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Mehari v. Cox

May 18, 2009

ZENAWE MEHARI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
R.V. COX, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On September 15, 2008, defendants moved to dismiss this action, arguing that plaintiff had failed to exhaust available administrative remedies prior to bringing suit and that plaintiff's complaint fails to state a cognizable claim for relief. Plaintiff has filed an opposition, and defendants have filed a reply. Plaintiff has also filed an unauthorized response to defendants' reply. See Local Rule 78-230(m).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on his original complaint against defendants Cox, James, and Flaherty. Therein, he alleges as follows. On November 2, 2005, he began experiencing extreme lower-back pain that affected his daily movement and functioning. On November 29, 2005, he transferred to High Desert State Prison where he sought medical treatment from the defendants on numerous occasions. The defendants have refused to provide plaintiff with an MRI and appropriate referrals to outside back specialists. Plaintiff claims that the defendants have denied him adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment and requests compensatory and punitive damages. (Compl. at 3 & Attach. 1-26.)

DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

I. Defendants' Motion

Counsel for defendants argues that the court should dismiss this action against defendants James and Flaherty because plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing this suit. Counsel acknowledges that plaintiff filed inmate appeal HDSP-D-06-0162, regarding his back pain and desire for an MRI. However, counsel contends that plaintiff failed to mention defendants James and Flaherty by name in his administrative appeal. In addition, counsel argues, plaintiff only complained about the fact that defendant Cox had requested an MRI and that the Medical Authorization Review Committee had refused to grant it. According to defense counsel, plaintiff did not complain in his administrative appeal about defendant Flaherty's alleged refusal to refer him to a back specialist and Flaherty's failure to notify a physician of his back complaints as he does in the complaint filed in this action. According to counsel, nor did plaintiff complain in the administrative appeal about defendant James' alleged refusal to order an MRI and the decision to cancel a nurse's order for an MRI. Finally, counsel contends that plaintiff filed his administrative grievance on June 11, 2006, but the allegations in his complaint against defendants James and Flaherty are regarding events that took place after this date. Accordingly, counsel concludes that plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing this suit. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 6-7; Grannis & Dangler Decls.)

Counsel for defendants also argues that the court should dismiss this action against defendant Cox because plaintiff's complaint fails to state a cognizable claim against him. Counsel notes that plaintiff's complaint alleges that defendant Cox was deliberately indifferent in violation of the Eighth Amendment by failing to provide him with adequate medical care, specifically, with an MRI for his back. However, counsel argues that the allegations of the complaint reveals no actual deliberate indifference by defendant Cox. In this regard, counsel contends that defendant Cox prescribed plaintiff medication and ordered him to take long showers and walks to help manage his back pain. In addition, defendant Cox ordered an x-ray of plaintiff's back and requested two MRI's for plaintiff's back, but the Medical Authorization Review Committee denied those requests. Counsel argues that plaintiff's allegations fail to show that defendant Cox either purposefully ignored or failed to respond to plaintiff's medical needs. Accordingly, counsel concludes that the court should dismiss plaintiff's complaint against defendant Cox for failure to state a claim. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 10-11.)

II. Plaintiff's Opposition

In opposition to defendants' motion to dismiss, plaintiff argues that he has exhausted his administrative remedies. Plaintiff contends that he filed his administrative grievance after he met with the defendants on numerous occasions for his chronic back pain. According to plaintiff, the defendants knew of his ongoing medical condition and complaints as early as November 29, 2005, when he was transferred to High Desert State Prison. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 2-3 & Ex. 1.)

Plaintiff also argues that he has stated a cognizable claim for relief against defendant Cox in that his complaint sufficiently alleges that defendant Cox was aware of his chronic back pain but refused to treat him in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff further contends that he continues to suffer from chronic back pain as a result of defendant Cox's alleged failure to provide him with adequate medical care. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 4-5.)

III. Defendants' Reply

In reply, counsel for defendants reiterates his arguments that plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies as evidenced by the differences between the allegations in his inmate appeal and the allegations of his civil rights complaint. Counsel contends that prison officials were never put on notice that plaintiff was complaining about the alleged actions of defendants James and Flaherty. In addition, counsel reiterates that plaintiff's own allegations demonstrate that defendant Cox was not deliberately indifferent to his medical needs because Cox prescribed plaintiff pain medication and requested on two occasions that plaintiff receive an MRI. Accordingly, for these reasons, counsel concludes that the court should grant defendants' motion to dismiss. (Defs.' Reply at 2-3.)

ANALYSIS

I. Legal Standards Applicable to a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to ...


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