United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS, DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ADDITIONAL TIME TO CONDUCT DISCOVERY AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SECOND MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL Re: Dkt. Nos. 23, 30-32
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, seeking damages for the alleged 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 April 4, 2014 the Court ordered service of the following cognizable claims: (1) an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against Andrew Deems, Chief Executive Officer of Health Care Services at SQSP, for creating a policy, custom or practice of failing to test inmates who may have been exposed to asbestos; (2) an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to hazardous conditions against CALPIA and employees of CALPIA and SQSP; and (3) a state law claim against CALPIA for violation of California Government Code injury caused by a dangerous condition on its property if certain conditions are met.
On July 7, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that CALPIA is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment and that res judicata bars the litigation of the Eighth Amendment claims against all Defendants. This motion is fully briefed. Defendants filed a motion and an amended motion for judicial notice of documents filed in Plaintiff's state court case, in which he asserted negligence claims against six CALPIA employees. On September 11, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to stay discovery pending the ruling on the motion to dismiss, which Plaintiff opposes. On November 20, 2014 Plaintiff filed a motion for additional time to conduct discovery, which Defendants oppose. On November 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a second motion to appoint counsel. For the reasons discussed below, the motion to dismiss is granted, in part, the motions to stay discovery and to extend the time for discovery are denied as moot and the motion to appoint counsel is denied.
I. Eleventh Amendment Immunity
Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim for damages against CALPIA is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution bars from the federal courts suits against a State by its own citizens, citizens of another State, or citizens or subjects of any foreign State. Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 237-38 (1985) (abrogated on other grounds as noted in Lane v. Pena, 518 U.S. 187, 198 (1996)). Unless a State has waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity or Congress has overridden it, a State cannot be sued regardless of the relief sought. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n.14 (1985). Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to suits against a state agency, Brown v. Cal. Dep't of Corrs., 554 F.3d 747, 752 (9th Cir. 2009) (California Department of Corrections and California Board of Prison Terms entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity), and to suits for damages against state officials sued in their official capacities, Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169-70 (1985). California has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court. Dittman v. California, 191 F.3d 1020, 1025-26 (9th Cir. 1999). Therefore, if CALPIA is a state agency, both it and its employees sued in their official capacities are immune from suit for damages on Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims.
In his amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that CALPIA is a public agency. See Am. Comp. at 48, ¶ 97. Nevertheless, in his opposition to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff, citing California Penal Code section 2808, argues that CALPIA is not a public agency because it is financially self-supporting and its board of directors has all the powers and liabilities of a board of directors of a private corporation.
California Penal Code section 2800 clearly states that CALPIA is an entity within the CDCR and California Penal Code section 2802 provides that the Prison Industry Board also is an entity within the CDCR. The fact that CALPIA is an entity within the CDCR, which itself is a state agency, shows that CALPIA also is a state agency. The fact that CALPIA may be financially self-supporting or that its board may have been granted authority similar to boards of a private corporation does not overcome the simple fact that CALPIA's existence is derived from that of the CDCR.
Because CALPIA is a public agency, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against CALPIA, and its employees in their official capacities, are dismissed as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Dismissal is with prejudice because amendment would be futile.
II. Doctrine of Res Judicata
Defendants argue that the doctrine of res judicata bars litigation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims in this case because his previous state court negligence action arose out of the same transactions and occurrences or the same cause of action upon which his current claims are based, it was dismissed on the merits and the parties in the two actions are the same or privies.
A. Legal Standard
Under res judicata, a final judgment on the merits bars further claims by parties or their privies based on the same cause of action. Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153 (1979).
The Federal Full Faith and Credit Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, requires that a federal court give to a state court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of the state in which the judgment was rendered. Migra v. Warren City School Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984). Under California law, res judicata, commonly known as claim preclusion, prohibits a second lawsuit involving the (1) same controversy (2) between the same parties or their privies (3) so long as the prior lawsuit resulted in a final judgment on the merits. Mycogen Corp. v. Monsanto Co., 28 Cal.4th 888, 896-97 (2002).
In the state court action, Plaintiff asserted negligence claims against five CALPIA employees and one SQSP employee based upon allegations similar to those he asserts in his federal complaint. Amended Request for Judicial Notice (ARJN), Ex. A. In the state action, the six defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Plaintiff's negligence claims were barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation law under California Labor Code sections 3370 and 3601. ARJN, Ex. B. In a two-page order, the state Superior Court granted Defendants' motion, concluding that "Labor Code § 3370(a)(9) is the exclusive remedy against the state for injuries occurring while the inmate is engaged in assigned work or work under contract. On this record, Plaintiff's alleged injuries are exclusively compensable under the Workers' ...