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Lynette Reid v. Public Safety Center

January 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Seng United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Lynette Reid ("Plaintiff") is a former state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On March 28, 2010, the Court screened Plaintiff's Complaint and found that she had stated a claim for excessive force under the Eighth Amendment against Defendants T. Johnson and Kanuck. (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff submitted the required service documents for these two Defendants and the United States Marshall effectuated service. (ECF Nos. 11 & 16.) Defendant Johnson filed an answer. (ECF No. 12.)

In lieu of an answer, Defendant Kanuck filed a Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 17.) The Motion to Dismiss was also filed on behalf of Stanislaus County, even though the Court had never ordered that service on the County was appropriate and it does not appear that the County has been served. Regardless, the Court will address the Motion to Dismiss as to each Defendant in turn below.


"The focus of any Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal . . . is the complaint," Schneider v. California Dept. of Corr., 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n.1 (9th Cir. 1998), which must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)); Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice," Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), and courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences," Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).


A. Claims Against Defendant Kanuck

Defendant Kanuck moves for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Kanuck argues that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to make any factual allegations against him and, therefore, fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

Plaintiff's Complaint consists of five pages: (1) a three-page Section 1983 complaint form; (2) a one-page form for a claim against Stanislaus County; and (3) a one-page handwritten explanation of events. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint form names Kanuck as a defendant but fails to mention him in the factual allegations. Thus, Kanuck is technically correct that Plaintiff's "Complaint" does not contain any factual allegations against him.

However, the handwritten explanation of events attached to the Complaint states that Kanuck (along with Johnson) "twist[ed Plaintiff's] arm with excessive force until I felt the bone in my arm pop. I started screaming in pain asking them to stop." Plaintiff alleges that the actions of both Johnson and Kanuck caused her arm to break and resulted in a metal plate being inserted in her arm. (ECF No. 1 at 5.)

In ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a Court may consider exhibits attached to the complaint, matters subject to judicial notice, or documents necessarily relied on by the complaint whose authenticity no party questions. See Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 763 (9th Cir. 2007); Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-689 (9th Cir. 2001). Moreover, Pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). A court must construe a pro se plaintiff's "inartful pleading" liberally in determining whether a claim has been stated, including pro se motions as well as complaints. Zichko v. Idaho, 247 F.3d 1015, 1020 (9th Cir. 2001); Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987). This is especially true when a plaintiff appears pro se in a civil rights case. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992).

Thus, the fact that the allegations against Kanuck are contained in an attachment to the Complaint rather than in the actual Complaint itself is irrelevant. Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant Kanuck without provocation twisted Plaintiff's arm with enough force to break the arm. Plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for excessive force in violation of ...

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