Inmate Reynaldo A. Manila has filed a second amended complaint against former Department of Corrections commissioner Robert A. Guerrero and two other DOC officials over the blindness of his left eye.
Manila specified in the amended complaint that he is suing Guerrero, then-DOC commissioner Georgia M. Cabrera, and then-acting DOC commissioner Jose K. Pangelinan in their individual capacities.
Manila amended his complaint after the federal court last month dismissed from his lawsuit the CNMI government, Guerrero, Pangelinan, and Cabrera in their official capacities for lack of jurisdiction.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona said the claim against them must be dismissed because the Commonwealth and any official capacity defendants are immune from suit for damages under Section 1983.
Section 1983 is the statute that creates a remedy for violations of federal rights committed by persons acting under color of state law.
Manglona said because amendment to the lawsuit would be futile, the dismissal is with prejudice, which means Manila can no longer re-file the claims against the CNMI government, Guerrero, Pangelinan, and Cabrera in their official capacities.
Manglona, however, did not dismiss Guerrero, Pangelinan, and Cabrera from the lawsuit to allow Manila to provide more information whether he is suing them in their individual capacities.
Manglona noted that Manila’s first amended complaint clearly describes deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, even if it doesn’t say so in so many words.
The judge said Manila’s claim and relief sought clearly signal that these officials are sought to be held personally liable for their actions.
In the amended complaint he filed without a lawyer, Manila alleges that DOC officers unreasonably delayed in sending him off-island for eye surgery—first for retinal detachment of his left eye, then for cataracts in his right eye.
Manila said Guerrero was the DOC commissioner when he was diagnosed with retinal detachment on his left eye.
He said Guerrero knew that delaying and not providing any treatment was excessive risk to his health and would ultimately result in permanent blindness to his left eye.
Manila said Pangelinan took over as acting DOC commissioner when Guerrero was transferred to the Department of Public Safety.
He said Pangelinan was informed in writing by his then-lawyer Steven Pixley about his serious medical needs, stressing the extreme urgency of his eye condition.
Manila said that, when Cabrera was the DOC commissioner, she refused to approve his eye surgery, which a doctor had recommended.
He said Cabrera told him that cataract surgery is not necessary because his condition was not life-threatening.
Manila underwent eye surgery in Guam on Jan. 9, 2018.