Reyes v. Brown et al

Filing 63

ORDER: (1) Adopting 57 Report and Recommendation; and (2) Dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint. The Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 39 and 53 ) Signed by Judge Janis L. Sammartino on 7/10/2017. (All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service) (fth)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 PEDRO REYES, Case No.: 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM) Plaintiff, 12 13 14 ORDER: (1) ADOPTING R&R; AND (2) DISMISSING PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT v. EDMUND G. BROWN, JR.; DR. ROGELIO ORTEGA; RAY MADDEN, 15 (ECF Nos. 39, 53, 57) Defendants. 16 17 18 Presently before the Court are Defendants R. Ortega and R. Madden’s Motion to 19 Dismiss Plaintiff’s FAC for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 39), and Defendant R. 20 Beltran’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s FAC for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 53). 21 Also before the Court are (1) Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major’s Report and 22 Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the Court grant Defendants’ motions to 23 dismiss, (ECF No. 57); (2) Plaintiff Pedro Reyes’s Objections to the R&R, (“R&R Objs.,” 24 ECF No. 61); and Defendants’ Reply to Plaintiff’s Objections to the R&R, (“R&R Reply,” 25 ECF No. 62). After considering the parties’ arguments and the law, the Court rules as 26 follows. 27 /// 28 /// 1 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM) 1 BACKGROUND 2 Judge Major’s R&R contains a thorough and accurate recitation of the factual and 3 procedural histories underlying the instant Motions to Dismiss. (See R&R 1–5.1) This 4 Order incorporates by reference the background as set forth therein. 5 LEGAL STANDARD 6 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) set forth a district 7 court’s duties regarding a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation. The district court 8 “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report . . . to which objection 9 is made,” and “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or 10 recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also United 11 States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673–76 (1980). In the absence of a timely objection, 12 however, “the Court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the 13 record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee’s 14 note (citing Campbell v. U.S. Dist. Court, 510 F.2d 196, 206 (9th Cir. 1974)). 15 16 ANALYSIS I. Summary of the R&R Conclusion 17 On September 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed his FAC under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 18 § 1983, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights against Defendants Madden, 19 Ortega, Beltran, and Does 1 through 6. (R&R 2.) Specifically, Plaintiff argues that he was 20 forced to endure unsafe prison conditions, was denied adequate medical care, and suffered 21 cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. at 3.) 22 Plaintiff argues that Madden violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from 23 dangerous prison conditions by knowingly failing to fix the dangerous condition of the 24 track which caused Plaintiff to trip and fall while running. (Id. at 7.) Judge Major found 25 that Plaintiff had not shown that the track was a condition posing a substantial risk of 26 27 28 1 Pin citations to docketed material refer to the CM/ECF numbers electronically stamped at the top of each page. 2 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM) 1 serious harm or depriving him of a life necessity, and thus found that the objective 2 requirement of an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to safety claim was not met.2 3 (Id. at 11.) Judge Major also found that Plaintiff failed to satisfy the subjective prong 4 because his conclusory allegations have not shown a causal link between Madden and the 5 constitutional violation. (Id. at 14.) Thus, Judge Major recommends that the Court grant 6 Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate 7 indifference to his safety against Madden with leave to amend. (Id. at 15.) 8 Plaintiff argues that Ortega violated his constitutional rights because he was 9 deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Ortega 10 provided constitutionally inadequate medical care for three months after Plaintiff’s fall by 11 not believing Plaintiff’s claims and failing to order appropriate tests, which resulted in 12 Plaintiff enduring ongoing pain and an emergency surgery once the correct tests were 13 performed. (Id.) Judge Major found that Plaintiff satisfies the objective prong of the test 14 for an Eighth Amendment violation because the Court must accept as true Plaintiff’s 15 allegations that he fell down and seriously injured his neck, resulting in the need for 16 surgery. (Id. at 16–17.) However, Judge Major found that Plaintiff failed to allege facts 17 supporting the subjective prong because his FAC explained that he was appropriately 18 treated by Ortega throughout the course of these events. (Id. at 17–20.) Thus, Judge Major 19 recommends that the Court grant Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Eighth 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 2 As Judge Major correctly explains, To assert an Eighth Amendment claim based on conditions of confinement, a prisoner must satisfy two requirements: one objective and one subjective. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Under the objective requirement, “the prison official’s acts or omissions must deprive an inmate of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Id.; see also Matthews v. Holland, 2016 WL 3167568, at *2 (E.D. Cal. June 6, 2016). Under the subjective requirement, the prisoner must allege facts which demonstrate that “the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of the facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837. (R&R 7–8.) 3 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM) 1 Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to his medical care without leave to amend. 2 (Id. at 20.) 3 Plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief to prevent Ortega from acting as his care 4 provider. (Id. at 20.) However, Judge Major concluded that Plaintiff failed to allege any 5 facts demonstrating that Plaintiff is entitled to injunctive relief. (Id. at 20–21.) Thus, Judge 6 Major recommends that the Court deny Plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief. 7 Plaintiff alleges that Beltran violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate 8 medical care when Beltran told Plaintiff “he would have to put in a medical request slip if 9 he wanted to be seen by a doctor,” as opposed to allowing Plaintiff to see a doctor 10 immediately. (Id. at 21 (citing FAC 5).) Plaintiff sues Beltran in his official capacity for 11 damages, which Judge Major concluded is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. (Id. at 22 12 (citing, e.g., Dittman v. California, 191 F.3d 1020, 1026 (9th Cir. 1999)).) Thus, Judge 13 Major recommends that this claim for monetary damages against Beltran in his official 14 capacity be dismissed without leave to amend. (Id.) 15 Judge Major also recommends that Plaintiff’s request to amend his FAC to seek 16 declaratory and/or injunctive relief against Beltran for any medical slip policy be denied 17 because Plaintiff has not shown that there is a “real or immediate threat that [he] will be 18 wronged again.” (Id. at 23 (citing City of L.A. v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 111 (1983)).) Finally, 19 Judge Major concluded that it would be futile for Plaintiff to amend his FAC and sue 20 Beltran in his individual capacity because, among other things, Plaintiff characterized 21 Beltran’s decision as a “difference in medical opinion,” (id. at 24 (citing FAC 5)), and notes 22 that it is established law that “a difference of opinion between a prisoner-patient and prison 23 medical authorities regarding treatment does not give rise to a [§] 1983 claim,” (id. (citing 24 Johnson v. Fortune, 2016 WL 1461516, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 14, 2016))). Thus, Judge 25 Major recommends that Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against 26 Defendant Beltran be granted without leave to amend. 27 /// 28 /// 4 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM) 1 II. Summary of Plaintiff’s Objections 2 Plaintiff objects to Judge Major’s R&R on two discrete grounds. First, Plaintiff 3 argues that Judge Major improperly relied on the original complaint when analyzing 4 whether Ortega was deliberately indifferent by delaying Plaintiff’s spinal surgery by three 5 month. (R&R Objs. 4.) As a result, Plaintiff argues that Judge Major did not properly draw 6 all reasonable inferences from the FAC’s allegations in his favor. (Id. at 6–8.) 7 Second, while Plaintiff does not object to Judge Major’s other recommendations 8 regarding his claims against Beltran, Plaintiff argues that Judge Major failed to assess his 9 claim for declaratory relief against Beltran and thus he should be allowed to amend his 10 FAC as to that claim. (Id. at 8–9.) 11 III. Court’s Analysis 12 The Court will review, de novo, those parts of the R&R to which Plaintiff objects. 13 A. Reliance on Original Complaint 14 Plaintiff first argues that Judge Major improperly relied on the original complaint in 15 assessing his FAC. (Id. at 4–6.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Judge Major weighed the 16 exhibits attached to the original complaint against the FAC when assessing Defendants’ 17 motions. (Id.) 18 Defendants concede that “[a]s a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the 19 original complaint. Once Plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleadings no 20 longer serve any function in this case.” (R&R Reply 2 (quoting Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 21 57 (9th Cir. 1967), overruled in part by Lacey v. Maricopa Cty., 693 F.3d 896 (9th Cir. 22 2012)).) However, Defendants argue that (1) Judge Major only relied on the complaint for 23 medical treatment dates, and, in either case, (2) Judge Major’s reliance was permissible 24 because those exhibits were incorporated by reference in the FAC. (Id. at 2–4.) 25 The Court agrees with Defendants that Judge Major properly relied on the exhibits 26 in the original complaint under the doctrine of incorporation by reference. The doctrine of 27 incorporation by reference permits courts “to take into account documents ‘whose contents 28 are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not 5 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM) 1 physically attached to the [plaintiff’s] pleading.’” Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 2 (9th Cir. 2005). Here, not only did Plaintiff reference his medical records in his FAC, but 3 he also attached selected portions of those records. (See, e.g., FAC 6, 18–29, 50–63.) 4 Additionally, while Plaintiff objects to Judge Major’s reliance on these exhibits, he does 5 not question their authenticity. (See generally R&R Objs.) Defendants and the Court are 6 thus entitled to rely on the totality—not simply Plaintiff’s selected portion—of these 7 records in assessing the adequacy of Plaintiff’s FAC. See, e.g., Knievel, 393 F.3d at 1076– 8 77 (assessing the entire website, not just plaintiff’s proffered portion of that website, under 9 the doctrine of incorporation by reference). Thus, the Court concludes that Judge Major 10 properly relied on these exhibits under the doctrine of incorporation by reference. 3 11 Accordingly, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff’s first objection. 12 As a result, the Court agrees with Judge Major’s assessment that Plaintiff has failed 13 to adequately allege that Ortega was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in 14 violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See R&R 20.) And Judge Major is right that a court 15 may dismiss a claim without leave to amend if the pleading cannot be cured by the addition 16 of other facts. (Id. (citing, e.g., Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 861 (9th Cir. 2003)).) But 17 leave to amend “should be granted more liberally to pro se plaintiffs,” Ramirez, 334 F.3d 18 at 861, and Plaintiff has amended only once thus far. Moreover, this is the first time a 19 motion to dismiss has been assessed on the merits in this case. So while the Court entertains 20 serious doubts about Plaintiff’s ability to adequately re-plead his claims against Ortega 21 given the incorporation of these exhibits, the Court will allow Plaintiff another opportunity 22 to amend his complaint and thus DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE his claims 23 against Ortega. 24 /// 25 26 3 27 28 In addition, Judge Major did not rely on these exhibits for, or to rebut, any material allegations. Rather, Judge Major merely relied on these exhibits to supply specific medical treatment dates. (R&R 17 n.6.) Judge Major relied on the FAC for the material allegations regarding his treatment, as well as for a general chronology of his treatment. (Id.) 6 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM) 1 B. Declaratory Relief Claim 2 Plaintiff also argues that Judge Major failed to assess his declaratory relief claim 3 against Beltran, and thus he should be given an opportunity to amend this claim. (Id. at 8– 4 9.) However, it does not appear that Plaintiff stated a declaratory relief claim against 5 Beltran. (See generally FAC.) Rather, it appears that Plaintiff, in opposing Defendants’ 6 motion to dismiss, requested leave to amend his complaint to “specify declaratory . . . relief 7 as it pertains to the constitutionality of the policy, practice, or custom Beltran might have 8 been complying with.” (Pl.’s Opp’n to Def. Beltran’s Mot. to Dismiss the First Am. Compl. 9 6, ECF No. 56.) While the Court agrees with Judge Major and Defendants that a difference 10 in opinion between a prisoner and medical authorities does not give rise to a § 1983 claim, 11 it appears here that Plaintiff seeks to challenge the policy Beltran followed itself rather than 12 Beltran’s specific decision under that alleged policy. It may well be, as Defendants suggest, 13 that Plaintiff will be unable to state a claim even as against the policy itself. But the Court 14 will at least grant Plaintiff an opportunity to present that claim in an amended complaint.4 15 Accordingly, the Court SUSTAINS Plaintiff’s second objection and grants him leave to 16 amend his complaint to attempt to plead a declaratory judgment claim, if any. 17 Furthermore, after review of the moving papers and Judge Major’s R&R, the Court 18 finds “that there is no clear error on the face of the record” and thus the Court may “accept 19 the recommendation,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee’s note (citing Campbell, 510 20 F.2d at 206), as to those portions of the R&R to which Plaintiff does not object. 21 Accordingly, the Court ADOPTS Judge Major’s R&R as to those portions and GRANTS 22 Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss. 23 /// 24 /// 25 /// 26 27 28 Defendants will, of course, be entitled to challenge the sufficiency of Plaintiff’s claims in any amended complaint. 4 7 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM) 1 CONCLUSION 2 For the reasons stated above, the Court (1) OVERRULES Plaintiff’s first objection; 3 (2) SUSTAINS Plaintiff’s second objection; (3) ADOPTS the relevant portions of the 4 R&R consistent with this Order; and (4) GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART 5 Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 39, 53). Accordingly, the Court DISMISSES 6 Plaintiff’s FAC. To the extent Plaintiff’s claims are dismissed, they are DISMISSED 7 WITHOUT PREJUDICE unless otherwise noted in the R&R as adopted and/or amended 8 by this Order. 9 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: July 10, 2017 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8 16-CV-84 JLS (BLM)

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