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Gibson v. County of Maricopa

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 17, 2017

Albert James Gibson, Jr., Plaintiff,
County of Maricopa, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable John Z. Boyle United States Magistrate Judge

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Amend. (Doc. 22.) For the reasons below, the Court will grant Plaintiff's Motion and, after screening, allow Plaintiff to proceed with his claims against Defendants.

         I. Background

         On October 28, 2015, Plaintiff, who is represented by counsel, filed a Complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court. (Doc. 1-1 at 3.) Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint in that court on February 22, 2016. (Id. at 14.) On March 22, 2016, Defendants Maricopa County, Arpaio, Wade, Yelvington, Damato, Carlos Alanis, Canez, Rogers, Karas, Miller, Townsend, Pendrick, Myers, and Hoyt, all represented by the same counsel, paid the filing fee and filed a Notice of Removal. (Doc. 1.) On March 24, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (Doc. 3.) On April 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Response to Motion to Dismiss or In the Alternative Motion for Authority to Amend Complaint, and on April 15, 2016, Defendants filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Response. (Docs. 6, 7.) In a May 3, 2016 Order, the Court dismissed the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim and denied as moot Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff's Motion for Extension of Time, and Plaintiff's Response. (Doc. 8.) The Court gave Plaintiff 30 days to file a second amended complaint that cured the deficiencies identified in the Order.

         On June 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, naming Arpaio, Carlos, John or Jane Doe Detention Officer 1, and John or Jane Doe Supervisors 1-4 as Defendants. (Doc. 9.) On June 16, 2016, Defendants Arpaio and Carlos filed an answer to the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 10.) On August 2, 2016, the Court screened Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and allowed Plaintiff's claims to proceed against Defendant Carlos. (Doc. 13.) The Court further found that Plaintiff had stated claims against John or Jane Doe Supervisors 1-4, but the Court did not order service of these unidentified Defendants. (Id.) The Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Arpaio and Detention Officer John/Jane Doe 1 without prejudice. (Id.)

         On September 8, 2016, the Court entered a Case Management Order in this matter, setting December 7, 2016 as the deadline for amending pleadings. (Doc. 20.) On December 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Motion to Amend. (Doc. 22.) Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the Court should freely grant leave to amend “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Further, the Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently complied with Rule 15.1 of the Local Rules of Civil Procedure. Therefore, the Court will grant Plaintiff's Motion to Amend. Below, the Court screens Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint.

         II. 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.

         III. Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint

         In his two-count Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff sues the following Defendants: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Officer Carlos (Badge Number B2180), Detention Officers Landon Hoyt (Badge Number B2127) and Michael Wade (Badge Number B2679), Lt. Dan Karas (Badge Number A7994), and Shift Commander Sgt. James Rogers (Badge Number A7913). Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and fees and costs. In Count One, Plaintiff asserts negligence claims. In Count Two, Plaintiff asserts 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for the violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights.

         In support of his claims, Plaintiff alleges the following facts: Plaintiff had a disability requiring the use of a cane when he entered the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail. Plaintiff was issued a cane by medical because without one, Plaintiff's knee would “give out[, ] causing him to fall.” Pursuant to a medical order, Plaintiff was given a lower bunk in a lower tier cell, and this assignment was known by all Detention Officers, including Defendant Carlos.

         Most visits take place on the second level, but some inmates are housed in lower tier cells so that they do not have to navigate the stairs for legal or other authorized visits. When inmates housed in a lower tier cell get a visitor, they can meet with the visitor without having to go upstairs if a detention officer authorizes the lower level visit. To have a visit on the lower level, a guard must transport the inmate to and from the visit. A visit on the second level does not require a ...

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