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Mora v. Woodford

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


September 16, 2008

MICHAEL FREDERIC MORA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WOODFORD, ET AL., DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 13)

I. SCREENING ORDER

Michael Frederic Mora ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. On June 6, 2005, Plaintiff filed his original complaint, which was dismissed with leave to amend. Plaintiff subsequently filed his first amended complaint on December 1, 2006 -- which is presently before the Court for screening.

A. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

B. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff is a state prisoner at California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California -- where the acts he complains of occurred. Plaintiff names "Woodford" as the only defendant in this action.

Plaintiff alleges that: on September 13, 2004, he was assigned as the porter in the Unit #2 gym; another inmate sustained a cut, and caused a pooling of blood in various locations; officers Dunne and Miller ordered Plaintiff to clean up the blood without protective clothing and/or gloves; Plaintiff accidentally placed his unprotected hand in a pool of the blood; officers Dunne and Miller sent Plaintiff to the medical clinic where MTA Griffin (who was still caring for the bleeding inmate, and had been notified that Plaintiff was on his way) sent Plaintiff back to his housing unit without exam and/or treatment; on September 17, 2004, Plaintiff felt ill and was seen by MTA Gage who had Plaintiff fill out a request form to see a doctor; Plaintiff was seen on September 21, 2004 by Infectious Control Disease RN, Joan Boatman who drew a blood sample and initiated a series of Hepatitis vaccines; the next day, Plaintiff's blood results were negative for HIV, and positive for Hepatitis C; on November 3, 2004, a subsequent blood draw came back negative for Hepatitis C; and Plaintiff filed inmate appeals regarding the incident and subsequent medical care which were variously denied, and granted.

Plaintiff does not state what, if any damages/relief, he seeks.

Plaintiff fails to state which of his constitutional rights he feels were violated. Rather, he presents his first amended complaint as a chronological rendition of events. The Court provides Plaintiff with the following law that might apply based on his factual allegations. However, it is Plaintiff's duty to specify his claims for relief and their factual basis. The Court will not guess as to which facts Plaintiff believes support his unspecified constitutional violations.

Further, it appears to the Court that, rather than stating his allegations in a full and complete amended complaint, Plaintiff merely states factual allegations, attempting to correct/perfect the defects in his claims as identified in this Court's prior screening order. The Court provides Plaintiff with the following law that appears to apply to his generalized claims. Plaintiff was previously advised, and is hereby reminded that Local Rule 15-220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. As a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once Plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleading no longer serves any function in the case. The Court hereby gives Plaintiff one final opportunity to cure the defects in his pleadings. If Plaintiff chooses to file a second amended complaint, he must name all defendants he intends to pursue, clearly state the factual allegations upon which he asserts liability of each defendant, and delineate the damages/relief he seeks.

C. Pleading Requirements

1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. A court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. Id. at 514. "'The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test.'" Jackson v. Carey, 353 F.3d 750, 755 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004) ("'Pleadings need suffice only to put the opposing party on notice of the claim . . . .'" (quoting Fontana v. Haskin, 262 F.3d 871, 977 (9th Cir. 2001))). However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

2. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a)

"The controlling principle appears in Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a) 'A party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.' Thus multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

Plaintiff is advised that if he chooses to file an amended complaint, and fails to comply with Rule 18(a), the Court will count all frivolous/non-cognizable unrelated claims that are dismissed therein as strikes such that he may be barred from filing in forma pauperis in the future.

3. Linkage Requirement

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute plainly requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[a] person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 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 complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

The only defendant Plaintiff names in his first amended complaint is "Woodford." However, Plaintiff fails to link Woodford to any affirmative act(s) or omission(s) that violated his constitutional rights. Further, in his "Statement of Facts," Plaintiff states the names of several prison personnel whom are not named as defendants in the caption, or in any designation of parties/defendants. If he chooses to file a second amended complaint, Plaintiff must list all persons whom he chooses to pursue as defendants in the caption and under a section for identification of the parties.

D. Claims for Relief

1. Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

Plaintiff alleges that MTA Griffin (who was still caring for the bleeding inmate, and had been notified that Plaintiff was on his way) sent Plaintiff back to his housing unit without exam and/or treatment and that he subsequently tested with mixed results for Hepatitis C, and was negative for HIV.

Where a prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim is one of inadequate medical care, the prisoner must allege and prove "acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 106. Such a claim has two elements: "the seriousness of the prisoner's medical need and the nature of the defendant's response to that need." McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir.1991). A medical need is serious "if the failure to treat the prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059 (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104). Indications of a serious medical need include "the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities." Id. at 1059-60. By establishing the existence of a serious medical need, a prisoner satisfies the objective requirement for proving an Eighth Amendment violation. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994).

If a prisoner establishes the existence of a serious medical need, he or she must then show that prison officials responded to the serious medical need with deliberate indifference. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. In general, deliberate indifference may be shown when prison officials deny, delay, or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, or it may be shown by the way in which prison officials provide medical care. Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d 390, 393-94 (9th Cir.1988). Before it can be said that a prisoner's civil rights have been abridged with regard to medical care, however, "the indifference to his medical needs must be substantial. Mere 'indifference,' 'negligence,' or 'medical malpractice' will not support this cause of action." Broughton v. Cutter Laboratories, 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir.1980) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06). See also Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir.2004). Deliberate indifference is "a state of mind more blameworthy than negligence" and "requires 'more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interests or safety.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835 (quoting Whitley, 475 U.S. at 319).

Where the prisoner is alleging that delay of medical treatment evinces deliberate indifference, the prisoner must show that the delay led to further injury. See McGuckin v. Smith 974 F.2d 1050, 1060; Shapely v. Nevada Bd of State Prison Comm'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985) (per curiam).

The Court recognizes that Plaintiff's possible exposure to HIV and Hepatitis C is a serious medical need. MTA Griffin was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical need in as much as he was still caring for the bleeding inmate, and had been notified that Plaintiff was on his way, when he sent Plaintiff back to his housing unit without exam and/or treatment. However, it is unclear both: (1) whether Plaintiff actually contracted any communicable disease by his exposure to another inmate's blood; and/or (2) what, if any further injury Plaintiff sustained as a result of MTA Griffin turning him away without exam and/or treatment.

Plaintiff's claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical need is not cognizable since any delay in Plaintiff's medical care, allegedly caused by MTA Griffin, does not appear to have led to further injury.

2. Inmate Appeals Process

Plaintiff alleges that his inmate appeals regarding his medical care subsequent to exposure to another inmate's blood were variously denied and granted.

There is no constitutional right to an inmate appeals process. The Ninth Circuit has held that Prisoners do not have a "separate constitutional entitlement to a specific prison grievance procedure." Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir.2003), citing Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir.1988). The non-existence of, or the failure of prison officials to properly implement, an administrative appeals process within the prison system does not raise constitutional concerns. Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir.1988). See also, Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir.1993); Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d 728 (8th Cir.1991); Azeez v. DeRobertis, 568 F.Supp. 8, 10 (N.D.Ill.1982) ("[A prison] grievance procedure is a procedural right only, it does not confer any substantive right upon the inmates. Hence, it does not give rise to a protected liberty interest requiring the procedural protections envisioned by the fourteenth amendment"). A failure to process a grievance does not state a constitutional violation. Buckley, supra. State regulations give rise to a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the federal constitution only if those regulations pertain to "freedom from restraint" that "imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 2300 (1995).

As there is no right to an inmate appeals process, Plaintiff fails and is unable to state a cognizable claim for relief against any possible defendants.

II. CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's first amended complaint is dismissed, with leave to file a second amended complaint within thirty days. If Plaintiff needs an extension of time to comply with this order, Plaintiff shall file a motion seeking an extension of time no later than thirty days from the date of service of this order.

Plaintiff must demonstrate in his second amended complaint how the conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). The complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. There can be no liability under section 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

Plaintiff is reminded that Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a) provides that "'[a] party asserting a claim to relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, may join, either as independent or as alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.' Thus, multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2. Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, not only to prevent the sort of morass [a multiple claim, multiple defendant] suit produce[s], but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees-for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of the required fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)." George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).

Plaintiff is advised that the Court cannot serve as a repository for the parties' evidence. Originals or copies of evidence (i.e., prison or medical records, witness affidavits, etc.) should not be submitted until the course of litigation brings the evidence into question (for example, on a motion for summary judgment, at trial, or when requested by the court). At this point, the submission of evidence is premature as Plaintiff is only required to state a prima facie claim for relief. Thus, in amending his complaint, Plaintiff should simply state the facts upon which he alleges a defendant has violated his constitutional rights and refrain from submitting exhibits.

Finally, Plaintiff is advised that Local Rule 15-220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. As a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once Plaintiff files a second amended complaint, the prior pleadings no longer serve any function in the case. Therefore, in a second amended complaint, as in an original complaint, each defendant must be named and/or identified, and each claim, sufficiently stating the involvement of each defendant, must be sufficiently alleged.

Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's first amended complaint is dismissed, with leave to amend;

2. The Clerk's Office shall send Plaintiff a civil rights complaint form;

3. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff must file a second amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order; and

4. If Plaintiff fails to comply with this order, this action will be dismissed for failure to obey a court order and for failure to state a claim.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20080916

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