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Thomas v. Skrenek

United States District Court, C.D. California

April 23, 2014

JAY SKRENEK, et al., Defendants.


SUZANNE H. SEGAL, Magistrate Judge.



On January 27, 2014, Plaintiff Craig Arnold Thomas ("Plaintiff") filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (the "Complaint") against various defendants. (Complaint at 1-4, 8-10)[1]. For the reasons stated below, the Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.[2]

Congress mandates that district courts initially screen civil complaints filed by prisoners seeking redress from a governmental entity or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). This Court may dismiss such a complaint, or any portions thereof, before service of process if the Court concludes that the complaint (1) is frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) (1)-(2); see also Lopez v. Smith , 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 & n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).



Plaintiff sues the following nine employees of California Correctional Institution-Tehachapi ("CCI") in both their individual and official capacities: (1) Correctional Officer Hudson; (2) Law Librarian Carloe, ; (3) Law Library Supervisor Jay Skrenek; (4) Fire Chief K. Fried; (5) Correctional Officer C. Chamberlain; (6) Warden Fernando Gonzalez; (7) Chief Deputy Warden M. Stainer; (8) Associate Warden of Business Services M. Carrasco; and (9) Associate Warden Hedgepeth (collectively, "Defendants").[3] (Complaint at 3-4, 8-10, 13).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they ordered him and two other inmates to move boxes of books "covered in black and green mold" from a storage room without protective gear. (Id. at 7-8). Specifically, from May 26, 2010 through June of 2010, Plaintiff and the other inmates were temporarily reassigned from working at the law library to moving boxes of books from the prison's "silk screen storage room, " where they "encountered a strong pungent odor[.]" (Id. at 5, 7). After detecting "the hazardous and poisonous toxic mold[, ]" Plaintiff notified Defendants Officer Hudson, Law Librarian Carloe and Law Library Supervisor Skrenek of the black mold and "requested protective gear such as rubber gloves and surgical mask[s] to avoid exposure to the toxic mold." (Id. at 7). However, they denied Plaintiff's request and stated that "our higher ups failed to provide it so it's out of our hands.'" (Id.). Fire Chief Fried had previously checked the storage room and had determined that the stained and dirty boxes constituted a potential fire hazard, "but failed to do anything once Defendants were made aware of the toxic black mold." (Id. at 9).

Carloe further stated that "it's a priority [that] the boxes of books be moved" from the storage room and insisted that the job "could not be put off because Chief K. Fried did not provide any protective gear." (Id. at 7). However, Hudson and Carloe "refused to enter the silk schreen [sic] storage room after viewing the toxic black mold." (Id.). Additionally, Plaintiff and the other inmates "personally showed" the toxic mold to Skrenek "to make clear the potential health risk in [the] hazardous area." (Id.). Skrenek failed to provide adequate safety equipment and warned Plaintiff to be careful. (Id.).

The next day, Plaintiff informed Officer Chamberlain about the toxic mold and requested protective gear. (Id. at 8). Instead of providing the gear, Chamberlain merely told Plaintiff to speak with Skrenek. (Id.). Upon Plaintiff's renewed request, Skrenek provided only one pair of cotton gloves to be shared by the three inmates. (Id.). Skrenek further instructed Plaintiff and the other inmates "to avoid carrying the boxes of books so close to [their] mouth and nose to avoid the mold." (Id.). On the third day, after noticing Plaintiff's swollen nose and irritated eyes, Skrenek provided Plaintiff with wet paper towels, rubber gloves and a surgical mask. (Id.).

As a consequence of his exposure to the mold, Plaintiff suffered a "permanent injury to his lungs and/or respiratory system" and continues to experience chronic nasal and sinus congestion, chest pain, headaches, and eye irritation. (Id. at 9-10). Plaintiff was "temporarily subscribe[d]" [sic] nasal and eye medication to treat the nasal and sinus congestion and the "eye burning, reddened eye irritation[.]" (Id. at 10). Also, Plaintiff "was temporarily prescribed pain medication" for the chest pains and headaches. (Id.). "To this present date[, ]" Plaintiff has also been prescribed two inhalers to help with his breathing. (Id. at 9).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Hudson, Carloe, Skrenek and Chamberlian "caused wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain and substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff" through their "deliberate indifference to Plaintiff[]s health and safety[.]" (Id. at 11-12). Similarly, Plaintiff contends that Fried also showed "deliberate indifference to [his] health and safety" because he failed to properly evaluate the work environment and provide protective gear. (Id. at 9).

Plaintiff claims that Warden Gonzalez, Chief Deputy Warden Stainer, Associate Warden Carrasco, and Associate Warden Hedgepeth are liable for the actions of Hudson, Carloe, Skrenek and Chamberlain. (Id. at 8-10). According to Plaintiff, these four officials "knew or reasonably should have known" about the "unsafe and unhealthy environment" because they are responsible ...

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