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Hutchison v. California Prison Industry Authority

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 4, 2014



CLAUDIA WILKEN, District Judge.


Plaintiff Edwin Jay Hutchison, a state prisoner incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison (SQSP), filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the violation of his constitutional rights by the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA), operating under the auspices of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and individuals who are employees of CALPIA or of SQSP. On January 13, 2014, the Court dismissed with leave to amend the claims asserted by Plaintiff because he did not causally connect the actions of each Defendant to the alleged constitutional deprivations. On February 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (1AC), which the Court now reviews.


I. 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. 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. Id . § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

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. West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

Liability may be imposed on an individual defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the plaintiff can show that the defendant's actions both actually and proximately caused the deprivation of a federally protected right. Lemire v. California Dept. Corrections & Rehabilitation , 726 F.3d 1062, 1074 (9th Cir. 2013); Leer v. Murphy , 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988); Harris v. City of Roseburg , 664 F.2d 1121, 1125 (9th Cir. 1981). A person deprives another of a constitutional right within the meaning of § 1983 if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative act or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do, that causes the deprivation of which the plaintiff complains. Leer , 844 F.2d at 633. Under no circumstances is there respondeat superior liability under § 1983. Lemire , 726 F.3d at 1074. Or, in layman's terms, under no circumstances is there liability under § 1983 solely because one is responsible for the actions or omissions of another. Taylor v. List , 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); Ybarra v. Reno Thunderbird Mobile Home Village , 723 F.2d 675, 680-81 (9th Cir. 1984).

A supervisor may be liable under § 1983 upon a showing of personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Redman v. County of San Diego , 942 F.2d 1435, 1446 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (citation omitted). A supervisor therefore generally "is only liable for constitutional violations of his subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them." Taylor , 880 F.2d at 1045. This includes allegations that a supervisor implemented "a policy so deficient that the policy itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights and is the moving force of the constitutional violation." Redman , 942 F.2d at 1446; Jeffers v. Gomez , 267 F.3d 895, 917 (9th Cir. 2001).

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

In his 1AC, Plaintiff asserts: (1) an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to the serious risk of harm from exposing him to asbestos and lead at the CALPIA furniture factory where he worked; (2) a state law claim against the CALPIA under California Government Code section 835, [1] which provides that a public entity is liable for injury proximately caused by a dangerous condition on its property; (3) an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical need by failing to provide testing to determine his exposure to asbestos or lead; and (4) a state law claim for fraudulent concealment.

A. Claim for Deliberate Indifference to Serious Risk of Harm

The legal standard for this Eighth Amendment claim was provided in the Court's Order dismissing the complaint with leave to amend. See Doc. no. 5 at 6-7. Plaintiff names the following Defendants in this claim: (1) Ronald Glass, CALPIA Industrial Supervisor; (2) Gary S. Loredo, CALPIA Superintendent II; (3) Philip Earley, CALPIA Industries Administrator/Lead Manager; (4) Luu Rogers, CALPIA Industrial Supervisor/Health and Safety Coordinator; (5) John Walker, SQSP Health and Safety Manager; (6) Elizabeth Babcock, SQSP Hazardous Material Specialist; (7) Brad Smith, Branch Manager at CALPIA Sacramento Headquarters; (8) Charles Pattillo, General Manager at CALPIA Sacramento Headquarters; and (9) Kevin Chappell, SQSP Warden.

In the Order of Dismissal, the Court found that Plaintiff's allegations of exposure to lead and asbestos were sufficiently serious to fulfill the objective requirement of an Eighth Amendment violation but that he had failed to allege the subjective component of the claim. See Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). For Plaintiff to remedy this deficiency, the Court indicated that he must allege how each Defendant knew that he faced a substantial risk of serious harm and how that Defendant failed to take reasonable steps to abate that risk of serious harm.

Plaintiff's amended allegations indicate what each Defendant knew about the hazardous conditions at the furniture factory, that each Defendant had a responsibility to remedy the hazardous conditions, and that each Defendant failed to do so. The amended allegations are sufficient to state a cognizable Eighth Amendment against all the above-named Defendants.

B. Public Entity Liability Claim Against CALPIA

Plaintiff alleges that CALPIA, operating under the auspices of the CDCR, is a public entity responsible for the operation of the furniture factory where Plaintiff worked. At that factory, Plaintiff was allegedly exposed to the hazardous conditions of latent asbestos fibers and lead-based paints. Plaintiff alleges that CALPIA was responsible for creating these ...

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