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Ploof v. Ryan

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 30, 2013

Jonathan Michael Ploof, Plaintiff,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Defendants.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

On May 7, 2013, Plaintiff Jonathan Michael Ploof, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Eyman in Florence, Arizona, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, and a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and Appointment of Counsel (Doc. 4). On May 21, 2013, he filed an Addendum to that motion and a Motion Requesting the Issuance of 3 Subpoenas (Doc. 9).

In a May 23, 2013 Order Setting Early Mediation Conference, this case was referred to the Court's Prisoner Early Mediation Pilot Program, consideration of Plaintiff's Application to Proceed was deferred for 90 days, and the action was stayed for 90 days. On June 13, 2013, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Sanctions, Motion for an Order Compelling Disclosure" (Doc. 12). On June 17, 2013, he filed an Amendment to that motion.

A mediation conference was held and the parties were unable to come to a settlement. In an August 13, 2013 Order, the Court lifted the stay, denied the deficient Application to Proceed, and gave Plaintiff 30 days to pay the filing and administrative fees or file a complete Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.

On August 14, 2013, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Exp[e]dited Order Compelling Disclosure of Prison Medical Records" (Doc. 15) and two Declarations. On August 19, 2013, he filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 18) and a Declaration/Affidavit regarding his Motion for Preliminary Injunction/Motion to Appoint Counsel. On August 21, 2013, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Order for an Examination per FRCP-Rule 35" (Doc. 20). On August 27, 2013, he filed a second Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 21) and an Amendment to the Application to Proceed. On August 29, 2013, Plaintiff paid the filing and administrative fees.

On September 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Malicious Intent and Request for Order to Show Cause (Doc. 25). On October 1, 2013, he filed a "Motion for Stat[u]s[;] Motion for Order" (Doc. 26).

I. Second Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

Because Plaintiff has paid the filing and administrative fees, the Court will deny as moot Plaintiff's second Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.

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) (emphasis added). 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). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). 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. "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. 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 )).

III. First Amended Complaint

In his two-count First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff sues the following Defendants "in their official capacities": Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) Director Charles L. Ryan, Facility Health Administrator and Contract Monitor Matthew A. Musson, Division Director and Health Services Program Evaluation Administrator Richard Pratt, and Medical Director Dr. Winfred Darryl Williams.

In both counts, Plaintiff alleges violations of his Eighth Amendment rights regarding medical care. In his Request for Relief, Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, monetary damages, and his costs of suit and litigation expenses.

In Count One, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Ryan, Musson, and Pratt have a "policy and practice of failing to provide [Plaintiff] with adequate healthcare and are deliberately indifferent to the fact that the failure to do so has resulted in significant injury to [his] heart." Plaintiff contends that Defendants, through written policies and personal letters, promised Plaintiff that they would provide sufficient resources to provide "the community standard of healthcare, " but that they are aware that they fall far below this standard. Plaintiff asserts that due to Defendants' policies, "the system of health care provided failed to provide timely and consist[e]nt healthcare and treatment" and, as a result, he has suffered extensive heart damage and has experienced significant delays in care.

In Count Two, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Ryan, Musson, and Pratt have a policy and practice of "failing to provide administrative oversight, " which deprives him of proper and adequate medical care, and are "deliberately indifferent to the fact that the failure to do so has resulted in significant injury to [Plaintiff]." Plaintiff asserts that Defendants' "failure to direct by policy and oversight proper medical care" has caused him to experience prolonged and unnecessary pain and suffering. Plaintiff states that unit health care providers, by policy, are required to submit a referral for "off unit" care to a review board/committee. He contends that "the referral is not for medical reasons, " it takes months for the referrals to specialists to be processed, many referrals are denied, and unit medical personnel must then either resubmit the referral or do nothing.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Ryan, Musson, and Pratt endorse a policy and practice of failing to provide timely access to health care, are deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm to Plaintiff from the failure, have failed to provide "clear processes that are adhered to, " and have allowed a "failed system with clear unreasonable delays and refusals to cause current and future heart failure." Plaintiff contends that Defendants have failed to create an effective tracking and scheduling system for healthcare appointments, there are lengthy delays in responding to health needs request forms and providing necessary care, and there are no protocols or timeframes for when he is supposed to receive a face-to-face evaluation or a medical appointment. He claims Defendants have been warned repeatedly about the unreasonable delays, which are the proximate cause of his heart damage and the continued deterioration of his heart. Plaintiff also asserts that unit medical staff has advised him that a year-long wait for cardiac care is an acceptable standard.

IV. Discussion

Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), conclusory and vague allegations will not support a cause of action. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Further, a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled. Id.

Section 1983 provides a cause of action against persons acting under color of state law who have violated rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and federal law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also Buckley v. City of Redding, 66 F.3d 188, 190 (9th Cir. 1995). "[A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office. As such, it is no different from a suit against the State itself." Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. ...

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