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Aundrey Lett v. San Bernardino County

October 5, 2011

AUNDREY LETT,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne H. Segal United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

Plaintiff, a federal prisoner proceeding pro se, filed his Complaint alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. section 1983 ("Complaint") on September 7, 2011, against three named employees (collectively "Defendants"). For the reasons stated below, the Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.

Congress mandated that district courts perform an initial screening of complaints in civil actions where a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). This Court may dismiss such a complaint, or any portions thereof, before service of process if it concludes that the complaint (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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT

Plaintiff sues the following defendants: 1) San Bernardino County ("County"); 2) West Valley Detention Center ("West Valley"); and 3) Arrowhead Regional Medical Center ("Arrowhead"). (Complaint at 3).*fn1

Plaintiff asserts that West Valley and Arrowhead failed to provide him with "adequate medical care" by failing to timely respond to his requests for treatment. (Id. at 3-11). Specifically, Plaintiff claims West Valley ignored some of his requests for treatment. (Id. at 3-8). Further, Plaintiff asserts that Arrowhead committed "medical malpractice" when it took more than ten months to schedule a follow up operation after he was diagnosed with a deviated septum. (Id. at 9-10). According to Plaintiff, County is liable for West Valley and Arrowhead as the "power entity . . . due to joint and several liability." (Id. at 12). Defendants are all sued in their official capacity. (Id. at 3).

DISCUSSION

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint due to defects in pleading. Pro se litigants in civil rights cases, however, must be given leave to amend their complaints unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies cannot be cured by amendment. Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1127-29. Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to amend, as indicated below.*fn2

A. The Claims Against Defendants In Their Official Capacities Are Defective

Plaintiff is suing Defendants in their official capacity for ignoring his request of treatment and medical malpractice. (Complaint at 3). Additionally, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages equaling twenty-four million dollars. (Id. at 13). However, the Constitution bans damage actions against state officials in their official capacities. Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 472 (9th Cir. 1992). Therefore, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacities are defective and must be dismissed.

B. Arrowhead And West Valley Are Not Proper Defendants To This Action

Plaintiff asserts a claim against Arrowhead for medical malpractice for failing to provide him with timely medical treatment. (Complaint at 10). However, to state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the deprivation of a protected right was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006); Cox v. Hellerstein, 685 F.2d 1098, 1099 (9th Cir. 1982). Here, Arrowhead is a medical center that treated Plaintiff for the limited purpose of fixing his deviated septum. (Complaint at 7). However, Arrowhead is not a "state actor" for purposes of a section 1983 action. Accordingly, all claims against Arrowhead must be dismissed. See Anderson, 451 F.3d at 1067.

Additionally, Plaintiff's claims against West Valley Detention Center are deficient because West Valley is an "entity" and not an individual. A governmental entity cannot be sued unless it "had a deliberate policy, custom, or practice that was the 'moving force' behind the constitutional violation [Plaintiff] suffered." See Galen v. County of Los Angeles, 477 F.3d 652, 667 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694-95, 98 S. Ct. 2018, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978)). Moreover, the Supreme Court specifically rejected governmental liability based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691-94. Thus, ...


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