Meza-Sayas v. Corizon et al

Filing 7

INITIAL REVIEW ORDER. Plaintiffs request for appointment of counsel (contained in the Complaint) is DENIED. The Clerk of Court will provide Plaintiff with (a) six issued summonses for service of process, and (b) six copies of the Notice of Lawsuit an d Request to Waive Service of Summons. Any amended pleadings must be submitted, along with a motion to amend, within 150 days after entry of this Order. Dispositive motions must be filed no later than 300 days after entry of this Order. Pursuant to G eneral Order 324, this action is hereby returned to the Clerk of Court for random civil case assignment to a presiding judge.. Signed by Judge David C. Nye. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (alw)

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO ANTONIO MEZA-SAYAS, Case No. 1:21-cv-00077-DCN Plaintiff, INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE v. CORIZON; DR. AGUILAR; DR. MIGLIORI; DR. BROWN; NURSE MONTAIN; and NURSE MARIA, Defendants. The Clerk of Court conditionally filed Plaintiff Antonio Meza-Sayas’s Complaint as a result of Plaintiff’s status as an inmate. The Court now reviews the Complaint to determine whether it or any of the claims contained therein should be summarily dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Having reviewed the record, and otherwise being fully informed, the Court enters the following Order. 1. Screening Requirement The Court must review complaints filed by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity, or an officer or employee of a governmental entity, to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. The Court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 1 2. Pleading Standard A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). A complaint fails to state a claim for relief under Rule 8 if the factual assertions in the complaint, taken as true, are insufficient for the reviewing court plausibly “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “[D]etailed factual allegations” are not required, but a plaintiff must offer “more than ... unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s].” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the facts pleaded are “merely consistent with a defendant’s liability,” or if there is an “obvious alternative explanation” that would not result in liability, the complaint has not stated a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 678, 682 (internal quotation marks omitted). 3. Factual Allegations Plaintiff is a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (“IDOC”), currently incarcerated at the Idaho State Correctional Center. Defendant Corizon is the private company providing medical treatment to Idaho inmates under contract with the IDOC, and the remaining Defendants are all Corizon medical professionals. Plaintiff’s claims arise from medical treatment he received for an infection in the leg or foot, though the timeline of events described in the Complaint is not entirely clear. On February 15, 2019, Plaintiff was examined by Defendant Dr. Brown, who had apparently been treating Plaintiff’s infection with medication. Compl., Dkt. 3, at 5. Plaintiff INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 2 informed Dr. Brown that the medications were not working and asked to try different medications. Dr. Brown “continually ignored” Plaintiff’s requests. Id. In August 2019, Defendant Nurse Maria, who was “responsible for picking up Health Service Requests & setting appointments for seeing medical,” treated Plaintiff’s leg infection with lotion and antibiotics. Id. at 7. Plaintiff states that, as his infection worsened, he “saw medical less & less & couldn’t get an appointment [scheduled by Nurse Maria] even though [Plaintiff] was submitting [Health Service Requests] regularly.” Id. In late October 2019, Dr. Aguilar evaluated Plaintiff’s infection and prescribed medication. Id. at 3. Dr. Aguilar also sent Plaintiff to Defendant Nurse Montain to clean his foot with saltwater and to use cream. Nurse Montain then falsely reported to an unidentified doctor that “everything was fine with [Plaintiff’s] foot.” Id. at 6. In fact, Plaintiff asserts, the infection had been “getting worse month after month.” Id. Defendant Dr. Migliori examined Plaintiff’s leg multiple times, including in late October 2019. Petitioner consistently asked Dr. Migliori for a second opinion regarding treatment of the infection, but Dr. Migliori “always refused.” Id. at 4. By the time Plaintiff was finally sent to the hospital, his leg “was unable to be saved” and immediately had to be amputated. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants’ actions or inaction violated the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. 4. Discussion A. Standards of Law Governing Plaintiff’s Claims Plaintiff brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the civil rights statute. To state a INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 3 plausible civil rights claim, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). To be liable under § 1983, “the defendant must possess a purposeful, a knowing, or possibly a reckless state of mind.” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S. Ct. 2466, 2472 (2015). Negligence is not actionable under § 1983, because a negligent act by a public official is not an abuse of governmental power but merely a “failure to measure up to the conduct of a reasonable person.” Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332 (1986). Prison officials and prison medical providers generally are not liable for damages in their individual capacities under § 1983 unless they personally participated in the alleged constitutional violations. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (“[E]ach Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct.”). Section 1983 does not allow for recovery against an employer or principal simply because an employee or agent committed misconduct. Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045. However, “[a] defendant may be held liable as a supervisor under § 1983 ‘if there exists ... a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor’s wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation.’” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989)). A plaintiff can establish this causal connection by alleging that a defendant (1) set in motion a series of acts by others that violated the Constitution, or knowingly refused to terminate a series of such acts, which the supervisor “knew or reasonably should have known would cause others to inflict a INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 4 constitutional injury”; (2) knowingly failed to act or acted improperly “in the training, supervision, or control of his subordinates”; (3) acquiesced in the constitutional deprivation; or (4) engaged in “conduct that showed a reckless or callous indifference to the rights of others.” Id. at 1205–09 (internal quotation marks omitted). To bring a § 1983 claim against a municipality (local governmental entity) or a private entity performing a government function—such as Corizon—a plaintiff must allege that the execution of an official policy or unofficial custom inflicted the injury of which the plaintiff complains, as required by Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). See also Tsao v. Desert Palace, Inc., 698 F.3d 1128, 1139 (9th Cir. 2012) (applying Monell to private entities performing a government function). Under Monell, the requisite elements of a § 1983 claim against a municipality or private entity performing a state function are the following: (1) the plaintiff was deprived of a constitutional right; (2) the municipality or entity had a policy or custom; (3) the policy or custom amounted to deliberate indifference to plaintiff’s constitutional right; and (4) the policy or custom was the moving force behind the constitutional violation. Mabe v. San Bernardino Cnty., 237 F.3d 1101, 1110-11 (9th Cir. 2001). Further, a municipality or private entity performing a state function “may be held liable under § 1983 when the individual who committed the constitutional tort was an official with final policy-making authority or such an official ratified a subordinate’s unconstitutional decision or action and the basis for it.” Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1250 (9th Cir. 2010), overruled in part on other grounds by Castro v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1069 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc). INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 5 An unwritten policy or custom must be so “persistent and widespread” that it constitutes a “permanent and well settled” practice. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691 (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167-168 (1970)). “Liability for improper custom may not be predicated on isolated or sporadic incidents; it must be founded upon practices of sufficient duration, frequency and consistency that the conduct has become a traditional method of carrying out policy.” Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 1996). The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners against cruel and unusual punishment. To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, prisoners must plausibly allege that they are “incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm,” or that they have been deprived of “the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities” as a result of the defendants’ actions. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). An Eighth Amendment claim requires the plaintiff to satisfy both (1) an objective standard, “that the deprivation was serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment,” and (2) a subjective standard, that the defendant acted with “deliberate indifference.” Snow v. McDaniel, 681 F.3d 978, 985 (9th Cir. 2012), overruled in part on other grounds by Peralta v. Dillard, 744 F.3d 1076 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc). The Eighth Amendment includes the right to adequate medical and mental health treatment in prison. Prison officials or prison medical providers can be held liable if their “acts or omissions [were] sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 6 Regarding the objective standard for prisoners’ medical care claims, “society does not expect that prisoners will have unqualified access to health care.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). Therefore, “deliberate indifference to medical needs amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation only if those needs are ‘serious.’” Id. The Ninth Circuit has defined a “serious medical need” in the following ways: failure to treat a prisoner’s condition [that] could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain[;] ... [t]he existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual’s daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain .... McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted), overruled on other grounds, WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). As to the subjective standard, “deliberate indifference entails something more than mere negligence, [but] is satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. A prison official or prison medical provider acts with deliberate indifference “only if the [prison official or provider] knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety.” Gibson v. Cnty. of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks omitted), overruled on other grounds by Castro v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc). “Under this standard, the prison official must not only ‘be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists,’ but that person ‘must also draw the inference.’” Toguchi v. Chung, INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 7 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). In the medical context, deliberate indifference can be “manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner’s needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104–05 (footnotes omitted). Medical malpractice or negligence does not support a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment, Broughton v. Cutter Labs., 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980) (per curiam), and a delay in medical treatment does not violate the Eighth Amendment unless that delay causes further harm, McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Additionally, there is no constitutional right to an outside medical provider of one’s own choice. See Roberts v. Spalding, 783 F.2d 867, 870 (9th Cir. 1986) (“A prison inmate has no independent constitutional right to outside medical care additional and supplemental to the medical care provided by the prison staff within the institution.”). “If a [prison official] should have been aware of the risk, but was not, then the [official] has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how severe the risk.” Gibson, 290 F.3d at 1188. Moreover, even prison officials or medical providers who did know of a substantial risk to an inmate’s health will not be liable under § 1983 “if they responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844. If medical personnel have been “consistently responsive to [the inmate’s] medical needs,” and the plaintiff has not shown that the medical personnel had “subjective knowledge and conscious disregard of a substantial risk of serious injury,” there has been no Eighth Amendment violation. Toguchi, 391 F.3d at 1061. INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 8 “There is not one proper way to practice medicine in a prison, but rather a range of acceptable courses based on prevailing standards in the field.” Jackson v. Kotter, 541 F.3d 688, 697 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, differences in judgment as to appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment between an inmate and prison medical providers—or, for that matter, between medical providers—are not enough to establish a deliberate indifference claim. Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). “[T]o prevail on a claim involving choices between alternative courses of treatment, a prisoner must show that the chosen course of treatment ‘was medically unacceptable under the circumstances,’ and was chosen ‘in conscious disregard of an excessive risk’ to the prisoner’s health.” Toguchi, 391 F.3d at 1058 (alteration omitted) (quoting Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996)). Stated another way, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that medical providers chose one treatment over the plaintiff’s preferred treatment “even though they knew [plaintiff’s preferred treatment] to be medically necessary based on [the plaintiff’s] records and prevailing medical standards.” Norsworthy v. Beard, 87 F. Supp. 3d 1104, 1117 (N.D. Cal. 2015). For example, in Snow v. McDaniel, a prisoner was permitted to proceed on his Eighth Amendment claim that, for three years, prison doctors had ignored the consistent recommendation by two outside specialists that the prisoner needed hip surgery to alleviate his severe pain and mobility issues. 681 F.3d at 981. The Eighth Amendment requires that prison medical providers exercise informed medical judgment. Thus, if a medical treatment is denied because of a blanket governmental policy—rather than an individualized determination of the appropriate treatment for the particular inmate—a factfinder may infer deliberate indifference. See INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 9 Rosati v. Igbinoso, 791 F.3d 1037, 1039–40 (9th Cir. 2015) (“Rosati plausibly alleges that prison officials were aware of her medical history and need for treatment, but denied the surgery because of a blanket policy against [sex reassignment surgery].”); Allard v. Gomez, 9 F. App’x 793, 795 (9th Cir. 2001) (unpublished) (“[T]here are at least triable issues as to whether hormone therapy was denied ... on the basis of an individualized medical evaluation or as a result of a blanket rule, the application of which constituted deliberate indifference to [plaintiff’s] medical needs.”). However, if providers make an individualized assessment and choose a treatment that, in their informed judgment, is medically appropriate, a plaintiff generally cannot establish deliberate indifference. See Lamb, 895 F.3d at 760 (“[The plaintiff] is obtaining psychological counseling and hormone treatments, including estrogen and testosteroneblocking medication. Though prison officials have not authorized surgery or the hormone dosages that [the plaintiff] wants, the existing treatment precludes a reasonable fact-finder from inferring deliberate indifference.”); Supre v. Ricketts, 792 F.2d 958, 963 (10th Cir. 1986) (“While the medical community may disagree among themselves as to the best form of treatment for plaintiff’s condition, the Department of Corrections made an informed judgment as to the appropriate form of treatment and did not deliberately ignore plaintiff’s medical needs.”). In such a case, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that the defendants intentionally interfered with appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment—for example, by “creat[ing] a pretextual report to support denial” of a requested treatment. Norsworthy, 87 F. Supp. 3d at 1117. A plaintiff cannot simply restate these standards of law in a complaint. Instead, a INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 10 plaintiff must provide specific facts supporting the elements of each claim and must allege facts showing a causal link between each defendant and Plaintiff’s injury or damage. Alleging “the mere possibility of misconduct” is not enough. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. B. The Complaint States Plausible Eighth Amendment Medical Treatment Claims Against All Defendants The Court liberally construes Plaintiff’s Complaint as stating colorable Eighth Amendment claims against each named Defendant. Plaintiff’s allegations give rise to a reasonable inference that the Defendant medical providers consistently treated Plaintiff’s infection with ineffective medication, even after realizing it was not working and without seeking a second opinion. This is sufficient to state a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against the individual Defendants. See Snow, 681 F.3d at 981. Given that the allegedly ineffective treatment continued over the course of at least eight months, Plaintiff’s allegations also give rise to a reasonable inference that the individual medical providers were following a policy or an unofficial custom of Corizon in deciding to continue an allegedly ineffective treatment. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. Therefore, Plaintiff will be allowed to proceed on the claims in the Complaint. REQUEST FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL Plaintiff also seeks appointment of counsel. See Compl. at 8. Because Plaintiff is not proceeding in forma pauperis, appointment of pro bono counsel is not appropriate at this time. Plaintiff is encouraged to seek his own counsel on a paid or contingency fee basis. CONCLUSION INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 11 Plaintiff may proceed as outlined above. This Order does not guarantee that any of Plaintiff’s claims will be successful. Rather, it merely finds that the claims are plausible— meaning that they will not be summarily dismissed at this time but will proceed to the next stage of litigation. This Order is not intended to be a final or a comprehensive analysis of Plaintiff’s claims. Defendants may still file a motion for dismissal or motion for summary judgment if the facts and law support such a motion.1 Because (1) prisoner filings must be afforded a liberal construction, (2) governmental officials often possess the evidence prisoners need to support their claims, and (3) many defenses are supported by governmental records, an early motion for summary judgment—rather than a motion to dismiss—is often a more appropriate vehicle for asserting procedural defenses such as non-exhaustion or entitlement to qualified immunity. ORDER IT IS ORDERED: 1. Plaintiff’s request for appointment of counsel (contained in the Complaint) is DENIED. 2. Plaintiff may proceed on his Eighth Amendment medical treatment claims against all named Defendants. 3. Within 90 days after entry of this Order, Plaintiff must obtain a waiver of 1 The standards for a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) are the same standards that the Court has used to screen the Complaint under § 1915A. Therefore, motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim are disfavored in cases subject to § 1915A and may be filed only in extraordinary circumstances. INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 12 service from, or effect formal service of process of the Complaint upon, Defendants Corizon, Aguilar, Migliori, Brown, Montain, and Maria. Plaintiff is advised that service and waiver are governed by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 4. The Clerk of Court will provide Plaintiff with (a) six issued summonses for service of process, and (b) six copies of the Notice of Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of Summons. If Defendants do not waive service, Plaintiff alone is responsible for effecting formal service of process upon them. 5. Plaintiff is advised that the attorneys who regularly represent Corizon in federal court are Kevin West and Dylan Eaton, Parsons Behle & Latimer, 800 W. Main Street, Suite 1300, Boise, Idaho, 83702. Plaintiff may seek a waiver of service from these attorneys on Defendants’ behalf. However, Plaintiff should be aware that, because the decision to waive service belongs to the client, not the lawyer, attorneys are not necessarily permitted to waive service on a client’s behalf. 6. The parties must follow the deadlines and guidelines in the Standard Disclosure and Discovery Order for Pro Se Prisoner Civil Rights Cases, issued with this Order. 7. Any amended pleadings must be submitted, along with a motion to amend, within 150 days after entry of this Order. 8. Dispositive motions must be filed no later than 300 days after entry of this Order. INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 13 9. Each party must ensure that all documents filed with the Court are simultaneously served upon the opposing party (through counsel if the party has counsel) by first-class mail or via the CM/ECF system, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5. Each party must sign and attach a proper mailing certificate to each document filed with the court, showing the manner of service, date of service, address of service, and name of person upon whom service was made. 10. The Court will not consider ex parte requests unless a motion may be heard ex parte according to the rules and the motion is clearly identified as requesting an ex parte order, pursuant to Local Rule of Civil Practice before the United States District Court for the District of Idaho 7.2. (“Ex parte” means that a party has provided a document to the court, but that the party did not provide a copy of the document to the other party to the litigation.) 11. All Court filings requesting relief or requesting that the Court make a ruling or take an action of any kind must be in the form of a pleading or motion, with an appropriate caption designating the name of the pleading or motion, served on all parties to the litigation, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 7, 10 and 11, and Local Rules of Civil Practice before the United States District Court for the District of Idaho 5.1 and 7.1. The Court will not consider requests made in the form of letters. INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 14 12. No party may have more than three pending motions before the Court at one time, and no party may file a motion on a particular subject matter if that party has another motion on the same subject matter currently pending before the Court. Motions submitted in violation of this Order may be stricken, summarily denied, or returned to the moving party unfiled. 13. Plaintiff must notify the Court immediately if Plaintiff’s address changes. Failure to do so may be cause for dismissal of this case without further notice. 14. Pursuant to General Order 324, this action is hereby returned to the Clerk of Court for random civil case assignment to a presiding judge, on the proportionate basis previously determined by the District Judges, having given due consideration to the existing caseload. DATED: April 27, 2021 _________________________ David C. Nye Chief U.S. District Court Judge INITIAL REVIEW ORDER BY SCREENING JUDGE - 15

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