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Clarence Leon Dews v. State Water System

May 9, 2013


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


Clarence Leon Dews, a state prisoner appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Dews is currently incarcerated at the Kern Valley State Prison. This action arises out of an alleged unsafe level of arsenic in the potable water consumed by inmates at the Kern Valley State Prison, North Kern Valley State Prison, and Wasco State Prison.*fn2 In this action Dews has sued various California state entities and officials in their individual capacities for injunctive relief and damages caused by his consumption of the contaminated water over a period of several years.*fn3


This Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.*fn4 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."*fn5 Likewise, a prisoner must exhaust all administrative remedies as may be available,*fn6 irrespective of whether those administrative remedies provide for monetary relief.*fn7

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."*fn8 "[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."*fn9 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.*fn10

This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.*fn11 "[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.'"*fn12 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.*fn13 "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."*fn14


The water supply to the three state prisons located in Kern County is provided by the State Water System #151082. That water system has been determined to contain unsafe levels of arsenic and mercury, a condition that has yet to be rectified. Dews contends that as a result of the toxic substances in the water system he has suffered rectal bleeding, hemorrhaging/hemorrhoids, and has cancer of the stomach.

Plaintiff seeks: (1) injunctive relief compelling the wardens of North Kern County State Prison, Kern County State Prison, and Wasco State Prison to provide bottled drinking water; (2) compensatory damages of $150,000.00, and (3) punitive damages of $200,000.00.


Dews has three other actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 pending in this Court: Dews v. Kern Radiology Medical Group, Inc., 1:12-cv-00242-AWI-MJS (Dews I"); Dews v. County of Kern, 1:12-cv-00245-AWI-MJS ("Dews II"); and Dews v. Chen, 1:12-cv-01221-RRB ("Dews III").*fn15

In Dews I, Dews has also sued various officials of the North Kern County Prison for violation of the Eighth Amendment proscription of cruel and unusual punishment in denying him necessary medical treatment for a torn rotator cuff. That action was dismissed during screening with leave to amend; however, in lieu of filing an amended complaint Dews has appealed from the dismissal.

In Dews II, Dews has sued various officials of the Wasco State Prison for use of excessive force and denial of necessary medical treatment. That action has not been screened.

In Dews III, Dews has sued various prison officials in their official and representative capacities and two California municipalities for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. That action was ...

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