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Simental v. Adams

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 6, 2017

RUDY SIMENTAL, Plaintiff,
v.
N. ADAMS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

          MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, a California state inmate, filed this pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Plaintiff is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis in a separate order. For the reasons stated below, the complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. § 1915A(b). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed, however. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citations omitted). Although in order to state a claim a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint must proffer “enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 1974.

         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).

         B. Legal Claims

         In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant prison officials and staff delayed in diagnosing and treating a cancerous tumor in his right leg. Even after he finally received surgery, plaintiff alleges, defendants failed to provide necessary pain relief and physical accommodations and failed to follow discharge orders from the outside hospitals that treated him. Plaintiff alleges that this deficient medical treatment began at Pelican Bay State Prison (“PBSP”), where we was incarcerated from 2013 to July 2015, and at California State Prison, Sacramento (“CSP-SAC”), where he was transferred in July 2015 so that he could be closer to his treatment facility.

         Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A determination of “deliberate indifference” involves an examination of two elements: the seriousness of the prisoner's medical need and the nature of the defendant's response to that need. McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds by WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). A prison official acts with deliberate indifference if he knows that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable steps to abate it. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). The defendant 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 the defendant should have been aware of the risk, but was not, then he 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).

         Neither negligence nor gross negligence warrant liability under the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 835-36 & n4. An “official's failure to alleviate a significant risk that he should have perceived but did not, . . . cannot under our cases be condemned as the infliction of punishment.” Id. at 838. Instead, “the official's conduct must have been ‘wanton, ' which turns not upon its effect on the prisoner, but rather, upon the constraints facing the official.” Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 302-03 (1991)). Prison officials violate their constitutional obligation only by “intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05.

         Liberally construed, the complaint adequately alleges a claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment as against defendants N. Adams, MD and D. Bodenhammer, PA-C. However, the complaint does not state a claim against the other defendants plaintiff identifies by name. In addition to Adams and Bodenhammer, plaintiff names M. Sayre, MD, J. Bal, MD, J. Arriola, RN, C. Regules, and J. Lewis as defendants, but provides no facts linking them to his allegations of wrongdoing. Even at the pleading stage, “[a] plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights.” Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998); Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988). Plaintiff's allegations will be dismissed with leave to amend to show what actions each defendant took or failed to take that caused the Eighth Amendment violations. Sweeping conclusory allegations will not suffice; plaintiff must instead “set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's deliberate indifference.” Leer, 844 F.2d at 634.

         The Court notes that plaintiff names M. Sayre in his capacity as Chief Medical Officer for PBSP, C. Regules in his capacity as the Chief Support Executive for CSP-SAC, and J. Lewis in his capacity as the Deputy Director for Policy and Risk Management Services at California Correctional Healthcare Services. Plaintiff is advised that a supervisor is not liable merely because the supervisor is responsible, in general terms, for the actions 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). A supervisor may be liable only on a showing of (1) personal involvement in the constitutional ...


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