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Cook v. County of Contra Costa

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 21, 2016

DAVID COOK, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF CONTRA COSTA, et al., Defendants.


          THELTON E. HENDERSON United States District Judge

         This matter came before the Court on June 6, 2016, for a hearing on Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Third Amended Complaint. Having carefully considered the parties’ written and oral arguments, the Court hereby GRANTS Defendant’s motion for the reasons set forth below.


         The parties are by now familiar with the underlying facts of this case. Having ruled on two previous motions to dismiss, the Court is now presented with Plaintiff David Cook’s Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”). Docket No. 28. The TAC alleges six claims for relief; the first four claims are against Defendant County of Contra Costa (“the County”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), and the final two claims are against individual County employees who have not yet been served.

         In direct response to the Court’s previous orders, Plaintiff has added new allegations to the TAC, including: outlining Plaintiff’s counsel’s attempts to obtain policies, procedures and other records in “pre-suit investigation” (TAC ¶¶ 31-38); identifying an inmate grievance policy from another case and asserting that all County jails use the same policies (id. ¶¶ 40-43); stating Plaintiff’s recollection of the process he was instructed to follow in order to request medical care at the jail (id. ¶ 44); descriptions of various other incidents where Plaintiff was denied immediate medical treatment or attention (id. ¶¶ 48-52); and a statement that between September and November 2014, Plaintiff “filed 11 grievances that were ignored or never acted on” (id. ¶ 53).

         The County moved to dismiss the TAC on April 21, 2016. Mot. (Docket No. 33). Plaintiff timely opposed, and the County timely replied. Opp’n (Docket No. 34); Reply (Docket No. 35). Because the individual defendants have not yet been served, the motion to dismiss - as well as this Order - pertains only to the County.


         Rule 12(b)(6) requires dismissal when a plaintiff’s allegations fail “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Plausibility does not equate to probability, but it requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). “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 ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must “accept all material allegations of fact as true and construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Vasquez v. Los Angeles Cty., 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). Courts are not, however, “bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The non-moving party must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         A court may deny leave to amend “if amendment of the complaint would be futile.” Albrecht v. Lund, 845 F.2d 193, 195 (9th Cir. 1988). However, dismissal should be with leave to amend unless it is clear that amendment could not possibly cure the complaint’s deficiencies. Steckman v. Hart Brewing, Inc., 143 F.3d 1293, 1296 (9th Cir. 1998).


         I. Plaintiff’s First, Second, Third, and Fourth Claims are Dismissed.

         To state a claim under Section 1983, the complaint must show: “(1) that a person acting under color of state law committed the conduct at issue, and (2) that the conduct deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 632-33 (9th Cir. 1988). All four of Plaintiff’s Section 1983 claims allege violations of the Eighth Amendment. “Under the Eighth Amendment’s standard of deliberate indifference, a person is liable for denying a prisoner needed medical care only if the person ‘knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety.’ ” Gibson v. Cty. of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). Thus, the standard requires actual or constructive knowledge consistent with the criminal law standard of recklessness - it is not enough to say that a person should have been aware of the risk. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 836-37; Jeffers v. Gomez, 267 F.3d 895, 914 (9th Cir. 2001).

         For municipal liability under a deliberate indifference theory, a plaintiff must show that the municipality’s deliberate indifference led to its omission and that the omission caused the employee to commit the constitutional violation. City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris,489 U.S. 378, 387 (1989). Thus, the plaintiff must show that the municipality was on notice that its omission would likely result in a constitutional violation. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 841. Notably, “much more difficult problems of proof” are presented in a case where a city employee acting under a ...

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