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Morgan v. Brown

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 29, 2017

ERNEST MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
EDMUND G. BROWN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF NO. 15)

          LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this case, Plaintiff Ernest Morgan (“Plaintiff”) brings three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Edmund G. Brown, Jr., C. Baker, D. Meadows, J. Schutte, P. Guzman, J. Gomez, J. Garcia, J. McNutt, and Does 1-10, inclusive (collectively, “Defendants”), arising from the March 10, 2016 assault and battery against Plaintiff while he was incarcerated at Wasco State Prison (“Wasco”). Complaint (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants acted in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments for failing to protect him from being attacked, for not alleviating the overcrowding at Wasco, and denying him adequate medical care. Id.

         Defendants now move for dismissal of the first two claims in Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule[1] of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 15. Plaintiff filed his opposition (ECF No. 19) and Defendants replied (ECF No. 20). This matter is suitable for disposition without oral argument. See E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.

         I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT[2]

         Plaintiff was a resident inmate at Wasco from approximately February 10, 2016 until December 23, 2016. Compl. ¶ 2. Aside from Brown, who was the Governor of California, Defendants were employed as prison guards at Wasco during the relevant time period. Id.¶ 3.

         Before March 10, 2016, Plaintiff informed Defendants that he would be at risk of being attacked by other inmates if he were housed with the general population of inmates at Wasco because of a prior conviction, and requested to be housed in the Sensitive Needs Yard (“SNY”). Id. ¶¶ 11-13. Defendants placed Plaintiff in the SNY. Id. ¶ 14.

         On or about March 10, 2016, while Plaintiff was in the exercise yard with other SNY inmates, Kameron Merrilhooper (“Merrilhooper”), a general population inmate, entered the SNY exercise yard through an unguarded door, and attacked Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 15. Prior to this incident, Defendant Guzman had opened a door that separated the general population from the SNY and left the door unguarded. Id. Because of overcrowded conditions at Wasco, Defendants were unable to observe the attack and respond in a timely manner. Id. ¶ 17. As a result of the attack, Plaintiff sustained obvious physical injuries to his body and face, including a broken nose that required medical care. Id. ¶ 19-22. Plaintiff did not receive immediate medical care “despite being bloodied and having a visible broken nose.” Id. ¶ 45.

         II. STANDARD OF DECISION

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is a challenge to the sufficiency of the allegations set forth in the complaint. A 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper where there is either a “lack of a cognizable legal theory” or “the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court generally accepts as true the allegations in the complaint, construes the pleading in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolves all doubts in the pleader's favor. Lazy Y. Ranch LTD v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580, 588 (9th Cir. 2008).

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must, in accordance with Rule 8, allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a Plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Thus, “bare assertions . . . amount[ing] to nothing more than a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements' . . . are not entitled to be assumed true.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. “[T]o be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint . . . must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). In practice, “a complaint . . . must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562.

         III. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         The Civil Rights Act, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1983, provides in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of [state law] … subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States … to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution … shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. “[Section] 1983 ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) ...


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