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Benacquisto v. Corizon Health

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 4, 2013

Craig Dominic Benacquisto, Plaintiff,
v.
Corizon Health, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Craig Dominic Benacquisto, who is confined in the Maricopa County Lower Buckeye Jail, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1) and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2). The Court will grant the Application to Proceed and dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff must pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The Court will not assess an initial partial filing fee. Id. The statutory filing fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The Court will enter a separate Order requiring the appropriate government agency to collect and forward the fees according to the statutory formula.

II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A pleading 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). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citation omitted).

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (citation omitted). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citation omitted). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679 (citation omitted). Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)). If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Here, Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in his Complaint, but it appears that the Complaint could be cured by allegations of other facts. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed without prejudice and Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to amend.

III. Complaint

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges three counts. Defendants are: (1) Corizon Health, Health Administrator for the Arizona Department of Corrections ("ADOC"); (2) Dr. Sandoval, M.D., doctor for the ADOC at the Arizona State Prison Complex, Aspen Unit, in Phoenix, Arizona; and (3) Dr. Winskie, "psych doctor" at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson, Arizona.

In Count One, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment as follows: From March 2013 to July 2013, "Corizon Health/Dr. Sandoval" neglected Plaintiff's healthcare. When Plaintiff was admitted to the Aspen Medical Men's Treatment Unit, Dr. Sandoval, "with Corizon's knowledge, " discontinued a pain shot of Toradol, which had previously been prescribed to Plaintiff. Dr. Sandoval discontinued the shot of Toradol without evaluating Plaintiff and no pain medication was issued to Plaintiff until July 2013. As a result of the discontinuation of Toradol, Plaintiff "was subject to immense pain in [his] neck and back for four months." Dr. Sandoval threatened Plaintiff that if he "pressed the issue" he would be sent to a different location. Because Plaintiff "feared reprisal, " he did not put in a health needs request.

In Count Two, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment as follows: Dr. Winskie and Corizon abruptly discontinued Plaintiff's "psych medications" of Seroquel 600mg without stepping Plaintiff down or putting him on something else for several days. As a result, Plaintiff had numerous thoughts of suicide and severe clinical depression on his days without medication. "Corizon nurses did everything they could to stop the grievance process to include misplacing paperwork."

In Count Three, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his right to access the grievance process without retaliation as follows: Corizon, Dr. Sandoval, and Dr. Winskie colluded to retaliate against Plaintiff if his grievances were to proceed to the highest level. Dr. Sandoval specifically threatened to move Plaintiff from the facility. As a result, Plaintiff was in a state of constant fear of ...


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