Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gregory C. Bontemps v. Bonnie Lee

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


June 25, 2012

GREGORY C. BONTEMPS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BONNIE LEE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 302.

Plaintiff has submitted a declaration that makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Accordingly, the request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. Plaintiff is required to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action.

28 U.S.C. §§ 1914(a), 1915(b)(1). By this order, plaintiff will be assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). By separate order, the court will direct the appropriate agency to collect the initial partial filing fee from plaintiff's prison trust account and forward it to the Clerk of the Court. Thereafter, plaintiff will be obligated to make monthly payments of twenty percent of the preceding month's income credited to plaintiff's prison trust account. These payments will be forwarded by the appropriate agency to the Clerk of the Court each time the amount in plaintiff's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is paid in full. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

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).

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.

Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous when it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989), superseded by statute as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) ("a judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless."); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In order 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." Id. However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement [of facts] need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555) (citations and internal quotations marks omitted). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, id., and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984).

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides as follows: Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978) ("Congress did not intend § 1983 liability to attach where . . . causation [is] absent."); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976) (no affirmative link between the incidents of police misconduct and the adoption of any plan or policy demonstrating their authorization or approval of such misconduct). "A person 'subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).

Moreover, supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees under a theory of respondeat superior and, therefore, when a named defendant holds a supervisorial position, the causal link between him and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979) (no liability where there is no allegation of personal participation); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 941 (1979) (no liability where there is no evidence of personal participation). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982) (complaint devoid of specific factual allegations of personal participation is insufficient).

Plaintiff filed both an initial complaint (Dkt. No. 1) and a First Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 7), the latter containing additional defendants; nevertheless, because dismissal of both complaints is required, the following analysis is based upon the content of both complaints, and the exhibits attached to the initial complaint. The court notes initially that the complaints are handwritten and difficult to decipher; the follow depends largely on the exhibits attached to the initial complaint.

Plaintiff suffers from the Hepatitis C virus ("HCV"). Plaintiff appears to allege that defendant Dr. Abdul-Rahman failed to: (a) conduct an adequate examination, (b) ask plaintiff necessary questions or take a history, or (c) conduct tests called for by plaintiff's symptoms. Plaintiff appears to allege defendant that Dr. Lee failed to order medical devices and to order that plaintiff be seen by a specialist. Plaintiff appears to allege that defendant Dr. Frazier failed to provide a competent medical staff to examine plaintiff's illness. In addition, plaintiff appears to name, without legible allegations, defendant physicians Rolfing, Smith, Zachariah, Swingle, and Kim (the spelling of these names is guesswork).

Plaintiff is informed that to state a section 1983 claim for a constitutional violation based on inadequate medical care, plaintiff must allege "acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). To prevail, plaintiff must show both that his medical needs were objectively serious, and that defendant possessed a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297-99 (1991); McKinney v. Anderson, 959 F.2d 853, 854 (9th Cir. 1992).

A serious medical need is one that significantly affects an individual's daily activities, an injury or condition a reasonable doctor or patient would find worthy of comment or treatment, or the existence of chronic and substantial pain. See, e.g., McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds by WMX Techs. v. Miller, 104 F.2d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir.1997) (en banc).

Deliberate indifference may be shown by the denial, delay or intentional interference with medical treatment or by the way in which medical care is provided. Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d 390, 394 (9th Cir. 1988). To act with deliberate indifference, a prison official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Thus, a defendant is liable if he knows that plaintiff faces "a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id. at 847. "[I]t is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm." Id. at 842. A physician need not fail to treat an inmate altogether in order to violate that inmate's Eighth Amendment rights. Ortiz v. City of Imperial, 884 F.2d 1312, 1314 (9th Cir. 1989). A failure to competently treat a serious medical condition, even if some treatment is prescribed, may constitute deliberate indifference in a particular case. Id. Deliberate indifference in the medical context may also be shown by a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need. Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006).

It is important to differentiate common law negligence claims of malpractice (cognizable in the state courts), from claims predicated on violations of the Eight Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment (cognizable in the federal courts). In asserting the latter, "[m]ere 'indifference,' 'negligence,' or 'medical malpractice' will not support this cause of action." Broughton v. Cutter Laboratories, 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06); see alsoToguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004). It is well established that mere differences of opinion concerning the appropriate treatment cannot be the basis of an Eighth Amendment violation.Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996); Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1344 (9th Cir. 1981).

Applying these principles to the allegations set forth in plaintiff's complaints, it appears, first, that plaintiff is voicing a difference of opinion as to the medical treatment provided by defendant Abdur-Rahman.*fn1 However, plaintiff alleges no facts demonstrating defendant Abdur-Rahman acted, or failed to act, with a culpable state of mind.*fn2 Moreover, plaintiff does not identify the tests he claims he needed. Plaintiff has been diagnosed with HCV, and the administrative appeals reflect that plaintiff was started on HCV treatment on September 30, 2011. (Dkt. No. 1 at 8.) Thus, it appears plaintiff won his requested relief, HCV treatment, via the administrative grievance process. Any delay in the start of this treatment, without more, fails to constitute an Eighth Amendment violation. In addition, in the second level administrative review, defendant Lee noted that plaintiff refused to see defendant Abdur-Rahman on March 2, 2012. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5.) Plaintiff is advised that he cannot state a deliberate indifference claim based on his own refusal to be seen by a particular prison doctor.

Second, in connection with plaintiff's claim concerning medical devices, it is unclear to what plaintiff is referring. In the first level response concerning plaintiff's request to have his wheelchair repaired, defendant Lee noted that plaintiff is "designated as an intermittent wheelchair user, but that defendant Abdur-Rahman evaluated plaintiff's wheelchair and determined there was nothing wrong with it. (Dkt. No. 1 at 7.) Plaintiff's claim concerning medical devices is too vague and conclusory for the court to determine whether it states a cognizable claim or is legally frivolous.

Third, as to plaintiff's claim that defendant Lee refused to refer plaintiff to a specialist, plaintiff fails to demonstrate how this refusal demonstrates deliberate indifference. Indeed, in ruling on plaintiff's administrative appeal, defendant Lee confirmed that plaintiff is receiving HCV treatment, and stated that "[t]here is no medical reason for [plaintiff] to be transferred to another institution," presumably for HCV treatment. (Dkt. No. 1 at 8.) Plaintiff is not permitted to dictate his medical treatment. Bowring v. Godwin, 551 F.2d 44, 47-48 (4th Cir. 1977). Therefore, plaintiff's filing demonstrates that plaintiff has a difference of opinion with defendant Lee concerning the appropriate medical treatment, which does not violate the Eighth Amendment.Jackson, 90 F.3d at 332; Toguchi, 391 F.3d at 1057.

Fourth, plaintiff's claim as to defendant Frazer is based solely on a theory of respondeat superior and therefore also fails to state a cognizable claim.

For all of the above reasons, the court finds the allegations in plaintiff's complaints so vague and conclusory that it is unable to determine whether the current action is frivolous or fails to state a claim for relief. The court has determined that the complaint does not contain a short and plain statement as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Although the Federal Rules adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must give fair notice and state the elements of the claim plainly and succinctly. Jones v. Cmty Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which each defendant engaged in that support plaintiffs claim. Id. Because plaintiff has failed to comply with the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the complaint must be dismissed. The court will, however, grant leave to file a Second Amended Complaint.

If plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate how the conditions about which he complains resulted in a deprivation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371 (1976). Also, the complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved. Id. There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Id.; May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Furthermore, vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient. Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

In addition, plaintiff is hereby informed that the court cannot refer to a prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. Local Rule 220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. This requirement exists because, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967). Once plaintiff files an amended complaint, the original pleading no longer serves any function in the case. Therefore, in an amended complaint, as in an original complaint, each claim and the involvement of each defendant must be sufficiently alleged.

Finally, should plaintiff determine, based upon the information provided herein, that he has a potentially cognizable federal legal claim, he is informed that his Second Amended Complaint must be legible. Plaintiff is encouraged to legibly print or type his allegations, provide sufficient detail explaining the facts underlying his legal claims, and attach copies of all pertinent documents. Plaintiff should name only those defendants against whom he has specific factual allegations and legal claims.

In accordance with the above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's request for leave to proceed in forma pauperisis granted.

2. Plaintiff is obligated to pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00 for this action. Plaintiff is assessed an initial partial filing fee in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). All fees shall be collected and paid in accordance with this court's order to the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation filed concurrently herewith.

3. Plaintiff's Complaint and First Amended Complaint (Dkt. Nos. 1, 7), are dismissed.

4. Within thirty days from the date of this order, plaintiff shall complete the attached Notice of Amendment and submit the following documents to the court:

a. The completed Notice of Amendment; and

b. An original and one copy of the Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint shall comply with the requirements of the Civil Rights Act, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Practice. The Second Amended Complaint must also bear the docket number assigned to this case and must be labeled "Second Amended Complaint." Failure to file a Second Amended Complaint in accordance with this order may result in the dismissal of this action.

5. The Clerk of Court is directed to send plaintiff a copy of the form used by prisoners in this district for filing a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA GREGORY C. BONTEMPS, Plaintiff, v. BONNIE LEE, et al., NOTICE OF AMENDMENT Defendants.

No. 2:12-cv-0771 KJN P

Plaintiff hereby submits the following document in compliance with the court's order filed Second Amended Complaint Date Plaintiff


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.