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Theodore Clinton Wood v. Governor Jerry Brown

April 23, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ralph R. Beistline United States District Judge


Theodore Clinton Wood, a state prisoner appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a civil rights Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1983. Wood's Complaint arises out of his incarceration at the Avenal State Prison.*fn1


This Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.*fn2 This Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted," or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief."*fn3 Likewise, a prisoner must exhaust all administrative remedies as may be available,*fn4 irrespective of whether those administrative remedies provide for monetary relief.*fn5

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."*fn6 "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation."*fn7 Failure to state a claim under § 1915A incorporates the familiar standard applied in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), including the rule that complaints filed by pro se prisoners are to be liberally construed, affording the prisoner the benefit of any doubt, and dismissal should be granted only where it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can plead no facts in support of his claim that would entitle him or her to relief.*fn8

Section 1983 suits do not support vicarious liability, a plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his or her rights.*fn9 This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.*fn10 "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'"*fn11 Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true.*fn12

"Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."*fn13


Wood alleges that, notwithstanding the knowledge that there was an outbreak of Valley Fever at Avenal State Prison, he was nonetheless transferred to Avenal State Prison. As a consequence Wood was exposed to and contracted Valley Fever. Wood has brought this action against Edmund G. ("Jerry") Brown, Jr., the Governor; Donald McElroy; Dr. Gill, .D., the Warden of Avenal State Prison; and unnamed employees of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR").


It is clearly established that prison officials have a duty under the Eighth Amendment to provide inmates with the necessities of life, including adequate shelter, food, clothing, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.*fn14 In this case, there is no allegation that would support a claim that Wood was denied medical care for his condition; nor does it appear that Wood asserts such a claim. Instead, Wood's claim rests upon the ground that his transfer to Avenal State Prison in light of the known risk that he might contract Valley Fever constituted a deliberate disregard of his safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Reading Wood's Complaint liberally, as this Court must,*fn15 Wood has alleged that he was knowingly placed in serious danger of, and did in fact, contract Valley Fever. If true, this is sufficient to survive the screening under § 1915A.*fn16 The problem is that, as presently constituted, this Court cannot determine which State official(s) was(were) responsible for Wood's transfer to Avenal State Prison. Thus, the Complaint as presently constituted is deficient (fails to state a cause of action) and must be dismissed. Dismissal, however, must be with leave to amend.


Based on the foregoing, it is hereby ...

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