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Ricardo Valdez v. Matthew Cate

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


March 12, 2013

RICARDO VALDEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

ORDER

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After a dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, plaintiff has filed an amended complaint.

II. Screening Order

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).

In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "naked assertions," "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-557 (2007). In other words, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief has facial plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

A pro se plaintiff must satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) "requires a complaint to include 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554, 562-563 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)).

II. Background

Plaintiff commenced this action on November 21, 2012 Dckt. No. 1. Pursuant to § 1915A, the court screened the complaint, as follows:

The court has reviewed plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and finds that it must be dismissed. The form complaint lists the names of defendants, includes a request for relief, but no factual allegations. Under the heading "Statement of Claim," it states, "See, Appendix A." Dckt. No. 1. Attached to the form complaint are nearly 200 pages of exhibits, including many medical records, but no "Appendix A" or other statement of plaintiff's claim. 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. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants engaged in that support plaintiff's claim. Id. Because plaintiff fails to allege any facts in support of a claim for relief, the complaint must be dismissed.

Plaintiff will be granted leave to file an amended complaint, if plaintiff can allege a cognizable legal theory against a proper defendant and sufficient facts in support of that cognizable legal theory. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (district courts must afford pro se litigants an opportunity to amend to correct any deficiency in their complaints). Should plaintiff choose to file an amended complaint, the amended complaint shall clearly set forth the claims and allegations against each defendant. Any amended complaint must cure the deficiencies identified above and also adhere to the following requirements:

Any amended complaint must identify as a defendant only persons who personally participated in a substantial way in depriving him of a federal constitutional right. Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978) (a person subjects another to the deprivation of a constitutional right if he does an act, participates in another's act or omits to perform an act he is legally required to do that causes the alleged deprivation). It must also contain a caption including the names of all defendants. Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a). * * *

Moreover, plaintiff is hereby informed that because this case is only in the pleading stage, he need not prove his claims with evidence at this time. At this stage, plaintiff is only required to provide notice of his claim through "a short and plain statement." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). By inundating the court with evidence at this stage in the proceedings, plaintiff only burdens the court, confuses the records, and delays his lawsuit. If this action proceeds to a point where submission of evidence is appropriate, for example, summary judgment or trial, plaintiff will have the opportunity to submit necessary evidence. But in amending his complaint, plaintiff should simply state the facts upon which he alleges a defendant has violated his constitutional rights and refrain from submitting exhibits.

In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege:

(1) the violation of a federal constitutional or statutory right; and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). An individual defendant is not liable on a civil rights claim unless the facts establish the defendant's personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a causal connection between the defendant's wrongful conduct and the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978).

To state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment 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.

It is important to differentiate common law negligence claims of malpractice from claims predicated on violations of the Eight Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. 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 v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-106 (1976); see also Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004). Moreover, 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).

Dckt. No. 4 at 2-5.

III. Screening Order

The amended complaint must also be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The amended complaint does not identify the defendants or request any form of relief. The allegations suggest, however, that CDCR, PA Akatola, and Dr. Hashimoto may have been deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. To succeed on an Eighth Amendment claim predicated on the denial of medical care, a plaintiff must establish that he had a serious medical need and that the defendant's response to that need was deliberately indifferent. Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006); see also Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). That is, the defendant must have known that the inmate faced a substantial risk of serious harm, and must have also disregarded that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994). Plaintiff's amended complaint, which is accompanied by over 200 pages of exhibits, fails under these standards, and is dismissed with a final opportunity to amend.

Plaintiff is hereby informed that CDCR is not a proper defendant. In order to state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) the violation of a federal constitutional or statutory right; and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).

Plaintiff may not sue any official on the theory that the official is liable for the unconstitutional conduct of his or her subordinates. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1948 (2009). Because respondeat superior liability is inapplicable to § 1983 suits, "a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution." Id.

Moreover, state agencies, such as CDCR, are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989); Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (holding that prisoner's Eighth Amendment claims against CDCR for damages and injunctive relief were barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984) (Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to state agencies); see also Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 30 (1991) (clarifying that Eleventh Amendment does not bar suits against state officials sued in their individual capacities, nor does it bar suits for prospective injunctive relief against state officials sued in their official capacities).

Plaintiff will be granted leave to file an amended complaint, if he can allege sufficient facts in support of a cognizable Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim against a proper defendant. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (district courts must afford pro se litigants an opportunity to amend to correct any deficiency in their complaints). Plaintiff may not change the nature of this suit by alleging new, unrelated claims in an amended complaint. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (no "buckshot" complaints). Should plaintiff choose to file an amended complaint, the amended complaint shall clearly set forth the claims and allegations against each defendant.

Moreover, plaintiff is again informed that because this case is only in the pleading stage, he need not prove his claims with evidence at this time. At this stage, plaintiff is only required to provide notice of his claim through "a short and plain statement." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). By inundating the court with evidence at this stage in the proceedings, plaintiff only burdens the court, confuses the records, and delays his lawsuit. If this action proceeds to a point where submission of evidence is appropriate, for example, summary judgment or trial, plaintiff will have the opportunity to submit necessary evidence. But in amending his complaint, plaintiff should simply state the facts upon which he alleges a defendant has violated his constitutional rights and refrain from submitting exhibits.

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the amended complaint (Dckt. No. 11) is dismissed with leave to amend within 30 days. The amended complaint must bear the docket number assigned to this case and be titled "Second Amended Complaint." Failure to comply with this order will result in this action being dismissed for failure to state a claim. If plaintiff files an amended complaint stating a cognizable claim the court will proceed with service of process by the United States Marshal.

20130312

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