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John Philip Moncrief v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

November 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff is a state prisoner who proceeds through counsel on his amended complaint, filed September 4, 2012, in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Defendants have now moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Doc. No. 11. Plaintiff has filed opposition. See Doc. No. 13. The motion was calendered for a hearing before the undersigned on November 1, 2012.

Having reviewed the record, the court determined that oral argument would not be of material assistance in determining the pending motion. Therefore, the court vacated the hearing, and will now determine the motion on the record, including the briefing in support of the motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff's opposition. See E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g).

Summary of the Amended Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that he is a disabled prisoner currently housed at the California Medical Facility ("CMF") in Vacaville, California. See Doc. No. 9 at ¶ 1. He alleges that he is a Chronic Medical Patient with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as other medical issues. Id. at ¶ 16. As of November 2010, plaintiff, who had received medical chronos restricting his housing and environment, was restricted to being housed on the ground floor, having a bottom bunk, and not being required to ascend or descend stairs. Id.

On or about November 18, 2010, plaintiff was being transferred from Avenal State Prison ("ASP"), and the bus stopped overnight at Correctional Training Facility ("CTF") in Soledad, California. Doc. No. 9 at 17. While at CTF, plaintiff was housed on the third floor. Id. at 18. Plaintiff specifically alleges that

Defendants, one or more agents of CDCR, Grounds and/or DOES 1-50 (collectively, "Defendants") ignored Plaintiff's protests regarding his medical restrictions, failed and refused to check plaintiff's medical classifications and restrictions, and placed him on the 3rd floor with three flights of stairs to climb and no escort or safe path to travel.

Doc. No. 9, ¶ 18. When plaintiff was woken, he was directed downstairs, and between the second and third floors, fell six or seven stairs to the next level and was knocked unconscious. Id. at 19. Plaintiff alleges that he suffered severe spinal and head injuries including: a subdural hematoma, post-concussion syndrome, a 70% compression of T12 and additional injuries of T11 and L1, and a broken back in three places. Id. at 20. During subsequent transport between Stanford Hospital and Solano State Prison ("SSP"), plaintiff became paralyzed. Id. at 22.

After treatment at various hospitals, plaintiff spent between 3 and 5 months at CTF, and some feeling in his limbs returned. See Doc. No 9 at ¶¶ 24-25. A specialist determined that plaintiff needed to be in a wheelchair. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff was transferred to CMF in May 2011. Id. at 26. At CTF and CMF, plaintiff has been housed in general population. Id. at ¶¶ 25-26. Plaintiff alleges that CDCR regulations, as well as local and federal laws, prohibit housing wheelchair-bound prisoners in general housing areas. See id.

Plaintiff now raises claims for relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and state law. As defendants, plaintiff names: the CDCR; Randy Grounds, warden at CTF; Gary Swarthout, warden at SSP; and Does 1-50. Doc. No. 9 at ¶¶ 9-11. Defendants Grounds and Swarthout are sued in their individual capacities. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiff seeks money damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. Id. at p. 10.

In particular, as to defendants Swarthout and Grounds, plaintiff alleges that "Defendants Grounds and Swarthout failed to adequately supervise and train, or were deliberately indifferent to the training and supervision of their subordinates, and that such failure was a proximate cause of Plaintiff's injuries. See Doc. No. 9, ¶¶ 57, 62, 67.

The Motion to Dismiss

Defendants offer the following grounds for dismissal: (1) defendants, as a state agency and state officials acting in their official capacities, are immune from suits for damages under the Eleventh Amendment (see Doc. No. 11-1 at 9); (2) the entire complaint should be dismissed, as the allegations amount to nothing more than a slip-and-fall (see Doc. No. 11-1 at 7); (3) the complaint should be dismissed as to defendants Swarthout and Grounds because it contains no allegation of their personal involvement in the alleged deprivations (id. at 4); (4) the complaint should be dismissed as to defendants Swarthout and Grounds to the extent it alleges that defendants failed to train and supervise their staff, as these are Monell claims that cannot be pursued against state officials (id. at 5-6); (5) Count Three, to the extent plaintiff seeks relief under the Fourteenth Amendment, must be dismissed, as it duplicates his Eighth Amendment claims (id. at 8); and (6) plaintiff's state law claims should be dismissed, as defendants are immune from liability, under state law (id. at 7-8).

Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing: (1) the Eleventh Amendment does not bar a suit against CDCR under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act (see Doc. No. 13 at 5); (2) the allegations against defendants Swarthout and Grounds are sufficiently pled (id. at 3-4); (3) the Eleventh Amendment does not immunize defendants Swarthout and Grounds, who are being sued in their individual capacities (id. at 6); (4) the claims against defendants Swarthout and Grounds are not Monell claims (id. at 6-7); (5) the complaint pleads more than a slip-and-fall, because defendants failed to follow orders regarding plaintiff's disabilities, and failed to accommodate his restrictions (id. at 7); (7) defendants Swarthout and Grounds are not immune from state-law liability (id. at 8-9); and (8) plaintiff is not barred from pursuing Count Three, for liability under the Fourteenth Amendment, because the case law cited ...

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