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Haldane v. Hammond

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

September 18, 2017

G. STEVEN HAMMOND, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the Washington State Department of Corrections, and DAN PACHOLKE, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections, in their official capacities, Defendants.


          Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge


         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification and Appointment of Class Counsel. Dkt. ## 47, 81. Defendants oppose the Motion. Dkt. # 90. Having considered the parties' briefs and balance of the record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion.


         Plaintiffs are prisoners in the custody of the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC). Dkt. # 1 (Complaint). DOC's healthcare services are subject to the Offender Health Plan (OHP). Id. at ¶ 9. The OHP defines what types of medical care are “medically necessary.” Id. at ¶ 10; see also Dkt. # 47-1 at 11-12 (defining “medical necessity”). The OHP segregates care into three Levels: Level 1 care is considered medically necessary such that a practitioner may authorize treatment; Level 2 care constitutes care that may be medically necessary but requires authorization by the Care Review Committee (CRC); Level 3 care is not medically necessary and therefore a practitioner may not authorize treatment. Dkt. ## 47-1 at 13, 47-2 at 1.

         The CRC is composed of physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. Dkt. ## 1 (Complaint) at ¶ 13, 47-2 at 2-5 (describing the CRC Review Procedure). The committee meets every week for a teleconference that lasts up to two hours. Dkt. # 1 (Complaint) at ¶ 15. The committee decides whether Level 2 care should be authorized-thereby raising it to Level 1 status-or denied-demoting it to Level 3.

         Plaintiffs each have ailments for which their providers submitted requests to the CRC for specific treatment. See generally Dkt. # 1 (Complaint) at ¶¶ 26-71. The CRC denied treatment, and Plaintiffs claim that the refusals lead to their continued suffering from severe pain and limitations on daily living. Id. at ¶¶ 41, 54, 62, 71. Plaintiffs argue that the CRC is unreasonably denying care not just to the named plaintiffs but to an entire class of inmates. Accordingly, Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against DOC and its Chief Medical Officer and Secretary.


         The Court's decision to certify a class is discretionary. Vinole v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 571 F.3d 935, 944 (9th Cir. 2009). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (“Rule 23”) guides the Court's exercise of discretion. A plaintiff “bears the burden of demonstrating that he has met each of the four requirements of Rule 23(a) and at least one of the [three alternative] requirements of Rule 23(b).” Lozano v. AT&T Wireless Servs., Inc., 504 F.3d 718, 724 (9th Cir. 2007). Rule 23(a) requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that the proposed class is sufficiently numerous, that it presents common issues of fact or law, that it will be led by one or more class representatives with claims typical of the class, and that the class representative will adequately represent the class. Gen. Tel. Co. of the S.W. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982); Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a).

         If a plaintiff satisfies the Rule 23(a) requirements, he must also show that the proposed class action meets one of the three requirements of Rule 23(b). Zinser v. Accufix Research Inst., Inc., 253 F.3d 1180, 1186 (9th Cir. 2001). Here, Plaintiffs move for class certification under Rule 23(b)(2). Rule 23(b)(2) requires that “the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2). Rule 23(b)(2) is met where “a single injunction or declaratory judgment would provide relief to each member of the class.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 360 (2011).

         In considering Rule 23's requirements, the Court must engage in a “rigorous analysis, ” but a “rigorous analysis does not always result in a lengthy explanation or in depth review of the record.” Chamberlan v. Ford Motor Co., 402 F.3d 952, 961 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Falcon, 457 U.S. at 161). The Court is neither permitted nor required to conduct a “preliminary inquiry into the merits” of the plaintiff's claims. Blackie v. Barrack, 524 F.2d 891, 901 (9th Cir. 1975) (citing Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 177 (1974)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 advisory committee's note (2003) (“[A]n evaluation of the probable outcome on the merits is not properly part of the certification decision.”); but see Dukes, 564 U.S. at 351 (suggesting that Rule 23 analysis may be inextricable from some judgments on the merits in a particular case). The Court may assume the truth of a plaintiff's substantive allegations, but may require more than bare allegations to determine whether a plaintiff has satisfied the requirements of Rule 23. See, e.g., Blackie, 524 F.2d at 901, n.17; Clark v. Watchie, 513 F.2d 994, 1000 (9th Cir. 1975) (“If the trial judge has made findings as to the provisions of the Rule and their application to the case, his determination of class status should be considered within his discretion.”).


         Plaintiffs propose that the Court certify the following class:

All current and future prisoners, incarcerated under the jurisdiction of the Washington Department of Corrections, whose access to necessary medical care has been denied, or will be subject to denial, under the Department's policies and ...

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