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Hyatt v. Brown

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 30, 2019

TOM HYATT, Plaintiff,
v.
EDMUND G. BROWN, JR., et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS ORDER VACATING SEPTEMBER 4, 2019 HEARING (ECF Nos. 26-27, ) OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS

         Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the above referenced action on the grounds of qualified immunity. The plaintiff did not file an opposition to the motion to dismiss.

         The Local Rule provides that a party who fails to file a timely opposition is not entitled to be heard in opposition to the motion at oral argument. L.R. 230(c). Accordingly, the Court shall vacate the September 4, 2019 hearing on the motion to dismiss and the parties are not required to appear on that date.

         I.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 24, 2015, Tom Hyatt (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Defendants Edmond G. Brown, Jr., Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jeffrey Beard, Matthew Cate, Scott Frauenheim, Paul Brazelton, James A. Yates, and Felix Igbinosa. The matter was stayed on November 30, 2015 pending the resolution of the appeals in the related cases of Smith, et al. v. Schwarzenegger, et al., appeal no. 15-17155, Hines v. Youssef, appeal no. 15-16145, and Jackson, et al. v. Brown, et al., appeal no. 15-17076. (ECF No. 51.) On February 1, 2019, the Ninth Circuit issued an order affirming the district court decision in Smith, et al. v. Schwarzenegger, et al., appeal no. 15-17155, and Hines v. Youssef, appeal no. 15-16145, and affirming in part and reversing in part in Jackson, et al. v. Brown, et al., appeal no. 15-17076. The stay of this matter was lifted on April 5, 2019. On July 25, 2019, after receiving an extension of time to respond to the complaint, the named defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss.

         II.

         COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections (“CDCR”) and was transferred to Pleasant Valley State Prison (“PVSP”) in 2010. Plaintiff is of American-Indian descent and was diagnosed with Valley Fever around May 2011. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edmond Brown, Jr. are former Governors of the State of California. The remaining defendants are current or former prison officials. Plaintiff brings this action alleging deliberate indifferent in violation of the Eighth Amendment and racial discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         Coccidioidomycosis (“Valley Fever”) is a serious infectious disease that is contracted through the inhalation of an airborne fungus. Once the spores are inhaled and have lodged in various locations of the respiratory system, they grow and transform into large tissue-invasive parasitic spherules. They can migrate through the blood into other tissues and organs.

         Valley Fever spores are endemic in the soil of various areas of the Southwest, but nowhere is more prevalent in the the Central Valley of California where PVSP is located. Most people who get Valley Fever have minor symptoms that resolve by themselves within weeks. Certain individuals are at a particularly high risk of developing the disseminated form of Valley Fever. “Disseminated Valley Fever” is a serious infection that affects soft tissues, bones, joints, and the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is progressive, painful, and debilitating. If left untreated it is uniformly fatal once it progresses to meningitis.

         There is no cure for Disseminated Valley Fever and and surgical excision of tissue and bone is the only medical response for some extrapulmonary infections. There are some drugs that have been found to be effective in treating Disseminated Valley Fever, but they must be taken daily for the remainder of the individual's life. Approximately seventy-five percent of the patients who stop taking the drugs will relapse into life-threatening disease within one year.

         Plaintiff contends that the named defendants were aware of the prevalence of Valley Fever and located Avenal State Prison, California Correctional Institution, California State Prison-Corcoran, Wasco State Prison, North Kern State Prison, PVSP, California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, and Kern Valley State Prison in the hyper-endemic region of the San Joaquin Valley. Plaintiff states the defendants knew that the prisons were located in an area which host the Valley Fever spores and that American Indians, Asians, Blacks, and immune-compromised individuals were at the highest risk of disseminated disease. A 2006 memo described the infection rates within CDCR showing an increase from 2001 to 2006 with a dramatic increase of incidents in 2006, with rates as high as 7 % during 2006-2010. Plaintiff contends that the rate of Valley Fever is significantly higher at PVSP where he was housed than the surrounding county. Between 2006 and 2010, approximately 36 inmates died from Valley Fever. In 2007, CDCR implemented a policy that protected persons with certain medical conditions but did not protect other inmates who defendants knew were at risk and did not stem the epidemic of Valley Fever.

         Generally, Plaintiff alleges that each of the named defendants was aware of the elevated risk of inmates in the hyper-endemic areas of contracting Valley Fever and that failure to control inmate exposure to the soil in the areas increased the risk. Despite this knowledge, no efforts were taken to remediate the ...


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