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Spencer v. Clark

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 12, 2015

Clinton Lee Spencer, Plaintiff,
K. Clark, et al., Defendants.


STEPHEN M. McNAMEE, Senior District Judge.

On January 7, 2014, Plaintiff Clinton Lee Spencer, who is confined in the Arizona State Prison Complex-Rincon, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Federal Tort Claim Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1336(b), and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. In a September 10, 2014 Order, the Court granted the Application to Proceed and dismissed the Complaint because Plaintiff had failed to state a claim. The Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file an amended complaint that cured the deficiencies identified in the Order.

On September 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (Doc. 23). On November 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (Doc. 25). The Court will deny the motion and dismiss the First Amended Complaint and this action.

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 )).

II. First Amended Complaint

In his three-count First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff sues Arizona Department of Corrections ("ADOC") physician Dr. Michael Thomas, ADOC healthcare provider Ryan Brower, ADOC Director Charles L. Ryan, and Director of Health Services Richard Pratt.

In Count One, Plaintiff claims that on July 24, 2008, he was diagnosed with kidney disease by Dr. Alan Cohn at St. Mary's Hospital. Dr. Cohn prescribed Plaintiff Spironolactone. On October 14, 2011, Plaintiff was sent to the ADOC "Florence Central Unit Complex." Plaintiff's physician at this facility was Defendant Thompson, who decided not to administer Spironolactone to Plaintiff. Plaintiff submitted several Health Needs Requests (HNRs) requesting a prescription for Spironolactone. In December 2011, Thompson had a nurse inform Plaintiff that his prescription for Spironolactone had been discontinued on October 14, 2011, and that he would no longer be receiving the drug. Between October 2011 and December 2012, Plaintiff submitted several Health Needs Requests (HNR's) seeking to have his prescription continued. Plaintiff's prescription was not renewed, and Defendants Thomas and Brower did not refer Plaintiff to a specialist. "[T]here was no recommended or follow-up appointment for the first six months on plaintiff[]s kidney or heart, and no follow-up the next six months to obtain a kidney[] evaluation." Defendants Thomas and Brower "were responsible for procuring contracts with outside specialists or for making appointments for inmates to see outside specialists." Thompson and Brower were "involved medically or administratively in all aspect[s] of [Plaintiff's] heart [and] kidney [treatment, ] including chronic diabetes treatment."

On December 18, 2013, a nephrologist determined that Plaintiff was in stage-four kidney failure. The nephrologist informed Plaintiff that "the drug[] Naproxen had increased his kidney function" because Defendant Thompson had prescribed "inconsistent medications which caused Plaintiff's kidney disease to progress to kidney failure[.]" On April 8, 2014, Plaintiff had fistula placed "in his left arm to begin dialysis." This led to an infection, and Plaintiff was prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection. In August 2014, a nephrologist informed Plaintiff that "allergic reactions to certain drugs can cause an acute kidney disease with most of the damage affecting the kidney tubules." The nephrologist told Plaintiff that without a kidney transplant, Plaintiff could die "within six (6) months to a year."

In Count Two, Plaintiff alleges "that AD[O]C's policies and practices governing medical care [and] dental care" expose inmates "to a substantial risk of serious harm[.]" Plaintiff also makes several allegations concerning conditions of confinement, including: inadequate nutrition, lack of outdoor exercise, and being confined to a cell. Plaintiff alleges that he "is not provide[d] critical medication, or nutrition... due to inadequate staffing."

In Count Three, Plaintiff makes general allegations that ADOC is providing constitutionally deficient medical care, including: "lengthy and dangerous delays" in providing medical care; failure to provide emergency treatment; failure to provide medication and medical devices; "employing insufficient health care staff"; failure to provide care for chronic and infectious diseases; failure to provide access to "specialty care"; and provision of "substandard dental care." Plaintiff also claims that "medications that are to be taken daily... go undelivered" and that "plaintiffs are given expired medication or incorrect dosages of medication."

Plaintiff has attached an exhibit to his First Amended Complaint which includes several grievance forms filed by Plaintiff, a grievance response dated June 24, 2012, and a grievance appeal response dated September 3, 2014 and ...

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