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Brian Borenstein v. Within Thirty Days Dr. Tate

December 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge


Screening Order

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

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).

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), 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). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at CCI Tehachapi, brings this civil rights action against defendant correctional officials employed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at CCI Tehachapi. Plaintiff names as Defendants Dr. Tate and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joaquin.

Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a dislocated shoulder and that Dr. Tate and Dr. Joaquin refused to provide proper medical care. Plaintiff suffers from a dislocated shoulder, and alleges that Dr. Tate is disregarding Plaintiff's request to "put it back in place." Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Tate told him that it would "stay like this."

A. Medical Care

"[T]o maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on prison medical treatment, an inmate must show 'deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.'" Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 295 (1976)). The two part test for deliberate indifference requires the plaintiff to show (1) "'a serious medical need' by demonstrating that 'failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,'" and (2) "the defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent." Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096 (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc) (internal quotations omitted)). Deliberate indifference is shown by "a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need, and harm caused by the indifference." Id. (citing McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060). Where a prisoner is alleging a delay in receiving medical treatment, the delay must have led to further harm in order for the prisoner to make a claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. McGuckin at 1060 (citing Shapely v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Comm'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985)).

Taking Plaintiff's allegations to be true and construing the allegations liberally, Plaintiff suffers from a dislocated shoulder ant defendants have failed to treat Plaintiff's condition. However, Plaintiff's allegations are contradicted by his exhibit.*fn1 Plaintiff attaches as an exhibit to his complaint a copy of a response to an inmate grievance he filed regarding his dislocated shoulder. The response, from California Correctional Health Care Services, references the Third Level Response, and indicates the following:

Your CDCR 602-HC, received on July 24, 2012, stated you dislocated your shoulder and need medical help. You contend Dr. Tate said it will remain dislocated and you are in a lot of pain. You requested the following: To have your shoulder put back in place and get proper medical care. The institution's response stated your appeal was partially granted and indicated the following . . . on July 23, 2012, you were seen at which time four attempts at reduction were made unsuccessfully. On July 25, 2012, two attempts were made using straight line horizontal traction and scapular manipulation unsuccessfully. During this encounter, you were seen by Dr. Tate who noted in your case history you have had seven shoulder surgeries and numerous non-surgical reduction attempts by medical staff, attempts at reduction are clinically unlikely to result in a permanent solution to the dislocated shoulder. However, you will continue to be monitored and treated appropriately. . . . Records reveal from June 20 through August 8, 2012, medical staff is aware of your chronic left shoulder dislocation. You have had seven previous surgeries, have been seen numerous times by the PCP, and have been evaluated and treated by two orthopedic surgeons.

Plaintiff is advised that Defendants may only be held liable for deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's condition. The exhibit attached to Plaintiff's complaint indicates that Defendants responded to Plaintiff's dislocated shoulder, and several attempts to reduce it were made. That Plaintiff's dislocated should can not be reduced does not subject Defendants to liability for deliberate indifference. Plaintiff cannot prevail in a section 1983 action where only the quality of treatment is subject to dispute. Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240 (9th Cir. 1989). Mere difference of opinion between a prisoner and prison medical staff as to appropriate medical care does not give rise to a section 1983 claim. Hatton v. Arpaio, 217 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2000); Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1344 (9th Cir. 1981). Plaintiff has alleged, at most, facts indicating that he was treated, and that he is ...

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