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McGee v. Chamberlain

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 20, 2013

DEMITRIUS McGEE, CDCR #K-27398, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAMBERLAIN, M.D; JOHN DOE, M.D, ; JOHN DOE Opthamologist; TRAVIS H. CALVIN, M.D.; KU, M.D.; N. BARRERAS, Chief Medical Officer; JOHN DOE, M.D.; MOHAMMED K. ARAB, M.D.; DANIEL PARAMO, Warden; MATTHEW CATES, Director CDCR, DOMINGO URIBE, Warden; Does 1-20, Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b)

WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.

I. Procedural History

On April 29, 2013, Demitrius McGee ("Plaintiff'), a state prisoner proceeding pro se and currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison located in San Quentin, California, filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) In addition, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis ("IFP"). (ECF No. 2.) On May 14, 2013, this Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP but simultaneously sua sponte dismissed his Complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) & 1915A(b). (ECF No. 3 at 7-8.) Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended complaint in order to correct the deficiencies of pleading identified in the Court's Order. ( Id. ) On June 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). (ECF No. 5.)

In his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants N. Barreras, Samuel Ko, Mohammed H. Arab, Travis H. Calvin, Dr. Miesel and E. Chamberlain as Defendants. (ECF No. 5 at 1-2.) In the Court's May 14, 2013 Order, Plaintiff was informed that any claims not realleged and Defendants not renamed would be deemed waived. (ECF No. 3 at 7) (citing King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987)). Because Plaintiff no longer names Defendants John Doe, M.D., John Doe, Opthamologist, John Doe, M.D., Ear Nose and Throat, Daniel Paramo, Matthew Cate and Domingo Uribe as Defendants, these Defendants are DISMISSED from this action.

II. SUA SPONTE SCREENING PER 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) AND § 1915A

As the Court stated in its previous Order, the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") obligates the Court to review complaints filed by all persons proceeding IFP and by those, like Plaintiff, who are "incarcerated or detained in any facility [and] accused of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms or conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program, " "as soon as practicable after docketing." See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b). Under these provisions of the PLRA, the Court must sua sponte dismiss complaints, or any portions thereof, which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or which seek damages from defendants who are immune. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (§ 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).

"[W]hen determining whether a complaint states a claim, a court must accept as true all allegations of material fact and must construe those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998) (noting that § 1915(e)(2) "parallels the language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)"). In addition, courts "have an obligation where the petitioner is pro se, particularly in civil rights cases, to construe the pleadings liberally and to afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985)). The court may not, however, "supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss." Id.

A. Statute of Limitations

In Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, like his original Complaint, he, once again, alleges that he was denied adequate medical care while he was housed at Centinela State Prison from 2007 to 2009. (ECF No. 5 at 4-26.) However, the only claims against the named Defendants are alleged to have occurred between 2007 and 2008.[1] ( Id. at 4-9.)

Where the running of the statute of limitations is apparent on the face of the complaint, dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper. See Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273, 1276 (9th Cir. 1993). Because section 1983 contains no specific statute of limitation, federal courts apply the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 927 (9th Cir. 2004); Maldonado v. Harris, 370 F.3d 945, 954 (9th Cir. 2004); Fink v. Shedler, 192 F.3d 911, 914 (9th Cir. 1999). Before 2003, California's statute of limitations was one year. Jones, 393 F.3d at 927. Effective January 1, 2003, the limitations period was extended to two years. Id. (citing CAL. CIV. PROC. CODE § 335.1).

Unlike the length of the limitations period, however, "the accrual date of a § 1983 cause of action is a question of federal law that is not resolved by reference to state law." Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007); Hardin v. Staub, 490 U.S. 536, 543-44 (1989) (federal law governs when a § 1983 cause of action accrues). "Under the traditional rule of accrual... the tort cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitation begins to run, when the wrongful act or omission results in damages." Wallace, 549 U.S. at 391; see also Maldonado, 370 F.3d at 955 ("Under federal law, a claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action.").

Here, Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendants liable for events which occurred between 2007 and 2008. Thus, Plaintiff would have reason to believe that his constitutional rights were violated five to six years ago. Id.; see also Maldonado, 370 F.3d at 955. However, Plaintiff did not file his Complaint in this case until April 29, 2013, which exceeds California's statute of limitation. See CAL. CODE CIV. PROC. § 335.1; Jones, 393 F.3d at 927. Plaintiff does not allege any facts to suggest how or why California's two-year statute of limitations might be tolled for a period of time which would make his claims timely. See, e.g., CAL. CODE CIV. P. § 352.1 (tolling statute of limitations "for a maximum of 2 years" during a prisoner's incarceration); Fink v. Shedler, 192 F.3d 911, 916 (9th Cir. 1999) (finding that CAL. CODE Civ. P. § 352.1 tolls a California prisoner's personal injury claims accruing before January 1, 1995 for two years, or until January 1, 1995, whichever occurs later, unless application of the statute would result in a "manifest injustice.").

Pursuant to Fink, a portion of Plaintiff's claims against Defendants, accruing in 2007 and 2008, would be tolled for two years. California's two-year statute of limitations would then begin to run - requiring Plaintiff to file this action against these Defendants no later than 2011. Generally, federal courts also apply the forum state's law regarding equitable tolling. Fink, 192 F.3d at 914; Bacon v. City of Los Angeles, 843 F.2d 372, 374 (9th Cir. 1988). Under California law, a plaintiff must meet three conditions to equitably toll a statute of limitations: (1) he must have diligently pursued his claim; (2) his situation must be the product of forces beyond his control; and (3) the defendants must not be prejudiced by the application of equitable tolling. See Hull v. Central Pathology Serv. Med. Clinic, 28 Cal.App.4th 1328, 1335 (Cal.Ct.App. 1994); Addison v. State of California, 21 Cal.3d 313, 316-17 (Cal. 1978); Fink, 192 F.3d at 916. Here, Plaintiff has failed to plead any facts which, if proved, would support the equitable tolling of his claims. See Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273, 1277 (9th Cir. 1993).

Once again, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants arising in 2007 and 2008 must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) because it appears from the face of the pleading that Plaintiff's claims are time-barred. Cervantes, 5 F.3d at 1277. The Court previously dismissed Plaintiff's original Complaint based on the same grounds and informed Plaintiff that he must plead facts to support equitable tolling. However, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint is devoid of any such allegations. Plaintiff is cautioned that he will be provided the opportunity to file ...


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