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Juan D. Thornton v. Matthew Cate

December 14, 2011

JUAN D. THORNTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER REQUIRING PLAINTIFF TO EITHER FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT OR NOTIFY COURT OF WILLINGNESS TO PROCEED ONLY ON CLAIMS FOUND TO BE COGNIZABLE (ECF No. 1) RESPONSE DUE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

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. Plaintiff has consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

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

A. Summary of Complaint

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at Corcoran State Prison, brings this civil rights action against defendant correctional officials employed by the CDCR at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) in Delano, where the events at issue occurred. Plaintiff names the following individual defendants: Matthew Cate, Secretary of Corrections; K. Harrington, KVSP Warden; Sergeant Jose; Correctional Officer (C/O) Sharp; C/O Grissom; C/O Ortiz; C/O Robles.

Plaintiff alleges that on March 12, 2010, a physician at KVSP issued a Comprehensive Accommodation Chrono, directing that Plaintiff be housed on a lower bunk in a ground floor cell, based upon his seizure disorder. A copy of the chrono was placed in Plaintiff's central file, sent to Plaintiff's housing unit, and provided to Plaintiff's correctional counselor. On March 12, 2010, Plaintiff was housed on Facility B, Building 5, in a cell on the upper tier. Plaintiff showed his chrono to Defendants Jose, Ortiz and Robles. Plaintiff was told that he would get a lower bunk when one was available. Plaintiff alleges that he never received a lower bunk while in Building 5.

On June 19, 2010, Plaintiff was moved to Building 4 to a cell on the upper tier. The Building 4 housing officers were Defendants Sharp and Grissom. Plaintiff alleges that Sharp and Grissom checked Plaintiff's housing criteria during the June 19, 2010, move, and was "thus made aware of plaintiff's CDCR Form 7410 and his medical needs." (Compl. ¶ 18.)

On August 31, 2010, while laying on his assigned top bunk, Plaintiff had a seizure and fell from the bunk, hitting the concrete floor. Plaintiff injured his back as a result. Plaintiff was assigned a lower bunk on September 3, 2010.

B. Eighth Amendment

"The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citing Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993)). Prison officials have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833; Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1250-51 (9th Cir. 1982). To establish a violation of this duty, the prisoner must establish that prison officials were "deliberately indifferent to a serious threat to the inmates's safety." Farmer, at 834. The question under the Eighth Amendment is whether prison officials, acting with deliberate indifference, exposed a prisoner to a sufficiently substantial 'risk of serious damage to his future health ... .'" Id., at 843 (citing Helling, 509 U.S. at 35). The Supreme Court has explained that "deliberate indifference entails something more than mere negligence ... [but] something less than acts or omissions for the ...


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