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Charles G. Reece v. Alvaro C. Traquina

January 19, 2012



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 defendant Traquina. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion, and defendant has filed a reply.


Plaintiff is proceeding on his original complaint against defendant Dr. Traquina, the Chief Medical Officer ("CMO") at California State Prison, Solano. Therein, plaintiff alleges that he suffers from hypertension and that his doctor ordered him to take his blood pressure three times a week. According to plaintiff, defendant Dr. Traquina failed to ensure that a nurse was available to check plaintiff's blood pressure during the month of May 2010. Specifically, plaintiff alleges he went to the "four-yard" gym for blood pressure checks, but defendant Dr. Traquina had not assigned a nurse to that location to conduct the checks. Plaintiff notes that he was suffering from extremely high blood pressure at the time and needed to monitor his blood pressure regularly. Plaintiff claims that defendant Dr. Traquina's conduct amounts to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In terms of relief, plaintiff requests an award of monetary damages as well as injunctive relief. (Compl. at ii & 1-4.)


I. Defendant's Motion

Defense counsel moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that it fails to state a cognizable claim for relief. Specifically, defense counsel argues as follows. Plaintiff has not alleged that defendant Dr. Traquina ever directly treated plaintiff for his blood pressure. Plaintiff also has not alleged that defendant Dr. Traquina knew that plaintiff suffered from high blood pressure or was aware that prison medical personnel recommended that plaintiff receive blood pressure checks several times a week. Nor has plaintiff alleged that defendant Dr. Traquina knew medical personnel had failed to check plaintiff's blood pressure or that any failure to do so might put plaintiff at risk of developing substantial medical problems. In any event, plaintiff received adequate medical attention for his high blood pressure. For example, medical personnel checked plaintiff's blood pressure on seven occasions between May 10, 2010, and June 7, 2010. As a matter of law, counsel contends, the medical treatment that plaintiff received cannot be considered deliberately indifferent where any of his treating doctors or nurses are concerned, much less where defendant Dr. Traquina is concerned. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 4-8.)

II. Plaintiff's Opposition

In opposition to the defendant's motion to dismiss, plaintiff acknowledges that defendant Dr. Traquina did not actually treat him. However, plaintiff argues that defendant Dr. Traquina was nevertheless deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs when he failed to assign medical staff to the "four-yard" gym to conduct blood pressure checks for inmates in May 2010. Plaintiff notes that he went to the "four-yard" gym five days a week in May 2010, but there was no nurse there to check his blood pressure. According to plaintiff, defendant Dr. Traquina was the only person who could have known that this staff position would be vacant, but he did nothing to timely fill the vacancy. Plaintiff also argues that the blood pressure checks he did receive in May of 2010 do "not count" because he received those for medical emergency reasons after his blood pressure had already risen to dangerously high levels. Plaintiff blames defendant Dr. Traquina for this situation and maintains that the defendant violated his right to adequate medical care. (Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 1-8.)

III. Defendant's Reply

In reply, defense counsel argues that plaintiff has provided no facts to support his opinion about what defendant Dr. Traquina knew about plaintiff's medical condition or about any nursing position vacancy at the "four-yard" gym. In addition, counsel contends plaintiff's own exhibits attached to his complaint indicate that blood pressure checks were offered at other locations within the prison and that plaintiff availed himself of those medical services at the other locations. Finally, counsel contends that plaintiff has not made any showing that a lack of blood pressure checks at the "four-yard" gym in May 2010 substantially increased a serious risk of harm to plaintiff. (Def.'s Reply at 1-3.)


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the complaint. North Star Int'l v. Arizona Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). Dismissal of the complaint, or any claim within it, "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, ___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) ("While legal conclusions can provide a framework for a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.").

In determining whether a pleading states a claim, the court accepts as true all material allegations in the complaint and construes those allegations, as well as the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). In the context of a motion to dismiss, the court also resolves doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

In general, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The court has an obligation to construe such pleadings liberally. Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). However, the court's liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not pled. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of ...

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