United States District Court, E.D. California
ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action
brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition to filing a
complaint (ECF No. 1), plaintiff has filed an application to
proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. ECF
Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
court has reviewed plaintiff's application and finds that
it makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1)
and (2). Accordingly, by separate order, the court directs
the agency having custody of plaintiff to collect and forward
the appropriate monthly payments for the filing fee as set
forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1) and (2).
court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the
prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous
or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
“is [legally] frivolous where it lacks an arguable
basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v.
Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984).
“[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which
are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose
factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Jackson
v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation
and internal quotations omitted), superseded by statute
on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d
1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at
327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim,
however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual
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, ' 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) (alteration in
original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47
(1957)). However, 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.” Id. (citations omitted). “[T]he
pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a
statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a
legally cognizable right of action.” Id.
(alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright &
Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216
(3d ed. 2004)).
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S.
at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In reviewing a
complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true
the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital
Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trs., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976),
as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the
plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395
U.S. 411, 421 (1969).
alleges that, on January 6, 2014, he received treatment at
defendant Sutter Amador Hospital. ECF No. 1 at 4. He claims
medical staff at the hospital took blood and urine samples
from him without permission in violation of his First,
Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id.
Plaintiff also claims that staff, including defendant Heatly,
violated both these rights and patient confidentiality by
making the results of these tests available to prison
officials responsible for his custody. Id. at 4-5.
The documents attached to the complaint indicate that the
tests revealed the presence of Amphetamine in his system.
Id. at 9. The documents also reveal that plaintiff
was admitted to the hospital for seizure treatment and the
tests were undertaken because hospital staff determined his
behavior was erratic. Id. at 10. Plaintiff alleges
that prison officials punished him based on the positive drug
test. Id. at 5-6. The court finds that these
allegations, as articulated, fail to state a cognizable
general matter, private hospitals and doctors are not state
actors and therefore cannot be sued under § 1983.
See Briley v. California, 564 F.2d 849, 855-856 (9th
Cir. 1977) (noting that “private hospitals and
physicians have consistently been dismissed from § 1983
actions for failing to come within the color of state law
requirement of this section.”); see also Babchuk v.
Indiana Univ. Health, Inc., 809 F.3d 966, 970-71 (7th
Cir. 2016). Plaintiff might be able to hold these defendants
liable if either contracted directly with the state to
provide medical services to inmates. See West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 54 (1988). The Ninth Circuit has
emphasized that “[i]n order to show that a private
action is in fact state action, the plaintiff must show that
there is a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the
challenged action of the regulated entity so that the action
of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State
itself.” Grijalva v. Shalala, 152 F.3d 1115,
1119 (9th Cir. 1998) vacated on other grounds by 526
U.S. 1096 (1999). The documents attached to the complaint
indicate that plaintiff was admitted to the hospital because
he was having a seizure; not because the hospital generally
contracts with the state to provide routine medical care to
inmates. ECF No. 1 at 10-11. Plaintiff will be given leave to
amend in order to plead additional facts which speak to this
court also notes that plaintiff's claim regarding patient
confidentiality is not cognizable. The Ninth Circuit has held
that “prisoners do not have a constitutionally
protected expectation of privacy in prison treatment records
when the state has a legitimate penological interest in
access to them.” Seaton v. Mayberg, 610 F.3d
530, 534 (9th Cir. 2010); see also Thompson v.
Souza, 111 F.3d 694, 700 (9th Cir. 1997) (finding that
testing of prisoners for the purpose of detecting the
presence of illicit drug use is reasonably related to the
legitimate penological goal of keeping illicit drugs out of
prisons). Plaintiff's current allegations do not allege
that the state had no legitimate penological interest in his
test results. Instead, plaintiff appears to incorrectly
allege that he had an absolute right to the confidentiality
of his medical records. Id. at 5. Plaintiff will be
afforded a chance to amend this claim as well.