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Martinez v. Three Unknown Guards of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 9, 2017




         Plaintiff Antonio Martinez (“Plaintiff”) is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF No. 11)

         Plaintiff's complaint, filed on September 30, 2016, as amended on November 17, 2016, is currently before the court for screening.[1]

         I. Screening Requirement and Standard

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity and/or against an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Plaintiff's complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks 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)(ii).

         A complaint must 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). 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).

         Prisoners proceeding pro se in civil rights actions are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any doubt resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). To survive screening, Plaintiff's claims must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Pleasant Valley State Prison (“PVSP”) in Coalinga, California. The events in the complaint are alleged to have occurred at PVSP. Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1-3) three transportation guards of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) and (4) CDCR. Plaintiff alleges as follows:

         On May 16, 2016 Plaintiff arrived by bus at PVSP. The bus was parked in front of the Receiving and Release building. While Plaintiff and another inmate were being led off the bus, the bus moved forward, causing Plaintiff, the other inmate, and an unknown guard to be thrown off their feet. The Plaintiff was wearing handcuffs, belly chains, and feet shackles at the time. Plaintiff sustained multiple injuries, including a re-injury to his recently operated-on right Achilles tendon. His injuries were documented within ten minutes of the accident. These transportation guards failed to communicate and did not follow procedures while Plaintiff was being escorted down the aisle of the bus. The guards failed to provide a reasonable amount of safety.

         Plaintiff was injured while being escorted off of the bus. Because of his recent surgery, and the abrupt fall while being incapacitated with handcuffs, belly chains and ankle shackles, Plaintiff immediately recognized the extreme pain and re-injury to his Achilles tendon. Although Plaintiff suffered several cuts and abrasions, his primary concern was the re-injury. Plaintiff stated this to the guards while they were arguing over miscommunication. Plaintiff asked to be attended to by medical staff immediately. Plaintiff's pleas were ignored. After sustaining a severe re-injury and multiple other injuries, these two unknown guards lifted Plaintiff up and moved him against his will. The guards without any medical training allegedly violated Plaintiff's right to medical care by lifting him up and moving him.[2]

         Upon arrival inside Receiving and Release, Plaintiff was sent to an examination room. As his attending nurse was documenting his outward injuries, and was inquiring about his fall on the bus and recent surgery, “unknown guard ‘c' intimidated the nurse to quit asking questions and process [Plaintiff] immediately[, ] thereby denying [Plaintiff's] right to reasonable medical care.”

         Plaintiff requests $250, 000 in compensation. Plaintiff also wants the three unknown guards to never be able to “treat another prisoner this way.” Plaintiff wants CDCR to increase training on transportation and on the movement of injured prisoners.

         III. Deficiencies of Claims

         A. Failure to Protect

         Plaintiff alleges that he was injured when he fell on a prisoner transportation bus began moving while he was being escorted down the bus's aisle.

         The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from inhumane methods of punishment and from inhumane conditions of confinement. Morgan v. Morgensen, 465 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2006). Although prison conditions may be restrictive and harsh, prison officials must provide prisoners with food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994) (quotations omitted). Thus, prison officials have a duty under the Eighth Amendment to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from physical harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994); Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1040 (9th Cir. 2005).

         To establish a violation of this duty, the prisoner must establish that prison officials were “deliberately indifferent to a serious threat to the inmate's safety.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. This showing involves subjective and objective components: “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and [the official] must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837. The question under the Eighth “Amendment is whether prison officials, acting with deliberate indifference, exposed a prisoner to a sufficiently substantial ‘risk of serious damage to his future health . . . .'” Id. at 843 ...

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