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Percy Stockton v. State of California

December 9, 2011

PERCY STOCKTON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT, WITH LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHIN THIRTY DAYS (ECF No. 1)

Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.

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). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to 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). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

The events at issue in this action occurred at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), where Plaintiff was housed at the time.*fn1 Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement such that they violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiff names the following defendants: the State of California; J. Castro, Warden at KVSP; former Governor Schwarzenegger; George Galaza; Linda Ward; Roy Castro; Michael Knowles; Hedgpeth; Kelly; Harrington; Pfeiffer; Grannis.

Plaintiff alleges that, while at KVSP, he drank contaminated water. Plaintiff alleges that he is "informed by sundry sources" that defendants caused him injury. Plaintiff alleges that sometime before KVSP was opened in 2005, Defendants knew of the presence of arsenic in the water table that supplied the prison with drinking water. Plaintiff alleges that in March of 2005, prisoners were "hastily and haphazardly" moved to KVSP from other prisons. As a result, some inmates were returned to their originating prisons because of the lack of adequate medical services at KVSP.

Plaintiff arrived at KVSP in November, 2005. Plaintiff alleges that from 2005 through March of 2010, KVSP has been overpopulated, causing "overdemand and overusage of natural resources, or otherwise including, but no limited to, drinking water." Plaintiff alleges that on April 8, 2008, the warden sent a notice to inmates, informing them that "defendants are in violation of the drinking water standard, and that the KVSP wells have been above the maximum contaminant level . . . since 4-8-2007." The notice also indicated that the problem will be addressed by the installation of an arsenic treatment system by June of 2009. Plaintiff alleges that as of March, 2010, the system has not been installed, and Plaintiff has been forced to drink contaminated water.

Plaintiff alleges that he has sustained physical and emotional injuries as a result. Plaintiff lists several symptoms that, in his view, were caused by arsenic poisoning. Plaintiff alleges that he submitted requests for health care and to have the water tested for arsenic. Plaintiff also requested that he be provided with bottled water. His request was denied.

To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant acted under color of state law and (2) the defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). "A person deprives another of a constitutional right, where that person 'does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which [that person] is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Hydrick v. Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 988 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 9th Cir. 1978)). "[T]he 'requisite causal connection can be established not only by some kind of direct, personal participation in the deprivation, but also by setting in motion a series of acts by others which the actors knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.'" Id. (quoting Johnson at 743.44).

A. Eighth Amendment Conditions of Confinement Claim

The Eighth Amendment provides that "cruel and unusual punishment [shall not be] inflicted." "An Eighth Amendment claim that a prison official has deprived inmates of humane conditions of confinement must meet two requirements, one objective and the other subjective." Allen v. Sakai, 48 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir.) cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1065, (1995). The objective requirement is met if the prison official's acts or omissions deprived a prisoner of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'" Id. (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). To satisfy the subjective prong, a plaintiff must show more than mere inadvertence or negligence. Neither negligence nor gross negligence will constitute deliberate indifference. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833, & n. 4; Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). The Farmer court concluded that "subjective recklessness as used in the ...


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