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Chester Lee Reneau, No. 156770 v. Fauvel

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 12, 2016

CHESTER LEE RENEAU, No. 156770, Plaintiff,
MAURICE FAUVEL, Doctor, in his individual capacity; HELENE CHRISTNER, Doctor, in her official and individual capacities; JAIMIE SOUCIE, Director of Clinical Services in her individual capacity; CORRECTIONAL HEALTH PARTNERS, Insurance Provider, in their official capacity; JOHN OR JANE DOE, CHP Employee and employee of Correctional Health Partners in his or her individual capacity; and COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendants.


GORDON P. GALLAGHER, Magistarte Judge.

Plaintiff, Chester Lee Reneau, is in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility (CTCF) in Canón City, Colorado. He has filed a Prisoner Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that he is being denied adequate medical care, in violation of the Constitution. Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

The Court must construe the Complaint liberally because Plaintiff is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court should not act as an advocate for pro se litigants. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. The Court has reviewed the complaint and has determined that it is deficient. For the reasons discussed below, Mr. Reneau will be ordered to file an amended complaint.

The Prisoner Complaint is deficient because the § 1983 claims against Defendant CDOC are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to states and state agencies deemed "arms of the state" that have not waived their immunity, regardless of the relief sought. Steadfast Ins. Co. v. Agricultural Ins. Co., 507 F.3d 1250, 1252-53 (10th Cir. 2007). The CDOC is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Griess v. Colorado, 841 F.2d 1042, 1044-45 (10th Cir. 1988). Congress did not abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity through Section 1983. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979). Accordingly, the CDOC is an improper party to this action.

The Prisoner Complaint is also deficient because Mr. Reneau fails to allege specific facts to show the personal participation of Defendants. Personal participation is an essential element of a civil rights action. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). There must be an affirmative link between the alleged constitutional violation and each defendant's participation, control or direction, or failure to supervise. See Butler v. City of Norman, 992 F.2d 1053, 1055 (10th Cir. 1993). A supervisor can only be held liable for his own deliberate intentional acts. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009); Serna v. Colo. Dep't of Corrections, 455 F.3d 1146, 1151 (10th Cir. 2006) ("Supervisors are only liable under § 1983 for their own culpable involvement in the violation of a person's constitutional rights."); see also Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008) ("[Section] 1983 does not recognize a concept of strict supervisor liability; the defendant's role must be more than one of abstract authority over individuals who actually committed a constitutional violation.").

Furthermore, with regard to Defendant Correctional Health Partners (CHP), [1] "[t]he established principles of municipal liability have been found to apply to § 1983 claims brought against private corporations like [proposed] Defendant PHP.'" Ortiz v. Falk, No. 13-cv-00612-PAB-MJW, 2014 WL 984933, at *10 (D. Colo. March 13, 2014) (quoting Rhodes v. Physician Health Partners (PHP), No. 09-cv-482-REB-KLM, 2010 WL 728213, at *5 (D. Colo. Feb. 24, 2010)). "Therefore, according to the principles of municipal liability, a private actor such as CHP cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor-or, in other words... cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.'" Id. (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). Instead, Plaintiff must allege facts to show that Defendant CHP directly caused the constitutional violation by instituting an official policy or custom that was the "moving force" behind the constitutional violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694-95; see also City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989). Plaintiff cannot state a claim for relief under § 1983 merely by pointing to isolated incidents. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. In the Complaint, Mr. Reneau does not allege that a policy or custom of CHP caused the alleged deprivation of adequate medical care.

The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citation omitted). The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments." U.S. CONST. Amend. VIII. Certain conditions of confinement, if they inflict pain unnecessarily and wantonly, may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). "An inmate making a direct chReneauge to conditions of confinement under the 8th Amendment, must show that, judged by contemporary standards of decency, the conditions either involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, that they are grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime, or that they entail serious deprivation of basic human needs." Georgacarakos v. Wiley, 2010 WL 1291833 *11 (D. Colo. March 30, 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Prison officials must provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to inmates, and take reasonable measures to guarantee those inmates' safety." Id. (citation omitted).

An Eighth Amendment claim includes both an objective component, whether the deprivation of a basic human need is sufficiently serious, and a subjective component, whether the officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). As for the objective component, "extreme deprivations" are required to make out a conditions-of-confinement claim. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1992). Thus, in a conditions-of-confinement case, a "sufficiently serious" deprivation is shown when "a prison official's act or omission... result[s] in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). The subjective component follows from the principle that "only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain implicates the Eighth Amendment.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297). The "deliberate indifference" subjective standard applies to claims of inhumane conditions of confinement. Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303-04. A finding of deliberate indifference requires a showing that the defendant "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Under this standard, "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, 511 U.S. at 837.

It is not clear against which Defendant or Defendants Mr. Reneau is asserting the medical treatment claims or what any particular Defendant did with respect to medical treatment that violated Mr. Herrera's constitutional rights. The Eighth Amendment, through its prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, imposes a duty on prison officials to provide humane conditions of confinement, including adequate medical treatment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A violation occurs when: 1) a medical need is serious; and (2) the acts or omissions by prison officials demonstrate "deliberate indifference" to the inmate's health or safety. Id. at 106. Thus, first, a complaint must allege facts showing a sufficiently serious medical need. A "medical need is sufficiently serious if it is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Sealock v. Colorado, 218 F.3d 1205, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000). "Delay in medical care only constitutes an Eighth Amendment violation where the plaintiff can show the delay resulted in substantial harm." Id. at 1210. The substantial harm requirement "may be satisfied by lifelong handicap, permanent loss, or considerable pain." Garrett v. Stratman, 254 F.3d 946, 950 (10th Cir. 2001). Under Estelle, deliberate indifference is present when prison officials intentionally deny or delay access to necessary medical treatment for non-medical reasons, or when they interfere with a course of treatment once prescribed. Id. at 104-05. Under the subjective component, Plaintiff "must show that the defendants knew he faced a substantial risk of harm and disregarded that risk, by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Martinez, 563 F.3d at 1089.

In the context of a medical treatment claim, he must state exactly what objectively serious medical need he was suffering from and what each specific Defendant did that amounted to deliberate indifference to that need. He must provide specific dates and provide a short statement as to each claim against each defendant. Plaintiff's complaint provides a statement of facts that does not specify what constitutional claims he is asserting against each defendant. He merely identifies a defendant and makes rambling statements.

Moreover, under C.R.S. § 13-80-102(1)(h), a two-year statute of limitations applies to "[a]ll actions against any public or governmental entity or any employee of a public or governmental entity, except as otherwise provided in... section 13-80-103." Thus, Plaintiff cannot file claims for actions that occurred on or before January 7, 2014.

To the extent Plaintiff asserts a constitutional claim against an individual, he must allege specific facts that demonstrate how that individual personally participated in the asserted constitutional violation. See Henry v. Storey, 658 F.3d 1235, 1241 (10th Cir. 2011) (allegations of "personal participation in the specific constitutional violation complained of [are] essential"). The "denial of a grievance, by itself without any connection to the violation of constitutional rights alleged by plaintiff, does not establish personal participation under § 1983." Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1069 (10th Cir. 2009). Furthermore, a defendant may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of his or her subordinates on a theory of respondeat superior. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Although a defendant can be liable in a § 1983 action based on his or her supervisory responsibilities, a claim of supervisory liability must be supported by allegations that demonstrate personal involvement, a causal connection to the constitutional violation, and a culpable state of mind. See Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dept., 717 F.3d 760, 767-69 (10th Cir. 2013) (discussing standards for supervisory liability).

To the extent Mr. Reneau asserts a constitutional claim against Colorado Health Partners, he must allege specific facts that demonstrate he suffered an injury caused by an official policy or custom. See Dubbs v. Head Start, Inc., 336 F.3d 1194, 1216 (10th Cir. 2003) (holding that traditional municipal liability principles apply to claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against private corporations); Smedley v. Corrections Corp. of America, 175 F.Appx. 943, 946 (10th Cir. 2005) ("in order to hold CCA liable for the alleged tortious acts of its agents, [Plaintiff] must show that CCA directly caused the constitutional violation by instituting an official policy of some nature that was the direct cause or moving force behind the constitutional violations") (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

The complaint is deficient because it does not comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The twin purposes of a complaint are to give the opposing parties fair notice of the basis for the claims against them so that they may respond and to allow the Court to conclude that the allegations, if proven, show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Monument Builders of Greater Kansas City, Inc. v. American Cemetery Ass'n of Kansas, 891 F.2d 1473, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989). The requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 are designed to meet these purposes. See TV Communications Network, Inc. v. ESPN, Inc., 767 F.Supp. 1062, 1069 (D. Colo. 1991), aff'd, 964 F.2d 1022 (10th Cir. 1992). Rule 8(a) provides that a complaint "must contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, ... (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought." The philosophy of Rule 8(a) is reinforced by Rule ...

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