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Cazares v. Yates

March 18, 2010

SIMON CAZARES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES YATES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN 30 DAYS

(Doc. 1)

Plaintiff Simon Cazares ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and is incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") in Coalinga, California. Plaintiff is suing under section 1983 for deliberate indifference toward his medical needs, implicating his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff names warden James Yates and "all responsible state employees (PVSP medical staff and state officials)" as defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any claims upon which relief can be granted under section 1983. Plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed with leave to file an amended complaint that cures the deficiencies identified by the Court.

I. 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).

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under 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)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability... 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

II. Background

Plaintiff alleges that he suffered from "a left comminuted radio ulnar fracture" from playing sports. Plaintiff was seen the same day be medical staff and given a split. Plaintiff awaited cast placement and an orthopedic consultation. However, he did not receive further treatment despite making repeated requests. Plaintiff claims that he suffers constant pain and permanent deformity in his arm and wrist because of the failure to provide further treatment.

III. Discussion

A. Eighth Amendment Claims

Plaintiff claims that his rights were violated by prison officials' deliberate indifference toward his medical needs. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments and "embodies 'broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity and decency.'" Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) (quoting Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 579 (8th Cir. 1968)). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) the objective requirement that the deprivation is "sufficiently serious", Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991), and (2) the subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind", Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298). The objective requirement that the deprivation be "sufficiently serious" is met where the prison official's act or omission results in the denial of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities". Id. (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). The subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind" is met where the prison official acts with "deliberate indifference" to inmate health or safety. Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 302-303). A prison official acts with deliberate indifference when he/she "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety". Id. at 837. "[T]he official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id.

"[D]eliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury states a cause of action under § 1983." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105. In order to state an Eighth Amendment claim based on deficient medical treatment, a plaintiff must show: (1) a serious medical need; and (2) a deliberately indifferent response by the defendant. Conn v. City of Reno, 572 F.3d 1047, 1055 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006)). A serious medical need is shown by alleging that the failure to treat the plaintiff's condition could result in further significant injury, or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain. Id. A deliberately indifferent response by the defendant is shown by a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and harm caused by the indifference. Id. In order to constitute deliberate indifference, there must be an objective risk of harm and the defendant must have subjective awareness of that harm. Id. However, "a complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). Isolated occurrences of neglect do not constitute deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. See Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006); McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1060 (9th Cir. 1992); O'Loughlin v. Doe, 920 F.2d 614, 617 (9th Cir. 1990).

Plaintiff alleges sufficient facts to establish that he had serious medical needs. Plaintiff claims that the lack of treatment led to permanent deformities and constant pain. However, Plaintiff fails to allege facts that demonstrate who caused the delays in his medical treatment and fails to allege facts that support his conclusion that these prison officials acted with deliberate indifference. Plaintiff does not identify who denied his requests for treatment or identify any prison officials who knew about Plaintiff's condition and failed to take reasonable action to treat Plaintiff. The only individual that Plaintiff identifies is Defendant James Yates, who is alleged to be the warden at PVSP. Plaintiff does not allege that Yates knew about Plaintiff's condition or is responsible for providing medical care to Plaintiff. Plaintiff cannot hold Defendant Yates liable under section 1983 solely by reason of his supervisory position as warden at PVSP. See discussion infra Part III.B.

Plaintiff vaguely alleges that "all responsible state employees" should be held liable. In order to state a claim under section 1983, Plaintiff must provide some allegation of who these employees are and what they did. For each prison official being sued, Plaintiff must 1) identify who that prison official is, 2) allege how that prison official knew of a serious risk to Plaintiff's health, and 3) allege how that prison official's actions exposed Plaintiff to a serious risk to his health. Plaintiff cannot simply allege that he was denied medical care and suffered injury. Such allegations are not sufficient to state a claim under section 1983 for a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff has failed to identify which prison officials ...


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