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Moncrief v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 30, 2015

JOHN PHILIP MONCRIEF, Plaintiff,
v.
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

ALLISON CLAIRE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding through counsel, with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss defendant California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") and Count V of the third amended complaint. ECF. No. 62.

Plaintiff has conceded that there is no legitimate basis for opposing the motion to dismiss defendant CDCR (ECF No. 67 at 2, ¶ 6), and the motion to dismiss with respect to the claims against CDCR was deemed unopposed (ECF No. 68 at 2). Defendant CDCR will therefore be dismissed from this case. This leaves defendants' motion to dismiss Count V of the third amended complaint, plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court has determined that a hearing on the motion is not necessary and the motion will be decided on the papers.

I. Plaintiff's Allegations

In relevant part, plaintiff claims that defendants Grounds, Gorham, and Frias engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct that was intended to cause plaintiff severe emotional distress. ECF No. 55 at 12-13, ¶ 68. Specifically he alleges that he was housed at the Correctional Training Facility ("CTF"), where the defendants were employed, during a layover stop during his transfer to a new prison. Id. at 5, ¶ 29. At the time he was transferred, he had housing restrictions that "included being housed on the ground floor, having a bottom bunk, and not being required to ascend or descend stairs." Id., ¶ 28. Defendant Gorham was responsible for making housing assignments for layover inmates like plaintiff and, despite having plaintiff's file, which documented his housing restrictions, and being advised of the restrictions by plaintiff, housed plaintiff on the third floor. Id. at 6, ¶¶ 34-35.

At approximately 2:00 a.m. plaintiff was woken by defendant Frias, who ordered plaintiff to go downstairs. Id. at 7, ¶ 37. Plaintiff alleges that Frias "disregarded the fact that Plaintiff was under the influence of morphine and anti-anxiety medications which impaired his ability to walk and increased his risk of falling, and knew or should have known that Plaintiff had housing restrictions that required he not be required to ascend or descend stairs." Id. Frias failed to assist plaintiff down the stairs and plaintiff fell while attempting to descend, resulting in serious physical injuries. Id., ¶ 37, 39.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant Grounds failed to adequately train defendants Gorham and Frias, proximately causing his injuries. Id. at 6-7, ¶¶ 36, 38. He further alleges that "Grounds engaged in conduct intended to humiliate, embarrass, and instill fear in Plaintiff" and that his conduct "subjected Plaintiff to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of his rights, and was offensive, oppressive, fraudulent and despicable." Id. at 13, ¶¶ 68, 71.

II. Motion to Dismiss

A. Legal Standard for Motion to Dismiss Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id. (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Tr., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and resolve all doubts in the pleader's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, reh'g denied, 396 U.S. 869 (1969). The court will "presume that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim.'" Nat'l Org. for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler, 510 U.S. 249, 256 (1994) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)). The court need not accept legal conclusions "cast in the form of factual allegations." W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

B. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The elements of a prima facie claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress are as follows: "(1) extreme and outrageous conduct by the defendant with the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing, emotional distress; (2) the plaintiff's suffering severe or extreme emotional distress; and (3) actual and proximate causation of the emotional distress by the defendant's outrageous conduct." Davidson v. City of Westminster, 649 P.2d 894, 901 (Cal. 1982) (citations omitted). For conduct to be outrageous, it "must be so extreme as to exceed all bounds of that usually tolerated in a civilized community." Id.

It is for the court to determine, in the first instance, whether the defendant's conduct may reasonably be regarded as so extreme and outrageous as to permit recovery, or whether it is necessarily so. Where reasonable men may differ, it is for the jury, subject to the control of the court, to determine whether, in the particular ...

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