IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
July 7, 2011
PATRICK A. MARTINEZ, PLAINTIFF,
VIRGA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis, with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff consented to proceed before the undersigned for all purposes. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). By order filed May 26, 2011, plaintiff's amended complaint was dismissed with leave to file a second amended complaint. On May 23, 2011, plaintiff's second amended complaint was docketed. (Dkt. No. 30.) However, on June 21, 2011, plaintiff filed a third amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 33.) The court now screens plaintiff's third amended complaint. 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).
A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.
A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n, 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).
In his third amended complaint, plaintiff again alleges that his prescription for Gabapentin was wrongfully discontinued. However, plaintiff now names over 16 different defendants, many of whom have no connection with the prescription of plaintiff's seizure medications, and most of whom plaintiff has failed to include charging allegations or, if charging allegations are included, fail to state a cognizable civil rights claim. Plaintiff was previously informed that supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior. (Dkt. No. 15 at 4.)
Plaintiff was informed of the following standards on May 26, 2011. (Dkt. No. 6.) Generally, deliberate indifference to a serious medical need presents a cognizable claim for a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). According to Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994), "deliberate indifference" to a serious medical need exists "if [the prison official] knows that [the] inmate [ ] face[s] a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." The deliberate indifference standard "is less stringent in cases involving a prisoner's medical needs than in other cases involving harm to incarcerated individuals because 'the State's responsibility to provide inmates with medical care ordinarily does not conflict with competing administrative concerns.'" McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1060 (9th Cir. 1992) (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992)), overruled on other grounds by WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997). Specifically, a determination of "deliberate indifference" involves two elements: (1) the seriousness of the prisoner's medical needs; and (2) the nature of the defendant's responses to those needs. McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059.
First, a "serious" medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Id. (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104). Examples of instances where a prisoner has a "serious" need for medical attention include the existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain. McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059-60 (citing Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1337-41 (9th Cir. 1990)). Second, the nature of a defendant's responses must be such that the defendant purposefully ignores or fails to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need in order for "deliberate indifference" to be established. McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Deliberate indifference may occur when prison officials deny, delay, or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, or may be shown by the way in which prison physicians provide medical care." Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d 390, 392 (9th Cir. 1988). In order for deliberate indifference to be established, there must first be a purposeful act or failure to act on the part of the defendant and resulting harm. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. "A defendant must purposefully ignore or fail to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need in order for deliberate indifference to be established." Id. Second, there must be a resulting harm from the defendant's activities. Id.
However, mere differences of opinion concerning the appropriate treatment cannot be the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation. Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996); Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1344 (9th Cir. 1981).
Plaintiff has failed to address the elements of deliberate indifference in his third amended complaint. Rather, plaintiff includes a litany of events that took place, including the provision of verbal information to plaintiff, as well as responses to administrative appeals. Prisoners have no due process rights related to the administrative grievance process. See Mann v. Adams, 855 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1988) (unpublished administrative policy statements of the Arizona Department of Corrections in establishing a grievance procedure created no protected liberty interest); see also Ramirez v. Galaza, 334 F.3d 850, 860 (9th Cir. 2003) (there is no liberty interest entitling inmates to a specific grievance process). Because there is no right to any particular grievance process, it is impossible for due process to have been violated by ignoring or failing to properly process grievances.
Finally, plaintiff must limit the defendants to those responsible for the discontinuation of the prescription for Gabapentin. Nurses, officers, staff employees and other technicians are not authorized to prescribe medication. From plaintiff's prior filings in this action, it appears one defendant who allegedly discontinued the Gabapentin is Eliva Mogahaddam. However, if plaintiff opts to file a fourth amended complaint against defendant Mogahaddam, plaintiff must demonstrate how this defendant's discontinuation of the prescription for Gabapentin demonstrates deliberate indifference, particularly in light of defendant Mogahaddam's declaration that in his medical opinion, an alternative medication is more appropriate for plaintiff's medical condition. (Dkt. No. 14-1.)
For all of the above reasons, the court finds the allegations in plaintiff's amended complaint so vague and conclusory that it is unable to determine whether the current action is frivolous or fails to state a claim for relief. In an abundance of caution, plaintiff will be granted one final opportunity to file an amended complaint that complies with Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants engaged in that support plaintiff's claim. Id.
If plaintiff chooses to file a fourth amended complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate how the discontinuation of the prescription to Gabapentin demonstrates deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs. Also, the fourth amended complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Furthermore, vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient. Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Plaintiff shall not name a defendant unless plaintiff includes charging allegations demonstrating deliberate indifference by that defendant to plaintiff's serious medical needs.
Plaintiff is cautioned that failure to comply with this order and the court's prior orders will result in the dismissal of this action.
Finally, on June 21, 2011, plaintiff filed a motion for temporary restraining order. Plaintiff seeks an order preventing defendant Mogahaddam from allegedly harming plaintiff by prescribing Tylenol, which plaintiff claims is known to attack the liver, even though plaintiff suffers from Hepatitis C.
A temporary restraining order is an extraordinary and temporary "fix" that the court may issue without notice to the adverse party if, in an affidavit or verified complaint, the movant "clearly show[s] that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b)(1)(A). The purpose of a temporary restraining order is to preserve the status quo pending a fuller hearing. See generally, Fed. R. Civ. P. 65; see also, E.D. Cal. L. R. ("Local Rule") 231(a). It is the practice of this district to construe a motion for temporary restraining order as a motion for preliminary injunction.*fn1
A preliminary injunction should not issue unless necessary to prevent threatened injury that would impair the court's ability to grant effective relief in a pending action. Sierra On-Line, Inc. v. Phoenix Software, Inc., 739 F.2d 1415, 1422 (9th Cir. 1984); Gon v. First State Ins. Co., 871 F.2d 863 (9th Cir. 1989). A preliminary injunction represents the exercise of a far reaching power not to be indulged except in a case clearly warranting it. Dymo Indus. v. Tapeprinter, Inc., 326 F.2d 141, 143 (9th Cir. 1964). "The proper legal standard for preliminary injunctive relief requires a party to demonstrate 'that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.'" Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky, 586 F.3d 1109, 1127 (9th Cir. 2009), quoting Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc, 129 S.Ct. 365, 375-76 (2008). In cases brought by prisoners involving conditions of confinement, any preliminary injunction "must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to correct the harm the court finds requires preliminary relief, and be the least intrusive means necessary to correct the harm." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2).
The claim underlying the instant motion for temporary restraining order is that defendant Mogahaddam is prescribing Tylenol for plaintiff even though plaintiff suffers from Hepatitis C, allegedly putting plaintiff at risk for liver damage. However, this claim is not part of the underlying complaint in this action and, therefore, will not be given a hearing on the merits at trial. Thus, plaintiff's motion is denied.*fn2
In accordance with the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's third amended complaint is dismissed; and
2. Plaintiff is granted thirty days from the date of service of this order to file a fourth amended complaint that complies with the requirements of the Civil Rights Act, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Practice; the fourth amended complaint must bear the docket number assigned this case and must be labeled "Fourth Amended Complaint"; plaintiff must file an original and two copies of the fourth amended complaint; failure to file a fourth amended complaint in accordance with this order will result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed.
3. Plaintiff's June 21, 2011 motion for temporary restraining order (dkt. no. 34) is denied.