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Mubita v. Corrections Corporation of America

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 14, 2014

KANAY A. MUBITA, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA and ACIL THACKER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kanay A. Mubita is a prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) currently incarcerated at Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), a private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under contract with the IDOC. Plaintiff filed a civil rights complaint in June 2013, alleging that Defendants CCA and CCA employee Acil Thacker have violated his Eighth Amendment right to adequate prison medical care based on Defendants' alleged failure to properly treat Plaintiff's swollen ankles, a side effect of his blood pressure medication, as well as his migraine headaches. Plaintiff also states that he has not seen a doctor since February 2, 2013. (Compl., Dkt. 3.)

On September 25, 2013, the Court entered its Initial Review Order, determining that "the best way to determine whether Plaintiff's Complaint may proceed past the initial review stage is for Defendants to inform the Court of the circumstances surrounding Plaintiff's medical treatment at the prison"; thus, the Court ordered Defendants to prepare a Martinez report. (Dkt. 8 at 7.) See Martinez v. Aaron, 570 F.2d 317, 318-19 (10th Cir. 1978) (per curiam); see also In re Arizona, 528 F.3d 652, 656 (9th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (upholding the district court's order requiring defendants to submit a Martinez report). Defendants were required to "(1) ascertain the facts and circumstances underlying the complaint; and (2) consider whether any action can and should be taken by the institution or other appropriate officials to resolve the subject matter of the complaint." ( Id. at 8) (internal quotation marks omitted). Defendants have now filed their Martinez report (Dkt. 10), and Plaintiff has filed a response (Dkt. 14).

Having carefully reviewed the record, and having determined that oral argument is unnecessary, the Court enters the following Order dismissing Plaintiff's case with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

1. Standards of Law

The Court is required to review complaints filed in forma pauperis, or those filed by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity, to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. The Court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b).

A complaint fails to state a claim for relief under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if the factual assertions in the complaint, taken as true, are insufficient for the reviewing court plausibly "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." 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. In other words, although Rule 8 "does not require detailed factual allegations, ... it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). If the facts pleaded are "merely consistent with a defendant's liability, " the complaint has not stated a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiff brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the civil rights statute. To state a valid claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by the conduct of a person acting under color of state law. Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). Prison officials are generally not liable for damages in their individual capacities under § 1983 unless they personally participated in the alleged constitutional violations. Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 ("[E]ach Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct."). "A defendant may be held liable as a supervisor under § 1983 if there exists either (1) his or her personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation, or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation.'" Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989)). This causal connection "can be established by setting in motion a series of acts by others, or by knowingly refusing to terminate a series of acts by others, which the supervisor knew or reasonably should have known would cause others to inflict a constitutional injury." Id. at 1207-08 (internal quotation marks, citation, and alterations omitted).

To succeed on his claims against CCA as an entity, Plaintiff must meet the test articulated in Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-94 (1978); see Tsao v. Desert Palace, Inc., 698 F.3d 1128, 1139 (9th Cir. 2012) (applying Monell to private entities). Under Monell, the requisite elements of a § 1983 claim against a municipality or private entity performing a state function are the following: (1) the plaintiff was deprived of a constitutional right; (2) the municipality or entity had a policy or custom; (3) the policy or custom amounted to deliberate indifference to plaintiff's constitutional right; and (4) the policy or custom was the moving force behind the constitutional violation. Mabe v. San Bernardino Cnty., 237 F.3d 1101, 1110-11 (9th Cir. 2001).

An unwritten policy or custom must be so "persistent and widespread" that it constitutes a "permanent and well settled" practice. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691 (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167-168 (1970)). "Liability for improper custom may not be predicated on isolated or sporadic incidents; it must be founded upon practices of sufficient duration, frequency and consistency that the conduct has become a traditional method of carrying out policy." Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 1996). Further, a municipality or private entity performing a state function "may be held liable under § 1983 when the individual who committed the constitutional tort was an official with final policy-making authority or such an official ratified a subordinate's unconstitutional decision or action and the basis for it." Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1250 (9th Cir. 2010).

Plaintiff's claims implicate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects prisoners against cruel and unusual punishment. To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must show that he is "incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, " or that he has been deprived of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" as a result of Defendants' actions. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). An Eighth Amendment claim requires a plaintiff to satisfy "both an objective standard-that the deprivation was serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment-and a subjective standard-deliberate indifference." Snow v. McDaniel, 681 F.3d 978, 985 (9th Cir. 2012). The Eighth Amendment includes the right to adequate medical care in prison, and prison officials or prison medical providers can be held liable if their "acts or omissions [were] sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).

Regarding the objective standard for prisoners' medical care claims, the Supreme Court of the United States has explained that "[b]ecause society does not expect that prisoners will have unqualified access to health care, deliberate indifference to medical needs amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation only if those needs are serious.'" Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). The Ninth Circuit has defined a "serious medical need" in the following ways:

failure to treat a prisoner's condition [that] could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain[;]... [t]he existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain....

McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted), overruled on other grounds, WMX Techs., Inc. v. Miller, ...


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