Reyes v. Grounds et al

Filing 26

ORDER by Judge William Alsup denying 18 Motion to Dismiss; granting in part and denying in part 24 Ex Parte Application ; denying 25 Motion for Leave to File (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (dt, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/17/2013)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 No. C 12-0704 WHA (PR) ORDER DENYING MOTIONS TO DISMISS AND TO AMEND; SCHEDULING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; GRANTING IN PART EXTENSION OF TIME Plaintiff, For the Northern District of California United States District Court CARLOS REYES, 11 12 v. 13 14 R. GROUNDS; G.ELLIS; M. SEPULVEDA; L. LUZADA; L. FERNANDEZ; Z. AHMED; 15 Defendants. 16 (Docket Nos. 18, 24, 25) / 17 18 INTRODUCTION 19 Plaintiff, an inmate at California State Prison, Soledad, filed this pro se civil rights 20 action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. Following a review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. 21 1915(a), the allegations that defendants caused plaintiff to receive inadequate medical care were 22 found, when liberally construed, to state a cognizable claim for relief, and service was ordered 23 upon defendants R. Grounds, G. Ellis, M. Sepulveda, L. Luzada, L. Fernandez, and Z. Ahmed. 24 was ordered upon defendants and dispositive motions were scheduled. Defendants have filed a 25 motion to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cognizable claim for 26 relief. Plaintiff has filed an opposition, and defendants have filed a reply brief. For the reasons 27 discussed below, the motion to dismiss is DENIED. Plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint is 28 DENIED as unnecessary, and defendants’ motion for an extension of time is GRANTED to the 1 extent outlined in the schedule for summary judgment motions set forth below. ANALYSIS 2 3 4 A. STANDARD OF REVIEW Failure to state a claim is a grounds for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal 5 Rules of Civil Procedure. Dismissal for failure to state a claim is a ruling on a question of law. 6 Parks School of Business, Inc., v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1483 (9th Cir. 1995). "The issue is 7 not whether plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether he is entitled to offer evidence to 8 support his claim." Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 828 F.2d 556, 561 (9th Cir. 1987). 9 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Specific facts are not necessary; the 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . . claim is and the grounds 12 upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations and internal 13 quotations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint “does not need detailed 14 factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds of his 'entitle[ment] to 15 relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a 16 cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief 17 above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) 18 (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is 19 plausible on its face.” Id. at 1986-87. A motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint 20 does not proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570; 21 see, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1952 (2009). 22 Review is limited to the contents of the complaint, Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 23 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994), including documents physically attached to the complaint or 24 documents the complaint necessarily relies on and whose authenticity is not contested. Lee v. 25 County of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001). In addition, the court may take 26 judicial notice of facts that are not subject to reasonable dispute. Id. at 688 (discussing Fed. R. 27 Evid. 201(b)). Allegations of fact in the complaint must be taken as true and construed in the 28 2 1 light most favorable to the non-moving party. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 2 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). The court need not, however, “accept as true allegations that are 3 merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” Ibid. A pro se pleading must be liberally construed, and "however inartfully pleaded, must be 4 5 held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Twombly, 550 U.S. 6 at 570 (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Allegations of fact in the 7 complaint must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non- 8 moving party. Symington, 51 F.3d at 1484. 9 B. In the order of service, it was already determined plaintiff’s claims against defendants 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 ANALYSIS are, when liberally construed, cognizable. Defendants present three meritless arguments in 12 support of their motion. First they argue that certain defendants cannot be held liable because 13 all they did was deny plaintiff’s administrative appeals. It is true that the denial of such appeals 14 does not by itself constitute a violation of any constitutional right insofar as there is no 15 constitutional right to any administrative grievance procedure. See Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 16 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003). It is alleged here, however, as defendants are well aware based on the 17 statement of facts in their motion, that by denying such appeals, defendants denied medical care 18 that plaintiff alleges was sorely needed. Thus, it is for the denial of medical care that 19 defendants may be held liable, not simply for denying administrative appeals. 20 Secondly, defendants argue that defendant Grounds, the prison Warden, cannot be held 21 liable because he had no authority to overrule the decisions of medical personnel at the prison. 22 This argument rests upon evidence outside of the complaint, which of course cannot be 23 considered in deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The complaint itself alleges 24 that Grounds is the supervisor of the other defendants and that he was involved in denying 25 plaintiff’s administrative appeals of his medical care. Based upon that allegation, it is at least 26 plausible that he had the authority to overrule the decisions of his subordinates, including 27 medical decisions to the extent they were based upon financial or other prison policies. 28 3 1 Defendants may have evidence that Grounds had no authority to overrule the medical 2 professionals’ decisions regarding plaintiff’s medical care. They may present such evidence in 3 support of a summary judgment motion or at trial, but it may not be considered at this stage. 4 This argument fails. 5 Third, defendants argue that plaintiff has not alleged facts that would amount to their Amendment rights. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). Plaintiff alleges that he 8 suffers from fibromyalgia and after he underwent surgery on his left hand and suffered from 9 acute pain, defendants failed to provide follow-up care following including physical therapy, 10 care by a specialist, and sufficient pain medication. These allegations, when taken as true and 11 For the Northern District of California deliberate indifference to his medical needs, as is required to establish a violation of his Eighth 7 United States District Court 6 liberally construed, as must be done at this stage, have already been determined to state a 12 “plausible” claim that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. 13 Furthermore, defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because failing to provide 14 medical care following surgery to a prisoner who suffers from nerve damage and is in acute 15 pain, which must be assumed at this stage, could not reasonably be understood to be lawful. See 16 Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 202 (2001) (qualified immunity protects state actors from 17 liability if their conduct does not violate clearly established rights of which a reasonable person 18 would have known). Consequently, this argument fails as well. 19 Plaintiff has filed a motion to file an amended complaint in order to “correct defects 20 alleged by defendants” from his original complaint. As the defects argued by defendants are 21 not in fact defects, there is no need for plaintiff to amend in order to correct them. 22 Consequently, his motion will be denied as unnecessary. Defendants’ motion for an extension 23 of time to file an answer and summary judgment motion is granted but only to the extent 24 outlined in the schedule below. 25 CONCLUSION 26 1. Defendants’ motion to dismiss (dk. 18) is DENIED. Plaintiff’s motion to amend is 27 DENIED and defendants’ motion for an extension of time is GRANTED IN PART (dkt. 24, 25). 28 4 1 2. In order to expedite the resolution of this case, the court orders as follows: a. No later than ninety-one days from the date this order is filed, defendants 2 3 shall file a motion for summary judgment. If defendants are of the opinion that this case cannot 4 be resolved by summary judgment, they shall so inform the court prior to the date the summary 5 judgment motion is due. All papers filed with the court shall be promptly served on the 6 plaintiff. 7 b. Plaintiff's opposition to the summary judgment motion, if any, shall be filed 8 with the court and served upon defendants no later than thirty days from the date the motion is 9 filed. Plaintiff must read the attached page headed “NOTICE -- WARNING,” which is provided to him pursuant to Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 953-954 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 and Klingele v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409, 411-12 (9th Cir. 1988). 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 c. Defendants shall file a reply brief no later than fifteen days after the date the opposition is filed. d. The motion shall be deemed submitted as of the date the reply brief is due. No hearing will be held on the motion unless the court so orders at a later date. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: January 17 , 2013. WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 19 20 21 G:\PRO-SE\WHA\CR.12\REYES0704.MTD12b6.wpd 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5 1 NOTICE -- WARNING 2 (SUMMARY JUDGMENT) 3 If defendants move for summary judgment, they are seeking to have your case 4 dismissed. A motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil 5 Procedure will, if granted, end your case. 6 Rule 56 tells you what you must do in order to oppose a motion for summary judgment. fact--that is, if there is no real dispute about any fact that would affect the result of your case, 9 the party who asked for summary judgment is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, which 10 will end your case. When a party you are suing makes a motion for summary judgment that is 11 For the Northern District of California Generally, summary judgment must be granted when there is no genuine issue of material 8 United States District Court 7 properly supported by declarations (or other sworn testimony), you cannot simply rely on what 12 your complaint says. Instead, you must set out specific facts in declarations, depositions, 13 answers to interrogatories, or authenticated documents, as provided in Rule 56(e), that 14 contradict the facts shown in the defendant's declarations and documents and show that there is 15 a genuine issue of material fact for trial. If you do not submit your own evidence in opposition, 16 summary judgment, if appropriate, may be entered against you. If summary judgment is 17 granted, your case will be dismissed and there will be no trial. 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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