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Derek J. Bloodworth v. Teresa Krall

March 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge


[Doc. No. 21]

Plaintiff Derek J. Bloodworth, an individual formerly incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility located in San Diego, California, and proceeding pro se, has filed a First Amended Complaint alleging various violations of his civil rights. Defendants move to dismiss the First Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a plausible claim for relief. Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, and Defendants replied. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion.


At the time of the events alleged in the First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), Plaintiff was an inmate at R. J. Donovan Correctional Facility, suffering from severe depression, suicidal ideations, and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome ("PTSD").*fn1 As such, Plaintiff was placed in the mental health program and classified at the Enhanced Outpatient ("EOP") level of care.*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that because of this classification, he received only 45 minutes of daily outdoor yard access, compared to prisoners in the general population, who received 6 hours of daily outdoor yard access. Plaintiff also alleges that EOP prisoners only received 9 hours per week of law library access, whereas general population inmates received 33 hours per week of law library access. Compared to general population inmates who were allowed to eat their meals at a "civilized pace," Plaintiff alleges that EOP inmates were rushed through meals and subjected to verbal abuse by prison staff while eating. Plaintiff submitted numerous administrative grievances addressing these inadequacies.

Plaintiff discussed his concerns regarding yard access, library time, and treatment during meals with Defendant Krall, the staff psychiatrist overseeing his care. Defendant Krall threatened to remove Plaintiff's EOP classification and end his mental health treatment if he persisted with filing grievances. Defendant Krall changed the frequency of her sessions with Plaintiff, and Plaintiff filed administrative grievances regarding her retaliatory conduct and failure to treat Plaintiff on a weekly basis. Plaintiff requested a new doctor. Thereafter, Defendant Krall made hurtful comments to Plaintiff in the presence of other inmates during group therapy sessions. Defendant Krall eventually informed Plaintiff that if he was healthy enough to file grievances, he was no longer suffering from depression and she would remove him from the EOP program.

Subsequent to Plaintiff's declassification, Drs. Preston and Pena evaluated him, and Dr. Watson took over as his new treating physician. Drs. Preston and Pena indicated to Plaintiff that they would attempt to have Plaintiff reclassified as an EOP inmate. Dr. Watson conducted the necessary interview, but after speaking with Dr. Krall, Dr. Watson informed Plaintiff that he would not be reinstated to the EOP program. Plaintiff alleges he was removed from the EOP program for non-medical reasons, but rather in retaliation for filing administrative grievances, and as a result he suffered from the lack of treatment for his depression and PTSD.


1. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims in the complaint. See Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 526 U.S. 629, 633 (1999). "The old formula -- that the complaint must not be dismissed unless it is beyond doubt without merit -- was discarded by the Bell Atlantic decision [Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8 (2007)]." Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Vill. of Lemont, 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008).

A complaint must be dismissed if it does not contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S.__ , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009). The court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint, as well as reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, and must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 973 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing Karam v. City of Burbank, 352 F.3d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 2003)); Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995); N.L. Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986).

2. Standards Applicable to Pro Se Litigants

Where a plaintiff appears in propria persona in a civil rights case, the court must construe the pleadings liberally and afford the plaintiff any benefit of the doubt. Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). The rule of liberal construction is "particularly important in civil rights cases." Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). In giving liberal interpretation to a pro se civil rights complaint, courts may not "supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss." Id.; see also Jones v. Cmty. Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984) (finding conclusory allegations unsupported by facts insufficient to state a claim under § 1983). "The plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants engaged in that support the plaintiff's claim." Jones, 733 F.2d at 649 (internal quotation omitted).

The court must give a pro se litigant leave to amend his complaint "unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (quotation omitted) (citing Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1447 (9th Cir. 1987)). Thus, before a pro se civil rights complaint may be dismissed, the court must provide the plaintiff with a statement of the complaint's deficiencies. Karim-Panahi, 839 F.2d at 623-24. But where amendment of a pro se ...

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