United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER OF SERVICE
SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.
Steven Haden, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case is now before the court for initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
The complaint alleges the following: In or about November 2009, Haden arrived at San Quentin "with a pre-existing serious medical condition/disability which causes stomach problems and a lack of being able to have a regular bowel movement." Docket # 5 at 3. On or about September 12, 2013, medical care providers failed to renew his "prescribed medication (Konsyl)" for his chronic condition "without a replacement or equal substitute." Id.  Haden filed an inmate appeal and learned that primary care provider Dr. J. Espinoza determined that Haden "did not seem to be constipated" and that Konsyl was a non-formulary drug which meant that it cost more to provide it to a prisoner. Dr. E. Tootell, the chief medical executive at the prison, "denied approval of plaintiff's medication (Konsyl) based solely on cost." Id. Dr. Espinoza also refused to refer Haden to see a specialist. Haden alleges that his "serious medical condition" places him at a serious risk of "potential intestinal injury(s), " and causes constant pain. Id. at 4.
A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See id. at § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs amounts to the cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) the deprivation alleged is, objectively, sufficiently serious, and (2) the official is, subjectively, deliberately indifferent to the inmate's health or safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Liberally construed, the pro se complaint states a cognizable claim against defendants Dr. J. Espinoza and Elaine Tootell for deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs based on their decisions to (a) stop providing Konsyl to Haden, and (b) not to refer him to a specialist for his "chronic gastrointestinal condition [that] caus[es] constant painful bouts of constipation and bloating from gas." Id. at 5.
Haden has not stated a claim against the two other listed defendants. Defendant De la Cruz was a nurse who merely relayed information as to the doctor's decision that Konsyl would not be provided to Haden. See Docket # 5 at 3. Warden Kevin Chappell is named as a defendant apparently because he is in charge of the prison. There is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983, i.e. no liability under the theory that one is responsible for the actions or omissions of an employee. A supervisor may be liable under § 1983 upon a showing of (1) personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. See Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1206-07 (9th Cir. 2011). There are no allegations in the complaint that would support supervisor liability for the warden.
1. The complaint states a cognizable claim under § 1983 against Dr. J. Espinoza and Dr. Elaine Tootell for violating plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights. All other claims and defendants are dismissed.
2. The clerk shall issue a summons and the United States Marshal shall serve, without prepayment of fees, the summons, a copy of the complaint and amendment (i.e., Docket # 1 and Docket # 15) and a copy of all the documents in the case file upon the following defendants, both ...