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Fuimaono v. Fairfield Police Dep't

June 17, 2010



Plaintiff Anthony Fuimaono, a former pretrial detainee in Solano County's Fairfield Jail, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 concerning the alleged use of excessive force by police in arresting him and subsequent allegedly inadequate medical treatment while detained. In addition to filing a complaint, plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

I. Request to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

Plaintiff has requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Dckt. No. 3. Plaintiff's application makes the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Accordingly, plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

II. Screening Order

At the time of the filing of the complaint, plaintiff was detained at the Fairfield Jail. Accordingly, plaintiff was, at that time, a "prisoner" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and this court must accordingly review his complaint under that section. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) (providing that a court must review "a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity."); id. at § 1915A(c) (providing that a "prisoner" is "any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.") On review under § 1915A, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).

A district court must construe a pro se pleading "liberally" to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give plaintiff an opportunity to cure them. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000). While detailed factual allegations are not required, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiff has pled seven enumerated causes of action: (1) "deliberate indifference" in connection with the use of allegedly excessive force to arrest him, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) "excessive force""in violation of state law"; (3) assault and battery under California law; (4) "violation of due process" and "equal protection" in connection with plaintiff's arrest and medical treatment; (5) "failure to adequately train" on the parts of defendants City of Fairfield and Fairfield Police Chief Rainey; (6) "deliberate indifference" in connection with the allegedly inadequate medical care provided to plaintiff while housed in the jail, in violation of the "Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments"; and (7) intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff has named as defendants Fairfield Police Officer Trojanowski, Fairfield Police Chief Rainey, the City of Fairfield, and Dr. Chris. Plaintiff further states that he "is unaware of all the defendants who violated his rights and or the proper or correct names thereto and will amend his complaint once the names, defendants and capacities have been ascertained."

The court finds that, for the limited purposes of § 1915A screening, the complaint states cognizable claims for relief: (1) against defendants Trojanowski, City of Fairfield, and Rainey for violating his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution in connection with the allegedly excessive force used against him in his arrest and the policies and/or failure to train that caused such excessive force to be used; (2) against currently unknown defendants for violating his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments for allegedly failing to provide him with adequate medical treatment; (3) against defendant Trojanowski for assault and battery in violation of California law; and (4) against defendants Trojanowski, City of Fairfield, Rainey, and currently unknown persons for intentional infliction of emotional distress under California law.

The complaint fails to state a cognizable claim for relief against any defendant for violating the Fourteenth Amendment in connection with plaintiff's arrest. The Fourth Amendment is the exclusive source of constitutional protection against excessive force in the course of arrests, investigatory stops, and other seizures; thus, such action cannot support a due process claim. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989). Thus, plaintiff's claim of unconstitutional excessive force will be construed as a claim under the Fourth Amendment. To the extent plaintiff has pled a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause, the court concludes that plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim. Plaintiff's complaint contains no allegations of discrimination.

The complaint also fails to state a cognizable claim for relief against any defendant for violating plaintiff's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (through deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs) under the Eighth Amendment. As plaintiff's allegations concern his pretrial detention (rather than any post-conviction incarceration), his allegations of inadequate medical treatment must be analyzed under the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, rather than the Eighth Amendment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 n.16 (1979). Plaintiff additionally grounds his inadequate medical care claim in the Ninth Amendment. The court can conceive of no Ninth Amendment violation encompassed by plaintiff's allegations. See U.S. CONST., Amend. 9 ("The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.") Accordingly, plaintiff's claim of constitutionally inadequate medical care will be construed as a claim under the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and his Ninth Amendment claim will be dismissed.

Plaintiff's claim of constitutionally inadequate medical care is deficient as to defendant Chris, however. Plaintiff alleges only generally that Dr. Chris failed to properly medically treat plaintiff and, incomprehensibly, that Plaintiff after continuous interference with plaintiff's medically prescribed medication Fexoral that repeatedly was stopped and interfered with by jail medical personnel that resulted in the direct untreatment and exacerbated pain and medical informalities in trying to maintain consistent medical treatment by Solano Jail medical staff, Dr. Chris.

The court cannot divine from these allegations what plaintiff alleges Dr. Chris did or failed to do that constituted a failure to treat his medical conditions. Accordingly, plaintiff's claims against Dr. Chris will be dismissed, and the court will grant plaintiff leave to amend the complaint to attempt again to state a cause of action against Dr. Chris. No other defendant is identified in the complaint as having interfered with plaintiff's medical treatment or otherwise causing him to suffer constitutionally inadequate medical care. The court recognizes that other jail staff, whose identities are currently unknown to plaintiff, may have interfered with plaintiff's medical treatment. As plaintiff has stated facts supporting a claim under ...

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