United States District Court, Eastern District of California
ALLISON CLAIRE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. By order filed May 7, 2014, plaintiffs complaint was dismissed with leave to file an amended complaint. ECF No. 15. Plaintiff has filed an amended complaint. ECF No. 20.
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 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).
A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy. 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. See Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin, 745 F.2d at 1227.
A complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twomblv, 550 U.S. 544. 555 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more. . . than ... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id, quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-35 (3d ed. 2004). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 566 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twomblv, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.
In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiffs favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421(1969).
Summary of Complaint
Plaintiffs original complaint (ECF No. 1) was dismissed because it was so vague and conclusory that the court was unable to determine if plaintiff s allegations were frivolous or failed to state a claim for relief. See ECF No. 15. In plaintiffs amended complaint (ECF No. 20), plaintiff alleges that he was wrongfully placed in "ad/seg" after being falsely accused of a disciplinary violation and was involuntarily transferred to High Desert State Prison. ECF No. 20 at 3. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant Heatley, a doctor at Mule Creek State Prison, was deliberately indifferent to plaintiffs health and safety when he provided inadequate medical care to plaintiff. ECF No. 20 at 3. Plaintiff alleges that after he filed a grievance against defendant C. Smith, the chief medical officer at Mule Creek State Prison, all defendants retaliated against plaintiff by harassing him, denying him access to free copies of legal documents, and denying his request to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 20 at 3-4. Plaintiff brings this action against the defendants as individuals and in their official capacity, and seeks nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages for "pain and mental anguish." ECF No. 3 at 3-4.
Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Need
Inmates can establish an Eighth Amendment violation with respect to medical care if they can prove there has been deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). Two requirements must be met: (1) the deprivation must be, objectively, sufficiently serious; and (2) the prison official must be, subjectively, deliberately indifferent to inmate health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).
A serious medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain. Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting McGuckin v. Smith. 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1991), overruled on other grounds. WMX Technologies v. Miller. 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc)). Indications that a prisoner has a serious need for medical treatment include the following: the existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain. See, e.g.. Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1337-41 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing cases); Hunt v. Dental Dept. 865 F.2d 198, 200-02 (9th Cir. 1989); McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059-60.
The United State Supreme Court has defined a very strict standard which plaintiff must meet in order to establish "deliberate indifference." Negligence is insufficient. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. Even civil recklessness (failure to act in the face of an unjustifiably high risk of harm which is so obvious that it should be known) is insufficient. Id at 836-37. Neither is it sufficient that a reasonable person would have known of the risk or that a defendant should have known of the risk. Id at 842. Deliberate indifference is established only where the defendant subjectively "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety." Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004) (internal citation omitted). Deliberate indifference may be shown "when prison officials deny, delay, or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, " or may be shown "by the way in which prison officials provide medical care." Hutchinson v. United States, 838 F.2d ...