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Cruz v. Jeffreys

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 13, 2017

Guillermo Trujillo Cruz, Plaintiff,
v.
Jeffreys, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          Peter C. Lewis United States District Court.

         Plaintiff Guillermo Trujillo Cruz, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint under the Civil Rights Act 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that three correctional officers, Defendants Jeffries, Rios, and Ramos, retaliated against him in 2010 by reporting him to a mental health professional and setting him up to be assaulted. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff alleges claims under the Eighth Amendment, First Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process clause. (Doc. 1, at 4-5.) Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, arguing that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations and that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under federal law. (Doc. 33-1.) For the following reasons, the Court recommends granting in part Defendant's motion and dismissing the Complaint with leave to amend.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an inmate currently incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison, but at the times relevant to this action, was incarcerated at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) in San Diego, California. (Doc. 1, at 2.) Defendants Jeffries, Rios, and Ramos are correctional officers stationed at RJD. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that in July 2010, he filed an inmate grievance alleging that certain unnamed male and female officers had failed to log into the E.R.M.S. System. (Doc. 1, at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Jeffries and Rios reported him to the Mental Health Services Delivery System because he was hearing things and filing false 602 grievances. (Doc. 1, at 3.)

         Plaintiff next alleges that on July 13, 2010, he was targeted for assault while on the prison recreation yard. (Doc. 1, at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he “was unlawfully subjected to be targeted [in] an assault in retaliation for filing 602 grievances . . .” (Doc. 1, at 3.) Plaintiff alleges he was hit and punched in the face, causing bruising to his eye socket, a gash on his cheek bone, and bruising to his rib cage. (Id.) Plaintiff attaches to the Complaint his Rules Violation Report, which documents the incident. (Doc. 1, at 7.) The Rules Violation Report shows that Plaintiff was convicted of fighting with two other inmates. (Doc. 1, at 8.) The Report includes Plaintiff's statement that he was not involved in the fight, but was over by the handball court, minding his own business. (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims that he filed a 602 grievance form with the prison regarding the July 13, 2010 incident on the prison yard in which Plaintiff was convicted of fighting with two other inmates. (Doc. 1, at 4, 17.) Plaintiff also claims to have submitted a 602 form purportedly filed on July 5, 2010 in which Plaintiff states that Defendant Jeffries called him a “punk” for filing 602 forms and claims that Jeffries “tried to get him to fight with other inmates.” (Doc. 36, at 11.) Plaintiff also purportedly described in writing that Defendant Rios “instigate[d]” him to start a fight with other inmates on July 1, 2010 for “reporting employee sexual misconduct on correctional females.” (Doc. 36, at 12.) Plaintiff states that prison officials did not respond to his grievance forms. (Doc. 1, at 4.) Plaintiff also states that on March 26, 2011 he filed a government claim form to obtain compensation damages for injuries and the pain he suffered. (Doc. 1, at 3.)

         Plaintiff's complaint, containing claims against Defendants Rios, Jeffries, and Ramos for retaliation under the First Amendment, failure to protect under the Eighth Amendment, and violation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, was filed on December 15, 2015. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff signed his complaint on December 9, 2015, but the envelope in which it was mailed was signed by a correctional officer on December 8, 2015 and shows a postage date of December 10, 2015. (Doc. 1, at 6, 19, 20.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss a complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of plaintiff's claims. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court must assume the truth of the facts presented in Plaintiff's complaint and construe inferences from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party when reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Rule 12(b)(6) permits dismissal of a claim either where that claim lacks a cognizable legal theory, or where insufficient facts are alleged to support plaintiff's legal theory. See Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Department, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). While a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007). Rather, to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6), factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true even if doubtful in fact. See id. at 1965. However, a court need not accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit. See Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 1987). “Nor is the court required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” Id.

         A motion to dismiss may be based on the running of the statute of limitations period if the running of the statute is apparent on the face of the complaint. See Jablon v. Dean Witter & Co., 614 F.2d 677, 682 (9th Cir. 1980). Section 1983 claims are governed by the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions, and the days start to accrue when the plaintiff knows or should know of the injury that is the basis of the claim. Douglas v. Noelle, 567 F.3d 1103, 1109 (9th Cir. 2009). The applicable statute of limitations under California law is two years. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code section 335.1; see Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 927 (9th Cir. 2004). Additionally, California law tolls the statute of limitations for up to two years based on the disability of imprisonment for inmates serving less than life terms. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code section 352.1; Jones, 393 F.3d at 927. The effective statute of limitations for an action by a prisoner under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 is therefore up to four years notwithstanding the fact that “[t]he applicable statute of limitations is tolled when a prisoner completes the mandatory exhaustion process.” Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 943 (9th Cir. 2005).

         To ensure further fairness, California law also provides for equitable tolling to extend the statute of limitations under certain circumstances. Jones, 393 F.3d at 928. “[T]hree conditions must be met to toll the statute of limitations: (1) defendant must have had a timely notice of the claim; (2) defendant must not be prejudiced by being required to defend the otherwise barred claim; and (3) plaintiff's conduct must have been reasonable and in good faith.” Bacon v. City of Los Angeles, 843 F.2d 372, 374 (9th Cir. 1988). The effect of equitable tolling is that the limitations period stops running during a tolling event and begins to run again only when the tolling event has concluded. See Lantzy v. Centex Homes, 31 Cal. 4th 363, 370 (2003). The tolled interval is tacked onto the end of the limitations period, thus extending the deadline for suit by the entire length of time during which the tolling event previously occurred. See id. at 370-71. Application of the equitable tolling doctrine requires a balancing of the injustice to the plaintiff occasioned by the bar of his claims against the effect upon the important public interest or policy expressed by the limitations statute. See Id. at 371.

         A federal court must determine on a motion to dismiss “whether the complaint liberally construed in light of our ‘notice pleading' system, adequately alleges facts showing the potential applicability of the equitable tolling doctrine.” Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273, 1277 (9th Cir. 1993).

         If a complaint is found to fail to state a claim or is statutorily barred, the court should grant leave to amend unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegations of other ...


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