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Gomez v. Acharya

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 11, 2019

EDWARD GOMEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ACHARYA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          CAROLYN K. DELANEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, has filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, along with a copy of the proposed amended complaint. (ECF Nos. 35, 36.) Defendants have requested that the court screen the amended complaint (ECF No. 37) and modify the current discovery and scheduling order (ECF No. 38).

         I. First Amended Complaint

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(B) provides that “[a] party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within . . . 21 days after service of a responsive pleading.” Defendants answered the complaint on June 18, 2019 (ECF No. 33), and plaintiff's motion to amend and proposed amended complaint were filed within twenty-one days of service of the answer (ECF Nos. 35, 36). Accordingly, plaintiff is entitled to amend the complaint as a matter of course and his request to amend will be granted.

         With respect to defendants' request for screening of the amended complaint, the court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity, and must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are “frivolous, malicious, or 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(a), (b). Defendants' request for screening will therefore be granted.

         The complaint alleges that defendants Acharya, Liu, Enriquez, Limpiado, Salud, and Ladan, [1] who are all registered nurses, were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical need on four separate occasions. (ECF No. 36 at 3-8.) “[T]o maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on prison medical treatment, an inmate must show ‘deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.'” Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). This requires plaintiff to show (1) “a ‘serious medical need' by demonstrating that ‘failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, '” and (2) “the defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent.” Id. (some internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         Plaintiff alleges that due to his quadriplegia he is required to use a catheter and, as a result, experiences autonomic dysreflexia when his bladder is beyond capacity (90 cc). (ECF No. 36 at 3.) The symptoms include “Dry Sweats, Spasms, Shaking, [and] Extremely High Blood Pressure, ” and are alleviated when his catheter is flushed. (Id.) The complaint asserts that defendants failed to properly respond when plaintiff began to experience autonomic dysreflexia. In addition to the two incidents described in the original complaint, the amended complaint adds two additional incidents and one additional defendant. Plaintiff's allegations regarding the first two incidents, which occurred on January 1, 2017, and February 11, 2017, are nearly identical to the allegations in the original complaint (compare ECF No. 1 at 6-10 with ECF No. 36 at 3-6) and state claims for deliberate indifference against defendants Acharya, Liu, Enriquez, Limpiado, and Salud as outlined in the January 3, 2019 screening order (ECF No. 10).

         During the third incident, which occurred on March 23, 2017, plaintiff began experiencing symptoms of autonomic dysreflexia and requested assistance via intercom. (Id. at 6.) Defendant Limpiado refused to respond to plaintiff's request and continued to refuse to flush his catheter until over two hours later when ordered to do so by a doctor. (Id.) These allegations are sufficient to state a claim for relief against Limpiado.

         The fourth incident plaintiff alleges occurred on January 23, 2018, and involved newly added defendant Ladan. (Id. at 8.) However, it will be recommended that these claims and defendant Ladan be dismissed because they are improperly joined. Multiple claims may be joined if they are all against a single defendant, Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a), and joinder of defendants is only permitted if “any right to relief is asserted against them . . . with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20. In other words, joining more than one claim is only proper when it is against one defendant, and joining multiple defendants in one complaint is only proper when the action is based on the same facts. Here, the incident with defendant Ladan occurred ten months after the last incident with the other defendants and did not involve any of the other defendants. Accordingly, there are no grounds on which to join either the new claims or the defendant.

         When parties are misjoined, “the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party. The court may also sever any claim against a party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. “[D]istrict courts who dismiss rather than sever must conduct a prejudice analysis, including ‘loss of otherwise timely claims if new suits are blocked by statutes of limitations.'” Rush v. Sport Chalet, Inc., 779 F.3d 973, 975 (9th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). In this case, the court finds that dismissal of defendant Ladan is appropriate. The incident involving Ladan occurred on January 23, 2018, and the statute of limitations for claims under § 1983 is two years, plus an additional two years of tolling if plaintiff's sentence is for less than life. Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 927 (9th Cir. 2004); Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1; Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 352.1(a). Therefore, even if plaintiff is serving a life sentence and is not entitled to the additional two years of tolling, he has ample time to initiate a new complaint against Ladan related to the January 23, 2018 incident, should he choose to do so. Accordingly, there is no prejudice to plaintiff in dismissing the claims against Ladan without prejudice to re-filing in a separate action.

         II. Motion to Modify

         Defendants have filed a motion to modify the discovery and scheduling order and request that the court vacate the current deadlines in light of the recently filed first amended complaint. (ECF No. 38.) The motion will be granted and a new discovery and scheduling order will issue once defendants have responded to the first amended complaint.

         III. Plain Language Summary of this Order for a Pro Se Litigant

         The complaint states claims against defendants Acharya, Liu, Enriquez, Limpiado, and Salud and they will be required to respond to the complaint. The claims against defendant Ladan are not properly joined and it will be recommended that they be ...


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