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Steward v. Igbinosa

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 27, 2019

NGOZI ONYINYA IGBINOSA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Donny Steward (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On April 24, 2019, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint and granted him leave to amend. (ECF No. 18.) Plaintiff's first amended complaint, filed on May 28, 2019, is currently before the Court for screening. (ECF No. 19.)

         I. Screening Requirement and Standard

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). 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).

         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. U.S. Secret Serv., 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, 572 F.3d at 969.

         II. Summary of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff is currently housed at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California. The events in the complaint are alleged to have occurred while Plaintiff was housed at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (“CSATF”) in Corcoran, California. Plaintiff names the following defendants: (1) Dr. Ngozi Onyinya Igbinosa; (2) Correctional Officer Cerda: (3) Correctional Officer Vanderlaan; (4) Licensed Vocational Nurse Faria; (5) Correctional Officer Hill; (6) Appeals Coordination Nurse M. Carrasquillo; (7) G. Ugwueze, Chief Medical Executive; (8) J. Lewis, Director of Policy and Risk Management Services; (9) Clarence Cryer, Jr., Chief Medical Physician; (10) Licensed Vocational Nurse Nelson; (11) Sergeant Williams; and (12) Captain Brightwell.

         Plaintiff asserts that all defendants are being sued in their individual capacity and they were all directly or indirectly involved in the event leading to Defendants Cerda and Hill failing to call paramedics for treatment of Plaintiff's serious medical condition. Plaintiff further alleges that it was a conscious choice for Defendant Vanderlaan to open confidential mail and impeded Plaintiff's request for an investigation of Defendants Cerda and Hill. Plaintiff contends it was LVN Nelson's conscious decision to refuse to assist with treatment of Plaintiff's neuropathy and she was encouraged to give Plaintiff a 115 for going “man down” on the yard. On November 7, 2014, Sergeant Williams found Plaintiff guilty for getting on the ground when the medical center continually denied his pleas for assistance with his neuropathy. Plaintiff asserts that the guilty finding was a conscious choice by Sergeant Williams to deprive Plaintiff of the medical care needed for his chronic diabetic neuropathy.

         Plaintiff contends that he was subjected to an assault and battery on October 25, 2014, because he submitted a complaint to the California Medical Board on April 29, 2014, and to the Office of Internal Affairs, and made a citizen's complaint against Dr. Igbinosa and Nurse Faria based on their refusal to provide treatment for his neuropathy. The investigations also forced Dr. Igbinosa to prescribe Tylenol-3, which did not scratch the surface of Plaintiff's neuropathy pain.

         Plaintiff alleges that during an appointment on September 29, 2014, Dr. Igbinosa had Plaintiff stand up and move his hand and arm in various directions so that she could examine how much movement Plaintiff had in his right arm, hand and shoulder. When she was satisfied, Dr. Igbinosa then conducted her own examination. Once she was satisfied that Plaintiff was not in a position to use his arm, she scratched down his forearm fast and hard with left finger while tightly holding Plaintiff's wrist. She quickly grabbed his elbow, holding Plaintiff in place. When Plaintiff yelled, she said she was sorry. When asked why she did it, Dr. Igbinosa stated that she did not believe that Plaintiff was in that much pain. Plaintiff asked her to let him go. Dr. Igbinosa then wanted to know that if she let him go whether Plaintiff would harm her. Plaintiff said no. Dr. Igbinosa let him go and pushed him away. Plaintiff then stood there in shock, but then grabbed his I.D. and ran past two correctional officers seated just outside Dr. Igbinosa's office. Plaintiff claims that the investigations and staff complaint had caused this misconduct.

         On July 30, 2015, Plaintiff received a telephone interview from Defendant Ugwueze, who had Plaintiff's staff complaint. During the interview, Defendant Ugwueze wanted to know what occurred on September 29, 2014, in Dr. Igbinosa's office, including if there were any witnesses and, if not, then Plaintiff had no witness to substantiate the assault. Plaintiff indicated that he was willing to take a lie detector test to prove the complaint. Defendant Ugbueze said that even if Plaintiff passed the lie detector it could not be used in a court of law. Plaintiff responded that they would let a judge determine that point. The interview then ended. Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Ugwueze's signature is found on the staff complaint that was rejected and eventually denied.

         On January 28, 2015, Plaintiff alleges that he was interviewed by Defendant Carasquilla. She wanted Plaintiff to know how difficult it was for Dr. Igbinosa to care for over 2, 000 inmates and that Plaintiff should withdraw the appeal because of the stress she was under having to deal with so many personalities. Plaintiff explained to Defendant Carasquilla that he understood the pressure, but Dr. Igbinosa's professional ethics and responsibility to her duties should never give any reason for her to assault anyone. Plaintiff refused to withdraw the appeal.

         On June 18, 2015, Director of Risk and Management Policy J. Lewis, after reviewing Plaintiff's staff complaint against Dr. Igbinosa, ordered an inquiry into the treatment of Plaintiff's complications with neuropathy. Although the results were ordered to be known to Plaintiff, Defendant Ugwueze and G. Myenke told Plaintiff that no findings of the inquiry would be given to him. They also found that the alleged assault and battery did not meet the definition of a staff complaint and was changed to a health care treatment issue. The partial grant of the appeal was only for an investigation and nothing to do with how the neuropathy complications should have been treated.

         On January 30, 2015, Plaintiff sent a CDCR 22 inquiring as to why his staff complaint for assault was changed. Defendant Cryer had decided that Plaintiff's staff complaint did not meet the criteria for processing as a staff complaint. Plaintiff was dissatisfied and asked that Defendant Cryer show him how mistreatment of his illness and assault and battery were not a staff complaint. Plaintiff did not receive a response.

         On June 18, 2015, Plaintiff contacted Defendant Lewis, who modified the order accepting the appeal as a staff complaint.

         On October 2, 2014, and during that month, Plaintiff tried to talk with Defendant Brightwell about the medical issue, mistreatment and suffering with neurological complications. Plaintiff also saw her once or twice. She finally told Plaintiff not to talk to her directly and to use the chain of command.

         Plaintiff contends that he remembers how he never received any help for 9 months for swelling from diabetic complications and he endured neurological pain for three months, which resulted in crying all night and cold sweats. When he would visit the medical center for treatment, he would be taunted, badgered and turned away day after day. Plaintiff asserts that he lost muscle mass and major feeling in his feet, legs and hands.

         Plaintiff forwards complaints for violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution along with ...

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