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Earl Toole v. California Rehabilitation Center

January 4, 2012

EARL TOOLE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CALIFORNIA REHABILITATION CENTER, MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, 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 AND AUTHORIZING DISCOVERY OF "DOE" DEFENDANTS

On October 25, 2011, plaintiff Earl Toole ("Plaintiff") lodged a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (the "Complaint") against various defendants. On December 28, 2011, the Court granted Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons stated below, the Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.*fn1

Congress has 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)(1-2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT

Plaintiff attempts to allege civil rights violations against the following defendants: (1) California Rehabilitation Center ("CRC"), Medical Department; (2) John Doe, a physician at the CRC; and (3) Jane Doe, a registered nurse at the CRC (collectively, "Defendants" or "Doe Defendants"). (Complaint at 1, 3).*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that both John Doe and Jane Doe delayed medical treatment after Plaintiff notified them that he was urinating blood, causing him to suffer emotional distress and physical pain. (Id. at 5-6).

Plaintiff alleges that after informing his dorm officer at approximately 7:30 p.m. on December 14, 2008 that he was urinating blood, he had two telephone conversations that same evening with Jane Doe in which he sought permission to go to the medical unit for immediate medical care. (Complaint at 5). During the first call, which took place shortly after 8 p.m., Jane Doe told Plaintiff that he could not come to the prison's medical unit immediately because it would soon be count time and that he should call back after the count call. (Id.). During the second call, which took place shortly after 10 p.m., Jane Doe once again told Plaintiff that he could not come to the medical unit immediately because it would soon be count time. (Id.). It was only on Plaintiff's third call to the medical unit, shortly after midnight, that he was given permission by a different nurse to go to the medical unit. (Id.).

After Plaintiff reported to the medical unit, a call was placed to John Doe for further instructions. John Doe told the medical unit to funnel Plaintiff's urine to see if he was passing a gallstone. (Complaint at 6). According to Plaintiff, After this process was done, the nurse let "Dr. John Doe" know that I was not passing a gallstone. The Doctor did not give them further instructions on medical treatment, he merely had them write me another pass to come back in the morning when he got to work, stating at this time there was nothing he could do for me. I was sent back to my dorm in pain to wait until the next morning for the Dr. to come to work.

(Id.). Plaintiff further alleges that when John Doe arrived, "he had me transferred to the Regional Medical Center" where Plaintiff spent five days in hospital receiving treatment for his "medical condition that Dr. John Doe did not deem an emergency." (Id.).

Plaintiff seeks "$500,000.00 for the emotional pain, stress, distress and suffering of physical pain." (Id. at 7).

DISCUSSION

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), the Court must dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 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 1128-29. Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to amend, as indicated below.

A. Plaintiff Has Failed To State A Claim For Deliberate Indifference To Serious Medical Needs

Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners violates the Eighth Amendment. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49, 108 S. Ct. 2250, 101 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1988). A prisoner must show that he was confined under conditions posing a risk of "objectively, sufficiently serious" harm and that the officials had a sufficiently culpable state of mind in denying the proper medical care. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006); Wallis v. Baldwin, 70 F.3d 1074, 1076 (9th Cir. 1995). There must be a purposeful act or failure to act on the part of the official resulting in harm to Plaintiff. See Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006).

Deliberate indifference "'entails something more than mere negligence.'" Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1040 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835, 114 S. Ct. 1970, 128 L. Ed. 2d 811 (1994)); see also Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1334 (9th Cir. 1990) ("[M]ere malpractice, or even gross negligence," in the provision of medical care does not establish a constitutional violation). A "mere delay" in providing medical treatment does not establish deliberate indifference. Shapley v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Com'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985). "A defendant must purposefully ignore or fail to respond to a prisoner's pain ...


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