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Fox v. T. Uribe

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 15, 2019

T. URIBE, 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 officers and medical personnel at Salinas Valley State Prison (“SVSP”). The Court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend to correct several deficiencies. (Docket No. 8.) Plaintiff has filed an amended complaint. (Docket No. 15.)


         A. Standard of Review

         A federal court must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See Id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         B. Plaintiff's Claims

         Plaintiff claims that he suffered a second degree burn on his left foot on November 10, 2016. (Am. Compl. at 4.) Upon his return from the hospital, Plaintiff was provided with crutches and instructed to return to his upstairs housing assignment. (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiff claims that from November 11 through 14, 2016, he notified Defendants Sullivan, Fu, Tuvera, and Uribe that he was in pain and that it was very difficult to walk up and down the stairs in his condition and crutches, but that defendants “purposefully and intentionally ignored Plaintiff and acted with a culpable state of mind to a foreseeable risk of Plaintiff's personal safety and disregarded such risks by refusing to take reasonable measures to abate such risk.” (Id. at 5.) Then on November 15, 2016, Plaintiff fell down the stairs and had to be taken to the hospital to receive treatment for back contusions and pain; on his return, he was issued a “lower tier lower bunk accommodation” by medical staff. (Id. at 5-6.) From then until November 30, 2016, Plaintiff suffered increased pain in his back and was taken to the prison's treatment center for extreme pain. (Id. at 6.) On December 9, 2016, Plaintiff received a medical order for physical therapy which did not start until April 2017. (Id.) The physical therapist informed Plaintiff that the injuries to his nerves and back could be life time and requested Plaintiff be examined by a doctor due to Plaintiff's inability to physically perform during the physical therapy session. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that he had been prescribed pain medications by medical care providers, but that on May 11, 2017, Defendant Dr. Nguyen “purposefully interfered with Plaintiff's prescribed pain medications for his injuries and pain” by “intentionally discontinuing” the medications, “despite Plaintiff informing Defendant Nguyen that he was in pain as a result of his injury to his foot and fall down the stairs.” (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant Nguyen's decision was “medically unreasonable considering the circumstances” and that it was “chose[n] in conscious disregard to a excessive risk to Plaintiff's health and personal safety.” (Id.) Plaintiff claims he notified Defendants Kumar and Brizendine that he was in extreme pain and had difficulty walking up and down the stairs with crutches, but they failed to respond. (Id. at 8.) Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff claims deliberate indifference to serious medical needs and deliberate indifference to personal safety. (Id. at 8-9.) He seeks damages. (Id. at 14.)

         1. Improper Joinder

         Plaintiff raises two claims: (1) the claim that he was exposed to unsafe prison conditions against Defendants Sullivan, Fu, Tuvera, and Uribe which resulted in his fall down the stairs on November 15, 2016; and (2) deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against Defendants Nguyen, Kumar, and Brizendine based on Defendant Nguyen's discontinuation of Plaintiff's pain medication on May 11, 2017.

         “A party asserting a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim may join, as independent or alternative claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a). Accordingly, “multiple claims against a single party are fine, but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2.” George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). “Unrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits, ” not only to prevent the sort of “morass” that a multi-claim, multi-defendant suit can produce, “but also to ensure that prisoners pay the required filing fees - for the Prison Litigation Reform Act limits to 3 the number of frivolous suits or appeals that any prisoner may file without prepayment of required fees.” Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g)).

         Furthermore, 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).

         In its screening order, the Court advised Plaintiff that his deliberate indifference to medical needs claim was improperly joined to his claim for deliberate indifference to safety needs because the claims are unrelated, and each involve different defendants. (Docket No. 8 at 4.) The Court also found that the alleged facts were insufficient to support either claim. (Id. at 4-6.) Plaintiff was directed to file an amended complaint “to state sufficient facts to state either a deliberate indifference to safety claim or deliberate indifference to medical needs.” (Id. at 7, original emphasis.) Plaintiff has clearly failed to comply with this instruction since the amended complaint again attempts to raise the same two unrelated claims arising out of two separate events against two different groups of Defendants. The Court will therefore strike the safety claim because Plaintiff's allegations are again insufficient to support such a claim against the named Defendants as explained below.

         2. Deliberate ...

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