(PC) Knight v. Lea

2:07-cv-00751 | E.D. Cal. | Aug 20, 2007

Case 2:07-cv-00751-FCD-CMK Document 10 Filed 08/20/07 Page 1 of 7

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA EDDIE D. KNIGHT, No. CIV S-07-0751-FCD-CMK-P Plaintiff, vs. ORDER D.L. RUNNELS, et al., Defendants. / Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is plaintiff’s complaint (Doc. 1). The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if it: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that complaints contain a “. . . short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This means that claims must be stated simply, concisely, and directly. See McHenry v. Renne,

Case 2:07-cv-00751-FCD-CMK Document 10 Filed 08/20/07 Page 2 of 7 84 F.3d 1172" date_filed="1996-05-28" court="9th Cir." case_name="Keith Mchenry Eric Warren v. Louise Renne John Willett Charles Gallman Frank Reed Mary Burns Timothy Hettrich (Fnu) Blackwell Edward Garcia Mark Hernandez Robert Battaglia Robert Brodnik Quadrelli Farris">84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996) (referring to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1)). These rules are satisfied if the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff’s claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121" date_filed="1996-05-22" court="9th Cir." case_name="W. Michael Kimes J. Colette Boykin v. Peter G. Stone, Judge, Superior Court Robert L. Mezzetti, II Henry Mariani Robert MacHado">84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). Because plaintiff must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts by specific defendants which support the claims, vague and conclusory allegations fail to satisfy this standard. Additionally, it is impossible for the court to conduct the screening required by law when the allegations are vague and conclusory.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff names the following as defendants: Runnels, Knowles, Lea, Holliday, and Ofiedahl. Plaintiff summarizes his claims as follows: The [defendants] violated state law and federal constitutional guarantees when with a deliberate indifference caused my injuries to accure [sic]. With neglect and negligence they failed to protect and . . . acted with medical malpractice by placing erroneous information in my chronological file to wit an R-suffix that is error. This was done by captain Lea at Folsom State Prison knowing if they put me in general population the inmates would stab me.

It thus appears that plaintiff is asserting two Eighth Amendment claims: (1) failure to protect; and (2) inadequate medical treatment.
As to plaintiff’s failure to protect claim, plaintiff states that he informed correctional officers Lemon and Shafter that he needed to be “locked up” because his cellmate had threatened him and his son. Plaintiff alleges that correctional officers Simmerson and Lyons were present. According to plaintiff, Simmerson’s response was: “I will put you back out on the yard and tell the inmates what you have been up here telling us and let them deal with you.” Plaintiff claims that he repeated his plea to be excluded from the general population to correctional officer Grower and assistant warden Baras, but that Grower said that plaintiff would be put with the general population anyway. Plaintiff states that he was stabbed while on the general population exercise yard on June 27, 2005.
Case 2:07-cv-00751-FCD-CMK Document 10 Filed 08/20/07 Page 3 of 7 Plaintiff states that his claim for inadequate medical care arises from this stabbing incident. According to plaintiff, prison doctor Rohlfing failed to “sew all the muscel [sic] and tissue back together.” Plaintiff states that he was told by another prison doctor in November 2006 that Dr. Rohlfing had been negligent.

II. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff states that his complaint raises Eighth Amendment claims based on the following theories: (1) failure to protect; and (2) inadequate medical treatment. The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which the prisoner are confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825" date_filed="1994-06-06" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Farmer v. Brennan">511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). The Eighth Amendment “. . . embodies broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97" date_filed="1976-11-30" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Estelle v. Gamble">429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met: (1) objectively, the official’s act or omission must be so serious such that it results in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities; and (2) subjectively, the prison official must have acted unnecessarily and wantonly for the purpose of inflicting harm. See Farmer, 511 U.S. 825" date_filed="1994-06-06" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Farmer v. Brennan">511 U.S. at 834. Thus, to violate the Eighth Amendment, a prison official must have a “sufficiently culpable mind.” See id.

A. Failure to Protect Under these principles, prison officials have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical abuse. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237" date_filed="1982-08-09" court="9th Cir." case_name="Frederick Hoptowit v. Dixy Lee Ray">682 F.2d 1237, 1250-51 (9th Cir. 1982); Farmer, 511 U.S. 825" date_filed="1994-06-06" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Farmer v. Brennan">511 U.S. at 833. To demonstrate that a prison official was deliberately indifferent to a safety risk, the prisoner must establish that the official knew of the risk but disregarded it. See Farmer, 511 U.S. 825" date_filed="1994-06-06" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Farmer v. Brennan">511 U.S. at 837. The very obviousness of the risk may suffice to establish the knowledge element. See Wallis v. Baldwin, 70 F.3d 1074" date_filed="1995-11-20" court="9th Cir." case_name="95 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 8809 v. G.H. Baldwin">70 F.3d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1995). Prison officials are not liable, however, if evidence is presented that they lacked knowledge of a
Case 2:07-cv-00751-FCD-CMK Document 10 Filed 08/20/07 Page 4 of 7 safety risk. See Farmer, 511 U.S. 825" date_filed="1994-06-06" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Farmer v. Brennan">511 U.S. at 844. As to defendant Lea, plaintiff alleges that this defendant put an “R-suffix” in his file knowing that, if plaintiff was put in the general population, he would be stabbed. Construed liberally, the court finds that this allegation, if true, sufficiently shows that defendant Lea had knowledge of a risk to plaintiff’s safety.
As to the other defendants named in the complaint, however, plaintiff makes no factual allegations concerning their knowledge of a risk to his safety. Rather, he mentions individuals – Lemon, Shafter, Simmerson, Lyons, Grower, and Baras – who are not named as defendants. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege an actual connection or link between the actions of the named defendants and the alleged deprivations. See Monell v. Dep’t of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658" date_filed="1978-06-06" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs.">436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362" date_filed="1976-01-26" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Rizzo v. Goode">423 U.S. 362 (1976). “A person ‘subjects’ another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of § 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740" date_filed="1978-12-27" court="9th Cir." case_name="Bradley Johnson v. John Duffy">588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978). Vague and conclusory allegations concerning the involvement of official personnel in civil rights violations are not sufficient. See Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266" date_filed="1982-03-29" court="2d Cir." case_name="Richard Ivey v. Board of Regents of The University of Alaska">673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Rather, the plaintiff must set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant’s causal role in the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628" date_filed="1988-04-04" court="9th Cir." case_name="William Leer Robert Larry Emerhiser v. Al Murphy Darrell Gardner Arvin Arave">844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988).
Because it is possible that plaintiff can either allege facts as to the named defendants, or name other individuals as defendants, it is appropriate to grant plaintiff an opportunity to amend.
B. Inadequate Medical Treatment Deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury, or risks of serious injury or illness, gives rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105; see also Farmer, 511 U.S. 825" date_filed="1994-06-06" court="SCOTUS" case_name="Farmer v. Brennan">511 U.S. at 837. This applies to physical as well as dental and mental
Case 2:07-cv-00751-FCD-CMK Document 10 Filed 08/20/07 Page 5 of 7 health needs. See Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237" date_filed="1982-08-09" court="9th Cir." case_name="Frederick Hoptowit v. Dixy Lee Ray">682 F.2d 1237, 1253 (9th Cir. 1982). An injury or illness is sufficiently serious if the failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant injury or the “. . . unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Doty v. County of Lassen, 37 F.3d 540" date_filed="1994-10-06" court="9th Cir." case_name="Barbara Doty, and All Other Persons Similarly Situated v. County of Lassen, and Ronald D. Jarrell as Sheriff, and Individually">37 F.3d 540, 546 (9th Cir. 1994). Factors indicating seriousness are: (1) whether a reasonable doctor would think that the condition is worthy of comment; (2) whether the condition significantly impacts the prisoner’s daily activities; and (3) whether the condition is chronic and accompanied by substantial pain. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122" date_filed="2000-02-10" court="9th Cir." case_name="Max Lopez v. G.A. Smith">203 F.3d 1122, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).
The requirement of deliberate indifference is less stringent in medical needs cases than in other Eighth Amendment contexts because the responsibility to provide inmates with medical care does not generally conflict with competing penological concerns. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060. Thus, deference need not be given to the judgment of prison officials as to decisions concerning medical needs. See Hunt v. Dental Dep’t, 865 F.2d 198" date_filed="1989-01-06" court="9th Cir." case_name="Cleolis Hunt v. Dental Department">865 F.2d 198, 200 (9th Cir. 1989). The complete denial of medical attention may constitute deliberate indifference. See Toussaint v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080" date_filed="1986-09-30" court="9th Cir." case_name="Joseph Toussaint, Plaintiffs/appellees/cross-Appellants v. Daniel McCarthy Defendants/appellants/cross-Appellees">801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986). Delay in providing medical treatment, or interference with medical treatment, may also constitute deliberate indifference. See Lopez, 203 F.3d 1122" date_filed="2000-02-10" court="9th Cir." case_name="Max Lopez v. G.A. Smith">203 F.3d at 1131. Where delay is alleged, however, the prisoner must also demonstrate that the delay led to further injury. See McGuckin, 974 F.2d at 1060.
In this case, it is clear from the allegations in the complaint that plaintiff’s claim is based on the alleged negligence of Dr. Rohlfing. Negligence in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not, however, give rise to a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Moreover, a difference of opinion between the prisoner and medical providers concerning the appropriate course of treatment does not give rise to an Eighth Amendment claim. See Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 330" date_filed="1996-07-18" court="9th Cir." case_name="Raymond D. Jackson v. Duncan A. McIntosh David Victorino">90 F.3d 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff is not entitled to leave to amend as to this defect. / / /
Case 2:07-cv-00751-FCD-CMK Document 10 Filed 08/20/07 Page 6 of 7

III. CONCLUSION

Because it is possible that some of the deficiencies identified in this order may be cured by amending the complaint, plaintiff is entitled to leave to amend prior to dismissal of the entire action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122" date_filed="2000-02-10" court="9th Cir." case_name="Max Lopez v. G.A. Smith">203 F.3d 1122, 1126, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Plaintiff is informed that, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258" date_filed="1992-05-22" court="9th Cir." case_name="Michael Henry Ferdik v. Joe Bonzelet, Sheriff">963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992). Thus, following dismissal with leave to amend, all claims alleged in the original complaint which are not alleged in the amended complaint are waived. See King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565" date_filed="1987-04-08" court="9th Cir." case_name="Kim King and Kent Norman v. Victor Atiyeh">814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987). Therefore, if plaintiff amends the complaint, the court cannot refer to the prior pleading in order to make plaintiff's amended complaint complete. See Local Rule 15-220. An amended complaint must be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading. See id.

If plaintiff chooses to amend the complaint, plaintiff must demonstrate how the conditions complained of have resulted in a deprivation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227" date_filed="1980-08-26" court="9th Cir." case_name="William Ellis v. David Cassidy">625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980). The complaint must allege in specific terms how each named defendant is involved, and must set forth some affirmative link or connection between each defendant’s actions and the claimed deprivation. See May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978).
Because some of the defects identified in this order cannot be cured by amendment, plaintiff is not entitled to leave to amend as to such claims. In particular, plaintiff’s claim of inadequate medical treatment cannot be saved through amendment because it is based on alleged negligence. Plaintiff, therefore, now has the following choices: (1) plaintiff may file an amended complaint which does not allege the claims identified herein as incurable, in which case such claims will be deemed abandoned and the court will address the remaining claims; or (2) plaintiff may file an amended complaint which continues to allege claims identified as incurable, in which case the court will issue findings and recommendations that such claims be dismissed from this action, as well as such other orders and/or findings and recommendations as
Case 2:07-cv-00751-FCD-CMK Document 10 Filed 08/20/07 Page 7 of 7 may be necessary to address the remaining claims. Further, because the complaint appears to otherwise state a cognizable claim against defendant Lea based on failure to protect, plaintiff has a third option – he may choose not to file any amended complaint and stand on the original complaint. If no amended complaint is filed within the time allowed therefor, the court will issue findings and recommendations that the claims identified herein as defective be dismissed, as well as such further orders as are necessary for service of process on defendant Lea.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff may file a first amended complaint within 30 days of the date of service of this order. DATED: August 17, 2007.

______________________________________

CRAIG M. KELLISON

UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE