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Gause v. Maricopa County Correctional Health Services

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 4, 2014

Richard LeGrand Gause, Plaintiff,
Maricopa County Correctional Health Services, et al., Defendants.


ROBERT C. BROOMFIELD, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Richard LeGrand Gause, who is confined in the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail, has 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 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) (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 )).

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 ). The Court should not, however, advise the litigant how to cure the defects. This type of advice "would undermine district judges' role as impartial decisionmakers." Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004); see also Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131 n.13 (declining to decide whether the court was required to inform a litigant of deficiencies). Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, but because it may possibly be amended to state a claim, the Court will dismiss it with leave to amend.

III. Complaint

In his one-count Complaint, Plaintiff sues the following Defendants: Maricopa County Correctional Health Services, Maricopa County Mental Health Services, Maricopa County Jail Medical Staff, Physician's Assistant Doctor Matt, Maricopa County Dental Doctor Unknown, and Psychiatric Doctor Unknown.

Plaintiff alleges a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights regarding medical care. He states that he was involved in a severe motorcycle accident in April 2013 and, as a result, he suffered multiple facial fractures, leg and knee fractures, and brain damage. He claims that he was placed in a full leg cast and that his doctor told him he had approximately one year to treat the brain damage, that whatever remaining effects he had at that point would become permanent, and he needed to consult with a neuro-psychiatrist.

Plaintiff states that on July 1, 2013, he was arrested and jail personnel took his cane and his leg brace containing metal sheets. Plaintiff contends that he was told that these items would be replaced with a jail-approved brace and cane, but he did not receive them from July 1 to August 30, 2013, despite submitting multiple health needs request forms. Plaintiff states that he was given pain medication, was scheduled to see an orthopedist (although it can take up to six months to see one), and was told by Defendant Doctor Matt and other doctors and medical staff members that he needed to see the orthopedist before he could receive a brace, a cane, or treatment for his knee. Plaintiff claims the medical staff had his hospital records, which stated that he should have been in a brace until August 2, but no doctor followed that directive.

Plaintiff next claims he saw Defendant Dental Doctor Unknown because the "screw holding [his] face together came un-anchored." Plaintiff states that he told "medical and dental" that the pain was occasionally incapacitating and preventing him from eating and that the unanchored screw was causing him intense headaches and partial blindness in one eye. Plaintiff contends that "they" ordered him to be seen by a plastic surgeon, told him it could take up to six months to be seen by a plastic surgeon, ordered pain medications, and refused to provide further treatment because only the plastic surgeon could treat him.

Plaintiff also contends that he requested to see a neuro-psychiatrist regarding his memory loss, was eventually told he had been scheduled to be seen, but was not seen by a neuro-psychiatrist. A mental health assistant completed his "initial mental health packet" on August 1, and told Plaintiff that he would be seen by a psychiatric doctor within ten days. Plaintiff states that he was not seen by a psychiatric doctor and was ...

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