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Palmer v. Alameda County

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 31, 2019

MARTY PALMER, Plaintiff,
v.
ALAMEDA COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO. 16

          THOMAS S. HIXSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In this civil rights case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff Marty Palmer alleges the County of Alameda and its employees were deliberately indifferent to his medical condition while incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail. The County and its Sheriff, Gregory Ahern (the “Moving Defendants”), move for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6). ECF No. 16. Palmer filed an Opposition (ECF No. 19) and Moving Defendants filed a Reply (ECF No. 20). The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without oral argument and VACATES the November 7, 2019 hearing. See Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). Having considered the parties' positions, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS Moving Defendants' motion for the following reasons.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Between August 7 and August 28, 2017, Palmer was incarcerated at the Santa Rita Jail, which is owned and operated by Defendant County of Alameda. First Am. Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 9. Palmer suffers from renal failure and was receiving dialysis treatments three days a week from September 14, 2015, including his time at Santa Rita. Id. ¶ 10. While Palmer was incarcerated, Defendant Joseph Robert Bailey, who was employed as an Alameda County Sheriff's deputy, and other Doe Defendant Sheriff's deputies ordered Palmer to be housed on a top bunk bed. Id. ¶ 11. Out of fear that he could fall and injure himself as result of weakness from his dialysis treatments, Palmer notified the Sheriff's deputies of his medical condition, had them check his medical file and filed numerous inmate grievances to be assigned to a lower bunk. Id. ¶ 12. The deputies denied Palmer's repeated requests. Id. ¶ 13.

         On approximately August 15, 2019, Palmer accepted another inmate's offer to give his lower bunk to him. Id. ¶ 14. Two days later, Bailey and other Sheriff's deputies observed Palmer using a lower bunk, became angry and immediately moved him to another jail pod and assigned him to another upper bunk. Id. ¶ 15. On August 28, 2017, while sitting on his newly assigned top bunk, Palmer fell and landed on his face, neck and shoulder areas, suffering severe injuries. Id. ¶ 16.

         On February 20, 2018, Palmer filed a government claim against Alameda County pursuant to California Government Code section 910, et seq. Id. ¶ 17. The County rejected his claim on January 3, 2019. Id. Palmer filed this lawsuit on June 24, 2019 and filed his amended complaint on August 18, 2019 against Moving Defendants, Bailey, and Does 1-25. He pursues: (1) a claim for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights against all Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) a negligence claim against all Defendants; and (3) a negligent hiring, supervision, and retention claim against Sheriff Ahern. Id. ¶¶ 18-41. Palmer seeks compensatory and punitive damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. Id. at 7.

         Moving Defendants filed the present motion on September 27, 2019, arguing Palmer fails to state a plausible Monell claim against the County, the federal and state law claims against Sheriff Ahern are not plausibly pleaded, the County is statutorily immune from any state law claim, and the declaratory relief claim is not supported by the facts alleged. Mot. at 2.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         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). Thus, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must plead “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). Plausibility does not mean probability, but it requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 687 (2009). A complaint must therefore provide a defendant with “fair notice” of the claims against it and the grounds for relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotations and citation omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (A complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”). In considering a motion to dismiss, the court accepts factual allegations in the complaint as true and construes the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008).; Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). However, “the tenet that a court must accept a complaint's allegations as true is inapplicable to threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         If a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is granted, the “court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (citations and quotations omitted). However, a court “may exercise its discretion to deny leave to amend due to ‘undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party . . ., [and] futility of amendment.'” Carvalho v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 629 F.3d 876, 892-93 (9th Cir. 2010) (alterations in original) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Fourteenth Amendment Claim

         In his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, Palmer alleges “Defendants” exhibited deliberate indifference to his constitutional rights in that they had notice of his medical condition and requests for a lower bunk, yet they placed him in an upper bunk and failed to take any corrective action to remedy those conditions. First Am. Compl. ¶ 24. As a result, he suffered “extreme physical damages.” Id. ...


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