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Carter v. Dawson

January 30, 2009

LON CARTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NICK DAWSON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Wunderlich United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT OR TO NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED ONLY ON CLAIMS FOUND TO BE COGNIZABLE (Doc. 1) RESPONSE DUE WITHIN 30 DAYS

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Lon Carter ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

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).

"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. P. 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. P. 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. 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)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

A. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff is incarcerated with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at Avenal State Prison in Avenal, California ("Avenal"). Plaintiff is suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the deprivation of rights secured by the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff names warden Nick Dawson, former warden Kathy Mendoza Powers, associate warden Rosemary Ndoa, Lieutenant M.D. Bear, nursing practitioner Pam Karr, and chief medical officer Erica Weinstein as defendants.

Plaintiff contracted a staph infection while incarcerated at Avenal in August 2006. Plaintiff alleges that his infection was a result of the unconstitutional conditions of confinement at Avenal. Plaintiff alleges that Avenal is overcrowded, prison staff do not conduct sufficient housing unit inspections and cleaning, prisoners are deprived of hot water, and that the prison lacks sufficient policies and protocols to identify and prevent staph infection outbreaks.

B. Eighth Amendment Claim - Conditions of Confinement

Plaintiff alleges that the unsanitary exposure to staph infection at Avenal constitutes a violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments and "embodies 'broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency.'" Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) (quoting Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 579 (8th Cir. 1968)). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) the objective requirement that the deprivation is "sufficiently serious", Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991), and (2) the subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind", Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298). The objective requirement that the deprivation be "sufficiently serious" is met where the prison official's act or omission results in the denial of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities". Id. (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). The subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind" is met where the prison official acts with "deliberate indifference" to inmate health or safety. Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-303).

"It is undisputed that the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which [the prisoner] is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment." Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). Prisoner officials must provide prisoners with "food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety." Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir. 1986). While allegations of overcrowding, alone, are insufficient to state a claim under the Eight Amendment, see Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 348 (1981); Balla v. Idaho State Bd. of Corr., 869 F.2d 461, 471 (9th Cir. 1989); Akao v. Shimoda, 832, F.2d 119, 120 (9th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (citing Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1249 (9th Cir. 1982)), where crowding causes an increase in violence or reduces the provision of other constitutionally required services the prisoner may be able to state a claim, see Balla, 869 F.2d at 471; Toussaint v. Yockey, 722 F.2d 1490, 1492 (9th Cir. 1984); Hoptowit, 682 F.2d at 1248-49.

Plaintiff alleges that the institutional policies of Defendants Dawson and Mendoza Powers resulted in overcrowding which caused defendants to be unable to provide sanitary conditions that are required under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff's allegations regarding the overcrowding combined with the lack of cleaning, hot water, and infection containment protocols satisfies the objective requirement for stating an Eighth Amendment violation. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants Dawson and Mendoza Powers knew of the violations and failed to correct them, evincing the deliberate indifference required for ...


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