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Garcia v. Win

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 19, 2019

HLA WIN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's first amended complaint (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.


         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require complaints contain a “…short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” See McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1)). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[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)). While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and are afforded the benefit of any doubt. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572F.3d at 969.


         Plaintiff names the following as defendants: (1) Robert Burton (2) Dr. Hla Win (3) Dr. T. Bzoskie (4) Dr. Malet (5) Dr. Robert Chapnick (6) Dr. Shefanli Awatani (7) Dr. Robert Duncan. See ECF No. 6, at 1, 3. Plaintiff raises four claims. First, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Win, Bzoskie, Malet, Chapnick, Awatani, and Duncan violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care by denying him medically prescribed orthotic boots Plaintiff requires to manage symptoms of his diabetes. Second, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Win violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care by prescribing him a previously “failed” medication to treat his severe rosacea that caused allergic reactions. Plaintiff also alleges Defendant Chapnick violated his Eighth Amendment rights to adequate medical care by denying his administrative appeal on the same issue regarding his inability to get a different prescription to treat his rosacea. Defendant Chapnick denied Plaintiff's appeal stating it was not “medically indicated” for Plaintiff to switch from a primary care provider to a dermatology specialist because he was already prescribed the allegedly failed medication. Third, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Win violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care by ignoring Plaintiff's complaints after a cataract and lens implant replacement surgery in his right eye. Plaintiff allegedly complained to Defendant Win “for months about loss of vision, with pain, swelling and the eye being severally [sic] blood shot.” Id. at 21. Plaintiff alleges when he complained to Defendant Win, he was “ignored or denied any medical care or treatment.” Id. Lastly, Plaintiff alleges his Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care was violated when he did not receive his Direct Observation Therapy (“DOT”) morphine pain medications on December 19, 2016 and December 21, 2016, but Plaintiff fails to identify any of the named Defendants in this lawsuit.


         As currently set forth, this Court finds Plaintiff alleges sufficient facts in his first, second, and third claim to pass screening. However, Plaintiff's fourth claim fails to pass screening because Plaintiff does not make the required designation of a specific Defendant alleged to be responsible for those claims. Further, Plaintiff's claims as against Defendant Robert Burton fail to pass screening as impermissibly seeking to impose liability under a respondeat superior theory.

         A. Supervisory Liability

         The Court observes Defendant Robert Burton, who Plaintiff identifies as the warden, holds a supervisory position. Supervisory personnel are generally not liable under § 1983 for the actions of their employees. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (holding that there is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983). A supervisor is only liable for the constitutional violations of subordinates if the supervisor participated in or directed the violations. See id. The Supreme Court has rejected the notion that a supervisory defendant can be liable based on knowledge and acquiescence in a subordinate's unconstitutional conduct because government officials, regardless of their title, can only be held liable under § 1983 for his or her own conduct and not the conduct of others. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Supervisory personnel who implement a policy so deficient that the policy itself is a repudiation of constitutional rights and the moving force behind a constitutional violation may, however, be liable even where such personnel do not overtly participate in the offensive act. See Redman v. Cnty of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc).

         When a defendant holds a supervisory position, the causal link between such defendant and the claimed constitutional violation must be specifically alleged. See Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979); Mosher v. Saalfeld, 589 F.2d 438, 441 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of supervisory personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). “[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the constitution.” Iqbal, 662 U.S. at 676.

         Here, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Robert Burton is liable as supervisory personnel-asserting that as supervisors, Defendant Burton is liable for the conduct of his subordinates. This is a respondeat superior theory of liability, which is not cognizable under § 1983. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Plaintiff is advised that in amending the complaint, he should be cognizant of the legal standard related to supervisory liability, outlined above, and note that a supervisor can only be held liable for their own actions or inactions resulting in the violation of ...

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