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Caruso v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 16, 2017

GINA CARUSO, Plaintiff,
v.
D. K. JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.

         ORDER FINDING COGNIZABLE CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANTS INGRAM, MARTINEZ, LOPEZ AND SOLARIO FOR EXCESSIVE FORCE IN VIOLATION OF THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT AND AN UNREASONABLE SEARCH IN VIOLATION OF THE FOURTH AMENDMENT, AND DISMISSING ALL OTHER CLAIMS AND DEFENDANTS (ECF NO. 22) ORDER FINDING SERVICE OF SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT APPROPRIATE AND FORWARDING SERVICE DOCUMENTS TO PLAINTIFF FOR COMPLETION AND RETURN WITHIN THIRTY DAYS

         Gina Caruso (“Plaintiff”) is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the Complaint commencing this action on May 22, 2015. (ECF No. 1).[1] In the Complaint, Plaintiff claimed that she was subjected to “an illegal body search” and “excessive force.” (Id. at 3). The Court screened Plaintiff's complaint on June 30, 2016, and dismissed the complaint with leave to amend. (ECF No. 13).

         Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on September 12, 2016 (ECF No. 17). The Court found that the First Amended Complaint stated a cognizable claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment against defendants Ingram, Martinez, Lopez and Solario based on hand cuffing Plaintiff in the back, which was allegedly a violation of a medical chrono. (ECF No. 18). The Court also found that the First Amended Complaint failed to state any other cognizable claims. (Id.). The Court gave Plaintiff the choice of proceeding on the claim the Court found cognizable, filing an amended complaint, or informing that Court that she wished to stand on her First Amended Complaint, subject to dismissal of claims and defendants consistent with the screening order. (Id.).

         On April 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 22), which is now before the Court for screening. The Court finds that the Second Amended Complaint states cognizable claims against defendants Ingram, Martinez, Lopez, and Solario for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment and an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Court finds no other cognizable claims against these defendants or against any other defendants.

         I. 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 or malicious, ” that 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). “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that the action or appeal fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         A complaint is required to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id. at 679. While a plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Additionally, a plaintiff's legal conclusions are not accepted as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (holding that pro se complaints should continue to be liberally construed after Iqbal).

         II. SUMMARY OF ALLEGATIONS IN THE COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff's complaint is very similar to her prior complaint, but she does include additional factual allegations. Additionally, instead of asserting a claim for excessive force, Plaintiff now states an Eighth Amendment claim for “Right to Medical Care.”

         Plaintiff once again alleges that that she was subject to an unconstitutional search. Plaintiff alleges that her hands were cuffed behind her back, even though she had a medical chrono stating that, due to a spinal cord injury, she should only be handcuffed in front. Plaintiff alleges that on multiple occasions during the search, Defendants handled Plaintiff in ways that caused Plaintiff extreme pain. Plaintiff alleges that she was strip-searched in view of other prisoners and male correctional officers. Plaintiff alleges that she was forced to do squats, even though she had a medical chrono that stated no squatting. Plaintiff alleges that, after the first time she was strip-searched, she was left standing naked from the waist down. She asked several times for someone to pull her underwear and shorts up. Eventually defendant Ingram instructed defendant Lopez to pull her shorts up, but defendant Lopez did not pull them up all the way. Instead, defendant Lopez told Plaintiff to pull them up, which she knew Plaintiff could not do because Plaintiff's hands were handcuffed behind her back.

         Plaintiff also alleges that, a few days after the search, Plaintiff “received a copy of [her] original medical chrono rescinding every medical limitation/restriction/instruction [she] had for the past 9 years.” Plaintiff alleges that she was not seen by a doctor before her limitations, restrictions, and instructions were rescinded.

         III.ANALYSIS OF PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

         A. Section 1983

         The Civil Rights Act under which this action was filed provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

42 U.S.C. § 1983. “[Section] 1983 ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)); see also Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 618 (1979); Hall v. City of Los Angeles, 697 F.3d 1059, 1068 (9th Cir. 2012); Crowley v. Nevada, 678 F.3d 730, 734 (9th Cir. 2012); Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006).

         To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant acted under color of state law, and (2) the defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long v. County of Los Angeles,442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006);see alsoMarsh v. Cnty. of San Diego, 680 F.3d 1148, 1158 (9th Cir. 2012) (discussing “under color of state law”). A person deprives another of a constitutional right, “within the meaning of § 1983, ‘if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative act, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.'” Preschooler II v. Clark Cnty. Sch. Bd. of Trs., 479 F.3d 1175, 1183 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)). “The requisite causal connection may be established when an official sets in motion a ‘series of acts by others which the actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict' constitutional harms.” Preschooler II, 479 F.3d at 1183 (quoting Johnson, 588 F.2d at ...


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