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Martinez v. Beard

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 15, 2014

BEARD, et al., Defendants.


JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

Juan Carlos Martinez seeks to challenge the actions of prison officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's first amended complaint which must be screened to determine whether he has pleaded a cognizable claim. (Doc. 24.)

I. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.[1] 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, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).

II. Summary of the First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff complains of acts that occurred from 2012 through 2013 while he was an inmate at Wasco State Prison ("WSP"). Plaintiff names CDCR Secretary Jeffrey A. Beard, WSP Warden John N. Katavich, NFD Butler, Registered Nurses Deborah Bardford, P. Fernando, and R. Sagusta, Jesse A., LVN, Michael Songer, M.D., Ashraf Youssef, M.D., CMO Brian Marshall, Robert Tharrat, M.D., Receiver J. Clark Kelso, and Does 3-10 as Defendants in this action.

Plaintiff identifies three claims that he is attempting to pursue in this action - deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs under the Eighth Amendment, Supervisory Liability, and Negligence. ( See Doc. 24, at pp. 38-45.) Plaintiff's claims are based on a sequence of events that he alleges caused him injury due to lack of timely medical care for an infection that turned into a "massive abscess" on the posterior aspect of his left upper extremity, near his shoulder blade. Plaintiff seeks various forms of monetary damages.

Plaintiff has stated some cognizable claims and may be able to cure deficiencies in his other claims such that he is being given the option to either proceed on the claims found cognizable herein, or one last opportunity to file an amended complaint.

III. Pleading Requirements

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions, " none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action or appeal... fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

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), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true, but legal conclusions are not. Iqbal. at 678; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557. While "plaintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts..., " Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se prisoners are still construed liberally and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, courts are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences. Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" is not sufficient, and "facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" fall short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

In the prior screening order, the Court noted that the complaint complied with Rule 8(a). However, the first amended complaint has ballooned to forty-six pages in length, only approximately ten of which contain his factual allegations ( see pp. 27-37) and seven of which identify his causes of action against specified Defendants ( see pp. 38-45). While the additional background regarding the appointment of Mr. Kelso as the Receiver, Wasco SP's medical procedures, and the Valley Fever infection is interesting, it is unnecessary at the pleading stage and should not be included if Plaintiff decides to file a second amended complaint. As previously directed, if he chooses to amend, Plaintiff should endeavor to be as concise as possible. He should merely state which of his constitutional rights he feels were violated by each Defendant and the factual basis.

B. Linkage Requirement

The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law]... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution... shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute plainly requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that "[a] person subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made." Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

Plaintiff names but fails to link Secretary Beard, Warden Katavich, Deborah Bardford, R.N., Michael Songer, M.D., Ashraf Youssef, M.D., CMO Brian Marshall, Robert Tharrat, M.D., and Receiver J. Clark Kelso to any of his specific factual allegations. Plaintiff must clearly identify which Defendant(s) he feels are responsible for each violation of his constitutional rights and the alleged factual basis for his claims as his pleading must put each Defendant on notice of Plaintiff's claims against him or her. See Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004).

IV. Claims for Relief

A. Plaintiff's Factual ...

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