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Chappell v. Newbarth

April 30, 2009

REX CHAPPELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEWBARTH, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (Doc. 1)

I. SCREENING ORDER

Rex Chappell ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on October 4, 2006. (Doc. 1.)

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).

"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)).

B. Summary of Plaintiff's Complaint

At the time of the issues complained of in his complaint, Plaintiff was a state prisoner at Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison ("SATF") in Corcoran, California. Currently, Plaintiff is incarcerated at High Desert State Prison, in Susanville, California. Plaintiff names defendants Dr. J. Neubarth, Nurse Practitioner Elias Lu, Chief Medical Officer W. McGuinnes, Dr. Logholt, and Dr. John Doe. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.

Plaintiff delineates four claims for relief based on claims that he received inappropriate medical care and treatment for his Hepatitis, esophagus, stomach, and spine.

Plaintiff states a number of factual allegations that appear to apply to medical care received by other inmates. The Court is uncertain whether Plaintiff is attempting to pursue this case as a class action. However, Plaintiff is not an attorney and is proceeding without counsel. A non-attorney proceeding pro se may bring his own claims to court, but may not represent others. Fymbo v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 213 F.3d 1320, 1321 (2000); Johns v. County of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1997); C. E. Pope Equity Trust v. United States, 818 F.2d 696, 697 (9th Cir. 1987). A pro se litigant simply cannot "fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(4); Fymbo, 213 F.3d at 1321. Therefore, this action will be construed as an individual civil suit brought by Plaintiff rather than as a class action.

Plaintiff does not state any cognizable claims, but he may be able to amend to correct deficiencies in his pleading so as to state cognizable claims. Thus, he is being given the applicable standards based on his delineated claims for relief and leave to file a first amended complaint.

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. 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.

Plaintiff mentions "Defendant Zoher" in his factual statement, but fails to list "Defendant Zoher" as a defendant in the caption, or anywhere else identifying the parties in his complaint. If Plaintiff intends to pursue claims against "Defendant Zoher" he must appropriately identify this person as a defendant in this action. Further, Plaintiff should clarify which defendant(s) he feels are responsible for any violation(s) of his constitutional rights, as his complaint must put each defendant on notice of Plaintiff's claims against him or her, and their factual basis. See Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004). Generic identifiers such as "Defendants," "the Defendants," and "others" (without surname specificity) are insufficient to link a specific defendant to offending actions and will not suffice to place any Defendant on notice of Plaintiff's claims so as to prepare a defense. McHenry v. Renne 84 F.3d 1172 (9th Cir. 1996). Further, Plaintiff names Nurse Practitioner Elias Lu as a defendant, but fails to link NP Lu to any of his factual allegations. Thus, NP Lu is appropriately dismissed for Plaintiff's failure to link him to any affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

D. Plaintiff's Complaint

1. First Claim for Relief

a. Deliberate Indifference to Serious ...


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