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Newsome v. Schwarzenegger

March 11, 2009

DORIS NEWSOME, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST TO THEODORE HAYWARD, JR., DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER; JAMES E.TILTON; KATHY MENDOZA-POWERS, (DOE NO. 1); ROBIN DEZEMBER; MEET BOPARAI, M.D.; DR. S. SURYA, (DOE NO. 2); COLONIAL MEDICAL GROUP , INC., (DOE NO. 3); THOMAS C. WEN, M.D., (DOE NO. 4); SARABJIT SINGH, M.D., (DOE NO. 5); KERN CARDIOLOGY MEDICAL GROUP, INC.; (DOE NO. 6) AVENAL STATE PRISON HEALTH CARE MANAGER (DOE NO. 7); AVENAL STATE PRISON CORRECTIONAL HEALTH CARE SERVICES ADMINISTRATOR, (DOE NO. 8); PETER FARBER-SZEKRENYI, DR. P.H. (DOE NO. 9); AND DOES 10-200. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Doris Newsome ("Plaintiff") brings this civil action against several defendants for the death of her son, Theodore Hayward, Jr. ("Hayward"), a former prisoner of Avenal State Prison. The complaint alleges violations of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as violations of state law.

Plaintiff named as Defendants several state officials and employees of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"), the Division of Correctional Health Care Services ("CHCS"), and Avenal State Prison ("ASP") (collectively "Public Defendants"). Public Defendants have brought a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("FAC") under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn1

Because Plaintiff also included as Defendants several private doctors alleged to be acting as employees or agents of the Public Defendants (collectively "Private Defendants"), those Private Defendants have concurrently filed their own Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss, which is alternatively made as a Motion for a More Definite Statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). Both the Public and Private Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are now before the Court for adjudication.

Plaintiff's Opposition Briefs concede several of the issues raised by Defendants in their Motions, and Plaintiff offers to file an Amended Complaint to adequately address those issues.

Accordingly, for that reason, as well as the reasons discussed below, the Motions of Public and Private Defendants will be granted in part and denied in part.*fn2

BACKGROUND

In or around April 2006, while an inmate at ASP, Hayward suffered from a significant cardiac event and was transferred from the prison to Fresno Community Hospital ("FCH"), a hospital operated independently from CDCR and CHCS.*fn3 Doctors at FCH allegedly diagnosed Hayward with a significant cardiac condition, which required placement of an "Automatic Implanted Cardiac Defribulator" ("AICD"). Plaintiff alleges that use of an AICD was "medically necessary ... to prevent a significant cardiac incident." (FAC ¶ 6.) Accordingly, between April 2006 and October 2006, FCH doctors requested approval from the officers, employees, and/or agents of ASP, CDCR, and CHCS (i.e. Defendants), to provide Hayward with AICD treatment. Plaintiff also alleges that during this time Hayward made direct request to Defendants for placement of an AICD, but that such requests were denied.

On May 19, 2007, Hayward, while still a prisoner at ASP, suffered from a significant cardiac arrhythmia that resulted in his death. Hayward was 38 years old. Plaintiff believes that requests for AICD treatment may have continued throughout this date, but that all such requests were denied.

On September 12, 2007, Plaintiff's attorney filed a tort Claim Form with the California Victim's Compensation and Government Claim Board ("VCGCB"). The Claim Form requested compensation for Hayward's wrongful death, his pain and suffering, the deliberate indifference towards his medical needs, and his future earnings capacity. On or about October 22, 2007, Plaintiff received notice from the VCGCB denying her claim.

Plaintiff then filed suit in this Court, naming as Defendants several officials, employees, and/or agents of ASP, CDCR, and CHCS. These individuals include the following:

(1) James Tilton, Acting Secretary of the CDCR; (2) Kathy Mendoza-Powers, Warden of ASP; (3) Meet Boparai, M.D., an attending physician at ASP; (4) Thomas C. Wen, M.D., an employee or agent of Colonial Medical Group, Inc., and an attending physician at ASP; (5) Sarabjit Singh, M.D., an employee or agent of Kern Cardiology Medical Group, Inc., and agent of CDCR and/or ASP; (6) Robin Dezember, an acting Director of the CDCR-CHCS; (7) Peter Farber-Szekrenyi, Dr. P.H., an acting Director of CDCRCHCS; and several unnamed parties, including DOES 10-200.

Public Defendants have submitted voluminous medical records to the Court, in support of their Motion to Dismiss, in an effort to show that Hayward had not agreed to AICD treatment during his stay at FCH. (Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. to Dis. 3 [hereinafter Pub. Defs.' Motion].) Based on those records, Public Defendants assert that ASP medical staff had not been contacted by FCH until May 20, 2006. They claim that Hayward did not ask to speak with ASP medical staff about his diagnosis at FCH until June 9, 2006. (Pub. Defs.' Motion 4.) Pointing to alleged discussions with Defendant Boparai during June 2006, Public Defendants claim that Hayward never requested AICD treatment (Pub. Defs.' Motion 4.) They go on to claim that the medical records show that Defendants had conducted medical exams, had evaluated the appropriate treatment for Hayward, including placement of an AICD, and had provided treatment for Hayward's condition based on their opinion as medical professionals. (Public Defs.' Motion 12.). The medical records cited to support these propositions comprise some 500 pages spanning a period of time between October 2006 and May 2007.

Private Defendants, in their separately-filed Motion to Dismiss, also dispute the facts as related by Plaintiff and argue that Hayward's treatment did not amount to deliberate indifference. They point to evidence similar to that offered by Public Defendants and thus construe Defendants' decision to deny placement of an AICD as "merely a difference in medical judgment ...." (Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defendants 5 [hereinafter Private Defs.' Motion 5.) In addition, as indicated above, Private Defendants move in the alternative for a more definite statement, claiming that they are unable to ascertain just what is being alleged against them in the FAC.

STANDARD

1. Motion to Dismiss

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed. 2d 80 (1957). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitlement to relief" requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 2007 U.S. LEXIS 5901, 20-22 (U.S. 2007) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id. at 21 (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004) ("The pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action").

If the court grants a motion to dismiss a complaint, it must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. The court should "freely give[]" leave to amend when there is no "undue delay, bad faith[,] dilatory motive on the part of the movant, . . . undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of . . . the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment. . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Generally, leave to amend is only denied when it is clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment. DeSoto v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 957 F.2d 655, 658 (9th Cir. 1992).

2. Motion for a More Definite Statement

Before interposing a responsive pleading, a defendant may move for a more definitive statement "[i]f a pleading...is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). A Rule 12(e) motion is proper when the plaintiff's complaint is so indefinite that the defendant cannot ascertain the nature of the claim being asserted. Gay-Straight Alliance Network v. Visalia Unified Sch. Dist., 262 F. Supp. 2d 1088, 1099 (E.D. Cal. 2001).

Due to the liberal pleading standards in the federal courts embodied in Rule 8(e) and the availability of extensive discovery, courts should not freely grant motions for more definitive statements. Famolare, Inc. v. Edison ...


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