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Price v. C&PR

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 26, 2018

C&PR, et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner, who proceeds without counsel and in forma pauperis, in this civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This case proceeds on plaintiff's original complaint against defendants Wright and Champion. Presently pending is defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that defendants be granted qualified immunity, and that this action be dismissed.

         II. Plaintiff's Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that he was diagnosed with T-Cell peripheral non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and has been designated “high risk” and Cocci Area 1 and Area 2 restricted under CDCR policy. Despite such designation, on November 3, 2016, plaintiff was transferred from High Desert State Prison (“HDSP”) to Mule Creek State Prison, by way of a lay-over at North Kern State Prison (“NKSP”), which is located in a hyperendemic area for coccidioidomycosis, also known as “Valley Fever.” (ECF No. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff informed defendant Champion that he was designated high risk for Valley Fever, but defendant Champion insisted plaintiff get on the bus or receive a rules violation report. Plaintiff alleges that receiving and release RN M. Wright was also deliberately indifferent because she is required to review and document medical information prior to an inmate's transfer, and the transfer form reflects she documented plaintiff's lymphoma and noted his medical chronos, documenting the cocci area restrictions, were reviewed by her prior to plaintiff's transfer. Plaintiff also claims that defendant Wright was required to “immediately call the C&PR [Classification & Parole Representative] and advise of plaintiff's medical restriction and imminent transfer, and then inform the R&R [Receiving and Release] Sergeant of such information. Plaintiff states there is no evidence that defendant Wright did either of these duties. Plaintiff alleges that because of his lymphoma, being exposed to elevated levels of the cocci fungus (prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley), could induce serious illness, including death.

         Plaintiff seeks money damages.

          III. Legal Standards: Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[a]fter the pleadings are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial -- a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Id. Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when, even if all material facts in the pleading under attack are true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012). Analysis under Rule 12(c) is ‘substantially identical' to analysis under Rule 12(b)(6) because, under both rules, ‘a court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy.'” Chavez, 683 F.3d at 1108, quoting Brooks v. Dunlop Mfg. Inc., 2011 WL 6140912, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 9, 2011).

         “A complaint may survive a motion to dismiss if, taking all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, it contains ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Coto Settlement v. Eisenberg, 593 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “‘A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Caviness v. Horizon Cmty. Learning Ctr., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 812 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings the court accepts “all factual allegations in the complaint as true” and construes the allegations “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Turner v. Cook, 362 F.3d 1219, 1225 (9th Cir. 2004)). Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate “when there is no issue of material fact in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fleming, 581 F.3d at 925 (citing Heliotrope Gen., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 189 F.3d 971, 979 (9th Cir. 1999)).

         If the motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, leave to amend should be granted unless it is clear the complaint cannot be saved by amendment. Jackson v. Barnes, 749 F.3d 755, 766-67 (9th Cir. 2014) (district court erred in granting judgment on the pleadings and not permitting amendment where it was not absolutely clear the deficiencies were not curable).

         IV. Eighth Amendment

          Under the Eighth Amendment, “prison officials are . . . prohibited from being deliberately indifferent to policies and practices that expose inmates to a substantial risk of serious harm.” Parsons v. Ryan, 754 F.3d 657, 677 (9th Cir. 2014); see also Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994) (prison official violates Eighth Amendment if he or she knows of a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate and fails to take reasonable measures to avoid the harm). Deliberate indifference occurs when “[an] official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 841. Thus, a prisoner may state “a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment by alleging that [prison officials] have, with deliberate indifference, exposed him to [conditions] that pose an unreasonable risk of serious damage to his future health.” Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 35 (1993).

         “The second step, showing ‘deliberate indifference, ' involves a two part inquiry.” Thomas v. Ponder, 611 F.3d 1144, 1150 (9th Cir. 2010). “First, the inmate must show that the prison officials were aware of a ‘substantial risk of serious harm' to an inmate's health or safety.” Id. (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). “This part of [the] inquiry may be satisfied if the inmate shows that the risk posed by the deprivation is obvious.” Thomas, 611 F.3d at 1150 (citation omitted). “Second, the inmate must show that the prison officials had no ‘reasonable' justification for the deprivation, in spite of that risk.” Id. (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844 (“[P]rison officials who actually knew of a substantial risk to inmate health or safety may be found free from liability if they responded reasonably.”) (footnote omitted).

         V. Qualified Immunity

          Under the qualified immunity doctrine, government officials acting in their official capacities are immunized from civil liability unless their actions “violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (citations omitted). The qualified immunity analysis includes two prongs: (1) the facts must allege or show “a violation of a constitutional right”; and (2) the right must be “‘clearly established' at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct.” Id. (citations omitted). When engaging in ...

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