United States District Court, E.D. California
M. KELLISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to
Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and no other party has been served or appeared in the
action. Pending before the court are plaintiff's
complaint (Doc. 1) and plaintiff's motion for injunctive
relief (Doc. 2).
court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or
employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or
portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2)
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or
(3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).
Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that
complaints contain a “. . . short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims
must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See
McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996)
(referring to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are
satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of
the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it
rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th
Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some
degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants
which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations
fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible
for the court to conduct the screening required by law when
the allegations are vague and conclusory.
names as defendants Scott Kernan, J. Bal, David Baugham,
Michael Felder, M. Bobbala, and C. Smith, all of whom are
supervisory prison officials. Plaintiff also names James
Chau, a prison primary care physician. Plaintiff claims that,
prior to any examination, defendant Chau discontinued
plaintiff's prescribed pain medication and instead
prescribed a “replacement” which plaintiff
characterizes as “substantially ineffective.”
Plaintiff further alleges that, nearly a month later and only
after he had filed a medical grievance, he was actually
examined by defendant Chau, who continued the replacement
prescription. According to plaintiff, defendant Chau informed
plaintiff: “I give you constitutional care. I'm not
here to make you comfortable. I only have to make you
functional.” In plaintiff's companion motion for
injunctive relief, plaintiff seeks an order enjoining
discontinuation of plaintiff's originally prescribed pain
treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions
under which the prisoner is confined are subject to scrutiny
under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual
punishment. See Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31
(1993); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994).
The Eighth Amendment “. . . embodies broad and
idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards,
humanity, and decency.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 102 (1976). Conditions of confinement may, however,
be harsh and restrictive. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452
U.S. 337, 347 (1981). Nonetheless, prison officials must
provide prisoners with “food, clothing, shelter,
sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.”
Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1107 (9th Cir.
1986). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only
when two requirements are met: (1) objectively, the
official's act or omission must be so serious such that
it results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of
life's necessities; and (2) subjectively, the prison
official must have acted unnecessarily and wantonly for the
purpose of inflicting harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at
834. Thus, to violate the Eighth Amendment, a prison official
must have a “sufficiently culpable mind.” See
indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury,
or risks of serious injury or illness, gives rise to a claim
under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at
105; see also Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. This applies
to physical as well as dental and mental health needs.
See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir.
1982). An injury or illness is sufficiently serious if the
failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in
further significant injury or the “. . . unnecessary
and wanton infliction of pain.” McGuckin v.
Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992); see also
Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir.
1994). Factors indicating seriousness are: (1) whether a
reasonable doctor would think that the condition is worthy of
comment; (2) whether the condition significantly impacts the
prisoner's daily activities; and (3) whether the
condition is chronic and accompanied by substantial pain.
See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131-32 (9th Cir.
2000) (en banc).
requirement of deliberate indifference is less stringent in
medical needs cases than in other Eighth Amendment contexts
because the responsibility to provide inmates with medical
care does not generally conflict with competing penological
concerns. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Thus,
deference need not be given to the judgment of prison
officials as to decisions concerning medical needs. See
Hunt v. Dental Dep't, 865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir.
1989). The complete denial of medical attention may
constitute deliberate indifference. See Toussaint v.
McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986). Delay in
providing medical treatment, or interference with medical
treatment, may also constitute deliberate indifference.
See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131. Where delay is alleged,
however, the prisoner must also demonstrate that the delay
led to further injury. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at
in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not,
however, give rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment.
See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Moreover, a difference
of opinion between the prisoner and medical providers
concerning the appropriate course of treatment does not give
rise to an Eighth Amendment claim. See Jackson v.
McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996).
case, plaintiff alleges that defendant Chau discontinued his
prescribed pain medication without any examination and
instead prescribed a replacement medication. He further
alleges that he was examined by defendant Chau about one
month later and that, following that examination, the
replacement medication was continued. To the extent
plaintiff's claims relate to continuation of the
replacement medication after being examined by
defendant Chau, the court finds that plaintiff's claims
amount to a difference in medical opinion as to the
extent, however, plaintiff's claims relate to the order
to discontinue plaintiff's initial medication and
prescribe a replacement medication before any
examination, plaintiff may be able to state a claim but
currently fails to do so. If the discontinuation of
plaintiff's initial medication was the result of some
kind of prison-wide policy the defendants may be liable.
See Redman v. Cnty of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446
(9th Cir. 1991) (en banc). Plaintiff, however, does not
specifically allege the existence of such a policy. Plaintiff
will be provided an opportunity to amend to clarify the
nature of his claim and provide further specific factual
Plaintiff's Motion for ...