(PC) Chester v. King, et al., No. 1:2016cv01257 - Document 13 (E.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: ORDER DECLINING to Adopt 11 Findings and Recommendations, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 4/20/18. (Marrujo, C)
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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 RAYMOND D. CHESTER, 12 13 14 15 No. 1:16-cv-01257-DAD-GSA Plaintiff, v. ORDER DECLINING TO ADOPT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS AUDREY KING, et al., (Doc. No. 11) Defendants. 16 17 Plaintiff Raymond D. Chester is a civil detainee proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis 18 in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter was referred to a 19 United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302. 20 On August 31, 2017, plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 10 21 (“FAC”).) On February 6, 2018, the assigned magistrate judge screened plaintiff’s FAC and 22 issued findings and recommendations, recommending that this action be dismissed with prejudice 23 due to plaintiff’s failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Doc. No. 11.) The 24 findings and recommendations were served on plaintiff and provided plaintiff fourteen days in 25 which to file objections. On February 22, 2018, plaintiff filed objections. (Doc. No. 12.) 26 In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 304, this 27 court has conducted a de novo review of this case. Having carefully reviewed the entire file, 28 including plaintiff’s objections, the court declines to adopt the findings and recommendations. 1 1 In his FAC, plaintiff alleges as follows. Plaintiff has Hepatitis C, a fatal disease of the 2 liver. (FAC at 3.)1 At least three times since July 15, 2015, he has requested Hepatitis C 3 treatment, but no treatment has commenced over the past year. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff has been 4 repeatedly told that “approval is needed” in order to treat plaintiff’s condition, and as of 5 December 29, 2015, plaintiff was referred to an infectious disease consultant to address his 6 condition. (Id.) However, at no point has he ever been provided with any treatment. (Id.) The Fourteenth Amendment provides that “[n]o State shall ... deprive any person of life, 7 8 liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. 14 § 1. Fourteenth 9 Amendment protections cover a procedural as well as a substantive sphere, such that they bar 10 certain government actions regardless of the fairness of the procedures used to implement them. 11 County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 840 (1998). Here, because plaintiff was and 12 remains a civil detainee, his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment is derived from 13 the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment. See 14 Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979); Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 15 1067–68 (9th Cir. 2016). 16 The Ninth Circuit has clarified that, in the context of detainees protected by the Fourteenth 17 Amendment, deliberate indifference is interpreted solely from an objective perspective and has no 18 subjective component. Castro, 833 F.3d at 1069–70. Rather, “a pretrial detainee who asserts a 19 due process claim for failure to protect [must] prove more than negligence but less than subjective 20 intent—something akin to reckless disregard.” Id. at 1070–71. Thus, plaintiffs here must plead 21 four elements in stating their deliberate indifference claim: (1) “[t]he defendant made an 22 intentional decision with respect to the conditions under which the plaintiff was confined; (2) 23 [t]hose conditions put the plaintiff at substantial risk of suffering serious harm; (3) [t]he defendant 24 did not take reasonable available measures to abate that risk, even though a reasonable officer in 25 the circumstances would have appreciated the high degree of risk involved—making the 26 27 28 1 Although plaintiff alleges that a drug called Harvoni is “the only available treatment that will cure plaintiff’s Hepatitis C disease” (FAC at 3), the undersigned liberally construes his pro se pleading as alleging a total failure to treat his medical condition by defendants. 2 1 consequences of the defendant’s conduct obvious; and (4) [b]y not taking such measures, the 2 defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries.” Id. at 1071. Regarding the third element, the 3 defendant’s conduct must be objectively unreasonable, which is determined based on the “facts 4 and circumstances of each particular case.” Id. (quoting Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S. Ct. 5 2466, 2473 (2015)). 6 In a case where the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court has an obligation to construe 7 the pleadings liberally. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“A document filed pro se is 8 to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less 9 stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”) (internal quotation marks and 10 citation omitted); Entler v. Gregoire, 872 F.3d 1031, 1038 (9th Cir. 2017). However, the court’s 11 liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint may not supply essential elements of a claim that are 12 not pled. Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992); Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of 13 Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). 14 Here, the court finds that the allegations of the FAC are sufficient to survive dismissal at 15 the screening stage. Hepatitis C has long been recognized as a serious medical need. Erickson, 16 551 U.S. at 94–95 (reversing a district court’s dismissal of a deliberate indifference claim brought 17 by a plaintiff suffering from Hepatitis C); accord Shields v Cannon, No. 2:11-CV-3185 JAM AC, 18 2013 WL 5295681, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 18, 2013), report and recommendation adopted, 2013 19 WL 6670469 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 18, 2013); Butler v. Kelso, No. 11CV02684 CAB RBB, 2013 WL 20 1883233, at *5 (S.D. Cal. May 2, 2013). The court likewise concludes that under the due process 21 clause, Hepatitis C puts plaintiff at a substantial risk of suffering serious harm. 22 With respect to whether defendants made an intentional decision, plaintiff alleges that 23 after attempting to contact defendant King regarding treatment for Hepatitis C, he was told that he 24 would be denied treatment with Harvoni. (FAC at 4.) Plaintiff also alleges that defendant 25 Powers personally interfered with plaintiff’s former referral for Harvoni by withdrawing it. (Id.) 26 Finally, plaintiff alleges that defendant Sandhu denied his prescription. (Id.) These allegations 27 sufficiently claim that each of these actions constituted “intentional decisions” with respect to 28 plaintiff’s condition. Plaintiff also alleges in the complaint that “[t]he denial of plaintiff’s 3 1 treatment is still ongoing,” and that “no treatment has commenced over the past year.” (Id. at 3– 2 4.) Accepting plaintiff’s allegations as true, therefore, defendants did nothing to abate the risk to 3 plaintiff since they provided him with no medical treatment whatsoever. The failure to provide 4 such treatment could, if proven, constitute objectively unreasonable conduct. Regarding 5 damages, plaintiff alleges that Hepatitis C “will destroy plaintiff’s liver and kill plaintiff if it is 6 not treated,” and that Harvoni “will cure plaintiff’s Hepatitis C disease.” (Id. at 3.) Viewed as a 7 whole, these allegations are sufficient to state a medical indifference claim under the Fourteenth 8 Amendment. 9 Despite these allegations, the assigned magistrate judge concluded that plaintiff failed to 10 state a claim. The assigned magistrate judge noted that plaintiff’s doctor is aware of plaintiff’s 11 concerns with regard to Hepatitis C, and reasoned that any failure by defendants to take action 12 with respect to plaintiff’s condition “suggests a professional judgment to which the courts 13 generally must defer.” (Doc. No. 11 at 5.) In reaching this conclusion, the assigned magistrate 14 judge adopted a view of the allegations favorable to defendants. This violates the rule that at the 15 pleading stage, the court must construe all allegations in the light most favorable to plaintiff. 16 Daniels-Hall v. Nat’l Educ. Ass’n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). Whether defendants’ 17 conduct was objectively unreasonable depends on “facts and circumstances of each particular 18 case,” and will be determined based on the evidence presented by both sides. Kingsley, 135 S. Ct. 19 at 2473. It is not plaintiff’s burden at the pleading stage to “show[] that his failure to receive this 20 medication substantially deviated from professional standards.” (Doc. No. 11 at 5.) The court 21 concludes that dismissal of this action at screening is inappropriate.2 22 For the reasons set forth above, 23 1. 24 25 26 27 28 The court declines to adopt the findings and recommendations issued February 6, 2018 (Doc. No. 11) 2 This is not to say that plaintiff’s claims will necessarily be proven to be meritorious. If the evidence establishes that this is a case where the plaintiff merely disagrees with the medical treatment that the doctors have determined is appropriate for his condition, then defendants will prevail on summary judgment or possibly even before that stage of the litigation. However, the undersigned interprets plaintiff’s pro se allegations as claiming that he has been denied any treatment for his serious medical condition. 4 1 2. 2 3 claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and 3. 4 5 6 Plaintiff shall proceed on his first amended complaint against all defendants on his This matter is referred back to the assigned magistrate judge for further proceedings consistent with this order. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: April 20, 2018 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5