-MJS (PC) Jameson v. Rawers, et al., et al, No. 1:2003cv05593 - Document 81 (E.D. Cal. 2011)

Court Description: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS Recommending that Defendants' 74 Motion to Dismiss be Denied; Objections Due within Thirty Days signed by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng on 11/22/2011. Referred to Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill. Objections to F&R due by 12/27/2011. (Sant Agata, S)
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-MJS (PC) Jameson v. Rawers, et al., et al Doc. 81 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 BARRY S. JAMESON, CASE NO. 1:03-cv-05593-LJO-MJS (PC) 11 Plaintiff, FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION THAT DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS BE DENIED 12 v. 13 SCOTT P. RAWERS, et al., (ECF No. 74) 14 Defendants. OBJECTIONS DUE WITHIN THIRTY DAYS 15 / 16 17 Plaintiff Barry S. Jameson (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in 18 forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On March 9, 2011, 19 the Court screened Plaintiff’s Fifth Amended Complaint and found that he had stated a 20 claim against Defendants Perry and Rees for deliberate indifference to his serious medical 21 needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 62.) The Defendants filed a Motion 22 to Dismiss on August 31, 2011, arguing that Plaintiff failed to state a cognizable claim and 23 that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 74.) Plaintiff filed an 24 opposition on September 16, 2011. (ECF No. 76.) The Defendants filed a reply and a 25 request for judicial notice on October 11, 2011. (ECF Nos. 79 & 80.) 26 I. LEGAL STANDARD 27 “The focus of any Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal . . . is the complaint,” Schneider v. 28 California Dept. of Corr., 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n.1 (9th Cir. 1998), which must contain “a Dockets.Justia.com 1 short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ,” 2 Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient 3 factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft 4 v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 5 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)); Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 6 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this 7 plausibility standard. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969. 8 Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the 9 elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice,” 10 Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), and courts “are not required to 11 indulge unwarranted inferences,” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th 12 Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 13 II. 14 ANALYSIS The Defendants move for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 12(b)(6). Perry and Rees argue that Plaintiff has not stated a cognizable Eighth 16 Amendment claim because his medical needs were not sufficiently serious and the 17 allegations of deliberate indifference rest solely on a disagreement with the Defendants’ 18 medical opinions. Defendants also contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity. 19 At the outset, Defendants are sure to appreciate that the points they raise here are 20 essentially the same ones this Court necessarily considered in screening Plaintiff’s 21 pleading. Re-review of those same pleadings is unlikely to produce a different result. Thus 22 a motion to dismiss at this juncture is unlikely to serve meaningful purpose and may in fact 23 slow the process and postpone review of the provable evidence related to this claim. 24 Nevertheless, the Court will address Defendants’ challenges to, and once again 25 review, those pleadings which, when presumed to be true, it finds sufficient to state a 26 cognizable claim. 27 A. Failure to State A Claim 28 The Defendants argue in their motion and reply that the Fifth Amended Complaint -2- 1 does not state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim. Plaintiff contends that the 2 Defendants’ conduct amounted to a failure to treat his serious medical needs. 3 “[T]o maintain an Eighth Amendment claim based on prison medical treatment, an 4 inmate must show ‘deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.’” Jett v. Penner, 439 5 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). 6 In terms of a serious medical need, Plaintiff has alleged that he suffered broken 7 bones and injuries to his head. The Defendants characterize these injuries and any lack 8 of treatment thereto as the kind of deprivation tolerated by the Eighth Amendment. (ECF 9 No. 74 at 9.) As stated in the March 9, 2011 Screening Order, allegations of broken bones 10 and head injuries are sufficiently serious to satisfy the first element of an Eighth 11 Amendment claim. (ECF No. 62.) 12 The Defendants insist that Plaintiff has not satisfied the deliberate indifference 13 element of his Eighth Amendment claim because his allegations amount to a disagreement 14 with the course of treatment provided. “[A] difference of opinion between a prisoner-patient 15 and prison medical authorities regarding treatment does not give rise to a § 1983 claim.” 16 Franklin v. Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1344 (9th Cir. 1981) (internal citation omitted). To 17 prevail, a plaintiff “must show that the course of treatment the doctors chose was medically 18 unacceptable under the circumstances . . . and . . . that they chose this course in 19 conscious disregard of an excessive risk to plaintiff's health.” Jackson v. McIntosh, 90 F.3d 20 330, 332 (9th Cir. 1986) (internal citations omitted). A prisoner's mere disagreement with 21 diagnosis or treatment does not support a claim of deliberate indifference. Sanchez v. Vild, 22 891 F.2d 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). 23 However, as the Court found in its Screening Order, Plaintiff has satisfied the 24 deliberate indifference standard by alleging that the Defendants failed to treat his serious 25 medical need. Defendant Perry declined Plaintiff’s request for treatment twice in January, 26 2003. On March 21, 2003, Plaintiff complained of the lingering effects of his injuries to 27 Defendant Rees and allegedly he too provided no treatment. Plaintiff alleged that both 28 Defendants were aware of his injuries and offered no treatment. The denial of all medical -3- 1 attention for a serious medical condition may constitute deliberate indifference. Toussaint 2 v. McCarthy, 801 F.2d 1080, 1111 (9th Cir. 1986). 3 Plaintiff has stated a claim for inadequate medical care. The Court interprets 4 Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims as arising out of a complete denial of medical care for 5 a serious medical need. In his opposition, Plaintiff confirms that allegation. In their reply, 6 the Defendants renew the argument that Plaintiff’s claims are based on a disagreement 7 over course of treatment.1 Plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to state a claim against 8 Defendants Perry and Rees for inadequate medical care in violation of the Eighth 9 Amendment. 10 B. Qualified Immunity 11 Defendants also argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. Government 12 officials enjoy qualified immunity from civil damages unless their conduct violates “clearly 13 established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have 14 known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). “Qualified immunity balances two 15 important interests - the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power 16 irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability 17 when they perform their duties reasonably,” Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 815 18 (2009), and protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the 19 law,” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986). 20 In resolving a claim of qualified immunity, courts must determine whether, taken in 21 the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the defendant’s conduct violated a constitutional 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 The Defendants subm itted portions of Plaintiff’s m edical records relevant to his allegations in their Request for Judicial Notice. (ECF No. 80.) The records were referenced in the Defendants’ reply. (ECF No. 79 at 4, 6.) In ruling on a m otion to dism iss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a Court m ay consider exhibits attached to the com plaint, m atters subject to judicial notice, or docum ents necessarily relied on by the com plaint whose authenticity no party questions. See Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 763 (9th Cir. 2007); Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-689 (9th Cir. 2001). W hile the docum ents m ay be considered in the Court’s ruling, they offer no persuasive value as presented. The Defendants identified each docum ent as a specific m edical record, but offered no explanation as to how the contents of each docum ent related to their argum ents. Absent explanation, the Court was left with docum ents containing illegible handwriting or text without context. The Court was unable to determ ine how the docum ents supported the Defendants’ reply. -4- 1 right, and if so, whether the right was clearly established. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 2 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 2156 (2001); Delia v. City of Rialto, 621 F.3d 1069, 1074 (9th Cir. 3 2010); Mueller v. Auker, 576 F.3d 979, 993 (9th Cir. 2009). While often beneficial to 4 address in that order, courts have discretion to address the two-step inquiry in the order 5 they deem most suitable under the circumstances. Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818 (overruling 6 holding in Saucier that the two-step inquiry must be conducted in that order, and the 7 second step is reached only if the court first finds a constitutional violation); Delia, 621 F.3d 8 at 1074-75; Mueller, 576 F.3d at 993-94. 9 Taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the Fifth Amended Complaint 10 presented a cognizable claim against both Defendants for providing inadequate medical 11 care in violation of the Eighth Amendment. At the time the alleged violation occurred, it 12 was clearly established that prison officials cannot intentionally deny adequate medical 13 care. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 97. Any reasonable official should know that denial of 14 treatment to a patient complaining of broken bones and a head injury would constitute 15 deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. 16 Thus, the Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity on this motion. 17 III. 18 19 CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, the Court recommends that the Motion to Dismiss be DENIED. 20 These Findings and Recommendations are submitted to the United States District 21 Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). 22 Within thirty days after being served with these Findings and Recommendations, any party 23 may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document 24 should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations.” 25 Any reply to the objections shall be served and filed within ten days after service of the 26 objections. The parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time 27 //// 28 //// -5- 1 may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 2 (9th Cir. 1991). 3 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. 5 Dated: ci4d6 November 22, 2011 Michael J. Seng /s/ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -6-