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McGill v. Tranquina

June 9, 2009

BRUCE MCGILL, AN INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFF(S),
v.
ALVAROC TRANQUINA, MD, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER AND HEALTH CARE MANAGER OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE PRISON, SOLANO, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES; AND DOES 1-10, DEFENDANT(S).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David O. Carter United States District Judge Sitting by Designation

ORDER

Bruce McGill ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner incarcerated at the California State Prison in Solano, California. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's complaint has made the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and may proceed accordingly.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, this Court must "review, before docketing... or ... as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). "On review, the court [must] identify cognizable claims or dismiss... any portion of the complaint, if the complaint -- (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b). This Court must therefore determine whether the Complaint states a cognizable claim for relief with respect to each named defendant.

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "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." Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007)(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive a dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. 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).

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: 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 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. Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. (1976). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of 1983, if he does an affirmatives 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).

Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Finally, vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

II. DISCUSSION

In 2006, at the age of 44, Plaintiff was diagnosed with glaucoma while incarcerated. In April 2008, Plaintiff began inconsistently receiving his glaucoma medicine, which was required daily. Plaintiff filed an emergency appeal when he had not received his medicine for 30 days. His appeal was granted, and the medical staff apologized for the delay in medical treatment and for any pain the delay had caused. Despite the appeal, Plaintiff did not receive all of his medication. Plaintiff then made an unsuccessful appeal to the prison's warden. Plaintiff submitted a second level appeal, which was granted, but his medication was delivered at a time later than promised. Plaintiff alleges he was denied his glaucoma medication for four months.

As a result of being deprived of his medication, Plaintiff has suffered loss of vision in his left eye, pain in his eye, and headaches. Plaintiff alleges that the prison doctor, Alvaroc Tranquina ("Defendant"), engaged in a custom, policy, and/or practice to fail and refuse to give Plaintiff his medication and that he refused to treat the resulting symptoms of headache, eye pain, and vision loss. Plaintiff argues that the Defendant's conduct constituted deliberate indifference to his constitutional rights and violated the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff requests compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney's fees, costs of the suit, and other and further relief as the Court deems proper.

Deliberate indifference to prisoners' medical needs is cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102-06, 97 S.Ct. 285, 290-92 (1976); See also Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237 (9th Cir.1982) (holding that the deficiency of medical care in the Washington State Penitentiary reflected a deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners, but that standards of care set by medical experts described an ideal level of care rather than a constitutional minimum level of care).

Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment. Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173, 96 S.Ct. 2909 (1976). This is true whether the indifference is manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed. Regardless of ...


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