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Fernandez v. California Department of Correction & Rehabilitation

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

July 31, 2013

BRANDON ALEXANDER FERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION & REHABILITATION, et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

KENDALL J. NEWMAN, Magistrate Judge.

Defendants Barnes and Cate's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 37) came on regularly for hearing on July 25, 2013.[1] ECF No. 44. Carter White appeared for plaintiff. Lawrence Bragg appeared for defendants. After considering the supporting documentation and oral arguments, and for the reasons discussed at the hearing, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that defendants Barnes and Cate's motion to dismiss be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed his original complaint on April 27, 2011, against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"); Matthew Cate, former Director of the CDCR; and R.E. Barnes, former Warden of California Correctional Center in Susanville, California ("CCC-Susanville"). ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that on June 7, 2009, he was playing basketball at CCC-Susanville, and injured his left "ring" finger. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that he was not medically examined for approximately one month, despite repeated requests for an examination. Id. at 5. When an x-ray was taken of plaintiff's finger, it revealed that his finger suffered a fresh break, but that the broken finger had already begun healing incorrectly due to the delay in treatment. Id . Surgery was not recommended because it could potentially damage plaintiff's finger. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff also alleges that he did not receive pain medication for his broken finger until one year after the injury. Id. at 6. On June 27, 2011, the court dismissed plaintiff's complaint as insufficient to state an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to his medical needs. ECF No. 5. Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended complaint. Id.

On July 13, 2011, plaintiff filed his first amended complaint naming Matthew Cate, R.E. Barnes and Andrew Pomozal, CCC-Suanville's Chief Medical Officer, as defendants. ECF No. 8. On January 3, 2012, the court found service appropriate for all three defendants. ECF No. 9.

On April 9, 2012, defendants Cate, Barnes and Pomozal filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 16. On January 24, 2013, the court entered findings and recommendations recommending dismissing plaintiff's first amended complaint to the extent it purports to state claims against defendants Barnes or Cate.[2] ECF No. 26 at 4-5. The court also recommended dismissal of plaintiff's request for monetary damages against any of the named defendants in their official capacities. Id. at 5. On February 27, 2013, plaintiff, through counsel, filed objections to the court's findings and recommendations, specifically objecting to the court's recommendation granting defendants Barnes and Cate's motion to dismiss.[3] ECF No. 31. On March 28, 2013, the district judge adopted the findings and recommendations in full, except that plaintiff was granted final leave to amend his allegations against defendants Barnes and Cate. ECF No. 33.

On April 17, 2013, plaintiff, through counsel, filed his second amended complaint.[4] ECF No. 34. Plaintiff's operative second amended complaint sets forth how he sustained the injury to his left "ring" finger on June 7, 2009, and alleges that he attempted to seek medical attention but was told to "come back tomorrow." Id. at 3. Plaintiff alleges that when he returned to the medical window on June 8, 2009, he was told that he needed to fill out a medical request form, and was then made to wait until the end of the day, without assistance, when he was told to leave and wait for a "Medical Ducat." Id . Plaintiff alleges he returned after eleven days and was told his medical request form was lost and that he would have to fill out another form. Id . Plaintiff alleges that at the time he filled out the form, "on or about June 19, 2009, procedures at CCC for processing Health Care Services Request Forms were in serious disarray." Id . In support of this allegation, plaintiff alleges that Part II of the request form, which is to be filled out by a triage nurse, was "routinely not completed, or only partially completed, resulting in deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of inmates." Id . Plaintiff alleges that "[t]hese Constitutional violations were the direct result of the failure of [d]efendants Pomozal, Barnes, and Cate to implement adequate procedures for the processing of Health Care Service Request Forms." Id . Plaintiff alleges that none of the pertinent information in Part II was filled out, such as the date and time the form was received. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff further alleges that Part II was incorrectly marked as "routine, " "in deliberate disregard of the information provided by Plaintiff in Part I of the form that he was in severe pain and likely had suffered a broken finger." Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of Part II of the form being marked as routine, he was not seen for medical treatment for another two weeks. Id . Plaintiff's finger was x-rayed on July 15, 2009, which showed a fresh break in the finger that had already partially healed. Id . As a result, plaintiff alleges he was told there was nothing the doctor could do to help it heal properly. Id . Sometime between August 27, 2009, and October 27, 2009, plaintiff alleges he received pain medication for the first time. Id. at 5. On October 27, 2009, plaintiff alleges he saw a doctor and was told his finger could not be operated on because of how it healed, and that it would be permanently disfigured. Id.

Regarding defendant Cate, plaintiff alleges as follows:

Defendant Cate, as Director of CDCR, was responsible for the operations of CDCR and for the welfare of all inmates.
Defendant Cate had direct knowledge that prisons were overcrowded and that this overcrowding led to inmates not being seen by medical staff in a timely manner and that inmates suffered injuries as a result of this delay in treatment. Defendant Cate knew that the CDCR medical system was not providing adequate medical care and that this was depriving inmates of their Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment yet he did nothing to fix the system.

Id. at 6. With regard to defendant Barnes, plaintiff alleges as follows:

Defendant Barnes, as Warden of CCC, was responsible for the operations of CCC and for the welfare of the inmates in CCC.
Defendant Barnes, by not overseeing a competent medical staff or implementing a medical scheduling system that guaranteed inmates receive medical care in a timely manner, failed to provide a facility that could provide adequate medical care to its inmates and set into motion a series of acts that he knew or reasonably should ...

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