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Norman L. Pimentel v. County of Fresno

September 19, 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 THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT (Doc. 39) 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 third amended complaint ("TAC") on June 23, 2011.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the TAC on July 8, 2011. Plaintiff did not file timely opposition to the motion. Plaintiff's counsel appeared a the hearing on August 29, 2011 and orally opposed the motion.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND.

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. Initially, Plaintiff was placed in an isolated, padded cell without furniture commonly known as a "rubber room." After about three days, Plaintiff was 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. Immediately after his fall, jail guards entered his cell and observed Plaintiff on the floor. Plaintiff advised the guards that he had just fallen from the top bunk and was in extreme pain. The officer's placed Plaintiff in a wheelchair and took Plaintiff to a court appearance. After Plaintiff's court appearance, Plaintiff was taken to the jail clinic, prescribed Vicoden, and sent to a cell with no upper bunk.

On April 30, 2008, Plaintiff was taken to the hospital. Surgery was performed on Plaintiff on May 1, 2008. Plaintiff requested medical care, physical therapy, and diet as prescribed by his physicians as necessary, but was denied such care.

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

Plaintiff asserts a section 1983 claim against the County of Fresno and four Doe Defendants. (TAC at 11-13). Specifically, Plaintiff complains that (1) Doe Defendants failed to provide timely medical care to Plaintiff after he fractured his back; and (2) the County of Fresno employs a housing policy at the Fresno County Jail that is deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm posed by upper bunks to certain types of detainees. The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, rather than the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and ...


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