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Gutierrez v. Los Angeles County Sheriff

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 11, 2015



DOUGLAS F. McCORMICK, Magistrate Judge.



On December 16, 2014, Plaintiff Juan Gutierrez, a state prisoner, filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. 5 ("Complaint"). On January 16, 2015, this Court dismissed the Complaint with leave to amend after concluding that the Complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Dkt. 7. On February 23, 2015, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint. Dkt. 8 ("FAC"). The FAC names former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Sergeant Ponce, and a Doe physician as Defendants. Id. at 1, 3-4.[1] Plaintiff contends that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs during the time he was incarcerated at the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail. Id. at 5, 7, 8. He also alleges claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery. Id. at 9.

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court must screen the FAC before ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to state a claim on which relief might be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.



In October 2012, while housed at the Men's Central Jail, Plaintiff slipped and shattered his right kneecap when attempting to climb down from a top bunk. FAC at 8. X-rays were taken on October 30, 2012. Id. A second set of x-rays were taken on January 16, 2013, while Plaintiff was housed at Wayside Honor Ranch. Id.

Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was sent back to the Men's Central Jail. Id. On January 21, 2013, Plaintiff attempted to tell Sgt. Ponce about his knee pain but Sgt. Ponce ignored him and said, "Keep walking!" Id.

On January 26, 2013, Plaintiff was seen by a Doe physician who probed Plaintiff's knee with an "unsanitized, unsterile needle 25 times." Id. A nurse then used a cloth and wiped the blood, which was "spurting" from his knee, all over his leg. Id. Plaintiff alleges that this procedure was "unnecessary, " "cruel, " and "consisted of battery." Id.

In February 2013, Plaintiff was transferred to Chuckawalla State Prison. Id. Plaintiff asked to see a physician regarding his knee. Id. After being seen by a physician, Plaintiff was referred for knee surgery. Id. On December 26, 2013, Plaintiff had a knee surgery performed. Id.



The Court's screening of the FAC under the foregoing statutes is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of material fact must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Love v. United States , 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Further, since Plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the complaint liberally and must afford Plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't , 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). However, "the liberal pleading standard... applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitze v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin. , 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents , 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)). Moreover, with respect to Plaintiff's pleading burden, the Supreme Court has held that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.... Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted, alteration in ...

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