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Lemus v. Sullivan

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 6, 2013

JUAN CARLOS LEMUS, Plaintiff,
v.
E. SULLIVAN, et al., Defendants.

ORDER OF SERVICE

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a second amended civil rights complaint against prison officials at Correctional Training Facility, in Soledad, California ("CTF") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons stated below, the Court orders service upon named defendants.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't. , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus , 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974.

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

B. Legal Claims

In his second amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that, prior to being transferred to CTF, plaintiff was housed at Pleasant Valley State Prison ("PVSP"), where he contracted Valley Fever, a fungus disease. Plaintiff alleges that, after being transferred to CTF, he continued to experience symptoms of the disease, including chest pain, breathing difficulties, chills, fever, headaches, joint stiffness, muscle aches, weight loss, and rash. Plaintiff alleges that he has never received adequate treatment for his Valley Fever at CTF. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that various CTF medical practitioners have refused to provide him with medication, have told him that he is cured, and have accused him of lying about his symptoms. Plaintiff names as defendants the CTF doctors and nurses who allegedly denied him treatment.

1. Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A determination of "deliberate indifference" involves an examination of two elements: the seriousness of the prisoner's medical need and the nature of the defendant's response to that need. McGuckin v. Smith , 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller , 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). A prison official acts with deliberate indifference if he knows that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable steps to abate it. Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).

Here, plaintiff alleges facts that, if true, show he was diagnosed with Valley Fever in 2009 but has been denied treatment for that disease by doctors and nurses who have refused to acknowledge he is ill. Such allegations, when liberally construed, state a cognizable claim for relief for deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs by the following defendants: Dr. E. Sullivan, Dr. J. Lee, RN A. Coleman, CMO D. Jacobsen, and B. Dixon.

Plaintiff also names as defendants "Jane Does and John Does [1-20]." Although the use of "John Doe" to identify a defendant is not favored in the Ninth Circuit, see Gillespie v. Civiletti , 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980); Wiltsie v. Cal. Dep't of Corrections , 406 F.2d 515, 518 (9th Cir. 1968), situations may arise where the identity of alleged defendants cannot be known prior to the filing of a complaint. In such circumstances, the plaintiff should be given an opportunity through discovery to identify the unknown defendants, unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover their identities or that the complaint should be dismissed on other grounds. See Gillespie , 629 F.2d at 642; Velasquez v. Senko , 643 F.Supp. 1172, 1180 (N.D. Cal. 1986). Any Doe defendant whose true name and identity has not been ...


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