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Lewis v. Penzone

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 19, 2019

Erica Ann Lewis, Plaintiff,
v.
Paul Penzone, Defendant.

          ORDER

          David G. Campbell Senior United States District Judge.

         On May 20, 2019, Plaintiff Erica Ann Lewis, who is confined in a Maricopa County Jail, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint[1] (Doc. 1) and an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (Doc. 2). The Court will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

         I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and Filing Fee

          The Court will grant Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Plaintiff must pay the statutory filing fee of $350.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The Court will not assess an initial partial filing fee. Id. The statutory filing fee will be collected monthly in payments of 20% of the previous month's income credited to Plaintiff's trust account each time the amount in the account exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The Court will enter a separate Order requiring the appropriate government agency to collect and forward the fees according to the statutory formula.

         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.

         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). Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, but because it may possibly be amended to state a claim, the Court will dismiss it with leave to amend.

         III. Complaint

         In her one-count Complaint, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from Defendant Paul Penzone. She contends she has been exposed to black mold and has had various ailments. Plaintiff asserts Defendant Penzone knew about the black mold, was given funds to fix it, and did nothing.

         IV. Failure to State a Claim

         Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), conclusory and vague allegations will not support a cause of action. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Further, a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled. Id.

         To state a valid claim under § 1983, plaintiffs must allege that they suffered a specific injury as a result of specific conduct of a defendant and show an affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976). “A plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of [her] civil rights.” Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998).

         A pretrial detainee has a right under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to be free from punishment prior to an adjudication of guilt. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). “Pretrial detainees are entitled to ‘adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal safety.'” Alvarez-Machain v. United States, 107 F.3d 696, 701 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1246 (9th Cir. 1982)). To state a claim of unconstitutional conditions of confinement against an individual defendant, a pretrial detainee must allege facts that show:

(i) the defendant made an intentional decision with respect to the conditions under which the plaintiff was confined; (ii) those conditions put the plaintiff at substantial risk of suffering serious harm; (iii) the defendant did not take reasonable available measures to abate that risk, even though a reasonable official in the circumstances would have appreciated the high degree of risk involved-making the consequences of the defendant's conduct obvious; and (iv) by not taking such measures, the defendant caused the plaintiff's injuries.

Gordon v. County of Orange, 888 F.3d 1118, 1125 (9th Cir. 2018).

         Whether the conditions and conduct rise to the level of a constitutional violation is an objective assessment that turns on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Id.; Hearns v. Terhune, 413 F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2005). However, “a de minimis level of imposition” is insufficient. Bell, 441 U.S. at 539 n.21. In addition, the “‘mere lack of due care by a state official' does not deprive an individual of life, liberty, or property under the Fourteenth Amendment.” Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1071 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986)). Thus, a plaintiff must “prove more than negligence but less than subjective intent-something akin to reckless disregard.” Id.

         Plaintiff's vague and conclusory allegations do not support a conclusion that Defendant Penzone made an intentional decision that put Plaintiff at substantial risk of suffering serious harm. In addition, Plaintiff does not identify how Defendant Penzone was aware of the black mold and does not allege any facts to support that her symptoms were the result of exposure to black mold. Absent more, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim. Thus, the Court will dismiss without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint.

         V. Leave to Amend

         For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Within 30 days, Plaintiff may submit a first amended complaint to cure the deficiencies outlined above. The Clerk of Court will mail Plaintiff a court-approved form to use for filing a first amended complaint. If Plaintiff fails to use the court-approved form, the Court may strike the amended complaint and dismiss this action without further notice to Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff must clearly designate on the face of the document that it is the “First Amended Complaint.” The first amended complaint must be retyped or rewritten in its entirety on the court-approved form and may not incorporate any part of the original Complaint by reference. Plaintiff may include only one claim per count.

         A first amended complaint supersedes the original Complaint. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992); Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1546 (9th Cir. 1990). After amendment, the Court will treat the original Complaint as nonexistent. Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1262. Any cause of action that was raised in the original Complaint and that was voluntarily dismissed or was dismissed without prejudice is waived if it is not alleged in a first amended complaint. Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 928 (9th Cir. 2012) (en banc).

         If Plaintiff files an amended complaint, Plaintiff must write short, plain statements telling the Court: (1) the constitutional right Plaintiff believes was violated; (2) the name of the Defendant who violated the right; (3) exactly what that Defendant did or failed to do; (4) how the action or inaction of that Defendant is connected to the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional right; and (5) what specific injury Plaintiff suffered because of that Defendant's conduct. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

         Plaintiff must repeat this process for each person he names as a Defendant. If Plaintiff fails to affirmatively link the conduct of each named Defendant with the specific injury suffered by Plaintiff, the allegations against that Defendant will be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Conclusory allegations that a Defendant or group of ...


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