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Hutchison v. California Prison Industry Authority

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 9, 2015



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 section 835. On January 14, 2015, the Court issued an order granting, in part, Defendants' motion to dismiss, in which it dismissed all claims with the exception of an Eighth Amendment claim against CEO Deems for creating a policy, custom or practice of failing to test inmates who may have been exposed to asbestos and lead. The Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint (2AC) asserting an Eighth Amendment claim against specific defendants, in their individual capacities, based on allegations of conduct undertaken by them that prevented or delayed Plaintiff from receiving medical treatment for symptoms caused by exposure to asbestos. Plaintiff timely filed a 2AC, which the Court now reviews.


I. Standard of Review

A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that 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. Id . § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

Liability may be imposed on an individual defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the plaintiff can show that the defendant's actions both actually and proximately caused the deprivation of a federally protected right. Lemire v. Cal. Dept. Corrections & Rehabilitation, 756 F.3d 1062, 1074 (9th Cir. 2013); Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988); Harris v. City of Roseburg, 664 F.2d 1121, 1125 (9th Cir. 1981). A person deprives another of a constitutional right within the meaning of § 1983 if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative act or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do, that causes the deprivation of which the plaintiff complains. Leer, 844 F.2d at 633. Under no circumstances is there respondeat superior liability under § 1983. Lemire, 756 F.3d at 1074. Or, in layman's terms, under no circumstances is there liability under § 1983 solely because one is responsible for the actions or omissions of another. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); Ybarra v. Reno Thunderbird Mobile Home Village, 723 F.2d 675, 680-81 (9th Cir. 1984).

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

In his 2AC, Plaintiff alleges the following occurred during the relevant time period. As a result of being exposed to asbestos while he was an employee at the CALPIA furniture factory, Plaintiff suffers from industrial lung injury.

Ronald Glass, Industrial Supervisor I of CALPIA, was responsible for maintaining the CALPIA safety program, including notification to others when an inmate employee was injured at the CALPIA factory. On February 27, 2012, Glass submitted a report on the effects of asbestos exposure on inmates, but he concealed the report from Dr. John Cranshaw, who was designated to test Plaintiff for symptoms from asbestos and lead exposure, CEO Deems and Plaintiff. This action delayed Plaintiff from receiving a diagnosis and treatment of his industrial lung disease. Also, Glass had a duty to ensure that Plaintiff received medical care when he exhibited lung disease symptoms, but Glass failed to do so.

Gary Loredo, Industrial Supervisor II at CALPIA, was responsible for the CALPIA inmate employees, including Plaintiff. His duties included monitoring and reviewing safety programs and preventing injuries to inmate employees. Loredo processed Plaintiff's workers' compensation claim and, therefore, knew of Plaintiff's injuries from asbestos, but he did nothing to ensure that Plaintiff received medical treatment.

Philip Earley, CALPIA manager, was responsible for supervising inmate employees and preventing their injury. When Plaintiff learned of his exposure to asbestos and lead at the CALPIA factory, he submitted, on July 4, 2013, a health care services request form to Dr. Cranshaw requesting a comprehensive blood and lungs test to determine if he had symptoms from exposure to asbestos or lead. Earley informed Dr. Cranshaw that Plaintiff "has not been identified by CALPIA as significantly exposed to lead or asbestos, therefore, there is nothing the SQSP Medical Department can do to evaluate him." By taking this action, Earley hindered, prevented and delayed Plaintiff from obtaining a medical diagnosis and treatment, thus exacerbating his illness.

B. Smith, branch manager at CALPIA, was responsible for responding to inmate employees' complaints, including appeals about the behavior of staff members. On July 6, 2012, Plaintiff filed an inmate appeal about Earley, Loredo and Glass's denials of his requests for medical testing for asbestos and lead exposure. Smith conducted an "appeal inquiry" with Earley and Glass and indicated the appeal was partially granted because he had made the inquiry, but he did not rule that Plaintiff would receive medical testing or treatment. Instead, Early issued an August 15, 2012 memorandum stating that Plaintiff's appeal had been reviewed, the issue had been addressed and CALPIA had closed the matter.

On August 21, 2012, CEO Deems also reviewed and denied Plaintiff's appeal requesting testing for ...

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