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Smithee v. California Correctional Institution

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 23, 2019

DANA SMITHEE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CALIFORNIA CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS[1] (DOCS. 48, 49)

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         After Cyrus Ayers killed himself while in custody, the child, E.M. and his mother, Dana Smithee, filed this lawsuit. They allege Ayers was not provided proper medical care during his incarceration at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi and this resulted in his death. In their third amended complaint, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant Narayan, Chief Psychiatrist at CCI, and Defendants Seymour and Celosse, psychologists at CCI, are liable for Ayers' death.

         Defendants Litt-Stoner, Seymour, Nesson and Celosse previously moved the Court to dismiss the action. Because the second amended complaint failed to state a federal cause of action, the Court dismissed it with leave to amend. (Doc. 47.) On August 29, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint, which only includes the following defendants: Narayan, Seymour and Celosse. (Doc. 45.)

         On September 20, 2019, Defendants Narayan, Seymour and Celosse moved the Court to dismiss the action. (Docs. 48, 49.) Because the third amended complaint still fails to state a federal cause of action, the Court recommends it be DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.

         I. Factual Allegations

         On or about February 2, 2018, Ayers died while in custody. (Doc. 45 at 3.) According to Plaintiffs, Ayers was incarcerated within the California Corrections system around May 2015. (Doc. 45 at 4.) The Plaintiffs claim that during the entirety of his incarceration at multiple prisons within the State of California, Ayers was receiving mental health care. (Doc. 45 at 4.) They allege that around July 2016, Ayers expressed suicidal ideations, was determined to be a moderate risk of suicide, and was thereafter placed on a suicide watch. (Doc. 45 at 4.) According to Plaintiffs, in or about July 2017, while an inmate at Kern Valley State Prison, Ayers overdosed on prescription medications, which required him to be hospitalized. (Doc. 45 at 4.)

         The Plaintiffs claim that Ayers' medical records, presumably generated while he was housed at KVSP, showed that during 2017, Ayers reported having made multiple suicide attempts and that efforts were made to help him to stop thinking about killing himself. (Doc. 45 at 4.) They allege that Ayers' medical records document risk factors, including a family history of suicide, self-injurious behavior, assaultive behavior and suicide attempts. (Doc. 45 at 4.)

         According to Plaintiffs, around November 2017, Ayers was transferred from Kern Valley State Prison to CCI. (Doc. 45 at 4.) Plaintiffs claim that in November 2017, upon being transferred to CCI, Celosse conducted a suicide risk and self-harm evaluation, in which she noted that Ayers reported he wished to be dead, had an intensity ideation score of “10, ” and “had collected pills in preparation for suicide.”[2] (Doc. 45 at 5.) They allege that Celosse reviewed Ayers' previous medical records and noted that Ayers' condition had significantly worsened over the previous few months and Ayers had a history of self-harm and suicide. (Doc. 45 at 5.) Plaintiffs also claim that in December 2017, Celosse noted that Ayers had “unremitting symptoms of a serious mental disorder” and had initiated self-injurious behavior. (Doc. 45 at 6.) Plaintiffs contend that Celosse chose not to place Ayers on suicide watch, chose not to recommend Ayers for suicide watch and chose not to recommend any medical care to attempt to prevent his eventual suicide. (Doc. 45 at 5-6.)

         According to Plaintiffs, around December 7, 2017, Ayers told Narayan that since transferring to CCI, he was not doing as well, and Ayers told Narayan that he wished he had a higher level of care, including group therapy and one-on-one sessions with a clinician. (Doc. 45 at 5.) Plaintiffs claim that Narayan reviewed Ayers' previous medical records and noted Ayers' positive history of self-harm and suicide. (Doc. 45 at 5.) Plaintiffs contend that Narayan chose not to place Ayers on suicide watch, chose not to recommend him for suicide watch and chose not to recommend any medical care to attempt to prevent his eventual suicide. (Doc. 45 at 5.) However, Narayan prescribed “dangerous” medications for Ayers over the course of approximately two months and that Narayan did not see Ayers during that time. (Doc. 45 at 6.)

         Plaintiffs allege that Seymour reviewed Ayers' previous medical records and knew he was suicidal, and during a period of approximately six weeks before his death, on more than four occasions, Ayers asked Seymour that he be permitted to see his clinician regarding his mental health, but Seymour denied these requests. (Doc. 45 at 6.) Plaintiffs claim that Seymour chose not to place Ayers on a suicide watch, chose not to recommend him for suicide watch and chose not to recommend any medical care to attempt to prevent his eventual suicide. (Doc. 45 at 6.)

         Plaintiffs contend that around January 8, 2018, CCI staff noted Ayers' history of “cheeking” medications, apparently in an attempt to prepare himself to overdose, and that this record was known by each of the Defendants, though they fail to indicate when the defendants came to know this. (Doc. 45 at 6.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “tests the legal sufficiency of a claim.” Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate when “the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory.” Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008). On a motion filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “review is limited to the complaint alone.” Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273, 1274 (9th Cir. 1993).

         Allegations of a complaint must be accepted as true when the Court considers a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976). The Supreme Court explained, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Supreme Court explained:

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. 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. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal citations, quotation marks omitted).

         A court must construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in favor of the plaintiff. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). “The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims. Indeed, it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test.” Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). However, the Court “will dismiss any claim that, even when construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, fails to plead sufficiently all required elements of a cause of action.” Student Loan Marketing Assoc. v. Hanes, 181 F.R.D. 629, 634 (S.D. Cal. 1998). Leave to amend should not be granted if “it is clear that the complaint could not be saved by any amendment.” Livid Holdings Ltd. v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., 416 F.3d 940, 946 (9th Cir. 2005).

         III. Discussion and Analysis

         A. First Claim for Relief: ...


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