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Floyd v. ADA County

United States District Court, D. Idaho

December 21, 2017

ADA COUNTY, et al., Defendants.



         I. OVERVIEW

         Pro se Plaintiff James Allen Floyd complains that he received inadequate medical care while housed in the Ada County Jail in violation of the Eighth Amendment (made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment). Defendants now move to dismiss this case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dkt. 13. For the reasons outlined below, the Court GRANTS the Motion to Dismiss. Also pending is Floyd's Motion to Appoint Counsel. Dkt. 19. Upon review, the Court DENIES this Motion.


         On August 25, 2014, officers arrested Floyd and placed him in the Ada County Jail, located in Boise, Idaho. Floyd would remain there until August 2016. Neither party has explained why Floyd was arrested, what he was charged with, or whether he was found guilty of any crime. However, Floyd describes himself as a pretrial detainee when the events that form the basis of his claims occurred. Floyd asserts that he has a host of medical problems, which Ada County officials failed to adequately address during his time at the Ada County Jail.

         On April 7, 2017, several months after Ada County released Floyd, he filed this lawsuit against Ada County, the Ada County Jail, the Ada County Sheriff, and a handful of staff members from both the Ada County Jail and the Sheriff's Department. On May 23, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Dkt. 4. Shortly thereafter, Floyd filed an Amended Complaint, rendering the first Motion to Dismiss moot. On June 16, 2017, Defendants filed the present Motion to Dismiss. The Motion became ripe on July 20, 2017. The Court scheduled oral argument on this Motion for December 5, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. However, Floyd did not appear at oral argument. Defense counsel did appear at oral argument but agreed to submit the pending motions on the briefing. The Court found Floyd waived his right to oral argument and took the Motion under advisement.

         Floyd asserts six claims for relief, which fall into two categories. The first category of claims asserts that Defendants were indifferent to Floyd's medical needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The claims in this category are based on the following medical conditions: sleep apnea (claim one); Hepatitis C (claim two); ADHD, depression, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder (claim three); foot pain (claim five); and left shoulder pain (claim six). Floyd appears to argue both that the individual Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights and that the violation was the result of a County policy. The second category, which only contains one claim, asserts that the County was indifferent to Floyd's need for outdoor recreation (claim four).


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a claim if the plaintiff has “fail[ed] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” “A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal may be based on either a ‘lack of a cognizable legal theory' or ‘the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'” Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., LP, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to contain “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.” See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554 (2007). “This is not an onerous burden.” Johnson, 534 F.3d at 1121. A complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” but it must set forth “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must also contain sufficient factual matter to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must view the “complaint in the light most favorable to” the claimant and “accept[] all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, as well as any reasonable inference drawn from them.” Johnson, 534 F.3d at 1122.

         The Court must construe this complaint “liberally, ” as Floyd is proceeding pro se. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citation omitted). “[A] pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Defendants first argue that Claims One through Four should be dismissed because they are barred by the statute of limitations. Defendants then argue that the Court should dismiss each claim because each fails to meet the Rule 8 pleading standard. The Court first outlines the applicable statute of limitations and explains what is required to state an Eighth Amendment claim. The Court then applies the law to each individual claim.

         A. The Applicable Law

         1. Statute of Limitations

         “Actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are governed by the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions.” Knox v. Davis, 260 F.3d 1009, 1012 (9th Cir. 2001). However, “federal law determines when a civil rights claim accrues.” Id. (quoting Morales v. City of Los Angeles, 214 F.3d 1151, 1153-54 (9th Cir. 2000)). “Under federal law, ‘a claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action.'” Id. (quoting Tworivers v. Lewis, 174 F.3d 987, 992 (9th Cir. 1999)). “In Idaho, the applicable statute is Idaho Code section 5-219(4) [], which provides for a limitations period of two years from the date the cause of action accrues.” Hallstrom v. City of Garden City, 991 F.2d 1473, 1176 (9th Cir. 1993). Because Floyd filed his complaint on April 7, 2017, any claims that accrued prior to April 7, 2015, are time-barred.

         Floyd argues in response that the acts that occurred prior to April 7, 2015, are actionable, despite the statute of limitations, under the “continuing violation doctrine.” “[T]he statute of limitations runs separately from each discrete act.” RK Ventures, Inc. v. City of Seattle, 307 F.3d 1045, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002). However, the acts that occurred prior to April 7, 2015, may be actionable if Floyd's “claims are based, not on discrete acts, but rather on ‘a series of acts that collectively constitute one unlawful practice.'” Del Rosario v. Saade, No. 1:14-cv-155-REB, 2015 WL 4404864, at *3 (July 17, 2015) (quoting RK Ventures, 307 F.3d at 1061 n.13).

         The Ninth Circuit has yet to apply the continuing violation doctrine to Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims. See Gipbsin v. Kernan, No. 2:12-cv-556, 2015 WL 3993073, *3 (E.D. Cal. June 30, 2015). However, other circuits have consistently held that the continuous violation doctrine applies to deliberate indifference claims and that such a claim accrues on the last day officials refused to treat a prisoner's medical condition or on the date he left the jail. Id. (collecting cases); see also Heard v. Sheahana, 253 F.3d 316, 318 (7th Cir. 2001). District courts within the Ninth Circuit have taken different approaches to this issue. Evans v. County of San Diego is illustrative of one of these approaches. No. 06-cv-0877 JM (RBB), 2008 WL 842459, *11-12 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 27, 2008). In Evans, the plaintiff injured his knee on January 27, 2004, and remained in custody until June 10, 2004. Id. The plaintiff complained that the County failed to provide adequate treatment for his knee throughout this period. Id. The Evans court found this constituted a continuing violation that accrued on June 11, 2004. Id. In other words, because the County knew the plaintiff had injured his knee and failed to provide any care throughout his time in custody the injury was a continuing violation that accrued on the last day the County could have provided care.

         MacGregor v. Dial illustrates a different approach. No. 2:13-cv-1883 JAM AC P, 2015 WL 1405492 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 26, 2015). In MacGregor the prisoner alleged that prison doctors were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in treating his hernia on several specific dates in 2005 and 2006. Id. at *2-4. Thereafter, the prisoner “continuously complained to medical . . . but was repeatedly ignored.” Id. at *4. The MacGregor court found the prisoner's claims accrued on the specific dates he alleged the prison doctors provided inadequate medical care, because on these dates the prisoner “knew or had reason to know of [the doctors'] deliberate indifference.” Id. at *7 (citing TwoRivers v. Lewis, 174 F.3d 987, 991-92 (9th Cir. 1999); see also Id. at *9 (“[T]his is not a case ‘where there is no single incident that can fairly or realistically be identified as the cause of significant harm.'” Flowers v. Carville, 310 F.3d 1118, 1126 (9th Cir. 2002)). The court's conclusion was “not altered by plaintiff's vague allegation that he continuously complained ‘to medical' and was repeatedly ignored until 2012.” Id.

         As explained below, the Court finds this second approach, laid out in MacGregor, to be more persuasive and more applicable to this case.

         B. Merits

         Floyd asserts all his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim against an individual “under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). To state a claim against a government entity under § 1983 (also called a Monell claim), a plaintiff must allege “(1) that [the plaintiff] possessed a constitutional right of which he was deprived; (2) that the municipality had a policy; (3) that this policy amounts to deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's constitutional right; and, (4) that the policy is the moving force behind the constitutional violation.” Dougherty v. City of Covina, 654 F.3d 892, 900 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Plumeau v. Sch. Dist. No. 40 Cty. of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 (9th Cir. 1997)). If Floyd fails to state a valid Eighth Amendment claim, he also fails to state a Monell claim because the first element of the Monell claim will not be satisfied.

         As stated above, in the first category of claims Floyd asserts Defendants were deliberately indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Initially, the Supreme Court only applied the Eighth Amendment to claims of “inhuman techniques of punishment.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). The Supreme Court subsequently “held that the Amendment proscribes more than physically barbarous punishments.” Id. Now, “[t]he Amendment embodies ‘broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency . . ., ' against which we must evaluate penal measures.” Id. (internal citation omitted). Accordingly, “punishments which are incompatible with ‘the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society'” violate the Eighth Amendment. Id. (quoting Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958)). Under these standards, the government has an “obligation to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration.” Id. at 103. The standard for these types of claims is “deliberate indifference.” Id. In other words, “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, ' proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.” Id. (internal citation omitted). Examples of actionable Eighth Amendment medical claims include a prison doctor's indifference to a prisoner's medical needs or a prison guard's intentional interference with prescribed treatment. Id. at 104-05. An accident or mere negligence, however, cannot form the basis of a medical-based Eighth Amendment claim. Id.

         An actionable Eighth Amendment claim for inadequate medical care must meet two elements. Colwell v. Bannister, 763 F.3d 1060, 1066 (9th Cir. 2014). First, the plaintiff must allege “the existence of a serious medical need.” Id. An objective standard applies to this element. Id. “Such a need exists if failure to treat the injury or condition ‘could result in further significant injury' or cause ‘the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'” Id. (quoting Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006)). “Indications that a plaintiff has a serious medical need include ‘[t]he existence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment; the presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities; or the existence of chronic and substantial pain.'” Id. (quoting McGuckin v. Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992)). Second, the plaintiff must allege that a prison official was “deliberately indifferent.” Id. A subjective standard applies to this element. Id. “A prison official is deliberately indifferent” under this standard “only if the official ‘knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and safety.'” Id. (quoting Toguchi v. Chung, 391 F.3d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 2004)). “[T]he official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Id. (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)).

         Floyd's second category of claims asserts the conditions of confinement violated his Eighth Amendment rights. To state an Eighth Amendment claim based on the “conditions of confinement” “a plaintiff must show [a] serious deprivation and deliberate indifference.” May v. Baldwin, 109 F.3d 557, 565 (9th Cir. 1997).

         B. ...

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