United States District Court, C.D. California
March 11, 2015
BRIAN D. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
CALIFORNIA STATE PRISON LOS ANGELES COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND I. INTRODUCTION
SUZANNE H. SEGAL, Magistrate Judge.
On August 6, 2012, Plaintiff Brian D. Edwards, ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, constructively filed a First Amended Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (the "FAC, " Dkt. No. 27). Congress mandates that the court screen, as soon as practicable, "a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court may dismiss such a complaint, or any portion of it, before service of process if the court concludes that the complaint (1) is frivolous or malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). For the reasons stated below, the First Amended Complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend.
ALLEGATIONS OF THE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff alleges that the following defendants - all employees at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (the "Prison") - violated his civil rights: (1) N. Motz, identified as Director of Nurses; (2) nurse B. Ingram; (3) Warden F.B. Haws; (4) correctional officer T. Jerid; and correctional officers identified only as (5) Franscia, (6) Mikel, (7) Duenaz, and (8) Allen (collectively "Defendants"). (FAC at 5-6). Plaintiff sues all Defendants in their individual and official capacities. (Id.).
Plaintiff raises three claims of deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs and safety. In Claim I, Plaintiff asserts that on December 18, 2007, Ingram furnished Plaintiff with used or defective asthma inhalers, and then withheld asthma treatment for three days after Plaintiff complained. (Id. at 8, 10-12). Plaintiff contends that Motz permitted this "medical neglect" as Ingram's supervisor and that Warden Haws was ultimately responsible. (Id. at 8, 12). In Claim II, Plaintiff asserts that from August 23 to 30, 2008, while he was in administrative segregation, unnamed members of Motz's staff refused treatment for Plaintiff's breathing problems. (Id. at 13-14). Haws, as warden, allegedly condoned the nurses' "deliberate indifference." (Id. at 15).
In Claim III, Plaintiff asserts that on February 8, 2008, correctional officer T. Jerid physically assaulted Plaintiff by slamming a "food port" door on his hand, and then denied Plaintiff access to medical attention. (Id. at 9). Officers Franscia, Mikel, Allen and Duenaz allegedly witnessed the assault but did not take action or report the incident. (Id. at 17-18). A hospital treated Plaintiff for hand lacerations and swelling the next day. (Id. at 72-82). Then, on February 24, 2008, an unnamed correctional officer allegedly assaulted Plaintiff in "retaliation" for Plaintiff's reporting his earlier injury to the hospital. (Id. at 19). Plaintiff asserts that Haws was aware of both assaults but did not take action, in deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's safety. (Id. at 9, 15-16).
Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages of "3 plus million against [D]efendants jointly and severally, " punitive damages in the same amount, a jury trial and costs. (Id. at 21).
Under 28 U.S.C. section 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint due to multiple pleading defects. However, the court must grant a pro se litigant leave to amend his defective complaint unless "it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment." Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, for the reasons stated below, the First Amended Complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend.
A. Plaintiff's Official Capacity Claims Are Defective
Plaintiff sues Defendants for damages in both their official and individual capacities. (FAC at 5-7). Plaintiff's official-capacity claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment and cannot proceed.
Pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment, a state and its official arms are immune from suit under section 1983. Howlett v. Rose, 496 U.S. 356, 365 (1990); Brown v. Cal. Dept. of Corrections, 554 F.3d 747, 752 (9th Cir. 2009) ("California has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to claims brought under § 1983 in federal court"). "[A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity... is no different from a suit against the State itself." Flint v. Dennison, 488 F.3d 816, 824-25 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Therefore, state officials sued in their official capacity are generally entitled to immunity. Id. at 825. However, state officials sued in their official capacity are considered "person[s]" when they are sued for prospective injunctive relief under section 1983, and the Eleventh Amendment does not bar such claims. Id.
Here, Defendants are all state employees sued for damages in their official capacity. Plaintiff does not seek injunctive relief warranting an exception to the Eleventh Amendment bar. Therefore, the instant action is functionally a suit against the State of California. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants in their official capacity are barred by the Eleventh Amendment and must be dismissed.
B. Plaintiff Fails To State Claims Against Defendants Motz And Haws In Their Individual Capacity
"To establish personal liability in a § 1983 action, it is enough to show that the official, acting under color of state law, caused the deprivation of a federal right." Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). However, a supervisor is only liable for subordinates' constitutional violations "if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations and failed to act to prevent them." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1221 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989)). Thus, to prevail in his claims against Motz and Haws, Plaintiff must show either their personal participation in the alleged constitutional violations or a "sufficient causal connection" between their conduct and his alleged injuries. See id. at 1207.
Plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts to state section 1983 claims against Motz and Haws. In Claims I and II, Plaintiff asserts that Ingram, not Motz, delivered used or defective inhalers and that Ingram, other nurses and correctional officers denied Plaintiff breathing treatments. (FAC at 8-15). Plaintiff claims that Motz "refuse[d]" to intervene when her subordinates delivered substandard care, but does not provide any facts to substantiate this claim. (See id. at 8). Similarly, Plaintiff alleges that correctional officers who are not named as defendants were involved in Plaintiff's allegedly unsuccessful attempts to get needed asthma inhalers and breathing treatments. (See id. at 10, 11, 14, 15). However, Plaintiff does not allege that any direct or indirect conduct by Warden Haws prevented his access to treatment. Rather, Plaintiff states in a conclusory fashion that Haws, as warden, was ultimately responsible for prisoners' care and safety. (Id. at 12-13).
In Claim III, Plaintiff alleges that Haws "knew I was assault [sic] twice" and allowed an unnamed correctional officer to retaliate once Plaintiff complained about his hand injury. (Id. at 9). However, Plaintiff does not allege any specific facts to demonstrate that Haws was aware of, condoned or was otherwise causally connected with this conduct. (See id. at 15-19). Because Plaintiff does not show that Motz and Haws participated directly in constitutional violations, knew of the actions and failed to prevent them, or that their conduct caused him injury, he fails to state claims against these defendants in their individual capacity. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009).
C. The Complaint Violates Rule 8
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint does not comply with the standards of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. Rule 8(a)(2) "requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1); see also Knapp v. Hogan, 738 F.3d 1106, 1109 (9th Cir. 2013) (pleading may violate Rule 8 in "multiple ways, " including saying "too little" or "too much").
Here, the First Amended Complaint mixes potentially relevant and irrelevant facts with legal argument and exhibits, rendering its claims confusing and nonsensical. (See FAC at 1-110). Although Plaintiff partially utilized the Court's standard form for civil rights complaints, the Complaint is 110 pages long. The complaint's long, rambling narrative fails to clearly identify the factual bases for each claim, or to state how each defendant's actions specifically violated Plaintiff's civil rights.
Moreover, some of Plaintiff's exhibits contradict his claims and others are wholly irrelevant. For example, Plaintiff provides several pages of administrative records showing that, far from withholding breathing treatment in August 2008, Prison staff responded to his request by prescribing new inhalers and weekly "Peak Flow" breathing checks, which Plaintiff refused. (FAC 36-37). Plaintiff also appends several pages of statements from other inmates that either describe events unrelated to Plaintiff's claims or that do not relate to Plaintiff at all. (FAC 99-108).
Therefore, the Complaint fails to provide Defendants with fair notice of the claims in a short, clear and concise statement, as Rule 8 requires. Even if the factual allegations pertaining to each claim were more clearly identified, it would be difficult, as a practical matter, for Defendants to frame a responsive pleading. Where a Rule 8 violation is egregious, as in this case, dismissal is appropriate. See McHenry v. Renne, et al., 84 F.3d 1172, 1177-80 (9th Cir. 1996) (affirming dismissal of third amended complaint that was "argumentative, prolix, replete with redundancy, and largely irrelevant"); Hatch v. Reliance Ins. Co., 758 F.2d 409, 415 (9th Cir. 1985) (dismissing "confusing and conclusory" seventy-page complaint). Nevertheless, "dismissal without leave to amend is improper unless it is clear, upon de novo review, that the complaint could not be saved by any amendment." Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 692 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).
Accordingly, the First Amended Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend. If Plaintiff still wishes to pursue this action, he must file a Second Amended Complaint stating all of his claims for relief within thirty (30) days from the date of this Order.
In any amended complaint, Plaintiff shall cure the defects described above. The Second Amended Complaint, if any, shall be complete in itself and shall bear both the designation "Second Amended Complaint" and the case number assigned to this action. It shall not refer in any manner to the First Amended Complaint. The caption shall include all parties that Plaintiff is suing. Each page of the Second Amended Complaint must be consecutively numbered.
Plaintiff should confine his allegations to those operative facts supporting each of his claims. Plaintiff is advised that pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), all that is required is a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to utilize the standard civil rights complaint form when filing any amended complaint, a copy of which is attached. Plaintiff should identify the nature of each separate legal claim and make clear what specific factual allegations support each claim. Plaintiff should clearly state which defendant committed a particular act of misconduct. Individuals who have not engaged in any alleged misconduct should not be named as defendants. It is not necessary for Plaintiff to cite case law or include legal argument. Moreover, irrelevant exhibits or other extraneous documents are not necessary for Plaintiff to include with his Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff is strongly encouraged to keep his statements concise and to omit irrelevant details.
>Plaintiff is explicitly cautioned that failure to timely file a Second Amended Complaint, or failure to correct the deficiencies described above, will result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed with prejudice for failure to prosecute and obey Court orders pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). Plaintiff is further advised that if he no longer wishes to pursue this action, he may voluntarily dismiss it by filing a Notice of Dismissal in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1). A form Notice of Dismissal is attached for Plaintiff's convenience.