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Ratcliff v. Mattinson

United States District Court, D. Nevada

October 23, 2019

SCOTT MATTINSON et al., Defendants


          Gloria M. Navarro, Judge.

         Plaintiff, who is in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections (“NDOC”), has submitted a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis, a motion for preliminary injunction, and a motion requesting preliminary injunction be granted. (ECF Nos. 1, 1-1, 3, 4). The matter of the filing fee will be temporarily deferred. The Court now screens Plaintiff's civil rights complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and addresses the motions.


         Federal courts must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which an incarcerated person seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See Id. § 1915A(b)(1), (2). Pro se pleadings, however, must be liberally construed. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         In addition to the screening requirements under § 1915A, pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), a federal court must dismiss an incarcerated person's claim if “the allegation of poverty is untrue” or if the action “is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is provided for in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and the court applies the same standard under § 1915 when reviewing the adequacy of a complaint or an amended complaint. When a court dismisses a complaint under § 1915(e), the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with directions as to curing its deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v. Lab. Corp. of Am., 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). Dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper only if it is clear that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle him or her to relief. See Morley v. Walker, 175 F.3d 756, 759 (9th Cir. 1999). In making this determination, the court takes as true all allegations of material fact stated in the complaint, and the court construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warshaw v. Xoma Corp., 74 F.3d 955, 957 (9th Cir. 1996). Allegations of a pro se complainant are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). While the standard under Rule 12(b)(6) does not require detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff must provide more than mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action is insufficient. Id.

         Additionally, a reviewing court should “begin by identifying pleadings [allegations] that, because they are no more than mere conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported with factual allegations.” Id. “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” 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.

         Finally, all or part of a complaint filed by an incarcerated person may therefore be dismissed sua sponte if that person's claims lack an arguable basis either in law or in fact. This includes claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g., claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest which clearly does not exist), as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations (e.g., fantastic or delusional scenarios). See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989); see also McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).


         In the complaint, Plaintiff sues multiple defendants for events that took place while Plaintiff was incarcerated at High Desert State Prison (“HDSP”) and Southern Desert Correctional Center (“SDCC”). (ECF No. 1-1 at 1). Plaintiff sues Defendants Director of Nursing Scott Mattinson, Medical Director Michael Minev, and Associate Warden J. Nash. (Id. at 1-2). Plaintiff alleges one count and seeks monetary and injunctive relief. (Id. at 4, 9).

         The complaint alleges the following: In 2016, Plaintiff acquired a “lingering chronic cough and chest pains” that has lasted for three years. (Id. at 3). In 2016, Plaintiff wrote medical kites about his lingering chronic cough and chest pains. (Id. at 4). However, Plaintiff was never diagnosed and none of the treatments that prison officials provided to Plaintiff have helped. (Id.)

         On June 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed an informal grievance because he had not seen a doctor to give him a proper diagnosis. (Id.) The response stated that Plaintiff's grievance had been resolved but Plaintiff had not received any diagnosis by a doctor and had not seen a doctor. (Id.) Plaintiff filed more kites on July 16, 2018, July 31, 2018, and August 2, 2018 because the medication prison officials had given Plaintiff was not helping. (Id.)

         On September 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed a grievance explaining that his condition continued and that he had not seen a doctor yet. (Id. at 5). Mattinson granted the grievance in Plaintiff's favor. (Id.) However, Plaintiff had still not received a diagnosis and had not seen a doctor. (Id.) On October 3, 2018 and October 15, 2018, Plaintiff wrote more medical kites about his condition. (Id.) In October or November 2018, Plaintiff saw a doctor who gave Plaintiff medication. (Id.) However, the medication did not help with Plaintiff's condition. (Id.) On December 6, 2018, Plaintiff wrote another kite to be seen by a doctor again and noted that he had not been given a diagnosis. (Id.) On December 27, 2018 and January 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed two more medical kites because, despite seeing the doctor, nothing was helping Plaintiff's condition. (Id.) “Things were only getting worse” for Plaintiff and he still had no diagnosis. (Id.) Plaintiff's cough continues to get worse along with his chest pains. (Id.) Mattinson was aware of Plaintiff's condition. (Id.) Some days Plaintiff's chest pain was unbearable. (Id. at 6). Plaintiff alleges a claim for Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. (Id. at 4).

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment and “embodies ‘broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.'” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment when he acts with “deliberate indifference” to the serious medical needs of an inmate. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). “To establish an Eighth Amendment violation, a plaintiff must satisfy both an objective standard-that the deprivation was serious enough ...

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