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Hamby v. Tilton

November 15, 2010

WILLIAM HAMBY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES TILTON, 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 William Hamby ("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 the California State Prison in Lancaster, California. However, the events described in Plaintiff's complaint took place while he was incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") in Coalinga, California. Plaintiff is suing under Section 1983 for the violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff names James Tilton (secretary of CDCR), S. Hubbard (director of CDCR), Dwight Winslow (doctor), Scott Kernan (chief deputy secretary, PVSP), Robin Dezember (chief deputy secretary), Terry Hill (chief medical officer), James Yates (warden, PVSP), J. Walker ("Chief California Prison Health Care Services"), and A. Schwarzenegger (governor), and John Doe (chief medical officer, PVSP) as defendants ("Defendants"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state any cognizable claim. The Court will provide Plaintiff with an opportunity to file an amended complaint which 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).

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 contends Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by housing Plaintiff at PVSP. Plaintiff alleges that PVSP suffers from an epidemic of "Coccidiordoycosis*fn1 ." Plaintiff claims that he was immediately infected and nearly died. Plaintiff further claims that Defendants knew that sending "Chronic Care" inmates such as Plaintiff to PVSP "would be like giving him a death sentence yet they allowed him to be sent there." (Compl. 3, ECF No. 1.)

III. Discussion

A. Eighth Amendment Claims

Plaintiff claims Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights. 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," and (2) the subjective requirement that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable state of mind." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)).

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 "sufficiently culpable state of mind" requirement is met when a 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 or 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.

Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts that plausibly support the conclusion that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants knew that sending Plaintiff to PVSP would be equivalent to a death sentence because of the risk of valley fever. However, Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts that plausibly support the conclusion that the high-ranking officials named as defendants were aware of a specific harm to Plaintiff. Without more specific factual allegations, it is simply implausible to infer that high-ranking officials (such as the governor, the secretary of CDCR, or the warden of the prison) were aware of specific details about Plaintiff's medical background, were aware that Plaintiff was housed at PVSP, and were aware that Plaintiff's medical background made his placement at PVSP improper. Plaintiff's complaint "has not 'nudged [his] claims' . . . 'across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950-51 (2009) (citations omitted). "[T]he conclusory nature of [Plaintiff's] allegations . . . disentitles them to the presumption of truth." Id. at 1951.

Defendants are not liable unless they were aware of an excessive risk to Plaintiff's health. Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts that plausibly support the conclusion that Defendants were aware of an excessive risk to Plaintiff's health. Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state any cognizable ...


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