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Jones v. Alvarez

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 18, 2014

Craig Murray Jones, Plaintiff,
Jeff Alvarez, et al., Defendants.


DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Craig Murray Jones brought this civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against three Maricopa County Jail medical providers: Physician's Assistants (PAs) Matt Barker and Barry Johnson and Dr. Monica Gaskins (Doc. 1). Before the Court are Jones' Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docs. 15, 25). The Court will deny both motions.

I. Background

A detailed factual background is set forth in the Court's Screening Order (Doc. 12 at 3-12). In summary, before his confinement, Jones was involved in a car accident that resulted, among other injuries, in cervical and lumbar sprains, disc displacement, neuralgia, and intervertebral disc disorder. He received physical therapy and narcotic pain relievers, which substantially alleviated pain caused by his injuries.

Shortly after he arrived at the Fourth Avenue Jail in June 2011, Jones repeatedly informed staff of his back injuries and his severe and worsening pain. On October 3, 2011, he finally saw a doctor, who referred Jones to an outside orthopedic specialist. On October 12, 2011, Jones saw the specialist, who ordered Ultram, a non-narcotic analgesic for moderate to moderately severe pain; Flexeril, a muscle relaxant; Baclofen, which acts on the spinal cord and relieves pain; and epidural injections.

Jones alleges that in February 2012, PA Barker discontinued Ultram and Baclofen and denied renewal of another prescribed pain reliever, Soma, which had been very effective, without providing or addressing alternative medications or treatment for Jones' pain. Murray alleges that Dr. Gaskins denied him medically appropriate treatment for his pain by failing to prescribe effective medications. Jones alleges that PA Johnson rejected Jones' request for Vicodin, even though it had been suggested by Dr. Gaskins, and PA Johnson suggested that Jones purchase over-the-counter pain relievers at the commissary.

The Court determined that Jones' allegations were sufficient to state claims that these Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical need ( id. at 20). In August 2013, Jones filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, in which he seeks an order directing Defendants to renew the Soma prescription and to issue him a thermal undershirt (Doc. 15). In September 2013, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Jones fails to state a claim (Doc. 25).

II. Motion to Dismiss

A. Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1199-1200 (9th Cir. 2003). Dismissal of the complaint, or any claim within it, may be based on either a "lack of a cognizable legal theory' or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'" Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., LP, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121-22 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). In determining whether a complaint states a claim under this standard, the allegations in the complaint are taken as true and the pleadings are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Outdoor Media Group, Inc. v. City of Beaumont, 506 F.3d 895, 900 (9th Cir. 2007).

A complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). 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). But "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what... the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (internal quotation omitted).

B. Discussion

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is almost never an appropriate response when the Court has already screened a prisoner complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) and directed the defendants to respond. The standard for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is identical to the standard under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) ("fail[ure] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted"). After the Court has screened a prisoner complaint pursuant to § 1915A(b), a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss should be granted only if the defendants can convince the Court that reconsideration is appropriate. Reconsideration is appropriate only if the district court "(1) is presented with newly discovered evidence, (2) committed clear error or the initial decision was manifestly unjust, or (3) if there is an intervening change in controlling law." School Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah Cnty. v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993).

In their motion, Defendants argue that Jones did not allege any actions by them that demonstrate they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need (Doc. 25 at 4). Defendants assert that in his pleading, Jones concedes that alternative medications were offered to him and that he was seen numerous times by medical providers and outside specialists ( id. at 5). They submit that, at best, Jones alleges a difference of opinion regarding how his pain should be treated ( id. at 4). According to Defendants, such allegations fail to state a claim for deliberate indifference ( id. at 5-6). ...

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