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Valdez v. Larranaga

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 14, 2017

JOSE VALDEZ, Plaintiff,
LISA LARRANGA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Jose Valdez (“Plaintiff”), a former Stanislaus County Jail inmate, proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On May 10, 2017, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint with leave to amend. (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff's first amended complaint, filed on June 8, 2017, is currently before the Court for screening. (ECF No. 9.)

         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).

         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's allegations concern events that transpired while he was detained in the Stanislaus County Jail. Plaintiff names the following defendants: (1) Sheriff Deputy G. Beard; (2) Licensed Vocational Nurse (“LVN”) Lenette; and (3) LVN Francesca.

         Plaintiff alleges: On June 5, 2015, while serving a prison sentence of 6 years, 8 months in the Stanislaus County Jail, Plaintiff alleges that he was struck by a Rapid Containment Baton (RCB) twice, on the back of his left arm and left thumb joint, by Deputy Beard. Plaintiff's left thumb joint was fractured. Plaintiff contends that although he was fighting with another inmate, he did not deserve to be struck with the RCB and have his joint fractured. Plaintiff further contends that Deputy Beard had other options “of much lesser force” available, including a taser gun and mace can, to subdue the mutual combat. (ECF No. 9 at p. 7.) Plaintiff asserts that the force used was unnecessary to stop a simple fist fight, where neither of the involved inmates was in real danger of serious injury or death.

         On the same date, Defendant Lenette examined Plaintiff for injuries caused by the strikes of the RCB. When Defendant Lenette arrived to examine Plaintiff, she knew that he had just been struck by the RCB and had been in a fight. Plaintiff showed Defendant Lenette two tennis-ball-sized distensions at his left back arm and at his left thumb joint, and complained that they were extremely painful. Defendant Lenette reportedly dismissed Plaintiff's assertions, stating “Nothing is broken, in a few days you'll be fine.” (Id. at p. 12.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lenette missed that his joint was fractured and that he needed an x-ray. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Lenette claimed that nothing was broken based only on a cursory visual assessment. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Lenette medically cleared him, despite the medical necessity of an x-ray, and his joint now has a protuberance the size of walnut.

         Several hours after Plaintiff was medically cleared by Defendant Lenette, Defendant Francesca examined Plaintiff before he was rehoused in the E Unit. Defendant Francesca examined and cleared Plaintiff while in the hallway area outside of the E Unit. When Plaintiff complained to Defendant Francesca in the same way that he complained to Defendant Lenette, Defendant Francesca said, “You shouldn't of [sic] been fighting, you did it [the RGB strikes] to yourself, so you deal with it.” (Id. at p. 17.)

         Plaintiff suffered in his cell for about a week, taking Motrin twice daily for a pre-existing toothache. On June 12, 2015, Plaintiff was examined by Defendant Francesca, during which Plaintiff convinced her to order an x-ray. Although Defendant Francesca ordered an x-ray, she denied Plaintiff anything stronger than Motrin for his pain.

         On June 19, 2015, Plaintiff's joint was x-rayed. After a week without follow-up, Plaintiff initiated another medical examination. On June 27, 2015, Defendant Francesca explained that the x-ray showed his joint was not broken. Although Plaintiff showed her the distension at the joint, Defendant Francesca claimed that it was simply “soft tissue and bruising which would eventually get better.” (Id. at p. 18.) Plaintiff believed her professional judgment, but his joint size and pain did not reduce entirely after a few weeks, which prompted him to initiate another medical examination.

         On September 7, 2015, Plaintiff pressed Defendant Francesca for answers that would explain why his joint was still in such a state. Defendant Francesca indicated that nothing ...

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