The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS (Doc. 26) OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN 30 DAYS
Plaintiff James Edward Stanfield, Sr. ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants Woolkfolk and Callaway*fn1 have filed a motion to dismiss based on Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit and Plaintiff's failure to state a claim. Defendants filed their motion to dismiss on July 10, 2009. (Doc. #26.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on October 9, 2009. (Doc. #36.) This action is proceeding on Plaintiff's complaint filed on December 10, 2007. (Doc. #1.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit and recommends that Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted.
I. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Defendants' argue in their motion to dismiss that they are entitled to dismissal because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim and Plaintiff failed to exhaust the administrative appeals process prior to filing this lawsuit. (Defs.' Notice of Mot. And Mot. To Dismiss Compl. 1:21-24.)
Plaintiff's complaint claims that Defendants Woolfolk, Garcia, Callaway, and Casimiro violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by deliberately exposing Plaintiff to a risk of serious injury by providing Plaintiff his medication (Seroquel) in crushed form, which caused Plaintiff to blackout and injure himself. Plaintiff also claims that Woolfolk retaliated against Plaintiff's exercise of his First Amendment rights by deliberately crushing Plaintiff's Seroquel after Plaintiff filed inmate grievances against her. The Court previously screened Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and found that Plaintiff's allegations were sufficient under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standards to support cognizable claims against Defendants Woolfolk, Garcia, Callaway, and Casimiro for the violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, and against Defendant Woolfolk for retaliation. (Order Requiring Pl. To File Am. Compl. Or to Notify Court of Willingness to Proceed Only on Claims Found to be Cognizable 6:13-15.)
Defendants argue that Plaintiff's allegations do not support cognizable claims against Defendants Woolfolk or Callaway. Defendants contend that Plaintiff has not alleged that he suffered physical injury on any of the occasions that he was given crushed Seroquel by Defendants Woolfolk or Callaway. (P. & A. In Supp. Of Mot. To Dismiss Compl. 7:1-2.) Defendants contend that inmates are barred from seeking compensatory damages for mental or emotional damages unless they show physical injury. (P. & A. 6:24-25.) Defendants also argue that Plaintiff has failed to allege that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference. (P. & A. 7:4-19.) Defendants contend that because Defendants were ordered by the Associate Warden and the Chief Psychiatrist to administer Seroquel in crushed form, Defendants lack the requisite subjective state of mind necessary to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment or for retaliation. (P. & A. 7:15-19.)
Defendants also argue that they are entitled to dismissal because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by pursing his inmate appeal to the third level of review. (P. & A. 3:16-6:20.) Defendants note that Plaintiff is required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit. (P. & A. 3:26-4:1.) Defendants contend that Plaintiff only pursued his inmate appeal to the informal level of review. (P. & A. 5:3-4.) Although Plaintiff's appeal was granted at the informal level, the problem was not resolved at the informal level because the licensed vocational nurses continued to crush Plaintiff's medication. (P. & A. 5:16-18.) Defendants argue that Plaintiff should have continued to pursue his appeal. (P. & A. 5:18-19.) Defendants further contend that Plaintiff's complaint arose from a conflict between the orders of the doctors and the orders of the administrators. (P. & A. 5:5-6.) Defendants argue that if Plaintiff had pursued his inmate appeal to the second level of review, the issue of the conflicting orders would have been brought to the attention of the administration and the problem could have been solved. (P. & A. 5:6-8.) Defendants note that several remedies were still available to Plaintiff through the appeals process, such as an apology, medical personnel training, and the changing of rules or regulations. (P. & A. 5:11-13.)
In his opposition, Plaintiff argues that his administrative remedies should be deemed exhausted. Plaintiff argues that his appeal was fully granted at the lower level and Plaintiff should not be required to continue to pursue his appeal after it has been fully granted. (Pl. Notice of Mot. Opposing Defs.' Mot. To Dismiss Compl. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that two doctors granted Plaintiff's inmate appeal at the informal level and agreed that Plaintiff's Seroquel should not be crushed. (Mot. Opposing Mot. To Dismiss 1.)
Defendants argue that they are entitled to dismissal because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Plaintiff is required to exhaust any administrative remedies available to him before bringing suit. "No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § 1983], or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The PLRA exhaustion requirement requires proper exhaustion. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006). "Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules. . . ." Id. at 90-91. The proper exhaustion requirement serves two important purposes: 1) it gives an agency the opportunity to correct its own mistakes before it is brought into federal court and it discourages disregard of the agency's procedures; and 2) it promotes efficiency because claims can be resolved much more quickly and economically in proceedings before an agency than in litigation in federal court. Id. at 89.
Prisoners are required to exhaust their administrative remedies regardless of what relief is offered through the administrative procedures. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). Thus, prisoners cannot evade the exhaustion requirement by limiting their request for relief to forms of relief that are not offered through administrative grievance mechanisms. Id. (prisoners cannot skip administrative process by simply limiting prayers for relief to money damages not offered through administrative grievance mechanisms). Thus, prisoners may not cease pursuing administrative appeals simply because the appeal process does not offer the form of relief that they seek. If the administrative appeal process offers any form of relief, the prisoner is obligated to complete the appeal process. At the same time, "a prisoner need not press on to exhaust further levels of review once he has either received all 'available' remedies at an intermediate level of review or been reliably informed by an administrator that no remedies are available." Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926 (9th Cir. 2005).
Defendants argue that Plaintiff did not comply with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's critical procedural rules. Defendants allege that proper exhaustion of administrative remedies requires prisoners to proceed through several levels of appeal, culminating in the third level appeal to the Director of the California Department of Corrections. (P. & A. 4:11-16.) Plaintiff only pursued his appeal to the informal level of review. Plaintiff argues that his informal level appeal requested that the prison refrain from crushing his Seroquel. Plaintiff's informal level appeal was granted and Plaintiff argues that he is not obligated to pursue his appeal further. Defendants concede that Plaintiff's ...