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Steinocher v. Smith

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 17, 2015

DANIEL STEINOCHER, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER SMITH et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

DALE A. DROZD, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. This matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss brought on behalf of defendants Smith, Fong, Heatley, Akintola, and Zamora. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion, and defendants have filed a reply.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is proceeding on his original complaint against defendants Dr. Smith, Dr. Fong, Dr. Heatley, Physician's Assistant Akintola, and Chief Zamora. Therein plaintiff alleges that the defendants failed to provide him with adequate medical care for his degenerative disc disease, which causes him chronic neck pain. He also alleges that the defendants failed to provide him with adequate medical care for a knee injury he suffered. In terms of relief, plaintiff requests injunctive relief and damages. (Compl. at 2-10)

ANALYSIS

I. Motion Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the complaint. North Star Int'l v. Arizona Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). Dismissal of the complaint, or any claim within it, "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). See also Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

In determining whether a pleading states a claim, the court accepts as true all material allegations in the complaint and construes those allegations, as well as the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). In the context of a motion to dismiss, the court also resolves doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

In general, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The court has an obligation to construe such pleadings liberally. Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). However, the court's liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not pled. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982); see also Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992).

II. Discussion

The court finds that plaintiff's complaint states a cognizable claim for deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment against the named defendants. To maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on inadequate medical care, a prisoner-plaintiff must allege facts showing "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). In the Ninth Circuit, a deliberate indifference claim has two components:

First, the plaintiff must show a "serious medical need" by demonstrating that "failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" Second, the plaintiff must show the defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent. This second prong - defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent - is satisfied by showing (a) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the indifference. Indifference "may appear when prison officials deny, delay or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, or it may be shown by the way in which prison physicians provide medical care." (internal citations omitted)

Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006).

Accepting as true plaintiff's material allegations and construing those allegations and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, plaintiff's complaint states a cognizable claim for constitutionally inadequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In plaintiff's complaint, he alleges that he suffers from (and has been diagnosed with) a degenerative disc disease which causes him chronic neurological pain. Plaintiff also alleges that he suffered from an apparent tear of the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee, which also causes him pain. (Compl. at 4-8.) In this regard, plaintiff adequately alleges that ...


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