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Goldsmith v. Cate

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 27, 2014



WILLIAM B. SHUBB, District Judge.

Plaintiff James K. Goldsmith, a former state prisoner proceeding pro se, brought this action against defendants Matthew Cate and Correctional Officer Smith arising out of injuries plaintiff allegedly suffered while incarcerated. This action was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.

On February 24, 2014, defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Docket No. 18.) Plaintiff did not file a timely opposition to that motion. On May 6, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued Findings and Recommendations in which he recommended that plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed. (Docket No. 21.) The court now reviews those Findings and Recommendations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and Local Rule 304.

I. Allegations of the Complaint

On July 27, 2009, Correctional Officer Smith transported plaintiff from California State Prison-Sacramento ("CSP-Sacramento") to California Medical Facility-Vacaville for a liver biopsy. (Compl. ¶ 5.) At that time, plaintiff was classified as a disabled inmate and required the use of a cane for mobility. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff alleges that his lack of mobility was compounded by the sedative side effects of two psychiatric medications he took that day. ( Id. ¶ 7.)

After the completion of the biopsy, plaintiff informed Officer Smith that he felt weak as a result of the procedure and the side effects of his medication. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Officer Smith acknowledged plaintiff's complaints, but nonetheless placed mechanical wrist and ankle restraints upon plaintiff in preparation for the trip back to CSP-Sacramento. (Id.) As plaintiff walked through the facility, Officer Smith provided a "visual escort" and maintained a distance of three to five feet from him. ( Id. ¶ 13.)

When plaintiff reached the top of a staircase, Officer Smith directed him to walk down the flight of stairs. ( Id. ¶ 14.) After descending the first two steps, plaintiff lost his balance and began to fall down the stairs. (Id.) Officer Smith attempted to break plaintiff's fall, but was unsuccessful. (Id.) Plaintiff continued to fall until he reached the bottom of the staircase. (Id.)

On August 5, 2009, plaintiff filed a grievance against Officer Smith in which he alleged that he was injured as a result of Officer Smith's negligence. ( Id. Ex. A.) Plaintiff's grievance was denied, as was each appeal of that denial. (Id.) Plaintiff's last appeal was denied by Cate, the Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, on June 15, 2010. (Id.)

After he was released from prison, plaintiff brought this action against Cate and Officer Smith on April 18, 2013, alleging violations of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. ( Id. at 10.)

II. Discussion

On a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes , 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer , 468 U.S. 183 (1984); Cruz v. Beto , 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This "plausibility standard, " however, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, " and where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with a defendant's liability, " it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 557). While "[p]risoner pro se pleadings are given the benefit of liberal construction, " a pro se prisoner "is not entitled to the benefit of every conceivable doubt; the court is obligated to draw only reasonable factual inferences in [his] favor." Porter v. Ollison , 620 F.3d 952, 958 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).

In relevant part, § 1983 provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State..., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress....

42 U.S.C. § 1983. While § 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, it provides a cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, deprives an individual of federal constitutional rights or limited federal statutory ...

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