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Johnson v. Beard

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 12, 2019

PAUL DAVID JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
J. A. BEARD, et al., Defendant.

          ORDER

          KENDALL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with an action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to the court's order filed May 14, 2019, this action now proceeds on plaintiff's second amended complaint.[1]

         I. Screening Standards

         As plaintiff was previously informed, 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 or malicious, ” that 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).

         A district court must construe a pro se pleading “liberally” to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give plaintiff an opportunity to cure them. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) (“[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.”). While detailed factual allegations are not required, “[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) (citing 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 to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 570).

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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and quotation marks omitted). Although legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations, and are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. at 1950.

         Exhibits appended to a complaint are a part thereof for all purposes. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c); see Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1116 n.1 (9th Cir. 2012) (exhibits attached to the complaint may be considered to decide whether dismissal is proper); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (2009) (conclusory allegations not supported by factual allegations do not state a plausible claim).

         II. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff again alleges that defendant doctors were deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs by delaying the diagnosis and treatment of his prostate cancer. Plaintiff alleges that he continues to suffer penile tenderness, bleeding ulcers, bloody bowels and urine, as well as urination problems. Plaintiff claims the defendants misdiagnosed plaintiff in 2005, 2006, and through each PSA test, and denied him the correct treatment in a timely manner. (ECF No. 41 at 6.) Plaintiff avers that he has been permanently damaged from “reproduction of life.” (ECF No. 41 at 9.) Plaintiff did not set forth his requested relief. (ECF No. 41.)

         III. Eighth Amendment Standards

         “[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) that “the defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent.” Id. (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992) (citation and internal quotations marks omitted), overruled on other grounds WMX Technologies v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc)).

         In applying this standard, the Ninth Circuit has held that before it can be said that a prisoner's civil rights have been abridged, “the indifference to his medical needs must be substantial. Mere ‘indifference,' ‘negligence,' or ‘medical malpractice' will not support this cause of action.” Broughton v. Cutter Laboratories, 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06). “[A] complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106; see also Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1316 (9th Cir. 1995). Civil recklessness (failure “to act in the face of an unjustifiably high risk of harm that is either known or so obvious that it should be known”) is insufficient to establish an Eighth Amendment violation. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 836-37 & n.5 (1994) (citations omitted). Even gross negligence is insufficient to establish deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. See Wood v. Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1334 (9th Cir. 1990). Additionally, a prisoner's mere disagreement with diagnosis or treatment does not support a claim of deliberate indifference. Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). To establish that a difference of opinion rises to the level of deliberate indifference, plaintiff “must show that the course of treatment the doctors chose was medically unacceptable under the circumstances.” Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).

         Rather, deliberate indifference is established only where the defendant subjectively “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety.” Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004) (emphasis added) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Deliberate indifference can be established “by showing (a) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the indifference.” Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096 (citation omitted).

         Delays in providing medical care may manifest deliberate indifference. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05. To establish a claim of deliberate indifference arising from a delay in providing care, a plaintiff must show that the delay was harmful. See Berry v. Bunnell, 39 F.3d 1056, 1057 (9th Cir. 1994); McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1059; Wood, 900 F.2d at 1335; Shapley v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Comm'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985). In this regard, “[a] prisoner need not show his harm was substantial; however, such would provide additional support for the inmate's claim that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to his needs.” Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096; see also McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. In addition, a physician need not fail to treat an inmate altogether in order to violate that inmate's Eighth Amendment rights. Ortiz ...


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