Anderson v. Sokoloff et al

Northern District of California, cand-4:2015-cv-01854

ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. Signed by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on 10/6/15.

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 ERIC ZACHARY ANDERSON, 7 Case No. 15-cv-01854-YGR (PR) Plaintiff, 8 ORDER OF DISMISSAL WITH LEAVE v. TO AMEND 9 M. SOKOLOFF, et al., 10 Defendants. 11 12 INTRODUCTION Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Plaintiff Eric Zachary Anderson, a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Pelican Bay 14 State Prison ("PBSP"), filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 concerning 15 Defendants' responses to his medical needs on a "lay over" at San Quentin State Prison ("SQSP") 16 during his transfer to PBSP in November of 2013. His complaint is now before the Court for 17 review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 18 Plaintiff names the following Defendants at SQSP: Registered Nurse M. Sokoloff; 19 Physicians E. Tootell and Lisa Pratt; and Medical Hiring Authority Andrew Deems. Plaintiff 20 seeks monetary damages "due to SQSP medical negligence." Dkt. 1 at 4. 21 Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. 22 Venue is proper because the events giving rise to the claim are alleged to have occurred at 23 SQSP, which is located in this judicial district. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). 24 For the reasons outlined below, the complaint is DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO 25 AMEND. 26 DISCUSSION 27 A federal court must engage in a preliminary screening of any case in which a prisoner 28 seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 1 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which 2 are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary 3 relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se 4 pleadings must, however, be liberally construed. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 5 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). 6 To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a 7 right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated and (2) that the 8 violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 9 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 10 In his complaint, Plaintiff asserts that on November 11, 2013, he was "stabbed 15 times by 11 two inmates with two knives" at California State Prison – Sacramento ("C.S.P. SAC"). Dkt. 1 at 12 3. Plaintiff claims that "within 15 hours" he was transferred out of C.S.P. SAC, and taken to Northern District of California United States District Court 13 SQSP for a "layover" on his way to PBSP. Id. Plaintiff claims that he was "in terrible pain" and 14 that "[his] stab [sic] wounds were bloody & throbbing. . . ." Id. Plaintiff requested "medical 15 attention and to be given [his] pain meds prescribed by [the] C.S.P. SAC M.D. who stitched [him] 16 up." Id. However, Defendant Sokoloff "refused to examin[e] [his] wounds that were bleeding" 17 and "refused to issue [him his] pain medication." Id. Plaintiff adds that Defendant Sokoloff 18 "falsified [his] body chart by saying [he] had NO WOUNDS." Id. Plaintiff states that Defendant 19 Sokoloff "wrote 'T3' on the top of [Plaintiff's] body chart as that was the prescribed med[icine] 20 [he] was sup[p]osed to receive that [he] kept pleading with her to give [him]." Id. Plaintiff claims 21 that he "was forced to endure [his] pain all night on [his] lay over at SQSP with no medical 22 treatment" and that the next day, he was still denied his medication and "forced in a prison bus and 23 [driven] 9 hours to [PBSP] . . . ." Id. On November 14, 2013, Plaintiff states that he was finally 24 given his medication at PBSP. Id. 25 To prove that the response of prison officials to an inmate's medical needs was 26 constitutionally deficient, the inmate must establish (1) a serious medical need and (2) deliberate 27 indifference to that need by jail officials. See McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th 28 Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds, WMX Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133, 1136 2 1 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). A prison official is deliberately indifferent if he knows that a prisoner 2 faces a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable 3 measures to abate it. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837, 844 (1994). 4 Here, as explained below, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be 5 granted against any Defendant. Plaintiff must file an amended complaint to cure the deficiencies 6 discussed in this Order. 7 First, the complaint does not include any allegation that suggests deliberate indifference to 8 a serious medical need. At most, Plaintiff's claim—that Defendant Sokoloff failed to examine 9 him or provide him with his medication during his over-night lay over at SQSP—amounts to 10 negligence. In fact, as mentioned above, in the "Relief" section of his complaint, Plaintiff 11 concedes that his claim is one of "medical negligence." Dkt. 1 at 4. It is well-established law that 12 a claim of medical malpractice or negligence is insufficient to make out a violation of the Eighth Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Amendment. See Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060-61 (9th Cir. 2004); see, e.g., Frost v. 14 Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1130 (9th Cir. 1998) (finding no merit in claims stemming from alleged 15 delays in administering pain medication, treating broken nose and providing replacement crutch, 16 because claims did not amount to more than negligence). 17 To state a claim arising under federal law, it must be clear from the face of Plaintiff's well- 18 pleaded complaint that there is a federal question. See Easton v. Crossland Mortgage Corp., 114 19 F.3d 979, 982 (9th Cir. 1997). Here, it is not clear that Plaintiff presents a federal question. 20 However, liberally construing Plaintiff's complaint as this Court is required to do, see Hughes v. 21 Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980), Plaintiff's claims could potentially state an Eighth Amendment 22 violation if Plaintiff can sufficiently plead his allegations. As mentioned above, a determination 23 of "deliberate indifference" involves an examination of two elements: the seriousness of the 24 prisoner's medical need and the nature of the defendant's response to that need. See McGuckin, 25 974 F.2d at 1059. At this time, Plaintiff's current claim of negligence is insufficient to amount to 26 an Eighth Amendment violation. See Toguchi, 391 F.3d at 1060-61. 27 Second, Plaintiff has not provided the Court with the sufficient information necessary to 28 determine whether an Eighth Amendment claim for relief has been stated against any Defendant. 3 1 A complaint that fails to state the specific acts of the defendant which violated the plaintiff's rights 2 fails to meet the requirements of Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Hutchinson 3 v. United States, 677 F.2d 1322, 1328 n.5 (9th Cir. 1982). 4 Plaintiff claims that Defendant Sokoloff refused to examine Plaintiff's injuries while he 5 was at SQSP for an over-night lay over. Dkt. 1 at 3. Plaintiff adds that Defendant Sokoloff 6 falsely indicated that he had "NO WOUNDS." Id. However, Plaintiff claims that Defendant 7 Sokoloff did correctly indicate that Plaintiff was prescribed "T3" as pain medication on his "body 8 chart," but that Defendant Sokoloff failed to provide him with his medication. Id. Even so, again, 9 such a claim of an isolated incident of failing to examine Plaintiff and denying him medication 10 amounts at most to negligence, which does not violate a prisoner's Eighth Amendment rights. 11 Toguchi, 391 F.3d at 1060-61; Frost, 152 F.3d at 1130. And, as explained above, Plaintiff 12 concedes that Defendant Sokoloff's actions amounted to "medical negligence." Dkt. 1 at 4. Northern District of California United States District Court 13 Moreover, Plaintiff claims that he was eventually given his pain medication when he arrived at 14 PBSP on November 14, 2013. Id. at 3. 15 Plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to show that the remaining named Defendants' actions 16 rise to the level of constitutional violations. As mentioned above, Plaintiff is attempting to also 17 hold Defendants Tootell, Pratt and Deems liable for the claims in his complaint; therefore, he must 18 allege facts showing what each defendant did that violated his constitutional rights. See Leer v. 19 Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988) (sweeping conclusory allegations will not suffice; the 20 plaintiff must instead set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's actions which 21 violated his or her rights). This Plaintiff has not done. He fails to mention any of these remaining 22 named Defendants in the "Statement of Claim" section of his complaint. Dkt. 1 at 3. In addition, 23 if Plaintiff claims that any of the remaining named Defendants are liable as supervisors, he must 24 allege that these Defendants "participated in or directed the violations, or knew of the violations 25 and failed to act to prevent them." Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045. Because Plaintiff has not linked any 26 of the remaining named Defendants to his claims, no claim for damages can proceed unless 27 Plaintiff amends his complaint to cure this pleading deficiency. 28 "While a complaint. . . does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a plaintiff's 4 1 obligation to provide the 'grounds of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and 2 conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. . . . 3 Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell 4 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 553-56, (2007) (citations omitted). A complaint should 5 be dismissed if it does not proffer "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its 6 face." Id. at 570. However, district courts must afford pro se prisoner litigants an opportunity to 7 amend to correct any deficiency in their complaints. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th 8 Cir. 2000) (en banc). 9 As explained above, Plaintiff has not stated a cognizable deliberate indifference claim 10 against any of the named Defendants. Plaintiff will be granted leave to amend to correct the 11 aforementioned deficiencies, if he can do so in good faith. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff 12 must establish legal liability of each person for the claimed violation of his rights. Plaintiff must Northern District of California United States District Court 13 write out a complete statement of his claim. The Court notes that Plaintiff has attached several 14 medical records and grievances to his complaint apparently as a way to explain his problem. 15 However, the Court will not read through exhibits to piece together a claim for a Plaintiff who has 16 not pled one. It is Plaintiff's obligation to write out a complete statement of his claim in his 17 amended complaint. 18 The Court reminds Plaintiff that liability may be imposed on an individual defendant under 19 section 1983 if the plaintiff can show that the defendant proximately caused the deprivation of a 20 federally protected right. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 634 (9th Cir. 1988); Harris v. City of 21 Roseburg, 664 F.2d 1121, 1125 (9th Cir. 1981). A person deprives another of a constitutional 22 right within the meaning of section 1983 if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's 23 affirmative act or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do, that causes the 24 deprivation of which the plaintiff complains. See Leer, 844 F.2d at 633; see, e.g., Robins v. 25 Meecham, 60 F.3d 1436, 1442 (9th Cir. 1995) (prison official's failure to intervene to prevent 26 Eighth Amendment violation may be basis for liability). Sweeping conclusory allegations will not 27 suffice; Plaintiff must instead "set forth specific facts as to each individual defendant's" 28 deprivation of protected rights. Leer, 844 F.2d at 634. 5 1 Lastly, the Court stresses to Plaintiff that negligence by any Defendant in responding to 2 Plaintiff's medical condition, without more, does not violate a prisoner's Eighth Amendment 3 rights. Toguchi, 391 F.3d at 1060-61; Frost, 152 F.3d at 1130. 4 Accordingly, the complaint is DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. Plaintiff will be 5 provided with twenty-eight days in which to amend to correct the deficiencies in his complaint if 6 he can do so in good faith, as directed below. 7 CONCLUSION 8 For the foregoing reasons, the Court orders as follows: 9 1. Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend in order to give him the 10 opportunity to amend to correct the aforementioned deficiencies of his deliberate indifference 11 claim against Defendants, as indicated above. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff needs to link 12 each defendant to his claim by alleging facts showing the basis for liability for each individual Northern District of California United States District Court 13 defendant. Plaintiff should identify each involved person by name and link each of them to his 14 claim by explaining what each defendant did or failed to do that caused a violation of his 15 constitutional rights. See Leer, 844 F.2d at 634. Plaintiff shall not allege only negligence by any 16 Defendant in responding to his medical condition because such a claim does not violate a 17 prisoner's Eighth Amendment rights. See Toguchi, 391 F.3d at 1060-61; Frost, 152 F.3d at 1130. 18 2. Within twenty-eight (28) days from the date of this Order, Plaintiff shall file his 19 Amended Complaint as set forth above. Plaintiff must use the attached civil rights form, write the 20 case number for this action—Case No. C 15-1854 YGR (PR)—on the form, clearly label the 21 complaint "Amended Complaint," and complete all sections of the form. Because the Amended 22 Complaint completely replaces the original complaint, Plaintiff must include in it all the claims he 23 wishes to present. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 24 915 (1992). He may not incorporate material from the original complaint by reference. 25 Plaintiff's failure to file his Amended Complaint by the twenty-eight-day deadline or to 26 correct the aforementioned deficiencies outlined above will result in the dismissal of this 27 action without prejudice. 28 3. It is Plaintiff's responsibility to prosecute this case. Plaintiff must keep the Court 6 1 informed of any change of address and must comply with the Court's orders in a timely fashion. 2 Pursuant to Northern District Local Rule 3-11 a party proceeding pro se whose address changes 3 while an action is pending must promptly file a notice of change of address specifying the new 4 address. See L.R. 3-11(a). The Court may dismiss without prejudice a complaint when: (1) mail 5 directed to the pro se party by the Court has been returned to the Court as not deliverable, and 6 (2) the Court fails to receive within sixty days of this return a written communication from the pro 7 se party indicating a current address. See L.R. 3-11(b). 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 Dated: October 6, 2015 10 ______________________________________ YVONNE GONZALEZ ROGERS 11 United States District Judge 12 Northern District of California United States District Court 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7