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Cook v. Jaffee

October 29, 2010

ERIC DARNELL COOK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAFFEE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1).

The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a ". . . short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague and conclusory.

I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff names ten individuals as defendants to this action: Governor Schwarzenegger, Dr. Chen, Dr. Wei-Hsun, Mr. Mitchel, Dr. Jaffee, Dr. Houston, Dr. Hewette, Dr. Downing, Costa, and Wheeler. He sets forth the following statement of his claim:

On about October 13, 2007 Plaintiff arrived at New Folsom State Prison. Upon his initial medical interview/screening he informed the above psychiatric and doctor(s) that he was recently receiving medical treatment from portals mental health outpatient clinic program #AB2034 in the community. Neither doctor made any inquiries or make any attempt to do an investigation nor did they request his mental health records. Which they failed to perform their duties as a licenced professional by denying Mr. Cook adequate medical care. Due to the deliberate indifference from medical staff at New Folsom State Prison by providing Mr. Cook with inadequate medical care. Under the American Disability Act in violation of his human and civil rights to due process of law secured to him by the 42 U.S.C. 1983 the 8th, 13th, and 14th amendments to the Untied States Constitution of America. Furthermore, there are inexperienced psychiatrist(s) as well as psychologist available to prisoners with severe psychiatric needs who therefore receive inadequate treatment in their condition. By housing mentally disturbed inmates with intensive needs with non-disturbed inmates which could only perpetuate the problem. Lack of supervision of mentally disturbed prisoners is inadequate and little medical or psychological treatment is no provided for them. However, mentally disturbed prisoners are often housed indiscriminately with non-disturbed inmates, creating confusion, anger and a potential for violence as in this case. Plaintiff is now suffering from mental deterioration from going 4 yrs without adequate medical care. Which has created emotional distress, and impaired his physical inability to care for himself due to the medical staff negligence.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff's complaint suffers from a number of defects. First, Plaintiff fails to identify who is responsible for his alleged mistreatment. Second, he appears to name supervisory personnel as defendants without alleging any actual involvement in his claim. Finally, his claim is insufficient to state a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.

A. Medical Needs

The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which the prisoner is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment "embodies broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). Conditions of confinement may, however, be harsh and restrictive. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Nonetheless, prison officials must provide prisoners with "food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety." Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir. 1986). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) objectively, the official's act or omission must be so serious such that it results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities; and (2) subjectively, the prison official must have acted unnecessarily and wantonly for the purpose of inflicting harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Thus, to violate the Eighth Amendment, a prison official must have a "sufficiently culpable mind." See id.

Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury, or risks of serious injury or illness, gives rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105; see also Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This applies to physical as well as dental and mental health needs. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir. 1982). An injury or illness is sufficiently serious if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the ". . . unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). Factors indicating seriousness are: (1) whether a reasonable doctor would think that the condition is worthy of comment; (2) whether the condition significantly impacts the prisoner's daily activities; and (3) whether the condition is chronic and accompanied by substantial pain. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

The requirement of deliberate indifference is less stringent in medical needs cases than in other Eighth Amendment contexts because the responsibility to provide inmates with medical care does not generally conflict with competing penological concerns. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Thus, deference need not be given to the judgment of prison officials as to decisions concerning medical needs. See Hunt v. Dental Dep't, 865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir. 1989). The complete denial of medical attention may constitute deliberate indifference. See Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986). Delay in providing medical treatment, or interference with medical treatment, may also constitute deliberate indifference. See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131. Where delay is alleged, however, the prisoner must also demonstrate that the delay led to further injury. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060.

Negligence in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not, however, give rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Moreover, a difference of opinion between the prisoner and medical providers concerning the appropriate course of treatment does not give rise to an Eighth Amendment claim. See Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996).

Here, Plaintiff makes conclusory allegations that he has been denied proper psychiatric treatment, but he fails to provide any specifics as to what treatment he should have that he was refused. At most, Plaintiff complains that the doctors failed to obtain his prior medical records. Such conclusory allegations are insufficient. In order to state a claim, Plaintiff must be able to set forth specifically what treatment he should have received, for what condition, and the ...


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