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Dangerfield v. Unknown

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 9, 2017

LONNIE DANGERFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN, Defendant.

          ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH PREJUDICE (DOC. 17) ORDER DIRECTING CLERK'S OFFICE TO CLOSE CASE

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         In this action, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Bradshaw violated his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by neglecting to secure his wheelchair in the transport van, which allowed Plaintiff to be injured when his wheelchair came loose and he was thrown around the back of the van. These allegations are not cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a violation of Plaintiff's federal rights which requires the action to be DISMISSED with prejudice.

         A. Screening Requirement

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii). If an action is dismissed on one of these three basis, a strike is imposed per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). An inmate who has had three or more prior actions or appeals dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and has not alleged imminent danger of serious physical injury does not qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Richey v. Dahne, 807 F.3d 1201, 1208 (9th Cir. 2015).

         B. Summary of Allegations

         Plaintiff, a double amputee, alleges that, on September 16, 2015, Officer Bradshaw neglected his duty to properly secure his wheelchair in the back of the transport van on his return from Mercy Hospital. (Doc. 17, p. 4.) As a result, Plaintiff alleges that his wheelchair came loose and he was thrown around the back of the van and received a head injury. (Id.)

         These allegations may state a claim for negligence under California law.[1] However, despite having been provided the legal standards for a claim under the Eighth Amendment in the prior screening order, (see Doc. 16), Plaintiff's allegations do not suffice to state a cognizable claim for violation of Plaintiff's civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and are DISMISSED with prejudice.

         C. Plaintiff's Claim for Relief

         1. Eighth Amendment - Safety

         Though Plaintiff did not identify which of his civil rights he felt were violated in this incident, the Eighth Amendment appears most applicable. "The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citing Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993)). Prison officials have a duty "to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates, which has been interpreted to include a duty to protect prisoners." Labatad v. Corrections Corp. of America, 714 F.3d 1155, 1160 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832-33; Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1040 (9th Cir. 2005)).

         To establish a violation of this duty, the prisoner must "show that the officials acted with deliberate indifference to threat of serious harm or injury to an inmate." Labatad, at 1160 (citing Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 2002). This involves both objective and subjective components.

         First, objectively, the alleged deprivation must be "sufficiently serious" and where a failure to prevent harm is alleged, "the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm." Id. at 834, quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349, 101 S.Ct. 2392 (1981). Not properly securing a wheelchair bound inmate's wheelchair in a van during transport suffices as a sufficiently serious situation which can pose a substantial risk of serious harm.

         However, Plaintiff's allegations do not meet the second, subjective requirement of showing that Officer Bradshaw knew “of and disregard an excessive risk” to Plaintiff's safety. Id. at 837; Anderson v. County of Kern, 45 F.3d 1310, 1313 (9th Cir. 1995). A prison official must "be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and . . . must also draw the inference." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Liability may follow only if a prison official "knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id. at 847.

         Plaintiff's allegations do not show that Officer Bradshaw was deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm to Plaintiff when he failed to properly secure Plaintiff's wheelchair in the back of the transport van. At most, Plaintiff's allegations of Officer Bradshaw's actions amount to negligence. Indeed, Plaintiff admits that Officer Bradshaw “neglected” his duty to properly secure his wheelchair. (Doc. 17, p. 4.) Mere negligence will not support a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment. See Broughton v. Cutter Laboratories, 622 F.2d 458, 460 (9th Cir.1980) (citing Estelle, 429 U.S. ...


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