FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss brought on behalf of defendants Garcia, Alkire, and Renauld. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion and defendants have filed a reply.
Plaintiff is proceeding on an amended complaint against defendants Garcia, Alkire, and Renauld. Therein, plaintiff alleges that he suffers from Sarcoidosis and is at increased risk for complications if he is housed at a prison located in high-altitude. On March 17, 2008, the Chief Medical Officer at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP") requested a transfer for plaintiff due to his medical condition. On April 9, 2008, the Unit Classification Committee ("UCC") reviewed plaintiff's case file and recommended a transfer for him to either San Quentin State Prison or California Men's Colony. Despite the UCC's recommendation, however, defendant Garcia endorsed plaintiff for a transfer to the California Correctional Center ("CCC"). According to plaintiff, CCC is another institution located in high-altitude, and his transfer to that prison placed his health in danger. (Am. Compl. at 8-9 & 21.)
Not long after plaintiff transferred to CCC, he filed an inmate appeal contesting that transfer. Plaintiff also saw Dr. Handke, an outside pulmonary specialist, who confirmed that plaintiff suffers from Sarcoidosis. Based on Dr. Handke's opinion, prison officials at CCC requested a transfer for plaintiff to an institution at a lower-altitude. On July 16, 2008, the UCC reviewed plaintiff's case file and recommended a transfer for him to California Medical Facility ("CMF") or Salinas Valley State Prison ("SVSP"). On the same day, however, defendant Renauld denied plaintiff's inmate appeal contesting his transfer to CCC and refused to authorize plaintiff's transfer because CCC is at a security level commensurate with plaintiff's placement score. Thereafter, on July 23, 2008, defendant Alkire reviewed plaintiff's case file and the UCC's recommendation to transfer plaintiff to CMF or SVSP but nonetheless endorsed plaintiff for a transfer to High Desert State Prison ("HDSP"). According to plaintiff, HDSP is located at a higher altitude than CCC, and his transfer to HDSP placed his health in further danger. (Am. Compl. at 9-14 & 21.)
After arriving at HDSP, plaintiff saw Dr. Hudson, an ENT, and Dr. Mashour, a pulmonary specialist. Both doctors recommended that prison officials transfer plaintiff to an institution located at sea level. On December 10, 2008, the Chief Medical Officer at HDSP requested a transfer for plaintiff. According to plaintiff, however, he did not actually receive a transfer to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility until October 8, 2009. In the meantime, plaintiff alleges that his daily activities were significantly affected, and he had to use supplemental oxygen for several months awaiting transfer. (Am. Compl. at 15-17, 19 & 21.)
Plaintiff claims that the defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In terms of relief, plaintiff requests an award of monetary damages. (Am. Compl. at 20-25.)
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), defense counsel moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint
on the grounds that it fails to state a cognizable claim. Specifically, defense counsel contends that defendant Garcia did not violate plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights when he endorsed plaintiff for a transfer from PVSP to CCC because the defendant's endorsement conformed to the medical recommendation to transfer plaintiff out of the Valley Fever endemic area where PVSP was located. According to defense counsel, the medical recommendation did not mention any impact that a high-altitude placement would have on plaintiff's medical condition. In addition, defense counsel contends that defendant Alkire did not violate plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights when he endorsed plaintiff for a transfer from CCC to HDSP after verifying that the recommended institutions located at lower-altitudes were full. Defense counsel notes that plaintiff was receiving adequate medical care at CCC, and defendant Alkire believed that plaintiff's proper medical care would continue when he transferred to HDSP, a neighboring institution. Finally, counsel contends that defendant Renauld's denial of plaintiff's inmate appeal complaining about defendant Alkire's endorsement of his transfer to HDSP was at worst an error committed in good faith. Counsel notes that plaintiff's continued presence at HDSP and his ongoing treatment by specialists in the area was the best available alternative to an unavailable transfer to an institution located at lower-altitude. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 10-16.)
Alternatively, defense counsel argues that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. Specifically, defense counsel contends that none of plaintiff's allegations evidence deliberate indifference or any constitutional violation. In addition, counsel asserts that reasonable persons in the defendants' position would have believed that their conduct in connection with plaintiff's assignment was lawful. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 16-18.)
II. Plaintiff's Opposition
In opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss, plaintiff argues that he has a serious medical condition, Stage III Sarcoidosis, that is well documented. According to plaintiff, during his transfer reviews prompted by medical recommendations, the defendants failed to act reasonably to ensure that he was transferred to a medically appropriate institution. As a result of defendants' conduct, plaintiff contends that his health deteriorated and he was unnecessarily subjected to conditions of confinement that posed a serious risk to his health. In plaintiff's view, the defendants knew or should have known but chose to ignore the risks involved in transferring him to high-altitude institutions. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 5-19.)
Plaintiff also argues that the defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff contends that the defendants did not act reasonably when they transferred him to institutions located at high-altitude directly contrary to recommendations from his medical specialists. Moreover, plaintiff contends that adequate medical care is a clearly established ...