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Martin v. Muniz

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 4, 2019

W. MUNIZ, et al., Defendants.


          Beth Labson Freeman United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, a California inmate, filed the instant pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against prison officials at Salinas Valley State Prison ("SVSP"). The Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for failing to comply with Rules 18 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("FRCP"), and granted Plaintiff leave to amend to attempt to correct the deficiencies. (Docket No. 98.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, (Docket No. 107), which the Court screened and again dismissed for failure to comply with Rule 18(a). (Docket No. 120.) Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. (Docket No. 129, hereinafter "SAC") Defendants move for screening of the SAC. (Docket No. 134.) The motion is GRANTED.


         A. Background

         At the outset of this action, the Court found the original complaint stated a cognizable claim under the Eighth Amendment based on the allegation that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his pain management and neurological and orthopedic medical condition since 2007. (Docket No. 19 at 2.) Subsequently in granting Defendants' motion to dismiss, the Court found that Plaintiffs action was based on two different and apparently unrelated medical issues: inadequate pain medication (for his spinal condition) and vision care needs. (Docket No. 98 at 6.) In filing an amended complaint, Plaintiff was advised that he was to limit the claims in this action to an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim regarding either his pain management or his vision care needs. (Id. at 7.) After screening the amended complaint, the Court found that Plaintiff had again failed to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 18(a) because it included a variety of unrelated claims against different Defendants. (Docket No. 120 at 3.) Plaintiff as granted one final opportunity to file a second amended complaint that satisfies both Rules 18(a) and 20(a). (Id. at 5.) Because it appeared that Plaintiff wished to pursue the claim regarding his pain management, the Court instructed him to limit the allegations in the SAC to facts regarding his pain management and against only those Defendants that were personally involved in his pain management. (Id.)

         Defendants move for screening of the SAC and assert that the SAC includes a variety of unrelated allegations. (Docket No. 134 at 2-3.) Plaintiff filed a reply, asserting that he has complied with the court order and limited the allegations to pain management. (Docket No. 136.) Plaintiff also asserts that the denial of corrective surgery for his orthopedic and neurological injuries gave rise to the need of continuity of pain management care treatment. (Martin DecL¶¶ 10, 13.)

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiff names the following as Defendants: Dr. Kim R. Kumar, MD; Dr. Darrin M. Bright, Tuan Anh Tran (pharmacist); Dr. Eric Sullivan; Dr. Edward Miles Birdsong; Dr. Jennifer Villa; and Warden William Muniz. (SAC ¶¶ 4-11.) Plaintiff asserts two claims for relief: (1) Defendants acted with deliberate indifference in depriving him of adequate treatment for his pain management for "neurological and orthopedic serious injuries," particularly in light of the their failure to provide him with corrective surgeries that would lower or eliminate such need, (SAC ¶¶ 66-67); and (2) a procedural due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment for the arbitrary termination of certain pain medications that were prescribed to stabilize his injuries, (id. ¶¶ 68-69).

         With respect to Plaintiffs second claim for relief, the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause only applies to the medical treatment provided to pretrial detainees, not to convicted prisoners like Plaintiff. See Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979)). Accordingly, Plaintiff must challenge the allegedly arbitrary decision to terminate pain medication under the Eighth Amendment. Accordingly, the Court will liberally construe that claim as being raised under the Eighth Amendment rather than dismissing it for failure to state a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Jackson v. Carey, 353 F.3d 750, 757 (9th Cir. 2003).

         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff may properly join as many claims as he has against an opposing party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). But parties may be joined as defendants in one action only "if any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative 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(a)(2). Put simply, claims against different parties may be joined together in one complaint only if the claims have similar factual backgrounds and have common issues of law or fact. Coughlin v. Rogers, 130 F.3d 1348, 1350-51 (9th Cir. 1997).

         The SAC does contain allegations that are not directly related to the issue of his pain management at SVSP. For example, Plaintiff again describes, as he did in the amended complaint, Defendant Dr. Kumar's actions related to Plaintiffs pain medication while housed at the SATF-Corcoran' during 2003, which are separate from the claims regarding his treatment at SVSP. (SAC ¶¶ 14-16.) Although Defendant Kumar has since become employed at SVSP and is a named defendant in this action, it is highly doubtful that Plaintiff can pursue a claim against Defendant Kumar for acts that occurred 16 years ago. Furthermore, Plaintiff alleges, among others, the following claims that are not strictly related to his pain management: the claim that after he was transferred to SVSP in February 2007, he was issued the wrong blood pressure medicine, (id. ¶20); the claim that Plaintiff never received a CAT-scan that was ordered in October 2008 by Dr. Kim at Mercy Hospital, (id. ¶ 28); the claim that he did not receive treatment after an altercation in his cell in July 2009, (id. ¶ 30); the claim that Natividad Hospital withheld certain treatment for his neck and back at the orders of "SVSP-doctors" in July 2012, and only examined his lungs, (id. ¶¶ 35-36); the claim that Defendant Dr. Eric Sullivan denied him treatment after an assault on August 1, 2013, (id. ¶¶ 40-41); the claim that Defendant Warden W. Muniz submitted documentation in a civil rights case stating that Plaintiff was receiving appropriate medical care, which was "egregiously incorrect," (id. ¶ 43); and the claim that Defendant Bright had Plaintiff removed from the emergency room at Natividad Hospital on 10-01-17 although he was receiving beneficial treatment there and after he returned to prison, his condition worsened, (id. ¶ 57).

         Liberally construed, the Court finds the SAC contains sufficient facts to support an Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, i.e., Plaintiffs chronic pain related to certain longstanding injuries to his neck and back and the failure to provide corrective surgeries to address that pain. This claim is based on the allegations related to the termination of certain types of medication, the form of the medication prescribed (e.g., crush-float or liquid), and the repeated denials of his requests for pain medication. Although Plaintiff asserts that he included certain "contextual facts to establish and deduce deliberate indifference" to his serious medical needs, (SAC, Attach, at 5; SAC ¶¶ 15, 34), many of the allegations contained therein clearly go beyond providing mere context for his chronic pain management claim. See supra at 5.

         Plaintiff has already been permitted two opportunities to file an amended complaint in lieu of dismissal. In the interest of justice, the Court will strike the portions of the SAC that raises facts unrelated to his pain management while at SVSP. Specifically, the following paragraphs from the SAC shall be stricken as containing facts that do not comply with Rules 18(a) and 20(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: ¶¶ 14-19; ¶¶ 28-36; ¶¶ 40-47; ...

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