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Yee v. Sacramento County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 16, 2017

VINCENT YEE, Plaintiff,
v.
SACRAMENTO COUNTY JAIL,

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          DEBORAH BRANES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This action came before the court on June 16, 2017, for hearing of defendant Sacramento County Jail's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1] Plaintiff Vincent Yee appeared on his own behalf. Attorney Wendy Motooka appeared on behalf of defendant Sacramento County Jail.

         At the June 16, 2017 hearing, plaintiff stated that he had filed a proposed fourth amended complaint (ECF No. 26) and requested leave to proceed on the fourth amended complaint. Counsel for the defendant Sacramento County Jail voiced no opposition to granting plaintiff leave to amend. Accordingly, plaintiff is granted leave to file a fourth amended complaint and the proposed fourth amended complaint is now deemed the operative complaint in this action.[2] Plaintiff, however, is proceeding in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 3.)

         The court must dismiss an in forma pauperis case at any time if the allegation of poverty is found to be untrue or if it is determined that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis 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). Under this standard, a court must dismiss a complaint as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In considering whether a complaint states a cognizable claim, the court accepts as true the material allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

         The minimum requirements for a civil complaint in federal court are as follows:

A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief . . . shall contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends . . ., (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

         Here, liberally construed, plaintiff's fourth amended complaint alleges that on October 21, 1998, City of Sacramento Police Officers Kathleen Fritzche, Harold Penny, and Corey Johnson arrested Peter Yee and transported him to the Sacramento County Jail. (4th Am. Compl. (ECF No. 26) at 2-3.) Peter Yee “yelled out ‘I just want to die' . . . about 50 times at the time of his arrest.” (Id.) However, defendants Kathleen Fritzche, Harold Penny, and Corey Johnson failed to notify staff at the Sacramento County Jail that Peter Yee was at risk for suicide. (Id. at 3.) Peter Yee later committed suicide at the Sacramento County Jail and plaintiff is “the only surviving son” of Peter Yee.[3]

         “A prison official's ‘deliberate indifference' to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). “Although the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, rather than the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, applies to pretrial detainees . . . we apply the same standards in both cases.” Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

In the Ninth Circuit, the test for deliberate indifference consists of two parts. First, the plaintiff must show a ‘serious medical need' by demonstrating that ‘failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.' Second, the plaintiff must show the defendant's response to the need was deliberately indifferent.

Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted).

         “[A] heightened suicide risk can present a serious medical need.” Simmons, 609 F.3d at 1018 (citing Conn v. City of Reno, 591 F.3d 1081, 1095 (9th Cir. 2010)). Moreover, a plaintiff may satisfy the second deliberate indifference prong “by showing a) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the indifference.” Jett, 439 F.3d at 1096.

         Here, construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the fourth amended complaint alleges that defendants Fritzche, Penny, and Johnson were aware that plaintiff's father was at a heightened risk for suicide and failed to respond to that risk, resulting in harm to the plaintiff. Accordingly, the undersigned finds that the fourth amended ...


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