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Mario Riojas v. Jail Psychiatric Staff

November 1, 2011

MARIO RIOJAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAIL PSYCHIATRIC STAFF, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM THIRTY DAY DEADLINE (ECF No. 10)

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff Mario Riojas is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On March 11, 2011, Plaintiff's complaint was dismissed, with leave to amend, for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 8.) Currently before the Court is the first amended complaint, filed May 17, 2011. (ECF No. 10.)

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 "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard 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, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007)).

II. Discussion

Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The incidents alleged in the first amended complaint occurred while Plaintiff was housed at the Fresno County Jail. Plaintiff brings this action against Defendants Dr. Narayan, Dr. Kuzam, Dr. Laird, and Jail Psychiatric Services ("JPS") for violation of the Eighth Amendment and is seeking monetary damages.

While it is unclear from Plaintiff's complaint whether he was a pretrial detainee or a prisoner at the time of the events alleged, a pretrial detainees' rights are protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the standard for claims brought under the Eighth Amendment has long been used to analyze pretrial detainees' conditions of confinement claims. Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017-18 (9th Cir. 2010); Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1242 (9th Cir. 2010); Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128.

"[T]o maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on prison medical treatment, an inmate must show "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.'" Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S. Ct. 285, 291 (1976)). The two part test for deliberate indifference requires the plaintiff to show (1) "a 'serious medical need' by demonstrating that failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,'" and (2) "the defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent." Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096.

Deliberate indifference is shown where the official is aware of a serious medical need and fails to adequately respond. Simmons, 609 F.3d at 1018. "Deliberate indifference is a high legal standard." Id. at 1019; Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir. 2004). The prison official must be aware of facts from which he could make an inference that "a substantial risk of serious harm exists" and he must make the inference. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837, 114 S. Ct. 1970, 1979 (1994).

Plaintiff's allegations that he told Defendant Kuzam that Zoloft was not strong enough to treat his post traumatic stress disorder, fails to allege sufficient facts to show that a substantial risk of serious harm existed or that Defendant Kuzam was aware of a risk of harm. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837, 114 S. Ct. at 1979. Additionally Plaintiff claims that Defendant Kuzam never responded to his complaints or requests and discontinued Plaintiff's medication merely states a difference of opinion between a prisoner and prison medical authorities as to proper treatment that does not give rise to a claim. Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981); Mayfield v. Craven, 433 F.2d 873, 874 (9th Cir. 1970).

Government officials may not be held liable for the actions of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1948. Since a government official cannot be held liable under a theory of vicarious liability for section 1983 actions, Plaintiff must plead that the official has violated the Constitution through his own individual actions. Id. at 1948. In other words, to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Narayan, Medical Director, was notified through mental health request forms that Plaintiff was asking for further diagnosis and evaluation. However Plaintiff fails to set forth factual allegations to show that Defendant Narayan ever received any requests from Plaintiff or was involved in the review process. Additionally, Defendant Laird, the head of JPS, may not be held liable because he was the "overall decision maker." Plaintiff fails to allege any facts sufficient to demonstrate that Defendants Narayan or Laird were aware that Plaintiff had a serious medical need and failed to respond. Simmons, 609 F.3d at 1018.

Finally, Plaintiff attempts to bring suit against Defendant JPS collectively and states that he submitted numerous requests and asked for help from staff because he was having mental difficulties that caused him to have problems with inmates and staff. A local government unit may not be held responsible for the acts of its employees under a respondeat superior theory of liability. Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691, 98 S. Ct. 2018, 2036 (1978). Plaintiff may bring suit against Defendant JPS based on informing JPS staff that he wanted medical treatment. A local government unit may only ...


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