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Hafiz v. Yates

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 6, 2015

ABDULLAH NAIM HAFIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES YATES, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT AMENDED COMPLAINT DUE IN THIRTY DAYS

GARY S. AUSTIN, Magistrate Judge.

I. Screening Requirement

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).[1]

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). "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).

"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.P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 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.P. 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)).

II. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, brings this action against defendant correctional officials employed by the CDCR at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga. Plaintiff names the following individual defendants: Warden James Yates; Chief Medical Officer Igbinosa; Appeals Coordinators J. Morgan and L. Rodriguez. The complaint sets forth two causes of action. Plaintiff claims that Defendants have subjected him to a dangerous condition, and that Defendants have interfered with his ability to file grievances regarding the issue.

Plaintiff alleges that he was transferred to Pleasant Valley in 2008 and remained there until his transfer in 2013. Plaintiff alleges that when he was transferred to Pleasant Valley from Wasco State Prison, he suffered from Hepatitis C and Hypertension. After he was transferred to Pleasant Valley, Plaintiff contracted Valley Fever and Diabetes. Plaintiff alleges that, as a high risk inmate, he should have been transferred in accord with CDCR policy. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were on notice of the presence of Valley Fever in the soil because of local Grand Jury reports that were publicized. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants continued to subject him and other inmates to danger by failing to take abatement measures such as watering down the dirt around the prison.

A. Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates, which has been interpreted to include a duty to protect prisoners. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994); Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1040 (9th Cir. 2005). A prisoner seeking relief for an Eighth Amendment violation must show that the officials acted with deliberate indifference to the threat of serious harm or injury to an inmate. Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002). "Deliberate indifference" has both subjective and objective components. A prison official must "be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists and... must also draw the inference." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Liability may follow only if a prison official "knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id. at 847.

"[T]o the extent that Plaintiff is attempting to pursue an Eighth Amendment claim for the mere fact that he was confined in a location where Valley Fever spores existed which caused him to contract Valley Fever, he is advised that no courts have held that exposure to Valley Fever spores presents an excessive risk to inmate health." King v. Avenal State Prison, 2009 WL 546212, *4 (E.D. Cal., Mar 4, 2009); see also Tholmer v. Yates, 2009 WL 174162, *3 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 26, 2009)("To the extent Plaintiff seeks to raise an Eighth Amendment challenge to the general conditions of confinement at PVSP, Plaintiff fails to come forward with evidence that Yates is responsible for the conditions of which Plaintiff complaints.") More recently, in addressing a claim that CDCR officials are responsible for the contraction of valley fever by knowingly housing an African American inmate with a history of asthma in an endemic area, it has been held that "unless there is something about a prisoner's conditions of confinement that raises the risk of exposure substantially above the risk experienced by the surrounding communities, it cannot be reasoned that the prisoner is involuntarily exposed to a risk that society would not tolerate." Hines v. Yousseff, 2015 WL 164215, *5 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2015).

Because Plaintiff has not alleged any facts indicating that he was exposed to a risk substantially above that experienced by surrounding communities, he cannot state a claim for relief on the ground that he was housed in an area known by Defendants to be an endemic area. Plaintiff may, however, state a claim for relief if he can allege facts indicating that the treatment for his Valley Fever violated the Eighth Amendment.

"In order to violate the Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment, there must be a deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners.'" Id. (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97. 104 (1976)). Lopez takes a two-prong approach to evaluating whether medical care, or lack thereof, rises to the level of "deliberate indifference." First, a court must examine whether the plaintiff's medical needs were serious. See Id. Second, a court must determine whether "officials intentionally interfered with [the plaintiff's] medical treatment." Id. at 1132.

Here, Plaintiff has not alleged any conduct as to any individual defendants that indicates deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, resulting in injury to Plaintiff. The court will, however, grant Plaintiff leave ...


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