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Howze v. Orozco

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 26, 2019

J.L. HOWZE, Plaintiff,
A.B. OROZCO, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is defendants Grout, Neuschmid, and Orozco’s motion to dismiss (ECF No. 24), which has been joined by defendant Sahota (ECF No. 29). Plaintiff opposes the motion. ECF No. 30.

         I. Procedural History

         By order and findings and recommendations filed September 17, 2018, the undersigned screened the first amended complaint and found that plaintiff had stated claims for relief against defendants Grout, Neuschmid, Orozco, and Sahota for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, conspiracy, and violation of his rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ECF No. 14 at 10. It was further recommended that plaintiff’s fraud and due process claims be denied without leave to amend (id. at 11), and the District Judge adopted the findings and recommendations in full (ECF No. 23). In lieu of an answer, defendants Grout, Neuschmid, and Orozco filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 24), which was later joined by defendant Sahota (ECF No. 29), who is represented by separate counsel. Plaintiff opposed the motion to dismiss (ECF No. 30), and after defendants Grout, Neuschmid, and Orozco filed their reply (ECF No. 31), plaintiff filed a further, supplemental opposition (ECF No. 32). Defendants Grout, Neuschmid, and Orozco have moved to strike the supplemental opposition as an unauthorized sur-reply (ECF No. 33), and plaintiff requests it be considered as a supplemental pleading (ECF No. 34).

         II. Plaintiff’s Allegations

         Plaintiff’s remaining claims allege that defendants Orozco, Grout, Neuschmid, and Sahota violated his rights under the ADA and conspired to and did violate his rights under the Eighth Amendment. ECF No. 11 at 6-10. Specifically, he asserts that he suffered and continues to suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which includes symptoms such as “(i) inability to await restroom access; (ii) High Frequency urination; and (iii) blood loss/vessel rupture . . . concomitant with bladder distention.” Id. at 7-8, 10 (alteration in original and internal quotation marks omitted). As a result of his BPH, plaintiff requires a single-cell housing accommodation to ensure that he has prompt access to a toilet in order to avoid injury, and he had a medical order for such an accommodation in June 2014. Id. at 11-12. However, on October 30, 2014, at an Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) hearing, defendant Sahota lied and said that plaintiff’s medical condition did not require him to be single celled, and Orozco, Grout, and Neuschmid denied him single-cell status in complete disregard of his medical chronos. Id. at 4-6. Plaintiff further alleges that prior to the hearing he overheard Orozco, Grout, and Neuschmid pressuring Sahota into disregarding the chronos and “‘coaching’ Sahota on what to say . . . to factor medical OUT of the decision-making process.” Id. at 6 (emphasis in original). Plaintiff seeks damages against defendants in both their individual and official capacities, and injunctive relief in the form of a single-cell accommodation. Id. at 17.

         III. Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants move to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it is barred by the judgement //// in Howze v. CDCR (Howze I), No. 2:14-cv-4067 (C.D. Cal.).[1] ECF No. 24-1 at 3-6. They argue that issue preclusion bars the present action because there was a final judgment on the merits in Howze I, to which plaintiff was a party, and the court in Howze I determined that denying plaintiff a single-cell designation was not deliberately indifferent, thereby barring his re-litigation of the issue. Id. Defendants further argue that plaintiff’s claim for injunctive relief is barred by the Armstrong class action and is also moot as a result of his transfer to another prison. Id. at 6-7.

         Plaintiff opposes the motion and argues that the instant case arises from a different set of facts and has different defendants than Howze I. ECF No. 30 at 1-3. He also argues that his ADA claim cannot be brought as part of the Armstrong class action and his request for injunctive relief is not moot because he could be transferred back to Folsom State Prison. Id. at 3-5.

         A. Legal Standard for Dismissal Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;” it must contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). “‘[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.’” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004)). “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of the Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976) (citation omitted), as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff’s favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969) (citations omitted).

         B. Issue Preclusion

         i. Le ...

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