’s complaint cannot pass the screening stage 9 at this time. To the extent it is possible plaintiff can allege facts showing defendants were 10 deliberately indifferent with respect to plaintiff’s pain, the court will provide plaintiff an 11 opportunity to amend. 12 13 IV. AMENDING THE COMPLAINT 14 Because it may be possible that the deficiencies identified in this order can be 15 cured by amending the complaint, plaintiff is entitled to leave to amend. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 16 F.3d 1122, 1126, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Plaintiff is informed that, as a general rule, an 17 amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 18 1262 (9th Cir. 1992). Therefore, if plaintiff amends the complaint, the court cannot refer to the 19 prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. See Local Rule 220. An 20 amended complaint must be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. See id. 21 If plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate how the 22 conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights. See 23 Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). The complaint must allege in specific terms how 24 each named defendant is involved, and must set forth some affirmative link or connection 25 between each defendant’s actions and the claimed deprivation. See May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 26 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). 27 /// 28 /// 5 1 Finally, plaintiff is warned that failure to file an amended complaint within the 2 time provided in this order may be grounds for dismissal of this action. See Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 3 1260-61; see also Local Rule 110. Plaintiff is also warned that a complaint which fails to comply 4 with Rule 8 may, in the court’s discretion, be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(b). 5 See Nevijel v. North Coast Life Ins. Co., 651 F.2d 671, 673 (9th Cir. 1981). 6 7 V. CONCLUSION 8 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 9 1. Plaintiff’s complaint is dismissed with leave to amend; and 10 2. Plaintiff shall file a first amended complaint within 30 days of the date of 11 service of this order. 12 13 14 Dated: March 18, 2019 ____________________________________ DENNIS M. COTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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