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Alvaro Quezada v. R. Lindsey

March 29, 2012




Screening Order

I. Procedural History, Screening Requirement, and Standard

On August 5, 2010, Plaintiff Alvaro Quezada ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Defendants conspired, retaliated , and were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs for complaining about the unsafe workplace. Doc. 1.

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).

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)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice," Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), and courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences," Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009). While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

While prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are still entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, the pleading standard is now higher, Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). Under § 1983, plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendantpersonally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of constitutional or other federal rights by those acting under color of state law. E.g., Patel v. Kent School Dist., 648 F.3d 965, 971 (9th Cir. 2011); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934. For eachdefendant named, plaintiff must show a causal link between the violation of his rights and an action or omission of the defendant. Iqbal,129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1205-06 (9th Cir. 2011); Corales v. Bennett, 567 F.3d 554, 570 (9th Cir. 2009). There is norespondeat superior liability under § 1983, and each defendant may only be held liable for misconduct directly attributed to him or her. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50; Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009).

II. Allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint

In Plaintiff's complaint, he names Defendants R. Lindsey, Assistant Correctional Food Manager; P. Gonzalez, Business Service manager; K. J. Doran, Lt. of Inmate Assignments, and I. Patel, M.D., who were all employed by Kern Valley State Prison ("KVSP"). Compl. at 1, 3-4, Doc. 1.

Defendant Lindsey was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's health and safety. Id. at 5. Prior to Plaintiff's injury, Plaintiff verbally expressed concerns to Defendant Lindsey regarding the unsafe work hazard of dry ice on the floor and damaged pallet jacks. Id. Defendant Lindsey responded that there were insufficient funds to repair the freezers and to be careful when unloading or loading the pallets. Id. On September 10, 2010, while unloading a pallet, Plaintiff's pallet jack became stuck in ice on the floor. Id. Plaintiff and his co-worker rocked the loaded pallet jack back and forth, which caused the pallet jack to thrust forward and Plaintiff slipped on the ice. Id. Plaintiff injured his lower back. Id.

The following day Plaintiff received an injection for the pain. Id. at 6. Plaintiff was provided lay-in from September 11, 2008 through September 18, 2008 and November 12, 2008 through November 14, 2008. Id. On September 15, 2008, Plaintiff requested workers' compensation. Id. On October 20, 2008, Plaintiff and his co-workers were required to sign "Code of Safe Practices" relating to operating a pallet jack. Id.

On several occasions, Plaintiff verbally informed Defendant Gonzalez of the unsafe work environment, as he was inspecting the Main Kitchen. Id. at 9.

Defendant Dr. Patel was deliberately indifferent when Plaintiff repeatedly sought the proper medical treatment for his severe back pain. Id. at 10. Dr. Patel told Plaintiff he was faking it and just wanted to get high off the pain medication. Id. On August 12, 2009, Plaintiff had an MRI, which showed that his right L5 and S1 were compromised. Id.

On October 18, 2008, Plaintiff's inmate appeal was granted, the freezers were repaired, and the pallet jacks were removed. Id. at 31. On November 24, 2008, Plaintiff filed an appeal, claiming that Defendant Lindsey's revised unloading protocol prohibited Plaintiff and his co-workers from using the pallet jacks to unload food into the freezer. Id. at 13. They were now required to unload food by hand and Plaintiff further injured his lower back. Id. This new protocol was in retaliation for Plaintiff's complaint about the unsafe work environment, which violates Plaintiff's First Amendment right to complain. Id.

On December 1, 2008, Defendant Doran retaliated, conspired, and had a meeting of the minds with Sgt. Davis and CC-I Swaim against Plaintiff to unassign him from his position in the kitchen. Id. at 15. Plaintiff was not provided with procedural safeguards prior to the removal of his work assignment. Id. Plaintiff approached Ms. Swaim regarding why he had been unassigned, and Defendant Doran stated that Defendant Patel had issued a chrono for Plaintiff's back, stating he could not lift anything over ten pounds. Id. On December 2, 2008, Plaintiff immediately filed a staff complaint. Id.

For relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages of $100,000 per defendant; punitive damages of $100,000 per defendant; and declaratory relief. Id. at 4.

III. Legal Standard and Analysis for Plaintiff's Claims

A. Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference to ...

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