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Cranford v. Narcela

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 24, 2014

DHORLEEN NARCELA, et al., Defendant.


STANLEY A. BOONE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Archie Cranford is a civil detainee proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Individuals detained pursuant to California Welfare and Institutions Code § 6600 et seq. are civil detainees and are not prisoners within the meaning of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Page v. Torrey , 201 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2000).



The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, " or that "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must demonstrate that each named defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 676-677; Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz. , 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-1021 (9th Cir. 2010).

Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are still entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor, but the pleading standard is now higher, Wilhelm v. Rotman , 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted), and to survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv. , 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" is not sufficient, and "facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678; Moss , 572 F.3d at 969.



On June 26, 2014, while Plaintiff was eating lunch he spilled scalding hot soup on him receiving first degree burns in his private area and upper portions of his legs. Plaintiff eventually gained entry into the housing unit and sought the assistance of a nurse. After three days, the nurse agreed to treat Plaintiff's injury, however, another inmate interrupted the treatment by entering the examination room.



As a civil detainee, Plaintiff is entitled to treatment more considerate than that afforded pretrial detainees or convicted criminals. Jones v. Blanas , 393 F.3d 918, 931-32 (9th Cir. 2004). Plaintiff's right to constitutionally adequate conditions of confinement is protected by the substantive component of the Due Process Clause. Youngberg v. Romeo , 457 U.S. 307, 315, 102 S.Ct. 2452 (1982).

A determination whether Plaintiff's rights were violated requires "balancing of his liberty interests against the relevant state interests." Youngberg , 457 U.S. at 321. Plaintiff is "entitled to more considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish, " but the Constitution requires only that courts ensure that professional judgment was exercised. Youngberg , 457 U.S. at 321-22. A "decision, if made by a professional, is presumptively valid; liability may be imposed only when the decision by the professional is such a substantial departure from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards as to demonstrate that the person responsible actually did not base the decision on such a judgment." Id. at 322-23; compare Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa , 591 F.3d 1232, 1243-44 (9th Cir. 2010) (rejecting the Youngberg standard and applying the deliberate indifference standard to a pretrial detainee's right to medical care, and noting that pretrial detainees, who are confined to ensure presence at trial, are not similarly situated to those civilly committed). The professional judgment standard is an objective standard and it equates "to that required in ordinary tort cases for a finding of conscious indifference amounting to gross negligence." Ammons v. Washington Dep't of Soc. & Health Servs. , 648 F.3d 1020, 1029 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 2379 (2012) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

The Ninth Circuit has recognized a constitutionally protected interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters, including medical information. See, e.g., Nelson v. Nat'l Aeronautics & Space Admin. , 530 F.3d 865, 877 (9th Cir. 2008), rev'd on other grounds and remanded, ___ U.S. ___ , 131 S.Ct. 746, 178 L.Ed.2d 667 (U.S. 2011) ("Information relating to medical treatment and psychological counseling fall squarely within the domain protected by the constitutional right to informational privacy.") (citations omitted); Tucson Woman's Clinic v. Eden , 379 F.3d 531, 551 (9th Cir. 2004) ("Individuals have a constitutionally protected interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters, ' including medical information.") (quoting Whalen v. Roe , 429 U.S. 589, 599 (1977)); Norman-Bloodsaw v. Lawrence Berkeley Lab. , 135 F.3d 1260, 1269 (9th Cir. 1998) ("The constitutionally protected privacy interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters clearly encompasses medical information and its confidentiality."); Doe v. Attorney Gen. of U.S. , 941 F.2d 780, 795 (9th Cir. 1991), overruled on other grounds by Lane v. Pena , 518 U.S. 187, 191 (1996) (holding that "medical information was encompassed within the... privacy interest related to disclosure of personal matters.").

Assuming a right of privacy, Plaintiff has alleged no intentional conduct. It is well established that negligent conduct is ordinarily not enough to state a claim alleging a denial of liberty or property under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Daniels v. Williams , 474 U.S. 327, 330 (1986); Davidson v. Cannon , 474 U.S. 344, 347 (1986) ("[T]he Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not implicated by the lack of due care of an official causing unintended injury to life, liberty, or property. In other words, where a government official is merely negligent in causing the injury, no procedure for compensation is constitutionally required.").

In this instance, Plaintiff has alleged nothing more than negligent conduct. Plaintiff's allegations present nothing more than that another patient entered the medical room during treatment in violation of his right to privacy. Plaintiff has not alleged, must less demonstrated, deliberate conduct on the part of Defendant Nurse Dhorleen Narcela. Indeed, there is no factual allegation as to what, if any, medical information was disclosed by Nurse Narcela to the outside patient. However, because it is not clear that amendment would be futile, the Court will dismiss the complaint with leave to amend.



For the reasons stated, Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days. Noll v. Carlson , 809 F.2d 1446, 1448-49 (9th Cir. 1987). Plaintiff may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in his amended complaint. George v. Smith , 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007) (no "buckshot" complaints).

Plaintiff's amended complaint should be brief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), but must state what each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678. "The inquiry into causation must be individualized and focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation." Leer v. Murphy , 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988). Although accepted as true, the "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level..." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

Finally, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint, Forsyth v. Humana, Inc. , 114 F.3d 1467, 1474 (9th Cir. 1997); King v. Atiyeh , 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987), and must be "complete in itself without reference to the prior or superseded pleading, " Local Rule 220. "All causes of action alleged in an original complaint which are not alleged in an amended complaint are waived." King , 814 F.2d at 567 (citing to London v. Coopers & Lybrand , 644 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1981)); accord Forsyth , 114 F.3d at 1474.

Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. The Clerk's Office shall send Plaintiff a civil rights amended complaint form;
2. Plaintiff's complaint, filed July 2, 2014, is dismissed for failure to state a claim;
3. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint; and
4. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint in compliance with this order, this action will be dismissed, with prejudice, for failure to state a claim.


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