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Tim Wright v. James Hartely

September 24, 2012



I. Procedural History

Tim Wright ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On June 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed his complaint which is currently before the Court. Doc. 1.

II. Screening Requirement

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious," that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2). "Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

A complaint, or portion thereof, should only be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears beyond doubt that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim or claims that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); see also Synagogue v. United States, 482 F.3d 1058, 1060 (9th Cir. 2007); NL Industries, Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986). In determining whether to dismiss an action, the Court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421-22 (1969); Daniels-Hall v. National Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010).

III. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff is currently a state prisoner at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in Standish, California. The events central to Plaintiff's complaint occurred while he was at prisoner at Avenal State Prison (ASP) in Avenal, California. Doc. 1. In the complaint, Plaintiff names the following individuals as defendants in this action: 1) James Hartely (Warden at ASP); 2) California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR); 3) John Doe #1 (Transport Correctional Officer); 4) John Doe #2 (Transport Correctional Officer); 5) John Doe #3 (X-Ray Technician). Doc. 1 at 1-3. Plaintiff fails to state what relief he seeks.

Plaintiff alleges that at about 6:30 a.m., on May 5, 2011, two transport officers (Defendants Doe #1 and Doe #2) transported Plaintiff from ASP to a medical appointment in Bakersfield, California. Doc. 1 at 4. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Doe #1 tried to secure Plaintiff with the straps the correct way. Doc. 1 at 4. However, Defendant Doe #2 (Correctional Officer Yabar)*fn1 told Defendant Doe #1 that he would secure Plaintiff in the vehicle. Doc. 1 at 4. Defendant Doe #2 (Yabar) placed a strap in front of Plaintiff's wheelchair. Doc. 1 at 4. Plaintiff told Defendant Doe #2 (Yabar) that his wheelchair needed to be "four point" harnessed not just "two point" harnessed. Doc. 1 at 4. Defendant Doe #2 (Yabar) told Plaintiff that he had been doing this job for years and knew how to strap a wheelchair in. Doc. 1 at 5. Plaintiff states that he was very afraid at this point because Plaintiff knew that Defendant Doe #2 (Yabar) was being deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's safety during transport. Doc. 1 at 5.

According to Plaintiff, upon leaving ASP, he was thrown out of his wheelchair twice but was able to stop the fall from putting his arms out. Doc. 1 at 5. Once the vehicle was on the highway, Defendant Doe #2 (Yabar) drove in a manner that dumped Plaintiff out of his wheelchair and was pinned between the wheelchair and the wall of the van. Doc. 1 at 5. Plaintiff yelled for help, however, Defendant Doe #2 (Yabar) continued driving. Doc. 1 at 5. When Defendant Doe #2 (Yabar) finally stopped the vehicle, Plaintiff's neck was bent to his shoulders. Doc. 1 at 5. At the time, Plaintiff had a rod and seven cervical pins and this fall had cause him great pain. Doc. 1 at 5. When the van stopped, three correctional officers came. Doc. 1 at 5. Correctional Officer Person unfastened the wheelchair and slid it away from Plaintiff, leaving Plaintiff lying on his left side with his neck bent. Doc. 1 at 5. The correctional officers sat Plaintiff upright and let him sit for a few minutes, attempted to pick Plaintiff up but could not and then propped Plaintiff back on the floor. Doc. 1 at 5. The correctional officers tried again to pick up Plaintiff and were able to place Plaintiff back in his wheelchair. Doc. 1 at 5. The Correctional Officer Person strapped Plaintiff in the van and told the other officers that he was not strapped in correctly. Doc. 1 at 5. Officer Person showed the other correction officers how to secure a wheelchair by "four points." Doc. 1 at 6.

They arrived at the destination at around 7:45 a.m. and Plaintiff waited in a holding cell to receive medical treatment. Doc. 1 at 6. Then Defendant Doe #3, an x-ray technician, placed Plaintiff in a position that caused more pain and suffering. Doc. 1 at 6. Latter, the x-ray technician said, "why didn't you tell me that you had pins in your neck?" Doc. 1 at 6. Plaintiff was told that he would be seen by a doctor on May 9, 2011, however, at the time of his complaint in June of 2011, he has yet to see a doctor. Doc. 1 at 6.

IV. Legal Standards and Analysis

A. Eighth Amendment Conditions of Confinement

"The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners not only from inhumane methods of punishment but also from inhumane conditions of confinement." Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). "What is necessary to show sufficient harm for purposes of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause depends upon the claim at issue . . . ." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). "[E]xtreme deprivations are required to make out a[n] [Eighth Amendment] conditions-of-confinement claim." Id. at 9 (citation omitted). Where a prisoner alleges injuries stemming from unsafe conditions of confinement, prison officials may be held liable only if they acted with "deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm." Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 1998).

The deliberate indifference standard involves an objective and a subjective prong. First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, "sufficiently serious . . . ." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298, 111 S.Ct. 2321 (1991)). Second, the prison official must "know[] of and disregard[] an excessive risk to inmate health or safety . . . ." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Thus, a prison official may be held liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying humane conditions of confinement only if he knows that inmates face a substantial risk of harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it. Id. at 837-45. Mere negligence on ...

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