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Staunton v. Warden Thomas Core Civic of America S.C.C.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

November 15, 2019

LOUIS LEONA STAUNTON, JR., #A-0110394, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN THOMAS CORE CIVIC OF AMERICA S.C.C., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE GRANTED TO AMEND

          JILL A. OTAKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is pro se Plaintiff Louis Leona Staunton, Jr.'s, first amended prisoner civil rights complaint (“FAC”) brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Staunton alleges that Defendants Saguaro Correctional Center (“SCC”)[1] Warden Thomas, the Halawa Correctional Facility (“HCF”) and its warden, Scott Harrington, and Trans Core of America[2] (collectively, “Defendants”), violated his civil rights during his transfer from SCC to Hawai‘i, when he fell from a bus upon arrival at HCF.

         For the following reasons, the FAC is DISMISSED for failure to state a colorable claim for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Claims alleged against SCC Warden Thomas, HCF, and Trans Core of America are DISMISSED with prejudice. All other claims are DISMISSED with leave to amend on or before December 20, 2019.

         I. STATUTORY SCREENING

         The court is required to screen all prisoner pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Claims or complaints that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or seek damages from defendants who are immune from suit must be dismissed. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Screening under §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a) involves the same standard of review as that used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Rosati v. Igbinoso, 791 F.3d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Under Rule 12(b)(6), 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) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A claim is “plausible” when the facts alleged in the complaint would support a reasonable inference that the plaintiff is entitled to relief from a specific defendant for specific misconduct. See Id. (citation omitted).

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “requires only ‘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.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). The “mere possibility of misconduct, ” or an “unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation” falls short of meeting this plausibility standard. Id. at 678-79 (citations omitted); see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         To state a claim, a complaint must contain more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action”; it requires factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). “All that is required is that the complaint gives ‘the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the ground upon which it rests.'” Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Datagate, Inc. v. Hewlett Packard Co., 941 F.2d 864, 870 (9th Cir. 1991)).

         Pro se litigants' pleadings must be liberally construed and all doubts should be resolved in their favor. See Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). The court must grant leave to amend if it appears the plaintiff can correct the defects in the complaint. See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130. If a claim or complaint cannot be saved by amendment, however, dismissal with prejudice is appropriate. See Sylvia Landfield Tr. v. City of Los Angeles, 729 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 2013).

         II. BACKGROUND

         In his original Complaint, Staunton alleged that his legs became entangled with a poorly designed seat restraint as he exited a bus when he arrived at HCF after his transfer from Arizona. See Compl., ECF No. 1. Staunton was unable to break his fall, apparently because he was in restraints, and says that he was substantially injured. Staunton was immediately taken to the Pali Momi Hospital emergency room, where he was treated for his injuries. Staunton asserted this incident was a “threat to safety, ” and involved the denial of “medical care, ” but he failed to state when it occurred or what Defendants specifically did or failed to do that violated his constitutional rights. See id.

         On August 12, 2019, the Court dismissed Staunton's Complaint for failure to state a colorable claim for relief against any Defendant. See Order, ECF No. 4. Staunton was given leave to amend to cure the deficiencies in his pleading, but was cautioned that an amended pleading “must be complete in itself without reference to any prior pleading.” Id. at 12.

         On September 5, 2019, Staunton filed the FAC. ECF No. 5. Although the FAC is replete with legal arguments and conclusions, its factual allegations remain sparse and it can only be understood with reference to the original Complaint. Staunton again alleges that he fell exiting a Trans Core bus when he arrived at HCF. Staunton states that this was an “unforseen safety issue, ” id. at 5, [3] “due to the flawed design in the seatbelt restraints.” Id. at 12. He says it is “a possibility that the straps was pre-tangled and twisted and overlooked, thinking it would stretch out and right itself.” Id. at 16. He suggests that he was “[p]ossibly rushed out of [the] bus by S.O.R.T. team members” and was “[u]nable to break his fall . . . with no assistance from the nearest S.O.R.T. team member.” Id. at 12-13. Staunton explains that he was denied adequate medical care because “Pali Momi Emergency Doctors order pain medication such as percocets, [or] vicodin where as H.C.F. medical care can only allow Tylenol with Cod[e]ine every 6 hrs.” Id. at 21.

         Staunton seeks injunctive relief, compensatory, and punitive damages.

         III. DISCUSSION

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         Section 1983 also requires an actual connection or link between a defendant's actions and the plaintiff's alleged deprivation. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976); May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 165, 167 (9th Cir. 1980). “A person ‘subjects' another to the deprivation of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which complaint is made.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978) (citation omitted). A plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of a particular defendant's conduct and an affirmative link between the injury and the violation of his rights.

         A. Eleventh ...


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