United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT
WITH LEAVE TO AMEND
A. AUDERO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
October 18, 2019, Plaintiff Jimmie Carter
(“Plaintiff”), an inmate at California Men's
Colony (“CMC”), proceeding pro se and
in forma pauperis, filed a Complaint alleging
violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 (“Section 1983”). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) The
Court has screened the Complaint as prescribed by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A and § 1915(e)(2)(B). For the reasons stated
below, the Complaint is DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO
AMEND. Plaintiff is ORDERED to,
within thirty days after the date of this Order, either: (1)
file a First Amended Complaint, or (2) advise the Court that
Plaintiff does not intend to file a First Amended Complaint.
PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS AND CLAIMS
Complaint is filed against: (1) J. Gastelo, Warden at CMC;
(2) Ralph M. Diaz, Secretary of the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”); (3)
Wallace, Correctional Sergeant at CMC; (4) Amendaz, Nurse at
CMC; (5) Marie Reyes, Registered Nurse (“RN”) at
CMC; (6) Gary Masignman, Licensed Vocational Nurse
(“LVN”) at CMC; (7) Steven Tanner, LVN at CMC;
(8) Maria Escareal, LVN at CMC; and (9) Ronalyn Amor-Walker,
RN at CMC (each a “Defendant” and collectively,
“Defendants”; the Nurse, RN, and LVN Defendants
collectively are referred to as the “Nurse
Defendants”). (Compl. 8-9.)Defendants Gastelo and Diaz
are sued in their individual and official capacities.
(Id. at 3.) The Complaint does not specify the
capacities-individual and/or official-in which the other
Defendants are sued. (Id. at 8-9.)
Complaint and attached exhibits contain the following allegations
and claims. Plaintiff arrived at CMC on June 7, 2019.
(Id. at 7.) The dining hall of CMC has a four-foot
by six-foot aisle that inmates must traverse to dump their
leftover food, return their food tray for washing, and exit
the dining hall. (Id. at 9.) Plaintiff contends that
the aisle is hazardous because there is always
“oatmeal, cream of wheat, or some other food substance
on the floor, ” and it is “slippery, because
degreaser is never used.” (Id.)
19, 2019, Plaintiff was exiting the dining hall through the
dangerous aisle and slipped on oatmeal. (Id. at 10.)
Plaintiff's head hit the ground very hard. (Id.)
Plaintiff experienced an immediate headache, “the likes
he has never experienced in his entire life, ” and his
whole stomach became disturbed. (Id.)
Plaintiff's neck and back took most of the impact, and he
still receives regular shots for the excruciating pain in
those areas. (Id.) Plaintiff does not know whether
he was knocked unconscious, but believes that he was.
(Id.) In addition, Plaintiff's blood pressure
was extremely high. (Id. at 11.)
alleges that Defendant Tanner, along with Gloria Mendez and
Pati Medinger (who are not named Defendants), refused to
administer the proper medical care to Plaintiff.
(Id.) Rather, they listened to correctional officers
and a correctional sergeant who said, “Ah he's
alright. We don't have time for this . . . [W]e have
other inmate's [sic] to run to the chow hall.”
(Id.) This prompted Defendant Tanner to “begin
talking crazy” to Plaintiff. (Id.) Defendant
Wallace and Nurse Defendants “talk[ed] crazy to
Plaintiff, telling him he's faking and just trying to get
drugs while Plaintiff lay there in plain/obvious pain.”
(Id. at 14.) Plaintiff requested to be taken to an
outside hospital, but his request was denied. (Id.
27, 2019, while Plaintiff was on his way to breakfast between
7:30- 8:30 a.m., one of Plaintiff's crutches got caught
in “the hole of [a] steel plate that covered a
construction hole approximately (5) wide by (9) feet long and
(6) feet deep.” (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff fell
hard to the ground and injured his back and neck again.
(Id.) Plaintiff lay on the ground in excruciating
pain while at least seven officers (including Defendant
Wallace) stood over Plaintiff saying “He's alright,
just give him some drugs, and . . . send him back to his
dorm.” (Id.) The Nurse Defendants listened to
the officers instead of sending Plaintiff to the hospital.
(Id. at 14.)
filed an administrative grievance regarding the incident, and
also letters and a “citizen's complaint” to
Defendant Gastelo. (Id. at 11.)
on the foregoing, Plaintiff asserts four claims for violation
of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at 13-14.) Plaintiff
also asserts “pendent state law claims, ” but
does not name any specific state law claims. (Id. at
7.) Plaintiff seeks: (1) $250, 000 in damages from each
Defendant; (2) $200, 000 in punitive damages from Defendants
Reyes, Wallace, Tanner, Amendaz, and Masigman; (3) costs and
reasonable attorneys' fees; and (4) such further relief
as the Court deems just and proper. (Id. at 14-15.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
courts must conduct a preliminary screening of any case in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity (28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A), or in which a plaintiff proceeds in forma
pauperis (28 U.S.C. § Section 1915(e)(2)(B)). The
court must identify cognizable claims and dismiss any
complaint, or any portion thereof, that is: (1) frivolous or
malicious, (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted, or (3) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§
screening a complaint to determine whether it fails to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted, courts apply the
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (“Rule
12(b)(6)”) standard. See Wilhelm v. Rotman,
680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (applying the Rule
12(b)(6) standard to 28 U.S.C. § Section 1915A);
Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir.
2012) (applying the Rule 12(b)(6) standard to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)). “Dismissal under Rule
12(b)(6) is appropriate only where the complaint lacks a
cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a
cognizable legal theory.” Hartmann v. Cal.
Dep't of Corr. & Rehab., 707 F.3d 1114, 1122
(9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp.
Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008)).
12(b)(6) is read in conjunction with Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8(a) (“Rule 8”), “which requires
not only ‘fair notice of the nature of the claim, but
also grounds on which the claim rests.'” See Li
v. Kerry, 710 F.3d 995, 998 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 n.3
(2007)). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court will
accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and
view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Park v. Thompson, 851 F.3d 910, 918 (9th Cir. 2017).
Although “detailed factual allegations” are not
required, “[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 (2009). “Conclusory allegations of law . . . are
insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.”
Park, 851 F.3d at 918 (alteration in original)
(quoting Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668,
679 (9th Cir. 2001)). Rather, a complaint must “contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 663. “If there are two alternative explanations, one
advanced by defendant and the other advanced by plaintiff,
both of which are plausible, plaintiff's complaint
survives a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).”
Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011).
“Plaintiff's complaint may be dismissed only when
defendant's plausible alternative explanation is so
convincing that plaintiff's explanation is
plaintiff is pro se, particularly in civil rights
cases, courts should construe pleadings liberally and afford
the plaintiff any benefit of the doubt. Wilhelm v.
Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012).
“[B]efore dismissing a pro se complaint the district
court must provide the litigant with notice of the
deficiencies in his complaint in order to ensure that the
litigant uses the opportunity to amend effectively.”
Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261
(9th Cir. 1992)). A court should grant a pro se
plaintiff leave to amend a defective complaint “unless
it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint
could not be cured by amendment.” Akhtar, 698
F.3d at 1212 (quoting Shucker v. Rockwood, 846 F.2d
1202, 1203-04 (9th Cir. 1988) (per curiam)).
The Complaint Does Not State Claims Against Defendants in
Their Official Capacities.
Complaint states that Defendants Gastelo and Diaz are sued in
their individual and official capacities (Compl. 3), but does
not specify the capacities in which the other Defendants are
sued (id. at 8-9). For completeness, the Court
analyzes whether the Complaint states claims against
Defendants in their official capacities, and concludes that
it does not.
against a defendant in his or her individual capacity
“seek[s] to impose personal liability upon a government
official for actions he takes under color of state law . . .
. Official-capacity suits, in contrast, ‘generally
represent only another way of pleading an action against an
entity of which an officer is an agent.'”
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985)
(quoting Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436
U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). The Complaint alleges that
Defendant Diaz is the Secretary of the CDCR, and the other
Defendants are employed at CMC, a California state prison.
(Compl. 8-9.) As such, any official capacity claims
against Defendants would be treated as claims against the
State of California. See Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d
628, 631-32 (9th Cir. 1998) (explaining that a lawsuit
against state prison officials in their official capacities
was a lawsuit against the state).
is not a “person” subject to Section 1983, and
the Eleventh Amendment bars damages actions against state
officials in their official capacity. Flint v.
Dennison, 488 F.3d 816, 824-25 (9th Cir. 2007); Nat.
Res. Def. Council v. Cal. DOT, 96 F.3d 420, 421 (9th
Cir. 1996) (“State immunity extends to state agencies
and to state officers, who act on behalf of the state and can
therefore assert the state's sovereign immunity.”).
However, state officials sued in their official capacity are
considered “persons” when they are sued for
prospective declaratory or injunctive relief under Section
1983; the Eleventh Amendment does not bar such claims.
Flint, 488 F.3d at 825; Rounds v. Or. State Bd.
of Higher Educ., 166 F.3d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 1999)
(“Ex Parte Young provided a narrow exception
to Eleventh Amendment immunity for certain suits seeking
declaratory and ...