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Gaines v. Virk

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 20, 2017

MARY LEE GAINES, Plaintiff,
v.
VIRK, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (DOC. 1) 21-DAY DEADLINE

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In this action, Plaintiff itemizes numerous interactions with medical and custody staff over two years. Because the incidents raised in the complaint appear to be unrelated, the Complaint violates Rules 18 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and is DISMISSED with leave to amend.

         A. Screening Requirement

         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, malicious, 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. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). If an action is dismissed on one of these three bases, a strike is imposed per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). An inmate who has had three or more prior actions or appeals dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and has not alleged imminent danger of serious physical injury does not qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Richey v. Dahne, 807 F.3d 1201, 1208 (9th Cir. 2015).

         B. The Complaint

         Plaintiff complains of 20 apparently unrelated events that occurred over two years -- from March 20, 2014 to March 16, 2016. Plaintiff names 28 individual defendants and Does 1-50 and seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief. Plaintiff contends that her civil rights have been violated and identifies six claims: (1) cruel and unusual punishment; (2) deliberate indifference to her medical needs; (3) unsafe prison conditions; (4) retaliation; (5) medical negligence; and (6) professional negligence. The Court declines to expend its limited resources evaluating all of Plaintiff's allegations and asserted claims since it is clear that pursuing them all in one action violates Rules 18 and 20. Thus, Plaintiff is given the pleading requirements, the legal standards for the claims Plaintiff lists, and leave to file a first amended complaint.

         C. Pleading Requirements

         1.Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)

         “Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions, ” none of which applies to section 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a). “Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512.

         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), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations are accepted as true, but legal conclusions are not. Iqbal. at 678; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-557.

         While “plaintiffs [now] face a higher burden of pleadings facts . . ., ” Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 977 (9th Cir. 2009), the pleadings of pro se prisoners are still construed liberally and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, “the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations, ” Neitze v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989), “a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled, ” Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982), and courts are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences, Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” is not sufficient, and “facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” fall short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         If she chooses to file a first amended complaint, Plaintiff should make it as concise as possible. She should simply state which of her constitutional rights she feels were violated by each Defendant and its factual basis. Where the allegations against two or more Defendants are factually intertwined, Plaintiff need not repeat the factual allegations separately against each Defendant. Rather, Plaintiff should present her factual allegations and identify the Defendants she feels are thereby implicated. Plaintiff need not cite legal authority for her claims in a first amended complaint as her factual allegations are accepted as true. The amended complaint should be clearly legible (see Local Rule 130(b)), and double-spaced pursuant to Local Rule 130(c).

         2. Exhibits

         The Court is not a repository for the parties' evidence. Originals, or copies of evidence (i.e., prison or medical records, witness affidavits, etc.) need not be submitted until the course of litigation brings the evidence into question (for example, on a motion for summary judgment, at trial, or when requested by the Court). If Plaintiff attaches exhibits to his amended complaint, each exhibit must be specifically referenced. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 10(c). For example, Plaintiff must state “see Exhibit A” or something similar in order to direct the Court to the specific exhibit Plaintiff is referencing. Further, if the exhibit consists of more than one page, Plaintiff must reference the specific page of the exhibit (i.e. “See Exhibit A, page 3”).

         At this point, the submission of evidence is premature as Plaintiff is only required to state a prima facie claim for relief. Plaintiff is reminded that, for screening purposes, the Court must assume that Plaintiff's factual allegations are true. It is unnecessary for a plaintiff to submit exhibits in support of the allegations in a complaint. Thus, if Plaintiff chooses to file a first amended complaint, she would do well to simply state the facts upon which she alleges a Defendant has violated her constitutional rights and refrain from submitting exhibits.

         3. Linkage Requirement

         Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by Plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). The Ninth Circuit has held that “[a] person ‘subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if she does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which she is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). In order to state a claim for relief under section 1983, Plaintiff must link each named defendant with some affirmative act or omission that demonstrates a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights.

         Plaintiff must clearly identify which Defendant(s) she feels are responsible for each violation of her constitutional rights and their factual basis as her Complaint must put each Defendant on notice of Plaintiff's claims against him or her. See Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1171 (9th Cir. 2004).

         4. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) & 20(a)(2)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) allows a party asserting a claim for relief as an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim to join, either as independent or as alternate claims, numerous claims against an opposing party. However, Plaintiff may not bring unrelated claims against unrelated parties in a single action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a), 20(a)(2); Owens v. Hinsley, 635 F.3d 950, 952 (7th Cir. 2011); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff may bring a claim against multiple defendants so long as (1) the claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions and occurrences, and (2) there are commons questions of law or fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2); Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1351 (9th Cir. 1997); Desert Empire Bank v. Insurance Co. of North America, 623 F.3d 1371, 1375 (9th Cir. 1980). Only if the defendants are properly joined under Rule 20(a) will the Court review the additional claims to determine if they may be joined under Rule 18(a), which permits the joinder of multiple claims against the same party.

         The Court must be able to discern a relationship between Plaintiff's claims or there must be a similarity of parties. The fact that all of Plaintiff's allegations are based on the same type of constitutional violation (i.e. retaliation by different actors on different dates, under different factual events, or medical claims against different actors on different dates) does not necessarily make claims related for purposes of Rule 18(a). All claims that do not comply with Rules 18(a) and 20(a)(2) are subject to dismissal. Plaintiff is cautioned that if she fails to elect which category of claims to pursue and his amended complaint sets forth improperly joined claims, the Court will determine which claims should proceed and which claims will be dismissed. Visendi v. Bank of America, N.A., 733 F.3d 863, 870-71 (9th Cir. 2013). Whether any claims will be subject to severance by future order will depend on the viability of claims pled in the amended complaint.

         D. Clai ...


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