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Chestra v. S. Raman

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 14, 2015

S. RAMAN, et al., Defendants.


VINCE CHHABRIA, District Judge.

Robert Chestra, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison proceeding pro se, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. On May 29, 2015, the Court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend. The Court found that the allegations that Chestra suffered from a bleeding arteriovenous malformation ("AVM") appeared to allege a serious medical need. However, the complaint did not sufficiently allege that the three named defendants were deliberately indifferent to this serious medical need. On June 22, 2015, Chestra filed an amended complaint against three new defendants: Dr. S. Raman, Dr. M. Dsazko and Dr. Joseph Bick. The Court now addresses the claims asserted in Chestra's amended complaint.


I. Standard of Review

A federal court must screen any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, or officer or employee of a governmental entity, to dismiss any claims that: (1) are frivolous or malicious; (2) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (3) seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). 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 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. California Dep't of Corrections & Rehabilitation, 726 F.3d 1062, 1074 (9th Cir. 2013); Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). 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 fails 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.

II. Chestra's Allegations

Chestra's amended complaint alleges the following:

When Chestra was incarcerated at California State Prison at Corcoran, he was diagnosed with AVM, which required surgical treatment. A pre-operation treatment plan had been developed by neurosurgeons at the University of California Medical Center at San Francisco. However, Dr. Raman, Chestra's personal care physician, disregarded Chestra's pre-operation treatment plan and denied the required surgery. Dr. Raman continued to ignore Chestra's need for surgery despite the fact that Chestra repeatedly told him he needed to see a surgeon.

Chestra was transferred to the California Medical Facility in Vacaville where Dr. Dsazko was his personal care physician. Chestra told Dr. Dsazko that he was losing motor skills and needed surgery. However, Dr. Dsazko "continued to refer to Transportation Nurse Notes No Clinic Appointment Necessary.'" Chestra told Dr. Bick, Chief Medical Officer, that he was not getting necessary medical treatment and Dr. Bick replied, "Chestra, I know your case. You're scheduled to see the neurosurgeons at U.C.S.F." After this, Chestra was sent to different doctors who did not specialize in working with people with AVM. A year after the surgery, Chestra was sent to a doctor who knew about AVM, but by that time "hemiperetic onset" had caused his right hand to be paralyzed.

III. Discussion

To establish an Eighth Amendment violation based on the failure to attend to medical needs, a prisoner must allege both (1) a serious medical need and (2) deliberate indifference to that need by prison officials. McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992). A prison official exhibits deliberate indifference when he knows of and disregards a substantial risk of serious harm to inmate health. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). The prison official must not only "be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, " but he "must also draw the inference." Id. If a prison official should have been aware of the risk, but was not, then the official has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how severe the risk. Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1188 (9th Cir. 2002). Instead, deliberate indifference involves a purposeful act or failure to act. McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Deliberate indifference may be shown when prison officials deny, delay or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, or it may be shown in the way in which they provide medical care. Id. at 1062.

Liberally construed, Chestra's amended complaint appears to satisfy Farmer 's subjective prong because it alleges that all the named defendants knew that Chestra had a serious medical need and that a substantial risk of serious harm existed if the need was not treated. Nevertheless, according to the amended complaint, the ...

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