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Thomas v. Yates

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 7, 2017

LARRY D. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
V. YATES, et al., Defendants.



         Findings and Recommendations

         Plaintiff Larry D. Thomas, a state prisoner proceeding pro se in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and federal and state law claims arising out of events in 2009 that occurred at Kern Valley State Prison. On September 21, 2016, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint and concluded that his claims were likely time-barred. Plaintiff was granted leave to amend. (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint on October 17, 2016, which is currently before the Court for screening. (ECF No. 6.)

         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 Serv., 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. Allegations in First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California. Plaintiff's claims stem from a use of force incident that occurred on July 20, 2009, while Plaintiff was housed at Kern Valley State Prison.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was awakened on July 20, 2009, by Defendants Cervantes and Villa to be transported to the Tehachapi Surgery Center. After Plaintiff was strip searched, Defendant Cervantes placed handcuffs on him so tightly as to cause pain and restrict Plaintiff's blood flow. Plaintiff immediately requested that Defendant Cervantes loosen the handcuffs. In response, Defendant Cervantes loosened the cuffs. However, after loosening the handcuffs, Defendant Cervantes then clicked the handcuffs to an even tighter hold on Plaintiff's wrists. Plaintiff believes that Defendant Cervantes was taking cues from Defendant Villa to put the handcuffs on extremely tight. Plaintiff again complained that the handcuffs were too tight, causing severe pain, and requested that they be loosened. Defendants Cervantes refused Plaintiff's request.

         Defendant V. Yates intervened, checking the handcuffs and informing Plaintiff that they were fine. Plaintiff alleges that because of the refusal to loosen his handcuffs, Plaintiff had no alternative but to refuse medical transportation. Plaintiff told Defendant Yates, “If you're not going to loosen the handcuffs, then I'm refusing medical treatment and … I no longer want[ ] to go.” (ECF No. 6 at p. 14.) Plaintiff then requested that the handcuffs be removed while his hands were still outside of the food port and the waist chain dangled to the floor. Plaintiff alleges that instead of removing the handcuffs, Defendant Yates grasped the waist chain and began to pull on it. As a result, Plaintiff's forearms were pulled through the food port slot, leaving scrape marks on his forearms and causing pain to his wrists. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Cervantes and Defendant Villa also began to pull on the waist chain, and that Defendant Villa also put his right foot against the cell door/wall while pulling to cause Plaintiff greater pain. Plaintiff then asked Defendant Villa if he was enjoying, and his response was “Fuck yeah.” (Id. at p. 15.) Officer Reyes eventually intervened to uncuff Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff asserts in an elaborate ruse, Defendant Yates asserted that Plaintiff pulled the waist chain through the food port slot and, in the process, Defendant Yates' left index finger was caught in the chain. Plaintiff contends, however, that it is virtually impossible for any person to have a finger caught in the waist chain. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Yates lied and instead grasped the waist chain, coiled it around his hand, yanked it and then began pulling, inflicting excessive force on Plaintiff. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Yates, Cervantes and Villa pulled the waist chain in tandem so that the attached handcuffs cut into Plaintiff's wrists, broke Plaintiff's skin, restricted blood flow and caused excruciating pain.

         Plaintiff further alleges that he was denied medical treatment for his injuries. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Yates ordered Officer Reyes to have medical staff complete a refusal of medical treatments services form. Defendant Mongohig, the on duty LVN, came to Plaintiff's cell to have him sign the refusal of medical treatment services from. However, Plaintiff refused to sign the form because the decision not to be transported to the Tehachapi Surgery Center was forced upon as a result of the abusive manner in which the handcuffs were placed on him. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Mongohig failed to diagnose Plaintiff's injuries and failed to complete the necessary report of injury/unusual occurrence. Further, despite Plaintiff's complaints of severe pain, broken skin and visible welts, Defendant Mongohig allegedly denied Plaintiff medical treatment services, resulting in lingering pain and suffering.

         Hours later, after shift change, Plaintiff was afforded the opportunity to voice his allegations of excessive force and employee misconduct to Correctional Sergeant Day. Correctional Lieutenant Blackstone was contacted and a videotaped interview was conducted. Following the interview, Defendant Gonzales, an LVN, was contacted to complete a report of injury/unusual occurrence form to document Plaintiff's injuries. Defendant Gonzales visually examined Plaintiff's injuries, but her sole purpose was to complete the form. Plaintiff ...

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