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Dougal Samuels v. Pam Ahlin

May 3, 2013


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



Dougal Samuels is a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on April 5, 2010. (Doc. 1.) On April 14, 2010, Plaintiff consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction in this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and no other parties have made an appearance. (Doc. 7.) Therefore, pursuant to Appendix A(k)(4) of the Local Rules of the Eastern District of California, the undersigned shall conduct any and all proceedings in the case until such time as reassignment to a District Judge is required. Local Rule Appendix A(k)(3).

On July 26, 2012, the Court dismissed the Complaint for failure to state a claim, with leave to amend. (Doc. 12.) On November 2, 2012, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint, which is now before the Court for screening. (Doc. 15.)


The court is required to screen complaints brought by detainees 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 detainee has raised claims that are legally Afrivolous 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). The in forma pauperis statutes provides that Athe 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 is required to contain Aa 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 A[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, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)). While a plaintiff=s allegations are taken as true, courts Aare not required to indulge unwarranted inferences,@ Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiff must set forth Asufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to >state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.=@ Iqbal 556 U.S. at 678. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Id. The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id.


The events at issue in the First Amended Complaint occurred at Coalinga State Hospital (CSH) in Coalinga, California, where Plaintiff is currently detained. Plaintiff names as defendants Pam Ahlin (ex-Executive Director), Stephen Mayberg (ex-Director, Dept. of Mental Health (DMH)), Fresno County Board of Supervisors, Arnold Schwarzenegger (ex-Governor of the State of California), and Doe Defendants 1-10. Plaintiff's factual allegations follow.

Plaintiff arrived at CSH on or about February 16, 2006. In April 2006, Plaintiff developed severe coughing, loss of appetite, and cold sweats and chills at night, which lasted for weeks. When he complained to Dr. Bresler, his treating physician, he was told to sign up with the sick call nurse. Each day afterwards, Plaintiff's physical condition worsened, even with medical treatment. In August 2006, Dr. Bresler prescribed medication for inflammation of Plaintiff's chest for ten days, to combat bacterial infection. Plaintiff's symptoms persisted, and Dr. Bresler diagnosed him with Coccidioidomycosis, the disease known as Valley Fever, and placed him in isolation for ten days. During isolation, it was discovered that Plaintiff had pneumonia. An x-ray was taken, which revealed a large black mass in his right lung, indicating that his condition was worse than expected. Plaintiff's blood, urine, and sputum were tested, confirming that he was suffering from a dangerous form of Valley Fever. Dr. Bresler prescribed Flucomazone, an anti-fungal medication, which caused Plaintiff to experience an allergic reaction, with burning on his hands and arms, rashes on his legs, and blisters on his back and feet. When Plaintiff told the doctor he was unable to continue taking Flucomazone, Dr. Bresler indicated it was the only known medication available to treat his condition.

Plaintiff rapidly lost weight and continued to experience cold sweats and excruciating pain in his lower back around the sciatic nerves. The doctor prescribed pain pills, which did not control the pain. Unable to get a full examination and unable to convince medical staff of the intense pain he felt, in April 2007 Plaintiff went to the clinic and lay down on the floor. The nurses tried to stop him from complaining and crying, but they did not assist him. Dr. Jonathan Hamrick heard his loud cries, came out of his office, and asked why Plaintiff was crying. Plaintiff explained about the agonizing pain in his lower back. Dr. Hamrick escorted Plaintiff to have an x-ray taken. The x-ray did not reveal any internal damage, so Dr. Hamrick ordered an MRI. Nearly two months afterward, in June 2007, the MRI procedure was performed at Sierra Vista Hospital in San Luis Obispo. The MRI showed a darker black mass that had spread to his lumbar region, causing inflammation of the spinal cord. The infection was eating into the bone and vertebrate from the inside out. Recognizing the dangerous nature of the infection, the doctor indicated that Plaintiff needed immediate surgery or he would risk the possibility of paralysis from the waist down. Two hours later, Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for surgery.

The surgery took seven hours or more, and the surgeon removed a disk and part of the lower spinal cord, cut sciatic nerves, repaired vertebrates, and inserted a steel plate. Plaintiff was in a body cast for weeks. The medications he took at Sierra Vista Hospital never caused him allergic reactions like the medications from CSH.

Plaintiff alleges that as early as 2002, Defendants had specific scientific and health knowledge of the dangers of Valley Fever at Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP), which is only two hundred yards from CSH where Plaintiff contracted the disease. Defendants were negligent and deliberately indifferent because A[i]n complete disregard of the dangerous disease posed to employees and patients at Coalinga State Hospital (CSH), Plaintiff and many other individuals were brought to the state institution against their will; and that this resulted in Plaintiff contracting [Valley Fever]" First Amd Cmp, Doc. 15 at 5 ¶I.(2). Valley Fever is caused by exposure to dust in areas endemic to the disease, and is potentially fatal.

Plaintiff alleges that Governor Schwartzenegger was aware of the dangers of Valley Fever at PVSP when ground was broken in the vicinity for the construction of CSH, and yet he allowed construction to proceed without interruption. Similarly, Plaintiff alleges that Stephen Mayberg, Director of the DMH, gave his written approval to go ahead with the construction, despite scientific knowledge of dangers at the site.

Defendants failed to properly monitor the conditions which caused Plaintiff's injuries. Defendants also failed to properly monitor the employees at CSH. Defendants acted on the assumption that the disease was not life threatening, and condoned the Department of Mental Health's policies which amount to deliberate indifference to the health and safety of patients at the state institutions. As a person infected with Valley Fever, Plaintiff was denied the same accommodations as his peers at CSH, in violation of the ADA, the California Disabled Person's Act, and the California Dependent Adult Act. The medical policies, practices, and ...

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