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Newsome v. Arizona Department of Corr.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 27, 2014

Thomas Eliss Newsome, Plaintiff,
v.
Arizona Department of Corr., et al., Defendants.

ORDER

STEPHEN M. McNAMEE, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Thomas Eliss Newsome, who is now confined in the South Idaho Correctional Institution in Boise, Idaho, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. [1] (Doc. 1, 2.) Because the in forma pauperis application submitted by Plaintiff did not substantially comply with this District's approved form, the Court denied the application in an August 12, 2013 Order and gave Plaintiff 30 days to pay the filing and administrative fees or file a complete Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 5.) On August 27, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a six-month trust account statement and the second page of a new Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 6.) However, on October 11, 2013, the Clerk of Court entered judgment. (Doc. 7.) In an Order filed on January 30, 2014, the Court construed Plaintiff's filing on August 27, 2013 as a new in forma pauperis application and vacated the October 11, 2013 entry of judgment based on Plaintiff's substantial compliance with the Court's August 12, 2013 order. (Doc. 8.) The Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, but dismissed the Complaint for failure to state a claim with leave to amend. ( Id. )

Plaintiff has filed a First Amended Complaint. (Doc. 11.) The Court will dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim with leave to amend.

I. 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 ). Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint will be dismissed 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.

II. First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff alleges three counts for denial of constitutionally adequate medical care after he was injured at an Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) facility. Plaintiff sues Nurse Practitioner Jane Doe, Caseworker Povich, Warden John Doe, and Medical Director Doe. Plaintiff appears to seek injunctive and compensatory relief.

To the extent that the First Amended Complaint is legible, Plaintiff appears to complain of Defendants' failure(s) to provide medical treatment for serious injuries to his neck and back, particularly while he was transported from Arizona to Idaho.[2] Although unclear, he appears to allege the following: Plaintiff suffered a serious orthopedic injury while incarcerated by ADC, apparently in the East Unit. He indicates that a warden or assistant warden photographed the area where Plaintiff was injured and the condition of the floor. Treatment scheduled by an orthopedic surgeon and neurologist in Arizona were delayed, or cancelled, by Plaintiff's extradition from Arizona to Idaho, which took about 20 days. The company that transported Plaintiff was not provided instructions or medical supplies for Plaintiff's medical condition(s) during transit and Idaho prison officials were not informed of Plaintiff's medical condition(s). Plaintiff contends that ADC medical staff failed to arrange for medical care while he was being transported. Plaintiff alleges that his medical condition worsened as a result causing numbness in his legs and pain in his back and neck.

III. Failure to State a Claim

To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts supporting that (1) the conduct about which he complains was committed by a person acting under the color of state law and (2) the conduct deprived him of a federal constitutional or statutory right. Wood v. Ostrander, 879 F.2d 583, 587 (9th Cir. 1989). In addition, a plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of the conduct of a particular defendant and he must allege an affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

A. Doe Defendants

Plaintiff sues Defendants who are only identified fictitiously. Rule 10(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires the plaintiff to include the names of the parties in the action. As a practical matter, it is impossible in most instances for the United States Marshal or his designee to serve a summons and complaint or amended complaint upon an anonymous defendant.

The Ninth Circuit has held that where identity is unknown prior to the filing of a complaint, the plaintiff should be given an opportunity through discovery to identify the unknown defendants, unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover the identities, or that the complaint would be dismissed on other grounds. Wakefield v. Thompson, 177 F.3d 1160, 1163 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980)). Where the names of individual defendants are unknown at the time a complaint is filed, a plaintiff may refer to the individual unknown defendants as Defendant John (or Jane) Doe 1, John Doe 2, and so on, and allege facts to support how each particular Doe defendant violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. A plaintiff may thereafter use the discovery process to obtain the names of fictitiously-named defendants whom he believes violated his constitutional rights and seek leave to amend to name those defendants.

In this case, Plaintiff sues three Doe Defendants. However, his First Amended Complaint does not appear to include allegations against any of them to the extent that the First Amended Complaint is legible. Plaintiff will be granted leave to file an amended complaint that is legibly written. In his amended complaint, he should allege when, where, and how he was injured and describe his injuries. Plaintiff should name as defendants the person(s) who allegedly violated his constitutional rights. If Plaintiff does not know the names of a defendant, Plaintiff may refer to each such person by a fictitious name, e.g., John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and so on and allege facts to support how each defendant violated his constitutional rights. That is, Plaintiff must allege when, where, and how any Doe defendant violated his constitutional rights. Because Plaintiff fails to allege facts to support that the Doe Defendants violated his constitutional rights, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against that those Defendants and they will be dismissed.

B. Medical Care

Plaintiff seeks relief for denial of constitutionally-adequate care. Not every claim by a prisoner relating to inadequate medical treatment states a violation of the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment. To state a § 1983 medical claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). A plaintiff must show (1) a "serious medical need" by demonstrating that failure to treat the condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and (2) the defendant's response was deliberately indifferent. Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096 (quotations omitted).

"Deliberate indifference is a high legal standard." Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir. 2004). To act with deliberate indifference, a prison official must both know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health; "the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Deliberate indifference in the medical context may be shown by a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and harm caused by the indifference. Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096. Deliberate indifference may also be shown when a prison official intentionally denies, delays, or interferes with medical treatment or by the way prison doctors respond to the prisoner's medical needs. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05; Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096.

Deliberate indifference is a higher standard than negligence or lack of ordinary due care for the prisoner's safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. "Neither negligence nor gross negligence will constitute deliberate indifference." Clement v. California Dep't of Corr., 220 F.Supp.2d 1098, 1105 (N.D. Cal. 2002); see also Broughton v. Cutter Labs., 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir. 1980) (mere claims of "indifference, " "negligence, " or "medical malpractice" do not support a claim under § 1983). "A difference of opinion does not amount to deliberate indifference to [a plaintiff's] serious medical needs." Sanchez v. Vild, 891 F.2d 240, 242 (9th Cir. 1989). A mere delay in medical care, without more, is insufficient to state a claim against prison officials for deliberate indifference. See Shapley v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Comm'rs, 766 F.2d 404, 407 (9th Cir. 1985). The indifference must be substantial. The action must rise to a level of "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105.

In all three counts, Plaintiff alleges that he was not provided medication or braces during his transportation from Arizona and Idaho, which he apparently attributes to the Defendants. Generally, he also alleges that the Defendants failed to ensure that he would not be further injured during the trip. However, Plaintiff fails to allege when and how he was injured and how severely. Plaintiff does not indicate when he was transported to Idaho or how soon after he was injured. He also fails to allege specific facts to support that each of the Defendants knew, or should have known, that the failure to make arrangements for his transportation in light of his injuries, posed an excessive risk to his health. He also fails to allege facts to support that any of the Defendants were responsible for making such arrangements. For all of these reasons, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for denial of constitutionally adequate medical care.

IV. Leave to Amend

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Within 30 days, Plaintiff may submit a second amended complaint to cure the deficiencies outlined above. The Clerk of Court will mail Plaintiff a court-approved form to use for filing a second amended complaint. If Plaintiff fails to use the court-approved form, the Court may strike the second amended complaint and dismiss this action without further notice to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff must clearly designate on the face of the document that it is the "Second Amended Complaint." The second amended complaint must be retyped or rewritten in its entirety on the court-approved form and may not incorporate any part of the original Complaint or First Amended Complaint by reference. Plaintiff may include only one claim per count.

A second amended complaint supersedes the original Complaint and First Amended Complaint. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992); Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1546 (9th Cir. 1990). After amendment, the Court will treat the original Complaint and First Amended Complaint as nonexistent. Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1262. Any cause of action that was raised in the original complaint or first amended complaint and that was voluntarily dismissed or was dismissed without prejudice is waived if it is not alleged in a second amended complaint. Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 928 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc).

V. Warnings

A. Release

Plaintiff must pay the unpaid balance of the filing fee within 120 days of his release. Also, within 30 days of his release, he must either (1) notify the Court that he intends to pay the balance or (2) show good cause, in writing, why he cannot. Failure to comply may result in dismissal of this action.

B. Address Changes

Plaintiff must file and serve a notice of a change of address in accordance with Rule 83.3(d) of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff must not include a motion for other relief with a notice of change of address. Failure to comply may result in dismissal of this action.

C. Copies

Plaintiff must submit an additional copy of every filing for use by the Court. See LRCiv 5.4. Failure to comply may result in the filing being stricken without further notice to Plaintiff.

D. Possible "Strike"

Because the First Amended Complaint has been dismissed for failure to state a claim, if Plaintiff fails to file a second amended complaint correcting the deficiencies identified in this Order, the dismissal may count as a "strike" under the "3-strikes" provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Under the 3-strikes provision, a prisoner may not bring a civil action or appeal a civil judgment in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 "if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

E. Possible Dismissal

If Plaintiff fails to timely comply with every provision of this Order, including these warnings, the Court may dismiss this action without further notice. See Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1260-61 (a district court may dismiss an action for failure to comply with any order of the Court).

IT IS ORDERED:

(1) The First Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) is dismissed for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff has 30 days from the date this Order is filed to file a second amended complaint in compliance with this Order.

(2) If Plaintiff fails to file a second amended complaint within 30 days, the Clerk of Court must, without further notice, enter a judgment of dismissal of this action with prejudice that states that the dismissal may count as a "strike" under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

(3) The Clerk of Court must mail Plaintiff a court-approved form for filing a civil rights complaint by a prisoner.


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