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Cooper v. Kernan

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 7, 2017

SCOTT KERNAN et al., Defendants.


         Plaintiff Jason Leroy Cooper is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.


         On March 2, 2017, the assigned magistrate judge issued findings and recommendations, recommending that this action be dismissed based on plaintiff's failure to state a cognizable claim in his first amended complaint. (Doc. No. 14.) The findings and recommendations were served on plaintiff and contained notice that objections thereto were to be filed within thirty days. (Id.) After being granted an extension of time to do so, plaintiff filed his objections to the findings and recommendations on May 5, 2017. (Doc. No. 17.) Therein, plaintiff states that he does not object to the recommended dismissal of his claims against defendants Scott Kernan, O. Oneje, and Scott Frauenheim. However, plaintiff does object to the dismissal of defendant Dr. Chokatos, a physician at Pleasant Valley State Prison, from this action. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff states that he is able to allege facts sufficient to state a § 1983 claim under the Eighth Amendment and a state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Dr. Chokatos. Accordingly, plaintiff requests leave to file a proposed second amended complaint (see id., Ex. A), which purportedly cures the pleading deficiencies identified in the March 2, 2017 findings and recommendations.

         In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 304, this court has conducted a de novo review of this case. Having reviewed the entire file, including plaintiff's objections, the court finds that the findings and recommendations are supported by the record and proper analysis with respect to plaintiff's first amended complaint. However, having reviewed plaintiff's proposed second amended complaint, and for the reasons set forth below, the court will also grant plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint as to his Eighth Amendment claim only.


         In his proposed second amended complaint, plaintiff alleges the following. Plaintiff was transferred to Pleasant Valley State Prison (“PVSP”) in November 2011. (Doc. No. 17, Ex. A ¶ 1.) In approximately June 2013, plaintiff was diagnosed with coccidioidomycosis, or “Valley Fever.” (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) Valley Fever is not a curable disease, and the disseminated form of the disease is progressive, painful, and debilitating, and, if left untreated, uniformly fatal once it progresses to meningitis. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 13.) The only medications found to be effective in treating Valley Fever are certain triazole compounds, including Fluconazole dosed at 400 milligrams per day; to be effective, Fluconazole must be taken daily, and lifelong treatment is recommended. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         California health officials have long known about the prevalence of Valley Fever in the San Joaquin Valley region of the state. In November 2004, the Deputy Director of Health Care Services at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) wrote a memorandum (the “Kanan Memo”) to CDCR staff and officials regarding Valley Fever, its origin, and its treatment. (Id. ¶ 16.) The Kanan Memo recognized that triazole compounds, such as Fluconazole, are the only medications known to be effective on inmates with Valley Fever. (Id.) The Kanan Memo was and continues to be widely available to CDCR physicians, including defendant Dr. Chokatos. (Id.) In April 2012, the California Correctional Health Care Services released a report titled “Coccidiodomycosis in California's Adult Prisons, 2006-2010, ” which concluded that the incidence of Valley Fever has been increasing in some prisons, including at PVSP. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Defendant Dr. Chokatos was the primary care physician assigned to plaintiff by CDCR during the time he was at PVSP. (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendant Chokatos regularly treated patients with Valley Fever and knew that the only medications shown to be effective in treating the disease were triazole compounds, such as Fluconazole. (Id. ¶ 22.) Soon after plaintiff was diagnosed with Valley Fever, he requested that defendant Dr. Chokatos start him on Fluconazole. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Defendant Chokatos refused. (Id. ¶ 24.) During the next sixteen months, plaintiff's symptoms worsened, and he repeatedly reported his symptoms to defendant Chokatos while requesting Fluconazole; but on each occasion, defendant Chokatos refused to provide such treatment. (Id. ¶ 25.) As a result of his refusal, plaintiff alleges that the disease progressed, causing him to suffer body aches, joint pain, and severe and debilitating fatigue. (Id. ¶ 26.) Finally, in September 2014, defendant Chokatos prescribed Fluconazole. (Id. ¶ 27.) The treatment eased his symptoms and appeared to slow the progression of the disease. (Id.) By that time, however, the delay in treatment had caused plaintiff's disease to progress, causing additional and worsening symptoms and suffering. (Id. ¶ 28.) In this action, plaintiff seeks monetary and declaratory relief.

         Based on the aforementioned facts, plaintiff alleges a claim for inadequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment and a related state law claim for intentional inflection of emotional distress (“IIED”).


         A. Deliberate Indifference under the Eighth Amendment

         The Civil Rights Act, pursuant to which plaintiff alleges an Eighth Amendment violation, provides as follows:

Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to make out a valid claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege and eventually prove that (i) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; (ii) this conduct deprived a person of constitutional rights; and (iii) there is an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation allegedly suffered by decedent. See Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-95 (1978); Rizzo v. ...

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