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Avalos v. Carpenter

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 23, 2016

ANGEL AVALOS, Plaintiff,
CARPENTER, et al., Defendants.




         This action is proceeding on Plaintiff’s claims that Defendants Officer Carpenter, Captain S. Smith, and Sergeant N. Tyler were deliberately indifferent to a known serious risk of harm to Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (See Doc. 9.)

         On November 3, 2015, Capt. Smith and Sgt. Tyler filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), asserting that Plaintiff’s allegations fail to state a claim against them upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 12, MTD.) For the reasons discussed herein, the Court recommends the motion be GRANTED.


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a claim. Dismissal is proper if there is a lack of a cognizable legal theory, or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1762 (2012). In resolving a 12(b)(6) motion, a court’s review is generally limited to the operative pleading. Daniels-Hall v. National Educ. Ass’n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010); Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007); Huynh v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 465 F.3d 992, 1003-04 (9th Cir. 2006); Schneider v. California Dept. of Corr., 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n.1 (9th Cir. 1998).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)); Conservation Force, 646 F.3d at 1242; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The Court must accept well-pled factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Daniels-Hall, 629 F.3d at 998; Sanders, 504 F.3d at 910; Huynh, 465 F.3d at 996-97; Morales v. City of Los Angeles, 214 F.3d 1151, 1153 (9th Cir. 2000). Pleadings of prisoners proceeding pro se are liberally construed and any doubt is resolved in the inmate’s favor. Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012); Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); Silva v. Di Vittorio, 658 F.3d 1090, 1101 (9th Cir. 2011); Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Further, "[i]f there are two alternative explanations, one advanced by defendant and the other advanced by plaintiff, both of which are plausible, plaintiff's complaint survives a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216-17. "Plaintiff’s complaint may be dismissed only when defendant's plausible alternative explanation is so convincing that plaintiff's explanation is implausible. The standard at this stage of the litigation is not that plaintiff’s explanation must be true or even probable. The factual allegations of the complaint need only 'plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'" Id. (emphasis in original). "Rule 8(a) 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' to support the allegations." Id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (emphasis added in Starr).


         A. Defendants’ Motion

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to state a cognizable claim of supervisory liability under section 1983 against them as his allegations fail to show either they personally/directly participated in a constitutional violation, (Doc. 12, MTD, 2:1-3, 3:17-6:28), or an affirmative causal link between their conduct and violation of his constitutional rights, (id., at 7:1-20).

         B. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 30, 2014, C/O Carpenter was working as D-5 control officer and opened Plaintiff’s cell door “for medical.” (Doc. 1, p. 3.) Prior to that day there was a stabbing which caused implementation of a lockdown memorandum/matrix requiring all inmate movement to be escorted and in restraints. (Id.) Capt. Smith and Sgt. Tyler knew of the lockdown requirements and the reasons behind it, but failed to enforce it. (Id.) This resulted in C/O Carpenter, who also had full knowledge of the lockdown and the reason behind it, to disregard it by opening various inmates’ cell doors that day, allowing them unrestrained and unescorted movement, which resulted in Plaintiff being attacked. (Id.) The exhibits attached to the Complaint show that this altercation involved not only Plaintiff and another inmate, but four inmates total (id., pp. 4, 18, 21-23, 29, 30, 32-40, 43, 47) and that various of the incident reports regarding the altercation specifically noted that the inmates involved were seen walking around the bottom tier area unrestrained (id., at pp. 32, 40, 43).

         C. ...

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