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Pelacos v. Muniz

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 11, 2017

ESTABAN PELACOS, Plaintiff,
v.
MUNIZ, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER OF SERVICE

          THELTON E. HENDERSON United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The amended complaint was dismissed with leave to amend and Plaintiff has filed a second amended complaint.

         I

         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). Pleadings filed by pro se litigants, however, must be liberally construed. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         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).

         II

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his health and safety and he received inadequate medical care.

         The Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, but neither does it permit inhumane ones. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). In its prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment, " the Eighth Amendment places restraints on prison officials, who may not, for example, use excessive force against prisoners. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992). The Amendment also imposes duties on these officials, who must provide all prisoners with the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care and personal safety. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832; DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep't of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 199-200 (1989); Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1246 (9th Cir. 1982).

         A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment when two requirements are met: (1) the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, sufficiently serious, Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)), and (2) the prison official possesses a sufficiently culpable state of mind, id. (citing Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297).

         Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). 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. Id. at 1059.

         A "serious" medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Id. The existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain are examples of indications that a prisoner has a "serious" need for medical treatment. Id. at 1059-60.

         A prison official is deliberately indifferent if he or she 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 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). “A difference of opinion between a prisoner-patient and prison medical authorities regarding treatment does not give rise to a § 1983 claim.” Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1344 (9th Cir. 1981).

         In the prior complaints the Court found that Plaintiff had presented sufficient allegations that correctional officers Griewank and Lower-Brodersen were deliberately indifferent to his health and safety by not providing him with a cane and then having him walk down a steep ramp where he fell and was injured.

         Defendants Washington[1] and Muniz who were named as supervisors are dismissed from this action. “In a § 1983 or a Bivens action - where masters do not answer for the torts of their servants - the term ‘supervisory liability' is a misnomer. Absent vicarious liability, each Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009) (finding under Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that complainant-detainee in a Bivens action failed to plead sufficient facts “plausibly showing” that top federal officials “purposely adopted a ...


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