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Jefferson v. Katavich

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 7, 2017

J. KATAVICH, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).[1]Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's first amended complaint filed September 14, 2016.


         The 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 on which relief may be granted, ” or that “seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Moreover, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of Plaintiff's rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir.2002).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012)(citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.



         Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at Soledad State Prison. Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against Dr. Johal who treated him at Wasco State Prison, where the conduct at issue occurred.

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 21, 2015, he was being examined by Dr. Johal who left the examination room door open while going over Plaintiff's medical files and medical history. (First Am. Comp. (“FAC”) 3, [2] ECF No. 7.) Dr. Johal examined Plaintiff's genital area and blurted out her physical examination findings. (FAC at 3.) There were medical staff and a minimum of five other inmates no more than two to three feet away. (FAC at 3.) LVN Bisbee and Correctional Officer Marquez were standing in the open doorway of the examination room. (FAC at 3-4.) Plaintiff alleges that the medical care he received in regards to confidentiality was not equal to that received by other inmates and that Dr. Johal disclosed his medical information to both inmates and correctional staff. (FAC at 4.) Plaintiff alleges that he has been harmed because he is housed with individuals who could harass or talk about his disease and or symptoms. (FAC at 4.) Plaintiff is seeking monetary damages.


         A. Right to Privacy

         Plaintiff alleges that his right to medical privacy was violated when Dr. Johal did not close the door to his examination room during his medical visit.[3] Initially, imprisonment carries with it the loss of many significant rights, and some loss of privacy is inherent in confinement. Seaton v. Mayberg, 610 F.3d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 2010). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects individuals against the disclosure of personal matters, Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589, 598-99 (1977), which “clearly encompasses medical information and its confidentiality, ” Norman-Bloodsaw v. Lawrence Berkeley Lab., 135 F.3d 1260, 1269 (9th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). “[T]he right to informational privacy applies both when an individual chooses not to disclose highly sensitive information to the government and when an individual seeks assurance that such information will not be made public.” Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona v. Lawall, 307 F.3d 783, 789-90 (9th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).

         Courts have recognized a constitutional right to the privacy of medical information in some context. Seaton, 610 F.3d at 537. The Ninth Circuit suggested in Seaton, that “the right to informational privacy is a narrow one, limited only to fundamental rights such as “matters relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and child rearing and education. Huling v. City of Los Banos, 869 F.Supp.2d 1139, 1153 (E.D. Cal. 2012) (quoting Seaton, 610 F.3d at 1153). It is unclear whether an individual who seeks medical treatment has a constitutionally protected right to privacy even though his privacy interest is substantial. Seaton, 610 F.3d at 541; see also Nat'l Aeronautics & Space Admin. v. Nelson, 562 U.S. 134, 138 (2011) (assuming without deciding that the constitution protects informational privacy); Huling, 869 F.Supp.2d at 1154-55 (finding defendants entitled to qualified immunity for disclosing confidential medical information to employer because the right to informational privacy is not clearly established); O'Neill v. Bannister, No. 3:12-CV-00030-LRH, 2012 WL 6968937, at *5 (D. Nev. Aug. 29, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, No. 3:12-CV-00030-LRH, 2013 WL 424467 (D. Nev. Jan. 31, 2013), aff'd in part, dismissed in part sub nom. O'Neill v. Peery, 540 F.App'x 586 (9th Cir. 2013) (recognizing the Ninth Circuit has not definitively ...

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