Candelaria v. New Mexico Department of Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge Judith C. Herrera dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint 1 without prejudice for failure to state a claim on which releif may be granted with leave to file an amended complaint within 30 days of entry of this order (baw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
KARL MARX CANDELARIA
No. 1:16-cv-1339 JCH/WPL
NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT
OF CORRECTIONS, CENTURION
CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE, LLC, and
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s civil rights complaint. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff is incarcerated,
appears pro se, and is proceeding in forma paperis. After reviewing the complaint sua sponte
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Court will dismiss the complaint and
grant Plaintiff thirty (30) days from the entry of this Order to amend his pleading.
Standards Governing Sua Sponte Review
The Court has discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte under §
1915(e)(2) “at any time if … the action … is frivolous or malicious; [or] fails to state a claim on
which relief may be granted.” The Court may also dismiss a complaint sua sponte under Rule
12(b)(6) if “it is patently obvious that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged, and
allowing [plaintiff] an opportunity to amend [the] complaint would be futile.” Hall v. Bellmon,
935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991) (quotations omitted). The plaintiff must frame a complaint
that contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible
on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id.
Because Plaintiff is pro se, his “pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less
stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. While pro
se pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply to represented litigants, the Court
can overlook the “failure to cite proper legal authority, … confusion of various legal theories, …
poor syntax and sentence construction, or … unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.” Id.
Further, pro se plaintiffs should ordinarily be given the opportunity to cure defects in the original
complaint, unless amendment would be futile. Id. at 1109.
Plaintiff asserts the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He alleges that on
October 28, 2016, he slipped and fell on water leaking from a poorly maintained drinking fountain
at the Northwest New Mexico Correctional Facility (“NNMCF”). See Doc. 1, p. 2. Officer
Chino completed an incident report and transferred Plaintiff to NNMCF’s medical unit. Id.
However, the nurse turned Plaintiff away, stating “he would see [Plaintiff] after Med-line” (i.e., the
queue of inmates waiting for medical care). Id. Plaintiff was not examined until 18 days later,
after he filed a formal grievance and his counselor intervened with the medical unit. Id. The
medical providers ordered x-rays of Plaintiff’s knee and lower back, but they did not provide any
After the fall, Plaintiff underwent an unrelated surgery to remove his gallbladder. Id.
Centurion Correctional Healthcare staff deprived Plaintiff of pain medication for at least 24 hours
after the surgery in retaliation for his earlier grievance. Id. at p. 3.
According to Plaintiff, this behavior is consistent with NNMCF’s and Defendants’ overall
failure to provide adequate care and other programs to inmates. Plaintiff alleges that: (1)
NNMCF’s medical staff received sub-standard training; (2) the prisoners are being used as test
subjects; (3) Defendants refuse to follow policies and procedures governing prison conditions; and
(4) there are “woefully few jobs and programs available to inmates.” Id. at p. 5-6. Plaintiff also
complains that NNMCF “was a women’s facility before male inmates were brought [there].” Id.
at p. 5. He asserts that “NNMCF is not prepared to house male inmates, who have a greater
propensity to act out violently when they are treated badly.” Id.
Plaintiff seeks $15 million in damages from the New Mexico Department of Corrections,
Centurion Correctional Healthcare, LLC, and Core Civil for the alleged civil rights violations. Id.
at p. 7.
“A cause of action under section 1983 requires the deprivation of a civil right by a ‘person’
acting under color of state law.” McLaughlin v. Bd. of Trustees, 215 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir.
2000). The plaintiff must allege that each government official, through the official’s own
individual actions, has personally violated the Constitution. See Trask v. Franco, 446 F.3d 1036,
1046 (10th Cir. 1998). There must also be a connection between the official conduct and the
constitutional violation. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008); Trask, 446
F.3d at 1046.
Plaintiff’s complaint does not meet this standard, as he does not appear to name a defendant
subject to liability. The Tenth Circuit has explicitly held that the “New Mexico Department of
Corrections is not a ‘person’ subject to suit under § 1983.” See Blackburn v. Department of
Corrections, 172 F.3d 62 (10th Cir. Feb. 25, 1999) (unpublished). Further, a private corporation
acting under the color of state law is only liable under § 1983 when the corporation’s official policy
or custom caused a deprivation of constitutional rights. See Hinton v. City of Elwood, Kan., 997
F.2d 774, 782 (10th Cir. 1993) (A private corporation performing a government function can be
held liable under § 1983 only where a plaintiff shows “1) the existence of a...policy or custom, and
2) that there is a direct causal link between the policy or custom and the injury alleged.”). Plaintiff
has not alleged that Centurion Correctional Healthcare, LLC or Core Civil deprived him of his
constitutional rights pursuant to an official corporate policy or custom. The complaint therefore
does not state a claim against the entity defendants.
Plaintiff’s reference to “any and all staff members involved” is also not sufficient to bring
any particular person into this action. See Doc. 1, p. 2. A successful § 1983 complaint must
“make clear exactly who is alleged to have done what to whom, to provide each individual with fair
notice as to the basis of the claim against him or her.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242,
1249-50 (10th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in the original).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss the complaint and permit Plaintiff to file
an amended complaint within 30 days of entry of this order. The Court notes that even if Plaintiff
identifies the individuals involved, the allegations must still state a claim under § 1983. That
section requires the alleged deprivation to be objectively serious, and the prison official to have “a
sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Craig v. Eberly, 164 F.3d 490, 495 (10th Cir.1998)
(quotations omitted) (setting out the two-part test). In the healthcare context, the medical need
must be “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so
obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention. ”
Oxendine v. Kaplan, 241 F.3d 1272, 1276 (10th Cir. 2001). The defendants must have also known
that the plaintiff faced “a substantial risk of serious harm and disregard[ed] that risk by failing to
take reasonable measures to abate it.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994).
If Plaintiff declines to timely file an amended complaint or files an amended complaint that
similarly fails to state a claim, the Court may dismiss the case with prejudice and without further
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff’s civil rights complaint (Doc. 1) is
DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim on which
relief may granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORERED that Plaintiff may file an amended complaint within 30 days of
entry of this order.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?