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Herrera v. Hall

July 13, 2010

CARLOS HERRERA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
C. HALL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DENIAL OF DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS (Docs. 17, 25, 28) OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN 30 DAYS

Plaintiff Carlos Herrera ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court are three motions to dismiss from Defendants. On October 23, 2009, Defendant Grannis filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. #17.) On November 9, 2009, Defendants Hall and Zamora filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. #25.) On November 16, 2009, Defendant Moonga filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. #28.) Plaintiff has filed oppositions to all three motions to dismiss. (Docs. #30, 36, 39.) Defendants Grannis, Hall, Zamora, and Moonga (collectively referred to as "Defendants" in this order) have filed replies to Plaintiff's oppositions. (Docs. #34, 38, 40.) All three motions to dismiss argue that Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Defendants for their role in responding to Plaintiff's administrative appeals. The issues raised in all three motions to dismiss are identical. Therefore, the Court will address all three motions simultaneously.

I. Background

A. Plaintiff's Complaint

This action proceeds on Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint filed on June 19, 2009. (Doc. #10.) Plaintiff is suing Defendants under Section 1983 for the violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff names N. Dill, Sherry Lopez, C. Hall, N. Grannis, Turella, Penner, S. Zamora, G. Moonga, and L. Bluford as Defendants.*fn1

Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent toward his serious medical needs and that Defendants denied him treatment for his Hepatitis C. The denial of treatment was initially based on reports in Plaintiff's medical file that rendered him ineligible for treatment due to a history of drug abuse and mental illness. Plaintiff alleges that he informed Defendants that these reports were false and requested that Defendants provide treatment. However, Defendants continued to deny Plaintiff's requests for treatment. Plaintiff claims that he suffered severe injury as a result of Defendants' decisions to deny him treatment.

Plaintiff claims that he requested Hepatitis treatment from Defendants Turella, Penner, and Lopez, each alleged to be physicians. Plaintiff filed an administrative appeal requesting Hepatitis treatment that explained that his treatment requests were being denied because of false reports in Plaintiff's medical file. Plaintiff's administrative appeal was denied by Defendants Bluford, Dill, Hall, Grannis, Moonga, and Zamora. Plaintiff alleges that Bluford, Dill, Hall, Grannis, Moonga, and Zamora were all aware that the reports in Plaintiff's medical file were false, yet denied Plaintiff's requests for treatment based on information in the false reports.

B. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

In their motions to dismiss, Defendants argue that they are entitled to dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because Plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to state a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation. Defendants argue that Plaintiff cannot state a claim for relief based on Defendants' actions in processing Plaintiff's administrative appeals. Defendants contend that "[a] claim for relief based on the failure to grant administrative grievances or process them properly is not a cognizable claim because there is no constitutional guarantee to a prison administrative grievance or appeal system." (Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Grannis' Mot. to Dismiss 3:15-19; Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Zamora and Hall's Mot. to Dismiss 3:15-18; Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Moonga's Mot. to Dismiss 3:8-11.) Defendants argue that ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to a constitutional violation and that prison officials whose participation in an alleged constitutional violation is limited to the consideration of a prisoner's administrative complaint cannot be held liable for that violation under Section 1983.

Plaintiff argues that he is not challenging the constitutionality of the inmate administrative grievance process, and is instead challenging Defendants' role in denying Plaintiff's medical care when Plaintiff had a serious need for medical care. Plaintiff claims that Defendants had the authority to grant Plaintiff's request for treatment and there was no legitimate reason to deny Plaintiff's request for treatment. Plaintiff claims that Defendants knew that the reports in Plaintiff's medical file were false, yet denied Plaintiff's requests for treatment based on the information in the false reports. Plaintiff further argues that Defendants were aware of Plaintiff's need for treatment and were aware of the excessive risk posed by denying treatment. Plaintiff argues that the denial thus constituted deliberate indifference.

II. Discussion

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

Defendants contend that they are entitled to dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because Plaintiff's first amended complaint fails to state a claim. To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must meet the pleading standard set by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. 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 ...


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