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Thomas v. Ravera

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 1, 2017

REAGAN THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
RAVERA et. al., Defendants.

          Thomas Reagan Plaintiff pro se.

          ORDER

          ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         I. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         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).

         A claim “is [legally] frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). “[A] judge may dismiss [in forma pauperis] claims which are based on indisputably meritless legal theories or whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation and internal quotations omitted), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000); Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. The critical inquiry is whether a constitutional claim, however inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Id.

         “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, 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.” Id. (citations omitted). “[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (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 Bell Atl. Corp., 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. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trs., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), as well as construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

         II. First Amended Complaint

         In the first amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that around 2:40 p.m. on December 26, 2014, defendant Rivera unexpectedly opened his cell door. ECF No. 17 at 4. Plaintiff asserts that at the time Rivera opened the door, plaintiff's hands were on the window frame and clearly visible to Rivera from the control tower, which directly faces the cell doors. Id. As Rivera opened the door, plaintiff's left index finger became jammed on a metal strip installed along the door frame, causing the tip of his finger to be severed. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Rivera knowingly disregarded a risk to plaintiff's health and safety by opening the door without notice, which caused injury to his finger in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 5-6.

         Plaintiff further alleges that the metal strip had previously been installed as a security measure when the housing unit was used for administrative segregation. Id. at 3. Although the unit was housing general population inmates at the time of the incident, the metal strips had not been removed. Id. He claims that the metal strips were a hazard to general population inmates because, unlike inmates in administrative segregation, they are not handcuffed and therefore warned every time the door is opened. Id. Plaintiff asserts that defendant Warden Peery failed to provide any warnings about the risk of injury posed by the metal strips, and this failure to warn and protect plaintiff from harm violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 5.

         III. Failure to State a Claim

         a. Defendant Peery

         There can be no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless there is some affirmative link or connection between a defendant's actions and the claimed deprivation. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980). “Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not ...


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