United States District Court, S.D. California
November 17, 2005.
TRACEY PABON, Plaintiff,
STUART RYAN, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEO PAPAS, Magistrate Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION GRANTING DEFENDANT RYAN'S MOTION TO
Defendant Stuart Ryan, Warden of Calipatria State Prison
(hereafter "Defendant Ryan") moves to dismiss Plaintiff's 1st
and 2nd causes of action of Plaintiff's First Amended
Complaint (hereafter "FAC"). Plaintiff did not file an Opposition
to the Motion. The Court, having reviewed Defendant's Motion, the
FAC and GOOD CAUSE APPEARING, HEREBY RECOMMENDS:
1. Procedural Background
On February 9, 2005, Plaintiff Tracey Pabon, a prisoner
presently incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison, proceeding
pro se (hereafter "Plaintiff") filed a Complaint against
Defendants Arnold Angelici, Richard Torchia, Donald R. Garsh
(hereafter respectively "Angelici," "Torchia" and "Garsh")
Defendant Ryan and the Dental Board of California. On April 11, 2005, Plaintiff filed a FAC
against Defendants Ryan, Angelici, Garsh and Torchia. The FAC
states causes of action for (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(hereafter "§ 1983" or "Section 1983") that Defendants were
deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's dental needs; (2)
violation of § 1983 Defendants subjected Plaintiff to cruel and
unusual punishment, and; (3) Negligence.*fn1 Defendant Ryan
moves to dismiss the 1st and 2nd causes of action against
him. Plaintiff has not filed an Opposition to the Motion to
Plaintiff alleges that he suffered improper dental care by
Defendants Angelici, Torchia and Garsh, while he was an inmate at
Calipatria State Prison. He alleges that Defendant Angelici
improperly extracted one of his wisdom teeth, causing him severe
pain and serious injuries. Thereafter, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants Angelici, Torchia and Garsh either refused to treat
him, or improperly treated him, made false notations in his
medical file, and did not correct the false notations, despite
stated intentions to do so. Plaintiff further asserts that
Defendant Ryan responded to his administrative appeal concerning
Defendant Angelici two months after Defendant Angelici's alleged
conduct. (FAC paragraphs 10, 40) Defendant Ryan's response to the
appeal reflects that he relied on the professional opinion of
Defendant Angelici's supervisor, Defendant Garsh. (FAC paragraph
40) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Ryan was later apprised of Plaintiff's dental
condition by one of the other Defendants, yet allowed the other
Defendants to treat him, despite knowledge of his condition and
3. Standards for Motion To Dismiss
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b) (6), dismissal for
failure to state a claim is proper "only if it is clear that no
relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be
proved consistent with the allegations" in the complaint. Hishon
v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). The court looks not
at whether the plaintiff will "ultimately prevail but whether the
claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims."
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on
other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984). Unless
it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of
facts in support of his claim, a complaint cannot be dismissed
without leave to amend. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
Where a plaintiff appears in propria persona in a civil
rights case, the court must construe the pleadings liberally and
afford the plaintiff any benefit of the doubt. Karim-Panahi v.
Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). The
rule of liberal construction is "particularly important in civil
rights cases." Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th
Cir. 1992). In giving liberal interpretation to a pro se civil
rights complaint, however, the court may not "supply essential
elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Ivey v.
Board of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th
Cir. 1982). "Vague and conclusory allegations of official
participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss."
Id. Nevertheless, the court must give a pro se litigant leave
to amend his complaint unless it is "absolutely clear that the
deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment."
Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1447 (9th Cir. 1987). Thus,
before a pro se civil rights complaint may be dismissed with
prejudice, the court must provide the plaintiff with a statement
of the complaint's deficiencies. Karim-Panahi,
893 F.2d at 623-24.
4. Plaintiff Cannot Establish That Defendant Ryan Was
Deliberately Indifferent to his Dental Needs, or that Defendant
Ryan Subjected Him to Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant Ryan contends that he cannot be held liable in this
case because there is no respondeat superior liability under §
A person deprives another "of a constitutional right, within
the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act,
participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform
an act which he is legally required to do that causes the
deprivation of which [the plaintiff complains]." Johnson v.
Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).*fn2 There is no
respondeat superior liability under § 1983. Palmer v.
Sanderson, 9 F.3d 1433, 1437-38 (9th Cir. 1993). "Causation is . . . a required element of a § 1983 claim."
Estate of Brooks v. United States, 197 F.3d 1245, 1248 (9th
Cir. 1999). "The inquiry into causation must be individualized
and focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual
defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a
constitutional deprivation." Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633
(9th Cir. 1988) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370-71
(1976)); Berg v. Kincheloe, 794 F.2d 457, 460 (9th Cir. 1986).
Thus, to avoid the respondeat superior bar, the plaintiff
must allege personal acts by the defendants which have a direct
causal connection to the constitutional violation at issue. See
Sanders v. Kennedy, 794 F.2d 478, 483 (9th Cir. 1986); Paine
v. City of Lompoc, 265 F.3d 975, 984 (9th Cir. 2001) (whether or
not each defendant "is a participant in the incidents that could
give rise to liability" is a necessary element of the § 1983
claim). Section 1983 provides for relief only against those who,
through their personal involvement as evidenced by affirmative
acts, participation in another's affirmative acts, or failure to
perform legally required duties, cause the deprivation of the
plaintiffs' constitutionally protected rights. Johnson,
588 F.2d at 743.
To state a claim against a state official under § 1983, the
complainant must allege direct personal participation by the
defendant. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989).
A supervisor is only liable for the constitutional violations of
his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed
the violations, or knew of the violations and with deliberate
indifference, failed to act to prevent them. Wilson v. Seiter,
501 U.S. 294, 303 (1991); Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045. If there is
no affirmative link between a defendant's conduct and the alleged
injury, there is no deprivation of the plaintiff's constitutional
rights. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370 (1976).
In this case, Plaintiff's FAC does not contain allegations that
Defendant Ryan participated in the decisions and/or treatment
regarding Plaintiff's dental care. Instead, it appears that
Defendant Ryan relied on the professional opinions of Defendants
Angelici and Garsh in responding to Plaintiff's appeal regarding
Defendant Angelici's treatment. Plaintiff does allege that
Defendant Ryan was apprised of his condition and treatment, yet
allowed the other Defendants to continue to treat him. That
Defendant Ryan had knowledge of Plaintiff's condition and
treatment may support Plaintiff's 3rd cause of action for
negligence. However, Plaintiff's causes of action for violations
of § 1983 do not contain any allegations that Defendant Ryan
personally acted in a way that had a direct causal connection to
the § 1983 violations about which he complains.
Moreover, courts have determined that prison administrators
cannot be held liable under claims for cruel and unusual
punishment if the inmate is being treated by medical personnel,
and the prison administrator relies on the medical personnel's
professional judgment and skill. Prison administrators, having no
medical expertise, must rely on health care professionals to
assess the needs of prisoners to initiate and continue treatment.
Williams v. Cearlock 993 F.Supp. 1192, 1197 (C.D. IL 1998);
McCracken v. Jones 562 F.2d 22, 24 (10th Cir. 1977) cert.
denied 435 U.S. 917 (1978)
It appears beyond any reasonable doubt that Plaintiff cannot
prove any set of facts in support of his § 1983 claims against Defendant Ryan because he cannot allege facts which show that
personal acts by Defendant Ryan had a direct causal connection to
the constitutional violations at issue. Therefore, this Court
RECOMMENDS that Defendant's Ryan's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
After a review of the record in this matter, the undersigned
Magistrate Judge recommends that Defendant Ryan's Motion to
Dismiss be GRANTED.
This report and recommendation of the undersigned Magistrate
Judge is submitted to the United States District Judge assigned
to this case, pursuant to the provision of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
IT IS ORDERED that no later than December 19, 2005, any
party to this action may file written objections with the Court
and serve a copy on all parties. The document should be captioned
"Objections to Report and Recommendation."
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that any reply to the objections shall
be filed with the Court and served on all parties no later than
January 3, 2006. The parties are advised that failure to file
objections within the specified time may waive the right to raise
those objections on appeal of the Court's order. Martinez v.
Y1st, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.