Gonzalez et al v. Ahern et al

Filing 116

ORDER by Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley granting in part and denying in part 103 Motion to Dismiss; granting in part and denying in part 108 Motion to Dismiss. Joint Case Management Statement due by 7/22/2021. Further Case Management Conference set for 7/29/2021 at 1:30 p.m. by videoconference.(ahm, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/7/2021)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 DANIEL GONZALEZ, et al., 8 Plaintiffs, 9 v. 10 GREGORY J. AHERN, et al., 11 United States District Court Northern District of California Case No. 19-cv-07423-JSC Defendants. 12 ORDER RE: MOTIONS TO DISMISS THE FOURTH AMENDED COMPLAINT Re: Dkt. Nos. 103, 108 13 Plaintiffs, current and former inmates from Santa Rita Jail, bring this Section 1983 putative 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 class action alleging violations of their constitutional rights. Plaintiffs bring their conditions of confinement claims against Alameda County, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, two individual Sheriff’s deputies, (collectively referred to hereafter as the “County Defendants”); Wellpath Management, Inc. (“Wellpath”), and Aramark Correctional Services LLC (“Aramark”). The County Defendants and Aramark have separately filed motions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amended Complaint, and Wellpath has joined the County’s motion to dismiss.1 (Dkt. Nos. 103, 105, 108.) Having considered the parties’ briefs, the Court concludes that oral argument is not necessary, see N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b), VACATES the June 10, 2021 hearing date, and GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants’ motions to dismiss as set forth below. DISCUSSION 24 Plaintiffs are current and former inmates at Santa Rita Jail (“the Jail”) who allege that they 25 26 are subject to unlawful, inhumane, and unconstitutional treatment at the Jail. (Fourth Amended 27 28 1 All parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. Nos. 8, 16, 17, 21, 22, 68.) 1 Complaint (“FAC”), Dkt. No. 102 at ¶ 6.) In particular, Plaintiffs identify the following 2 conditions of confinement as giving rise to their claims: (1) inadequate and unsanitary food; (2) 3 insufficient and inadequate sanitation; (3) inadequate medical care; (4) enforced idleness; and (5) 4 First Amendment retaliation.2 (Id.) This is the third time Defendants have moved to dismiss and 5 Defendants move to dismiss all of Plaintiffs’ claims including those which the Court previously 6 found were sufficiently pled. (Dkt. No. 73.) In particular, in the Court’s Order on the last such 7 motion, the Court found that Plaintiffs’ inadequate and contaminated food claims, inadequate 8 sanitation claims, and First Amendment retaliation claim as to Plaintiff Gerrans, were adequately 9 pled. (Id.) As relevant here, the Court granted the motion with leave to amend as to Plaintiffs’ 10 inadequate medical care claims. (Id.) The Court addresses each of Plaintiffs’ currently pled claims below and in doing so United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 assumes a familiarity with the Court’s numerous prior orders in the action. 13 1. Inadequate and Contaminated Food Claims 14 Plaintiffs are no longer asserting claims based on the nutrition content of the food, “but are 15 instead asserting that the food i[s] in and of itself inadequate because of chronic shortages, because 16 food is inedible due to contamination and spoliation.” (Dkt. No. 114 at 2.) Accordingly, Aramark and 17 the County’s motions to dismiss Plaintiff inadequate and contamination food claims are denied for the 18 same reasons previously articulated in the Court’s prior order denying the motion to dismiss these 19 claims. (Dkt. No. 73 at 11-15.) To the extent that Defendants’ argument relies on the Court’s 20 preliminary injunction order, the Court notes that a finding that Plaintiffs have not shown a likelihood 21 of success on a claim is different from the Court’s analysis on a motion to dismiss wherein the Court 22 must accept all the factual allegations pled in the complaint as true. See Arcsoft, Inc. v. Cyberlink 23 Corp., No. 15-CV-03707-WHO, 2016 WL 861103, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 7, 2016) (“The standard on a 24 Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is different than on a motion for a preliminary injunction” and noting 25 that despite denying a motion for preliminary injunction “I do not prejudge what the developed record 26 will show after discovery.”). 27 28 2 Plaintiffs, however, do not plead a separate claim based on their allegations of “forced idleness.” 2 1 2. Insufficient and Inadequate Sanitation Claims 2 The County’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ sanitation claims is denied for the same reasons 3 previously articulated in the Court’s prior order denying the motion to dismiss these claims. (Dkt. No. 4 73 at 15-16.) 3. Inadequate Medical Care Claims 6 As before, Plaintiffs’ denial of medical care claims are twofold. First, they are pled as a 7 Monell claim against the County and Wellpath. Second, they are pled as to Defendant Deputy 8 Ignot and Defendant Deputy Joe in their individual capacities. Plaintiffs’ allegations as to Deputy 9 Joe and Deputy Ignot are the same as previously pled. (Compare SAC at ¶¶ 214-221 with FAC at 10 ¶¶ 208-212.) As the Court previously concluded, while these allegations might be sufficient so as 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 5 to state a claim with respect to the unnamed young man, they are not sufficient to show a pattern 12 or practice of medical indifference by these deputies entitling any named Plaintiff or class member 13 to relief. (Dkt. No. 73 at 10-11.) The motion to dismiss as to these individual defendants is 14 therefore granted. Plaintiffs have, however, cured their pleading defects with respect to their Monell claims. 15 16 Plaintiffs’ theory remains that “[b]y requiring WELL-PATH to pay for any and all medical care 17 provided outside of [the Jail] to any [] prisoner, and by limiting WELL-PATH’s ability to recover 18 any amount WELL-PATH pays for such care, SHERIFF’S contract with WELL-PATH creates a 19 financial incentive and imperative for WELL-PATH to refuse and withhold needed and 20 appropriate outside medical services to all prisoners, including pregnant prisoners, when the 21 needed and appropriate medical services consist of ‘inpatient hospitalization costs…outpatient 22 physician consultations, outside specialist[s, or[ off-site diagnostic procedures,’ among other 23 services.” (FAC at ¶ 127.) In addition, “[i]n order to maintain its profit margin, Well-Path has a 24 pattern and practice of providing inadequate medical care by denying or unreasonably delaying 25 medical care, reducing or denying medication and refusing to provide medical devices.” (Id. at ¶ 26 133.) 27 28 In contrast to the prior iterations of the complaint, Plaintiffs have offered numerous allegations which support this theory. (FAC at ¶¶ 137-178.) For example, 3 1 • once a day at pill call. (Id. at ¶ 138.) 2 3 Pre-COVID, prisoners were required to share an inhaler and only had access to it • Post-COVID, while prisoners now have a dedicated inhaler, they only have access 4 to it at pill call and prisoners who request one at other times due to an asthma attack 5 either face a lengthy delay or outright denial despite their difficulty breathing. (Id. 6 at ¶¶ 139-144.) 7 • Class member Harris, who has a seizure disorder, fell down 11 stairs and was left 8 on the floor for two hours waiting for the ambulance. (Id. at ¶ 148.) Following the 9 incident, he cannot stand and has chronic pain, but he was denied a medical evaluation until his criminal defense attorney obtained a court order. (Id.) Further, 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 while a “Well-Path doctor [has] stated that Randy needs surgery, [the doctor] has 12 refused to order the surgery because Santa Rita Jail does not have the facility, nor 13 does defendant Wellpath have the means for Randy to do an appropriate recovery 14 from spinal surgery.” (Id.) 15 • Class member Brian Carter filled out many sick call slips and asked doctors many 16 times to be referred to an eye doctor, but “Defendant Well-Path has refused to do 17 any further diagnostic examinations, has refused to have Brian examined by an 18 ophthalmologist, and the reason is that Defendant Well-Path does not have a staff 19 ophthalmologist and providing a opthamological exam would be an additional out 20 of pocket expense. (Id. at ¶ 158.) 21 • Class member Annette Kozlowski was diagnosed with cervical cancer, but was not 22 taken for an evaluation until her defense attorney obtained a court order. (Id. at ¶ 23 167.) 24 25 • Finally, several class members have had issues obtaining dental care despite severe and debilitating pain. (Id. at ¶¶ 171-178.) 26 These allegations plausibly support an inference that the County and Wellpath’s contract 27 which specifies that Wellpath “is solely responsible for all costs incurred in connection with any 28 health care services provided to prisoners inside and outside the jail” provides a financial incentive to 4 1 reduce the costs of medical care supporting Plaintiffs. (Id. at ¶ 123.) Defendants’ motion to dismiss 2 Plaintiffs’ Monell claims regarding inadequate medical care is denied; Plaintiffs have adequately 3 alleged a policy of financial incentives to reduce costs of medical care in deliberate indifference to 4 prisoners’ serious medical needs. 5 4. First Amendment Retaliation Claim 6 The Court previously granted the County’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ First Amendment 7 claim except to the extent that the claim was predicated on Plaintiff Gerrans’ alleged transfer in 8 retaliation for filing a grievance and the allegedly chilling effect his transfer had on his exercise of his 9 First Amendment rights as pled against the County, the Sheriff’s Office, and Defendant Hesselein in his individual capacity. (Dkt. No. 73 at 7.) The motion was otherwise granted including as to any 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 class members because there was no allegation that any of these class members were present at the 12 time of the incident with Plaintiff Gerrans or that they participated in the collective grievance. The 13 only change with respect to Plaintiffs’ allegations in the Fourth Amended Complaint is that Plaintiffs 14 appear to have abandoned any claim against Defendant Hesselein in his individual capacity. (FAC at 15 ¶¶ 259-265.) Accordingly, Defendants’ motion to dismiss is granted for the reasons previously stated 16 as to the class as a whole, and denied as to Plaintiff Gerrans except as to his claim against Defendant 17 Hesselein which has been abandoned and will therefore be dismissed. 18 19 20 CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants’ motion to dismiss. The following claims survive: 21 (1) Inadequate and Unsanitary Food Claims (claims 1 and 2); 22 (2) Inadequate Medical Care (claims 3 and 4); 23 (3) Inadequate Sanitation (claims 5 and 6); 24 (4) First Amendment Retaliation as Plaintiff Gerrans (claim 7). 25 To the extent that the Court has dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims for relief against the individual 26 defendants (Deputy Joe, Deputy Ignot, and Captain Hesselein) and Plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim 27 as to the class, the dismissal is without leave to amend as further leave to amend would be futile and 28 Plaintiff Gerrans abandoned his claim against Captain Hesselein. 5 1 Defendants’ answers are due within 21 days of this Order. 2 The Court sets an Initial Case Management Conference for July 29, 2021 at 1:30 p.m. A Joint 3 Case Management Conference Statement is due July 22, 2021. 4 This Order disposes of Docket Nos.103 and 108. 5 IT IS SO ORDERED. 6 Dated: June 7, 2021 7 8 JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States Magistrate Judge 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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