Holmes v. Estock et al

Filing 87

ORDER Granting in Part and Denying in Part 83 Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Third Amended Complaint. The Court grants in part Defendants' motion and dismisses Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment official capacity claim against Defendant Estock without prejudice. The Court denies Defendants' motion to dismiss in all other respects as set forth above. Signed by Judge Michael M. Anello on 3/7/2019. (rmc)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 Case No.: 3:16-cv-02458-MMA-BLM CHARLES HOLMES, Plaintiff, 12 13 v. 14 ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT ESTOCK, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 [Doc. No. 83] 17 18 19 20 Plaintiff Charles Holmes, a California inmate, brings this civil rights action 21 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment right to 22 adequate medical care. Plaintiff, proceeding through counsel, has filed a Third Amended 23 Complaint (“TAC”) against Defendants Estock and Currier, whom he sues in their 24 individual capacities. See Doc. No. 81. Plaintiff also sues in their official capacities 25 Defendant Diaz, the Director of the California Department of Corrections and 26 Rehabilitation; Defendant Montgomery, the Warden of the institution where Plaintiff is 27 currently housed; Defendant Nasir, the institution’s Healthcare Chief Executive Officer; 28 and Defendant Estock, his former primary care provider. See id. 1 3:16-cv-02458-MMA-BLM 1 Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff’s official capacity claims pursuant to Federal 2 Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Doc. No. 83. In addition, Defendant Currier 3 moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s individual capacity claim. See id. Plaintiff filed an 4 opposition to the motion, to which Defendants replied. See Doc. Nos. 84, 85. The Court 5 took the motion under submission on the briefs and without oral argument pursuant to 6 Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. See Doc. No. 86. For the reasons set forth below, the Court 7 GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants’ motion. 8 DISCUSSION 9 Plaintiff has a congenital defect in his left kidney, which requires ongoing medical 10 treatment. The Court has provided a detailed recitation of Plaintiff’s factual allegations 11 in previous orders.1 See Doc. Nos. 51, 79. In sum, Plaintiff maintains that Defendants 12 have failed to provide him with necessary and constitutionally adequate medical 13 treatment for his failing kidney. Based on those allegations and additional facts set forth 14 in his Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”), Plaintiff reasserts causes of action against 15 Defendants Estock, Diaz, Montgomery, and Nasir in their official capacities, seeking 16 prospective injunctive relief. Plaintiff also reasserts individual capacity claims against 17 Defendants Estock and Currier, his former and current primary care physicians. 18 The Court previously ruled that Plaintiff has alleged plausible individual capacity 19 claims against Defendants Estock and Currier. See Doc. No. 79 at 6. However, 20 Defendant Currier now moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s individual capacity claim based on 21 his purported failure to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to initiating this action, 22 as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). 23 Defendants Estock, Diaz, Montgomery, and Nasir move to dismiss Plaintiff’s official 24 capacity claims, arguing that Plaintiff fails to identify a policy, procedure, or regulation 25 26                                                 27 1 28 Because this matter is once again before the Court on a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts Plaintiff’s allegations as true. See Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976). 2 3:16-cv-02458-MMA-BLM 1 2 3 responsible for the alleged violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. 1. Legal Standard A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the 4 sufficiency of the complaint. See Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A 5 pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader 6 is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). However, plaintiffs must also plead 7 “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 12(b)(6); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility standard 9 thus demands more than a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or 10 naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 11 662, 678 (2009). Instead, the complaint “must contain allegations of underlying facts 12 sufficient to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” 13 Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). 14 In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must assume the truth 15 of all factual allegations and must construe them in the light most favorable to the 16 nonmoving party. See Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337–38 (9th Cir. 17 1996). The court need not take legal conclusions as true merely because they are cast in 18 the form of factual allegations. Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 19 1987). Similarly, “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are not 20 sufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Pareto v. FDIC, 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 21 1998). 22 23 2. Individual Capacity Claim Against Defendant Currier Defendant Currier moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment individual 24 capacity claim based on Plaintiff’s purported failure to exhaust his administrative 25 remedies prior to filing suit. Defendant Currier acknowledges that exhaustion is 26 generally an issue better resolved through the summary judgment process, but argues that 27 Plaintiff’s failure to exhaust is clear from the face of his complaint. 28 3 3:16-cv-02458-MMA-BLM 1 “The PLRA mandates that inmates exhaust all available administrative remedies 2 before filing “any suit challenging prison conditions,” including, but not limited to, suits 3 under § 1983.” Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1171 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing Woodford v. 4 Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006)). “Exhaustion should be decided, if feasible, before 5 reaching the merits of a prisoner’s claim.” Albino, 747 F.3d at 1170. The Ninth Circuit 6 has held that “the appropriate procedural device for pretrial determination of whether 7 administrative remedies have been exhausted under the PLRA . . . is a motion for 8 summary judgment under Rule 56.” Id. at1168. “In the rare event that a failure to 9 exhaust is clear from the face of the complaint, a defendant may move for dismissal 10 11 under Rule 12(b)(6).” Id. at 1166. Here, Defendant Currier accurately observes that Plaintiff does not allege that he 12 exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to his Eighth Amendment claim 13 against her, specifically. However, the Supreme Court has held “that failure to exhaust is 14 an affirmative defense under the PLRA, and that inmates are not required to specially 15 plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 16 (2007); see also Albino, 747 F.3d at 1169. Defendant Currier cannot meet her burden of 17 proving this affirmative defense simply by relying on the absence of any such allegations 18 in Plaintiff’s Third Amended Complaint. Moreover, this is not one of the “rare” 19 instances where failure to exhaust is “clear from the face of the complaint.” Albino, 747 20 F.3d at 1166. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant Currier’s request for dismissal 21 without prejudice to raising the affirmative defense as a ground for summary judgment. 22 3. Official Capacity Claims Against Defendants Estock, Diaz, Montgomery, and 23 Nasir 24 Defendants moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s official capacity claims against Defendants 25 Estock, Diaz, Montgomery, and Nasir. Plaintiff concedes that he is unable to state a 26 claim for prospective injunctive relief against Dr. Estock, his former primary care 27 physician, and requests that the Court dismiss his official capacity claim against 28 4 3:16-cv-02458-MMA-BLM 1 Defendant Estock without prejudice. Plaintiff argues that he has stated plausible official 2 capacity claims against Defendants Diaz, Montgomery, and Nasir.2 3 “A plaintiff seeking injunctive relief against the State is not required to allege a 4 named official’s personal involvement in the acts or omissions constituting the alleged 5 constitutional violation. Rather, a plaintiff need only identify the law or policy 6 challenged as a constitutional violation and name the official within the entity who can 7 appropriately respond to injunctive relief.” Hartmann v. Cal. Dep’t of Corr. & Rehab., 8 707 F.3d 1114, 1127 (9th Cir. 2013) (internal citations omitted). As the Court previously 9 noted, “the official ‘must have some connection with the enforcement of the act,’ and that 10 connection ‘must be fairly direct; a generalized duty to enforce state law or general 11 supervisory power over the persons responsible for enforcing the challenged provision 12 will not subject an official to suit.’” Doc. No. 79 at 7 (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 13 123, 157 (1908)). 14 The Court previously found that Plaintiff’s allegations established that Defendants 15 Diaz, Montgomery, and Nasir are sufficiently connected to the implementation and 16 enforcement of CDCR healthcare policies and regulations, such that they could respond 17 to a court order granting Plaintiff prospective injunctive relief. The Court finds that 18 Plaintiff now alleges with sufficient specificity “a practice, policy, or procedure that 19 animates the constitutional violation at issue.” Ariz. Students’ Ass’n v. Ariz. Bd. of 20 Regents, 824 F.3d 858, 865 (9th Cir. 2016). 21 22 23                                                 24 2 25 26 27 28 Defendants express concern that Plaintiff has added an official capacity claim against Defendant Currier. See Def. Memo. at 6 n.2. Plaintiff previously brought only an individual capacity claim against Defendant Currier. In his Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff once again indicates in the caption that Defendant Currier is sued only in her individual capacity. Moreover, Plaintiff does not defend the plausibility of an official capacity claim against Defendant Currier in his response to Defendants’ pending motion to dismiss. Accordingly, despite some ambiguity in his pleadings, the Court is satisfied that Plaintiff did not amend his pleadings beyond the permissible scope set forth by the Court, and did not add an official capacity claim against Defendant Currier. 5 3:16-cv-02458-MMA-BLM 1 For example, Plaintiff alleges that in the absence of medically necessary treatment, 2 he “remains at grave risk for renal failure.” TAC ¶ 40. Plaintiff alleges that by denying 3 him the necessary treatment, Defendants are violating Title 15, section 3350, of the 4 California Code of Regulations, which requires the provision of “medical services for 5 inmates, which are based on medical necessity and supported by outcome data as 6 effective medical care.” 15 Cal. Code. Reg. § 3350(a). Plaintiff further contends that 7 Defendants are denying him constitutionally adequate care by improperly classifying 8 surgical intervention to treat his condition as “not medically necessary.” 15 Cal. Code 9 Reg. § 3350.1(b) (“Surgery not medically necessary shall not be provided.”). These 10 allegations are sufficient to state a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants 11 Diaz, Montgomery, and Nasir in their official capacities. 12 13 CONCLUSION Based on the foregoing, the Court GRANTS IN PART Defendants’ motion and 14 DISMISSES Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment official capacity claim against Defendant 15 Estock without prejudice. The Court DENIES Defendants’ motion to dismiss in all other 16 respects as set forth above. 17 18 19 IT IS SO ORDERED. DATE: March 7, 2019 _______________________________________ HON. MICHAEL M. ANELLO United States District Judge 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 3:16-cv-02458-MMA-BLM

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