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Moncrief v. California Department of Corrections

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 29, 2013



ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, a state prisoner, proceeds through counsel with an amended civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Following resolution of defendants' earlier filed motion to dismiss, plaintiff proceeds on counts one, two, seven, eight and nine of the first amended complaint filed September 4, 2012. Defendants' amended motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) came before the court for hearing on August 28, 2013. Lyndon Y. Chee appeared for plaintiff. Kelli Hammond appeared for defendants.

I. Allegations in the First Amended Complaint

Plaintiff is a disabled prisoner currently housed at the California Medical Facility ("CMF") in Vacaville, California. See ECF No. 9 at ¶ 1. He is a Chronic Medical Patient with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other medical issues. Id. at ¶ 16. As of November 2010, plaintiff had medical chronos restricting his housing placement to the ground floor 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. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, one or more agents of CDCR, Grounds and/or DOES 1-50 (collectively, "Defendants") ignored his protests regarding his medical restrictions, failed and refused to check his medical classifications and restrictions, and placed him in a cell on the third floor at CTF. Id. at ¶ 18. The next morning, with no escort or safe path to travel, he fell down the stairs and was knocked unconscious. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff 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 a subsequent trip between Stanford Hospital and Solano State Prison ("SSP"), plaintiff was improperly transported by SSP agents and became paralyzed. Id. at ¶ 22. After treatment at various hospitals, plaintiff spent between three and five months at CTF, and some feeling in his limbs returned. Id. at ¶¶ 24-25. A specialist determined that he 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.

II. Rule 12(b)(6)

Defendants move to dismiss the remaining portion of the first amended complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See ECF No. 25. Plaintiff opposes the motion. ECF Nos. 27, 28.

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n , 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). "Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 91 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff is required to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding , 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Love v. United States , 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt , 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle him to relief. See Hishon , 467 U.S. at 73 (citing Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); see also Palmer v. Roosevelt Lake Log Owners Ass'n , 651 F.2d 1289, 1294 (9th Cir. 1981).

III. Defendants' Motion

Defendants assert: (1) plaintiff's request for injunctive relief for violations of the ADA and RA in counts one and two may only be brought under the existing Armstrong class action; (2) plaintiff has failed to state facts sufficient to maintain causes of action for monetary damages against any defendant in any count; and (3) plaintiff failed to comply with the Tort Claims Act with regard to his claim for negligent supervision. See ECF No. 25. Plaintiff opposes the motion. See ECF Nos. 27, 28.

Injunctive Relief under the ADA and RA

In counts one and two, plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief from the California Department of Corrections ("CDCR") under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA"), and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. ("RA"), respectively. "Title II of the ADA and § 504 of the [RA] both prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability." Lovell v. Chandler , 303 F.3d 1039, 1052 (9th Cir. 2002). Title II of the ADA and the RA apply to inmates within state prisons. See Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections v. Yeskey , 524 U.S. 206, 210 (1998); see also Armstrong v. Wilson , 124 F.3d at 1023.

A district court may dismiss an individual suit for injunctive and equitable relief from an alleged unconstitutional prison condition where there is a pending class action suit involving the same subject matter. Crawford v. Bell , 599 F.2d 890, 892-93 (9th Cir. 1979); see also McNeil v. Guthrie , 945 F.2d 1163, 1165 (10th Cir. 1991) ("Individual suits for injunctive and equitable relief from alleged unconstitutional prison conditions cannot be brought when there is an existing class action. To permit them would allow interference with the ongoing class action. Claims for equitable relief must be made through the class representative until the class action is over or the consent decree is modified.").

Plaintiff's requests for declaratory and injunctive relief under the ADA and RA may be brought only as part of the existing class action Armstrong v. Davis, et al., No. 3:94-cv-2307 CW (N.D. Cal.). The Armstrong class action was filed in 1994 by "[a] certified class of all present and future California state prison inmates and parolees with disabilities [who] sued California state officials in their official capacities, seeking injunctive relief for violations of the RA and the ADA in state prisons." See Armstrong v. Wilson , 124 F.3d 1019, 1021 (9th Cir. 1997); see also Armstrong v. Davis, et al., No. 3:94-cv-2307 CW (N.D. Cal.)). In Armstrong, No. 94-cv-2307, the Northern District of California found that defendants had violated the ADA and RA, and entered a remedial order and injunction under which CDCR (formerly CDC) must evaluate its programs and develop remedial plans to remedy violations of the ADA and RA while plaintiffs monitor defendants' compliance. ...

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