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Shaw v. Thomas

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 18, 2017

L. THOMAS, et al., Defendants.


          YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Pelican Bay State Prison (“PBSP”), has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges a claim of deliberate indifference to medical needs against PBSP employees stemming from inadequate treatment for a compound fracture and subsequent infection in his right thumb. Dkt. 1 at 6, 8.[1] He also claims that he was retaliated against for submitting a related inmate 602 appeal (“602 appeal”). Id. at 26-27. Plaintiff has filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, which will be granted in a separate written Order.

         Venue is proper because the events giving rise to the claim are alleged to have occurred at PBSP, which is located in this judicial district. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

         In his complaint, Plaintiff has named the following Defendants: PBSP Physicians N. Ikegbu, Dorfman, Adam, C. Sayre, Venes; PBSP Registered Nurses M. Hansen, B. Fellows, Alpaugh; PBSP Physician's Assistant L. Thomas; PBSP Family Nurse Practitioner Risenhoover; PBSP Chief Executive Officer D. Jacobsen; PBSP Chief Medical Officer M. Mclean; and PBSP Correctional Officer C. George. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief as well as declaratory and monetary damages.



         A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements, namely that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).


         A. Eighth Amendment Claims

         Deliberate indifference to serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc); Jones v. Johnson, 781 F.2d 769, 771 (9th Cir. 1986). A determination of “deliberate indifference” involves an examination of two elements: the seriousness of the prisoner's medical need and the nature of the defendant's response to that need. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059. A “serious” medical need exists if the failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Id. (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104). A prison official is deliberately indifferent if he or she knows that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable steps to abate it. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).

         Plaintiff claims that on December 5, 2014, he was “targeted during a prison riot on B-Facility, and viciously attacked by several inmates.” Dkt. 1 at 6. Soon thereafter, Plaintiff was “transported to an outside medical facility-Sutter Coast Hospital.” Id. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Helmuth F. Vollger “re-set the fracture in plaintiff[']s thumb.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that from December 6, 2014 through mid-April 2015, he suffered “unnecessary pain and suffering” in his fractured right thumb. Dkt. 1 at 6, 7-8, 12, 15-16. His injured right thumb initially required re-setting as well as a spica splint[2] and, subsequently, Plaintiff had to take antibiotics to treat an infection. Id. Extensive physical therapy is now necessary in order to get the full range of motion in his thumb back. Id. The aforementioned allegations support an inference that Plaintiff has serious medical needs. Liberally construed, Plaintiff's allegations that PBSP medical staff failed to provide adequate medical treatment for the compound fracture in his right thumb and subsequent infection state cognizable Eighth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs against Defendants Hansen, George, Fellows, Risenhoover, Ikegbu, Dorfman, Adam, Thomas, Sayre, Venes, Alpaugh, Jacobsen, and Mclean. Specifically, Plaintiff claims he was denied the following requests: (1) to have his wound cleansed by Defendants Hansen, George, and Fellows; (2) to be treated in a timely manner with an effective course of antibiotics by Defendants Risenhoover, Ikegbu, Dorfman, Adam, Thomas, Sayre, Venes, and Alpaugh; (3) to be transported to a medical appointment, with or without having to remove his arm sling so that he could be double cuffed, by Defendants George and Fellows; (4) to have the blood work done (as ordered by Defendant Ikegbu) by Defendants George and Fellows; (5) to retain possession of the arm sling and spica splint as part of his ongoing medical treatment plan by Defendants Ikegbu, Thomas, Jacobsen, and Mclean; (6) to place back on the spica splint after x-rays showed his thumb was still in the infancy stages of healing by Defendants Thomas and Jacobsen; (7) to be provided effective follow-up care by Defendant Thomas and extensive physical therapy by Defendants Jacobsen and Thomas; and (8) to have his request for a surgical intervention taken seriously, if not otherwise granted, by Defendant Ikegbu. See Id. at 6-16. Accordingly, these Eighth Amendment claims may proceed against the aforementioned Defendants.

         B. ...

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