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Norman L. Pimentel v. County of Fresno

February 1, 2011

NORMAN L. PIMENTEL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF FRESNO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION REGARDING (Doc. 11) DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION.

Plaintiff Norman L. Pimentel ("Plaintiff") brings this action for damages against the County of Fresno and Jose Flores ("Defendants"). Plaintiff initiated this action in the California Superior Court, County of Fresno, on March 20, 2009. (See Doc. 8 at 20). Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint (FAC) on August 30, 2010. (Id. at 25).

Defendants removed Plaintiff's action to federal court on September 21, 2010. (Doc. 2). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the FAC on September 27, 2010. (Doc. 11).

Plaintiff filed opposition to Defendants' motion on January 10, 2011. (Doc. 17). Defendants filed a reply on January 14, 2011. (Doc. 18).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND.

A. Allegations Contained in the Original Complaint

According to Plaintiff's original complaint, Plaintiff was an inmate at the Fresno County Jail on or about April 25, 2008. At the time Plaintiff was admitted into the Fresno County Jail, Defendants knew or should have known that Plaintiff was suffering from psychiatric and seizure disorders and was prescribed medication for such disorders. Because of his condition, Plaintiff needed to be housed in a part of the jail designated for inmates with medical needs. Defendants negligently and carelessly assigned Plaintiff to a cell in the general population and to a top bunk bed that did not have any ladder or other means to assist Plaintiff in climbing onto or off of the top bunk.

On or about April 25, 2008, as Plaintiff was trying to descend from the top bunk, Plaintiff fell to the concrete floor and suffered injuries to his spine, back, and other parts of his body. (Original Complaint at 2, Doc. 8 at 21).

B. Allegations Contained in the FAC

From March 18, 2008 through August 25, 2008, Plaintiff was a 67 year old inmate and pre-trial detainee in the Fresno County Jail. As Plaintiff had previously been an inmate, the County of Fresno knew Plaintiff was suffering from pyschiatric and seizure disorders. The County of Fresno assigned Plaintiff to a cell with bunk beds that did not have any ladder or other device to assist Plaintiff in climbing onto or off of the top bunk.

On or about April 25, 2008, Plaintiff was trying to descend from the top bunk when he fell to the concrete floor where his L2 vertebrae was fractured; he was rendered momentarily unconscious.

(FAC at 2; Doc. 3 at 26).

In addition to asserting negligence claims against Defendants based on the alleged failure to properly assign Plaintiff to a safe cell, the FAC also alleges that Defendants failed to "ensure provision" of "emergency and basic health care services" from May 2008 through his release on August 25, 2008. (FAC at 6; Doc. 3 at 30). The FAC advances a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on Defendant's purported failure to "provide adequate medical care after Plaintiff fractured his back." (FAC at 8l Doc. 3 at 32). The FAC also asserts that the County of Fresno failed "to provide training and supervision regarding proper appropriate practices and procedures to provide adequate medical attention...to pre-trial detainees confined in its jail." (Id.).

III. LEGAL STANDARD.

Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate where the complaint lacks sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.1990). To sufficiently state a claim to relief and survive a 12(b) (6) motion, the pleading "does not need detailed factual allegations" but the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Mere "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. Rather, there must be "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. In other words, the "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The Ninth Circuit has summarized the governing standard, in light of Twombly and Iqbal, as follows: "In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the nonconclusory factual content, and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir.2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Apart from factual insufficiency, a complaint is also subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) where it lacks a cognizable legal theory, Balistreri, 901 F.2d at 699, or where the allegations on their face "show that relief is barred" for some legal reason, Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007).

In deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all "well-pleaded factual allegations" in the pleading under attack. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. A court is not, however, "required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir.2001). "When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, if a district court considers evidence outside the pleadings, it must normally convert the 12(b)(6) motion into a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, and it must give the nonmoving party an opportunity to respond." United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907 (9th Cir.2003). "A court may, however, consider certain materials-documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice-without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment." Id. at 908.

IV. DISCUSSION.

A. Section 1983 Claim

1. Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations period for actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is determined by the state's law for personal injury claims. E.g. Azer v. Connell, 306 F.3d 930, 935 (9th Cir. 2002). The two-year statute of limitations set forth in California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1 provides the applicable statute of limitations for most section 1983 actions arising in California. E.g. Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 927 (9th Cir. 2004)("a § 1983 action filed in California...[is] governed by California's [] two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions").*fn1

Plaintiff contends he is entitled to tolling pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 352.1. Section 352.1 tolls the statute of limitations for up to two years for persons who are imprisoned at the time their cause of action accrues. Section 352.1 provides, in pertinent part:

(a)If a person entitled to bring an action . . . is, at the time the cause of action accrued, imprisoned on a criminal charge, or in execution under the sentence of a criminal court for a term less than for life, the time of that disability is not a part of the time ...


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