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Pimentel v. Rivera

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 19, 2019





         A. Background

         On August 9, 2019, Plaintiff Cesar Pimentel, proceeding pro se, filed a civil complaint against Hanford Police Officers Alfred Rivera (“Officer Rivera”) and Mark Carrillo (“Officer Carrillo”) (collectively “Defendants”). (Doc. 1 (“Compl.”).) Plaintiff also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which was granted on August 19, 2019. (Docs. 2 & 3.) As discussed below, Plaintiff has stated a cognizable claim for failure to provide medical assistance in Claim I on which he may proceed and may be able to correct the deficiencies in his pleading for his other claim. Thus, Plaintiff may either file a first amended complaint correcting the deficiencies or advise the Court that he is willing to proceed only on his failure to provide medical assistance claim.

         B. Screening Requirement and Standard

         In cases where the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is required to screen each case, and shall dismiss the case at any time if the Court determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue, or the action or appeal is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

         The Court’s screening of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff must allege a minimum factual and legal basis for each claim that is sufficient to give each defendant fair notice of what plaintiff’s claims are and the grounds upon which they rest. See, e.g., Brazil v. U.S. Dep’t of the Navy, 66 F.3d 193, 199 (9th Cir. 1995); McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).

         C. Summary of the Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 8, 2019, he was pulled over by Defendants. (Compl. at 3, 5.) Due to Plaintiff being under community supervision, Defendants conducted a search of Plaintiff’s person and vehicle. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, prior to being searched, he “swallowed a large quantity of drugs.” (Id. at 3.) During the search, Defendants found on Plaintiff’s person “a glass pipe, a bindle of meth, and pills, ” as well as $2, 909.00. (Id. at 3, 5) Plaintiff alleges Defendants located “two cellphones and ‘various amounts of cash’” when searching Plaintiff’s vehicle.

         Plaintiff alleges that upon being detained and placed in the back of Defendants’ squad car, he began to feel the effects of the drugs and advised Defendants he had swallowed them. (Compl. at 3.) He “continuously yelled, begged, and pleaded to be taken to the hospital, ” but was ignored by Defendants. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, he told Defendants, “I can’t see, I can’t breath[e]. I swallow[ed] an ounce of dope.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that instead of calling for emergency medical services, Defendants “ignored my pleas for help for an ambulance and stood by while they waited for a tow truck.” (Id. at 3–4.) Defendants then transported Plaintiff to the jail and “forcibly placed [him] in a restraint chair with a spit mask.” (Id. at 4.)

         Once at the jail, the nurse “refused to clear” Plaintiff and “advised to call [emergency medical services].” (Compl. at 4.) According to Plaintiff, he was then “rushed” to the emergency room, where he was admitted with a body temperature of approximately 108 degrees and was hospitalized for a total of 10 days. (Id. at 3–4.) Plaintiff alleges that more than two hours elapsed from the time he asked Defendants for medical attention and the time of his admission to the hospital. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff contends in Claim I that Defendants’ failure to seek or supply immediate medical attention violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Id. at 3, 4.)

         In Claim II, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Rivera collected only the two cell phones as evidence from the search of Plaintiff’s vehicle, leaving Plaintiff’s wallet, ATM card, credit cards, and cash in the car, which was towed. (Compl. at 5.) Plaintiff’s alleges that these items were “lost and unaccounted for, ” and Officer Rivera’s failure to collect these items as evidence constitutes a violation of Plaintiff’s due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Compl. at 7.)

         As discussed in detail below, Plaintiff’s allegations in Claim I state a cognizable claim for failure to provide medical assistance against Defendants on which he should be allowed to proceed. However, Plaintiff does not state a cognizable claim in Claim II. Thus, Plaintiff may choose to proceed on the failure to provide medical assistance claim identified in Claim I, or he may attempt to cure the defects in his pleading by filing a first amended complaint.

         D. Pleading Requirements

         1. Federal Rule of ...

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