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Cox v. Rackley

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 29, 2018

TONY COX, Plaintiff,
v.
RON RACKLEY; COUNTY OF SAN JOAQUIN dba SAN JOAQUIN GENERAL HOSPITAL; and DOES 1 through 30, inclusive. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MORRISON C. ENFLAND, JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Through the present lawsuit, Plaintiff Tony Cox (“Plaintiff”) alleges he suffered catastrophic injuries due to substandard care he received both while incarcerated at Folsom State Prison and at San Joaquin General Hospital. Plaintiff's currently operative pleading, the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), seeks damages for those injuries and names both San Joaquin General Hospital and Ron Rackley, the Warden of Folsom State Prison (“Rackley'), as Defendants.

         Presently before the Court is Defendant Rackley's Motion to Dismiss the SAC, made on grounds that it fails to state any viable claim against him in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). As set forth below, that Motion is GRANTED.[1]

         BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff claims that in or around April of 2016, while incarcerated at Folsom State Prison, he injured his spine while exercising/lifting weights. According to Plaintiff, in the days following this injury he was in severe pain and asked to be seen by a doctor. When he was seen by a prison nurse several days later, Plaintiff states that the nurse declined his request to be either examined by a physician or taken to the hospital, and instead only prescribed medication for the pain he was experiencing. Plaintiff alleges that the pain was so severe that he could not pick up the medication because he could neither descend/stairs nor stand in line to retrieve it. Plaintiff eventually told a correctional officer that he needed to go “man down”[3] and had to have medical care immediately.

         Plaintiff was seen by a doctor and received x-rays. He was subsequently scheduled to be seen by a nurse on June 2, 2016, and stated by that time his left leg felt limp and he had difficulty moving. Rather than send him to the hospital immediately, Plaintiff claims that prison medical staff waited three hours before he was finally transported by ambulance to San Joaquin General Hospital. Once he arrived at the hospital, Plaintiff claimed that hospital staff transferred him between gurneys despite being told by Plaintiff that he was in too much pain to be moved. According to Plaintiff, immediately upon being placed in the second gurney, he felt a twinge between his shoulders at the base of the neck before his entire body went numb. An MRI was subsequently taken, and Plaintiff was told he needed emergency spinal surgery. When asked to sign the surgical consent forms, however, Plaintiff discovered he could not move.

         Although Plaintiff did undergo the emergency surgery, he claims it was unsuccessful and he was initially declared paraplegic before later being characterized as quadriplegic. Plaintiff claims that Defendants failed to respond appropriately to his requests for medical attention and failed to provide him with adequate medical care. As a result of Defendants' conduct, Plaintiff asserts he “will forever suffer as a wheelchair bound quadriplegic.” SAC, ¶ 41.

         Aside from including Rackley as a defendant, Plaintiff's SAC fails to make any specific factual allegations against any named individuals. With respect to Rackley, even Plaintiff concedes that the allegations against him basically boil down to two paragraphs. First, Plaintiff alleges that “the acts and omissions complained of herein were done pursuant to customs and policies authorized, condoned, ratified and carried out by all Defendants that resulted in delayed and denied medical care . . . .” SAC, ¶ 51. Second, according to the SAC, “Defendants enacted, enforced, and/or ratified a custom, practice or policy of declining to refer inmates for outside medical care in all but the most extreme circumstances… even for those conditions (such as Plaintiff Tony Cox's crisis) that it knew or should have known Prison staff were ill-equipped to handle.” Id. at ¶ 76. Plaintiff claims that these allegations, which he emphasizes are against Defendants collectively and would consequently include Rackley, provide sufficient facts to support his claims against Rackley. Plaintiff therefore argues that Rackley's Motion to Dismiss should be denied. Pl.'s Opp., 4:9-23.

         STANDARD

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Rule 8(a)(2) “requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not require detailed factual allegations. However, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (internal citations and quotations omitted). A court is not required to accept as true a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004) (stating that the pleading must contain something more than “a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action”)).

         Furthermore, “Rule 8(a)(2) . . . requires a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (internal citations and quotations omitted). Thus, “[w]ithout some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirements of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.” Id. (citing Wright & Miller, supra, at 94, 95). A pleading must contain “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. If the “plaintiffs . . . have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed.” Id. However, “[a] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Id. at 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

         A court granting a motion to dismiss a complaint must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Leave to amend should be “freely given” where there is no “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, . . . undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment . . . .” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (listing the Foman factors as those to be considered when deciding whether to grant leave to amend). Not all of these factors merit equal weight. Rather, “the consideration of prejudice to the opposing party . . . carries the greatest weight.” Id. (citing DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 185 (9th Cir. 1987)). Dismissal without leave to amend is proper only if it is clear that “the complaint could not be saved by any amendment.” Intri-Plex Techs. v. Crest Group, Inc., 499 F.3d 1048, 1056 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing In re Daou Sys., Inc., 411 F.3d 1006, 1013 (9th Cir. 2005); Ascon Props., Inc. v. Mobil Oil Co., 866 F.2d 1149, 1160 (9th Cir. 1989) (“Leave need not be granted where the amendment of the complaint . . . constitutes an exercise in futility . . . .”)).

         ANALYSIS

         A. Viability of Plaintiff's Claims against Rackley under ...


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