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Tilei v. McGuinness

October 12, 2010

PUNAOFO TSUGITO TILEI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
W.J. MCGUINNESS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN 30 DAYS (Doc. 1)

Plaintiff Punaofo Tsugito Tilei ("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 currently incarcerated at Salinas Valley State Prison. However, the events described in Plaintiff's complaint occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the California State Prison in Corcoran, California ("CSP-Corcoran"). Plaintiff is suing under Section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff names William J. McGuinness (chief medical officer), Jeffrey Wang (chief medical officer), T. Hasadsri (health care manager), Joseph Obaiza (health care manager), Julian Kim (physician), Jeffrey Neubarth (physician), N. Loadholt (physician or nurse), P. Rouch (physician or nurse), Lisa Salinas (health care appeals coordinator), and Does 1-20 as defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any cognizable claims under Section 1983. Plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed, with leave to file an amended complaint that cures the deficiencies identified in this order.

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 claims that he suffers from several health problems, such as "nerve damage, disk damage, spondylotic stenosis of the entire spine and myeloradiculopathy." (Compl. 7, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff claims that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference toward his medical problems.

On November 27, 2007, Plaintiff was scheduled for "urgent cervical spine surgery," but Defendants Loadholt, Hasadsri, and McGuinness "interfered and extremely and woefully delayed Plaintiff[sic] immediate adequate medical treatment." (Compl. 10, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff went on a hunger strike to obtain medical treatment.

Plaintiff waited four months to receive surgery. On March 13, 2008, Plaintiff was transported to UC Davis for his surgery. While waiting for his surgery, one of the doctors, Dr. Babbit, informed Plaintiff that serious and severe problems were discovered in Plaintiff's neck. Plaintiff was told that the problems would result in irreparable harm, including paralysis from his neck to his toes. Plaintiff complains that Defendants Loadholt, Hasadsri, and McGuinness "completely failed and refused to adequately diagnose and treat [Plaintiff] for more than five years despite Plaintiff's persistent complaints about the myriad of symptoms he was experiencing." (Compl. 11, ECF No. 1.) Babbit told Plaintiff that the newly discovered problems would alter Plaintiff's treatment and Plaintiff received "major posterior approach surgery to Plaintiff's cervical spine" instead of "the anterior approach surgery that was planned." (Compl. 11-12, ECF No. 1.)

On March 18, 2008, Plaintiff was still suffering from severe pain after the surgery. Plaintiff complains that he was forcefully removed from the hospital and taken back to prison despite informing officials that he did not want to leave the hospital. Plaintiff was told that he would be taken to the Acute Care Hospital ("ACH") in CSP-Corcoran to receive physical therapy and other necessary medical care. However, Plaintiff was not placed in the ACH when he returned to CSP-Corcoran. Plaintiff was placed in the "security housing unit" and "was completely denied medical care and brushed off and derisively dismissed by both CDCR custody and medical staff." (Compl. 11-12, ECF No. 1.) When Plaintiff asked for medical help, he was ignored. Plaintiff submitted health care request forms on March 26, 2008, March 29, 2008, April 2, 2008, and April 7, 2008, but Defendants ignored those requests.

Plaintiff did not see a physician for three weeks. On April 8, 2008, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Loadholt who told Plaintiff that he would not receive any medical care because his medical records were not available. Plaintiff complained that he was suffering from a great deal of pain and begged for some sort of treatment, but was ignored.

On April 15, 2008, Plaintiff was taken to the ACH for a post-op appointment. Plaintiff spoke with Dr. Babbit via a video conference. Babbit told Plaintiff that Defendants Loadholt, Hasadsri, and McGuinness failed and refused to forward Plaintiff's medical records to Babbit. Plaintiff was scheduled for another appointment and told Plaintiff to tell the prison physicians to forward the medical files to Babbit before the next appointment.

On April 18, 2008, Plaintiff saw Defendant Loadholt who again told Plaintiff that he would not receive treatment because his medical records were not available. Plaintiff complained that he should not be denied medical care because his medical records were missing. Loadholt responded by saying that "its[sic] not my problem" and told Plaintiff that if he wanted proper medical care, he should not come to prison. (Compl. 15, ECF No. 1.)

Plaintiff continued to file requests for medical treatment. On May 20, 2008, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Kim. Plaintiff told Kim that he was still suffering severe pain. Kim told Plaintiff that there was nothing he could do because Plaintiff's medical records were not available. When Plaintiff complained about his missing medical records, Kim told Plaintiff that it was not his problem and dismissed Plaintiff from the clinic.

On May 27, 2008, Plaintiff attended another video conference with Dr. Babbit. Plaintiff told Babbit about his symptoms and his issues with the prison physicians. Babbit told Plaintiff that there was nothing he could do because Defendants Loadholt, Kim, Hasadsri, and McGuinness had failed and refused to forward Plaintiff's medical records to Babbit. Babbit discussed additional surgery options with Plaintiff and ordered an urgent "CT-Myegram" procedure for Plaintiff.

On June 23, 2008, Plaintiff saw Defendant Kim who again told Plaintiff that his medical records were not available. On August 25, 2008, Plaintiff saw Defendant Kim again. Kim told Plaintiff that he was faking his symptoms and there was nothing that could be done. Plaintiff was also told that his medical records were still not available. Plaintiff attempted to ask Kim about the CT-Myegram that was performed on August 4, 2008 and attempted to complain about the missing medical records but Kim abruptly dismissed Plaintiff from the clinic.

On November 18, 2008, Plaintiff saw Kim who again told Plaintiff that there was nothing he could do because the pain was all in Plaintiff's head. Plaintiff was told that his medical records were still unavailable.

On November 25, 2008, Plaintiff was taken to the ACH where he was scheduled to have another video conference with Dr. Babbit. When Plaintiff arrived, he was forced to see a different neurosurgeon at UC-Davis. The neurosurgeon was dismissive of Plaintiff's complaints and Plaintiff asked about Dr. Babbit. Plaintiff was told that prison officials were no longer referring prisoners to Dr. Babbit because "Dr. Babbit is always giving prisoners what they ask for." (Compl. 21.)

On December 4, 2008, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Neubarth. Neubarth told Plaintiff that his complaints were all in his head and that Plaintiff should request to see a psychiatrist.

On January 18, 2009, Plaintiff was found unresponsive and unconscious in his cell after he attempted to commit suicide because he could no longer tolerate the pain associated with his medical conditions. Plaintiff made numerous complaints about his pain but "Defendants Loadholt, Kim, Neubarth, Hasadsri and McGuinness continued to force Plaintiff to submit to said pain." (Compl. 8, ECF No. 1.)

Plaintiff was transferred to Catholic Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield, California for treatment after his suicide attempt. While at the hospital, Plaintiff told one of the physicians there, Dr. Yokohama, about his excruciating pain. Plaintiff told Dr. Yokohama that his pain worsened after he received surgery on his cervical spine on March 13, 2008. The surgery was supposed to relieve Plaintiff's neck pain, but instead caused Plaintiff's condition to worsen. Plaintiff also told Dr. Yokohama that he was supposed to receive further post-op exams, but "Defendants[had] been systematically preventing Plaintiff from receiving said treatment." (Compl. 10, ECF No. 1.)

Yokohama referred Plaintiff to Dr. Rashidi at Mercy Hospital. Plaintiff saw Rashidi and received an independent examination. Plaintiff alleges that Rashidi "discovered" the injuries from which Plaintiff was suffering and gave Plaintiff the option to choose which surgery he wanted performed first. Plaintiff chose to receive surgery to his cervical spine first. The next day, the cervical spine surgery was performed. Rashidi informed Plaintiff ...


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