United States District Court, N.D. California
January 26, 2004.
MARK ADAM COTTONHAM, Plaintiff(s),
SAN FRANCISCO SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendant(s)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: VAUGHN WALKER, District Judge
ORDER OF DISMISSAL
Plaintiff, a prisoner at the San Francisco County Jail, has filed a
pro se civil rights complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging that, while being escorted to his cell, he "slip[ped] on the wet
floor and landed on [his] back and head." Plaintiff also alleges that it
took the Sheriffs Department "5 hours" to get "San Francisco General
Hospital" to "come see [him]."
Plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
A. Standard of Review
Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which
prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee
of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the
complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b). Pro se
pleadings 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) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws
of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was
committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
B. Legal Claims
It is well-established that neither negligence nor gross negligence is
actionable under § 1983 in the prison context. See Farmer v
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835-36 & n4 (1994); Wood v
Housewright, 900 F.2d 1332, 1334 (9th Cir 1990) (gross negligence
insufficient to state claim for denial of medical needs to prisoner). The
applicable standard is one of deliberate indifference to inmate health or
safety under the Eighth Amendment, see Farmer, 511 US at 834;
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 302 (1991), or, in the case of
allegations of excessive force, the prisoner must show that officials
applied force "maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of
causing harm," Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992). Even
pretrial detainees, who are protected by the Due Process Clause and not
the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, must show deliberate
indifference or reckless indifference, i.e., conduct so reckless or
wanton as to be tantamount to a desire to inflict harm and that therefore
is equivalent to a deliberate choice. See Redman v. County of San
Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1443 (9th Cir 1991) (en banc). Negligence is
not actionable under § 1983 even outside of the prison context. See
County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 849 (1998).
Plaintiff's allegations regarding his "slip and fall" are DISMISSED
because they amount to no more than negligence not actionable under §
1983. So are his allegations of minor delay in seeing "San Francisco
General Hospital" officials. At most, they amount to negligence or
medical malpractice not cognizable under § 1983. See, e.g.,
Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1130 (9th Cir
1998) (finding no merit in claims stemming from alleged delays in
administering pain medication, treating broken nose and providing
replacement crutch, because claims did not amount to more than
negligence); O'Loughlin v. Doe, 920 F.2d 614, 617 (9th Cir.
1990) (finding that isolated occurrences of neglect may constitute
grounds for medical malpractice but do not rise to level of unnecessary
and wanton infliction of pain).
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiffs request to proceed in forma
pauperis (doc # 2) is DENIED and the complaint is DISMISSED.
The Clerk shall close the file and terminate all pending motions as
moot. No fee is due.
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