James v. Lee et al

Filing 10

ORDER Dismissing Second Amended Complaint as Frivolous and for Failing to State a Claim Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b). The Court grants Plaintiff forty-five (45) days leave in which to file an Amended Complaint which cur es all the deficiencies of pleading described in this Order.. Signed by Judge Anthony J. Battaglia on 4/7/2017.(Mailed to Plaintiff a blank copy of the Court's Complaint under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for his use in amending.) (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 12 KYLE ROBERT JAMES, Booking # 15746082, Case No.: 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB ORDER DISMISSING SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT AS FRIVOLOUS AND FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) AND § 1915A(b) Plaintiff, 13 vs. 14 15 16 BARBARA LEE, et al. Defendants. 17 18 19 20 21 22 I. Procedural History 23 On June 21, 2016, Plaintiff, Kyle James, currently incarcerated at the California 24 State Prison - Los Angeles County located in Lancaster, California, filed a civil rights 25 Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1) and a Motion to Proceed In Forma 26 Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (ECF No. 2). Because Plaintiff’s 27 Motion to Proceed IFP complied with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), the Court granted him 28 leave to proceed without full prepayment of the civil filing fees required by 28 U.S.C. 1 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB 1 § 1914(a), but dismissed his Complaint for failing to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2 § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b). On November 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed his First Amended 3 Complaint (“FAC”). (ECF No. 6.) In this FAC, Plaintiff names only Defendant Barbara 4 Lee, John Doe Doctor, Jane Doe Doctor and “S.D.C.J. Med. Supervisor” as Defendants. 5 The Court, once again, dismissed Plaintiff’s FAC on the grounds that he failed to 6 state a claim and as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b). (ECF 7 No. 8.) On March 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). In 8 his SAC, Plaintiff again names Barbara Lee as a Defendant but also adds Defendants 9 Kania and Harvel. 10 11 II. Legal Standards for Screening Complaint Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b) 12 Because Plaintiff is a prisoner and is proceeding IFP, his FAC requires a pre- 13 Answer screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b). Under these 14 statutes, the Court must sua sponte dismiss a prisoner’s IFP complaint, or any portion of 15 it, which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks damages from defendants 16 who are immune. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) 17 (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 18 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). “The purpose of [screening] is ‘to ensure that 19 the targets of frivolous or malicious suits need not bear the expense of responding.’” 20 Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 920 n.1 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Wheeler v. Wexford 21 Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 681 (7th Cir. 2012)). 22 “The standard for determining whether a plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon 23 which relief can be granted under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as the Federal Rule of 24 Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standard for failure to state a claim.” Watison v. Carter, 668 25 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); see also Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th 26 Cir. 2012) (noting that screening pursuant to § 1915A “incorporates the familiar standard 27 applied in the context of failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 28 12(b)(6)”). Rule 12(b)(6) requires a complaint to “contain sufficient factual matter, 2 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB 1 accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 2 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1121. 3 Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the 4 elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” 5 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for 6 relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its 7 judicial experience and common sense.” Id. The “mere possibility of misconduct” or 8 “unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation[s]” fall short of meeting 9 this plausibility standard. Id.; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 10 (9th Cir. 2009). 11 A. 12 Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a cause of action for the “deprivation of any rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 13 privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United States. 14 Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must 15 allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the 16 United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person 17 acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Long v. Cty. of 18 Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). 19 B. 20 Plaintiff broadly alleges that during the two and one-half years he was in the 21 custody of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (“SDCSD”) he was “never treated 22 for nerve damage” in his hands. (SAC at 4.) Plaintiff claims that the injuries to his hands 23 was “caused by Sheriff Employees L.T. Kania, Sgt. Blackwell, Lance Tade and many 24 other deputies.” (Id.) 25 Duplicative claims Here, the Court takes judicial notice that Plaintiff has two pending actions 26 involving use of force by SDCSD deputies, including claims against Blackwell and Tade, 27 and therefore, Plaintiff’s SAC is subject to sua sponte dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 28 §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b) because it contains claims which are duplicative of these two 3 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB 1 other actions. See James v. Agnew, et al., S.D. Cal. Civil Case No. 3:15-cv-00409-AJB- 2 MDD and James v. Emmens, et al., S.D. Cal. Civil Case No. 3:16-cv-2823-WQH-NLS. A 3 court “‘may take notice of proceedings in other courts, both within and without the 4 federal judicial system, if those proceedings have a direct relation to matters at issue.’” 5 Bias v. Moynihan, 508 F.3d 1212, 1225 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bennett v. Medtronic, 6 Inc., 285 F.3d 801, 803 n.2 (9th Cir. 2002)). 7 A prisoner’s complaint is considered frivolous if it “merely repeats pending or 8 previously litigated claims.” Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1105 n.2 (9th Cir. 9 1995) (construing former 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)) (citations and internal quotations 10 omitted). Because Plaintiff appears to be litigating the identical claims presented in the 11 instant action in James v. Agnew, et al., S.D. Cal. Civil Case No. 3:15-cv-00409-AJB- 12 MDD and James v. Emmens, et al., S.D. Cal. Civil Case No. 3:16-cv-2823-WQH-NLS, 13 the Court must dismiss these duplicative claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). See 14 Cato, 70 F.3d at 1105 n.2; Resnick, 213 F.3d at 446 n.1. 15 C. 16 Plaintiff alleges that he has “nerve damage in [his] hands” which Defendants Medical Care Claims 17 “failed to treat.” (SAC at 4.) Plaintiff claims Defendant Lee “had knowledge of my 18 medical issue with the nerve damage in my hands” and for “one reason or another 19 managed to avoid providing treatment.” (Id.) 20 Prison officials are liable only if they are deliberately indifferent to the prisoner’s 21 serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976); see also Clouthier 22 v. Cnty. of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1241-44 (9th Cir. 2010) (applying Estelle’s 23 Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference standard to inadequate medical care claims 24 alleged to violate a pretrial detainees’ due process rights). 25 Here, Plaintiff claims he suffers from “nerve damage” but he fails to include any 26 further “factual matter” sufficient to show or describe how or to what extent his medical 27 needs were objectively serious. See McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 28 1991) (defining a “serious medical need” as one which the “failure to treat ... could result 4 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB 1 in further significant injury or the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.’”), 2 overruled on other grounds by WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997) 3 (en banc) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104). The “existence of an injury that a reasonable 4 doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence 5 of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual’s daily activities; or the 6 existence of chronic and substantial pain are examples of indications that a prisoner has a 7 ‘serious’ need for medical treatment.” McGuckin, 974 F.3d at 1059-60. 8 Moreover, even if the Court assumes Plaintiff’s medical conditions were 9 “objectively serious,” nothing in his SAC supports a “reasonable inference that [any 10 individual] defendant” acted with deliberate indifference to his plight. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 11 678. “In order to show deliberate indifference, an inmate must allege sufficient facts to 12 indicate that prison officials acted with a culpable state of mind.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 13 U.S. 294, 302 (1991). Plaintiff simply alleges that Defendant Lee was “aware” of his 14 medical condition but he fails to allege any specific facts regarding Lee’s responses to his 15 requests for treatment. (SAC at 4.) There are no specific allegations as to the date that 16 Plaintiff claims he sustained this injury, the dates which he requested medical treatment 17 and was allegedly denied, or the identity of any specific medical personnel whom he 18 claims failed to treat him. 19 In addition, the indifference to medical needs also must be substantial; inadequate 20 treatment due to malpractice, or even gross negligence, does not amount to a 21 constitutional violation. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060 22 (9th Cir. 2004) (“Deliberate indifference is a high legal standard.”) (citing Hallett v. 23 Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 1204 (9th Cir. 2002); Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1334 24 (9th Cir. 1990)). 25 In his SAC, Plaintiff claims that the “Sheriff’s blanket policy restricting 26 medications like gabapentin to prisoners like [Plaintiff]” is “cruel and unusual 27 punishment.” However, a difference of opinion between a pretrial detainee and the 28 doctors or other trained medical personnel at the Jail as to the appropriate course or type 5 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB 1 of medical attention he requires does not amount to deliberate indifference, see Snow v. 2 McDaniel, 681 F.3d 978, 987 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240, 242 3 (9th Cir. 1989)). 4 Thus, Plaintiff’s SAC, as currently pleaded, does not include facts to show that any 5 individual San Diego Jail official actually knew of, yet disregarded any serious medical 6 need. See Gibson v. Cnty. of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1193 (9th Cir. 2002) 7 (“[D]eliberate indifference requires the defendant to be subjectively aware that serious 8 harm is likely to result from a failure to provide medical care.”). Nor does it allege that 9 any decision to refuse or delay a particular course of medical treatment caused him actual 10 harm. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Without more, Plaintiff’s SAC currently amounts 11 only to “unadorned, the defendant[s]-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s],” which 12 “stop[] short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief’” as 13 to any constitutionally inadequate medical care claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 14 D. 15 Plaintiff claims in general terms that Sheriff Bill Gore had “knowledge of [his] 16 injury” but “did nothing to treat me.” (SAC at 9.) Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon 17 which § 1983 relief can be granted because he sets forth no individualized allegations of 18 wrongdoing by Sheriff Gore, and instead seeks to hold him vicariously liable for the 19 actions of his deputies. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (“Because vicarious liability is 20 inapplicable to . . . § 1983 suits,” Plaintiff “must plead that each Government-official 21 defendant, though the official’s own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”) 22 Plaintiff’s SAC contains no factual allegations describing what Defendant Sheriff Respondeat Superior 23 Gore knew, did, or failed to do, with regard to Plaintiff’s medical needs. Estate of Brooks 24 v. United States, 197 F.3d 1245, 1248 (9th Cir. 1999) (“Causation is, of course, a required 25 element of a § 1983 claim.”) “The inquiry into causation must be individualized and 26 focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or 27 omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation.” Leer v. Murphy, 844 28 6 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB 1 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988), citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370-71 (1976); Berg 2 v. Kincheloe, 794 F.2d 457, 460 (9th Cir. 1986). Thus, without some specific “factual content” that might allow the Court to “draw 3 4 the reasonable inference” that Sheriff Gore may be held personally liable for any 5 unconstitutional conduct directed at Plaintiff, the Court finds his SAC, as currently 6 pleaded, contains allegations which Iqbal makes clear fail to “state a claim to relief that is 7 plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 568. 8 E. 9 A pro se litigant must be given leave to amend his or her complaint to state a claim Leave to Amend 10 unless it is absolutely clear the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by 11 amendment. See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130 (noting leave to amend should be granted when 12 a complaint is dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) “if it appears at all possible that the 13 plaintiff can correct the defect”). Therefore, while the Court finds Plaintiff’s SAC fails to 14 state any claim upon which relief can be granted, it will provide him a chance to fix the 15 pleading deficiencies discussed in this Order. See Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 16 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992)). 17 However, the Court cautions Plaintiff that he may not include allegations raised in other 18 actions. 19 III. Conclusion and Order 20 Good cause appearing, the Court: 21 1. DISMISSES Plaintiff’s SAC as frivolous and for failing to state a claim 22 upon which § 1983 relief can granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 23 1915A(b). 24 2. GRANTS Plaintiff forty-five (45) days leave in which to file an Amended 25 Complaint which cures all the deficiencies of pleading described in this Order. Plaintiff is 26 cautioned, however, that should he choose to file an Amended Complaint, it must be 27 complete by itself, comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), and that any claim 28 not re-alleged will be considered waived. See S.D. CAL. CIVLR 15.1; Hal Roach Studios, 7 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB 1 Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1546 (9th Cir. 1989) (“[A]n amended 2 pleading supersedes the original.”); Lacey v. Maricopa Cnty., 693 F.3d 896, 928 (9th Cir. 3 2012) (noting that claims dismissed with leave to amend which are not re-alleged in an 4 amended pleading may be “considered waived if not repled.”). 5 3. DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to mail to Plaintiff, together with this Order, a 6 blank copy of the Court’s form “Complaint under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 7 § 1983” for his use in amending. 8 9 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: April 7, 2017 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8 3:16-cv-01592-AJB-JLB

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