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Trammell v. Spruyt

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 3, 2013

Ramone Trammell, Plaintiff,
v.
Tim Spruyt, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ramone Trammell, who is confined in the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, Arizona, has filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1) and has paid the administrative and filing fees. The Court will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

I. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

A pleading 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) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

"[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is]... a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other "more likely explanations" for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must "continue to construe pro se filings liberally." Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A "complaint [filed by a pro se prisoner] must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) ( per curiam )).

If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) ( en banc ). The Court should not, however, advise the litigant how to cure the defects. This type of advice "would undermine district judges' role as impartial decisionmakers." Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004); see also Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1131 n.13 (declining to decide whether the court was required to inform a litigant of deficiencies). The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim, but because the Complaint may possibly be saved by amendment, will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend

II. Complaint

In his two-count Complaint, Plaintiff sues Tempe police officer Tim Spruyt, Maricopa County Jail correctional officers John and Jane Doe 1-10, and Maricopa County Jail medical staff John and Jane Doe 1-10.

In Count I, Plaintiff asserts a Fourth Amendment claim for excessive force. Plaintiff does not say when, but alleges that Spruyt pulled over a vehicle in which Plaintiff was a passenger because Spruyt smelled marijuana and because the vehicle had failed to stop. As Spruyt approached the vehicle, Plaintiff ran away because he had almost $6, 000 in his pocket and had been robbed by a police officer in the past. Spruyt shot Trammell in the back. Plaintiff says he was unarmed but that Spruyt said he thought Plaintiff had a gun. Spruyt continued firing shots at Plaintiff, who ran down an alley and flagged down a marked police cruiser. Plaintiff was handcuffed and the police called an EMS. Plaintiff was taken to a hospital where he had surgery to extract the bullet and spent two days in a coma. Due to complications, Plaintiff underwent colostomy surgery.

In Count II, Plaintiff asserts violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to constitutionally adequate medical care. In support of this claim, Plaintiff alleges that the jail failed to provide hygiene items he needed to keep the area of the colostomy clean and the jail failed to take Plaintiff to his appointments (presumably, Plaintiff is referring to follow-up care for the colostomy, but that is not clear in his Complaint). Plaintiff says the site became infected and caused him pain, discomfort, psychological issues, embarrassment, fear of disability, and left him unable to protect himself. Plaintiff alleges that he was eligible for a colostomy reversal nine months ago, but has not received the procedure and his life continues to be at risk by the jail's "failure to reverse the surgery and/or provide other adequate care." (Doc. 1 at 4.)

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and any equitable relief the Court ...


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