Greene v. CDCR, et al

Filing 41

MEMORANDUM and ORDER signed by Senior Judge William B. Shubb on 02/06/24 DENYING Defendants' 31 Motion for Partial Judgment on the pleadings. (Benson, A.)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 ----oo0oo---- 11 12 WENDY GREENE, Plaintiff, 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 No. 2:23-cv-00082 WBS DMC v. MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, BRIAN KIBLER, M. KNEDLER, J. FLORES, R. CHANDLER, S. KELLY, J. YOCIUS, M. KELLY, M. ZARATE, M. WOODRUFF, E. HALL, L. OCHOA, B. RICE, A. DAVY, V. HAUSER, K. OLIVER, and DOES 135, Defendants. 21 ----oo0oo---- 22 23 Plaintiff Wendy Greene brought this action alleging 24 failure to protect, deliberate indifference to serious medical 25 needs, and deprivation of familial association under 42 U.S.C. § 26 1983, and negligence and wrongful death under California law. 27 (Compl. (Docket No. 1).) 28 plaintiff’s son, Michael Hastey, who was incarcerated at High This action concerns the death of 1 1 Desert State Prison and was killed by two other inmates on 2 February 18, 2022. 3 (See id. ¶¶ 1-2.) Defendants -- the California Department of Corrections 4 (“CDCR”) and various prison officials -- now move for partial 5 judgment on the pleadings on plaintiff’s wrongful death and 6 negligence causes of action on the ground that plaintiff failed 7 to comply with the California Government Claims Act. 8 31.) 9 I. 10 (Docket No. Judicial Notice Though a court generally may not consider material 11 outside the complaint on a motion to dismiss, the court may look 12 beyond the pleadings at “matters of which a court may take 13 judicial notice.” 14 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). 15 court may take judicial notice of an adjudicative fact that is 16 “not subject to reasonable dispute because it: (1) is generally 17 known within the trial court’s territorial jurisdiction; or (2) 18 can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose 19 accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” 20 Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., Under Federal Rule of Evidence 201, a Fed. R. Evid. 201(b). Defendants request that the court take judicial notice 21 of plaintiff’s government claim form filed pursuant to the 22 California Government Claims Act, Cal. Gov’t Code § 900 et 23 seq. 24 does not dispute the accuracy of the document provided by 25 defendant and does not object to the court taking judicial notice 26 of the claim form. 27 therefore grant defendants’ request for judicial notice. 28 City of Sausalito v. O’Neill, 386 F.3d 1186, 1223 (9th Cir. 2004) (See Docket No. 31 at 13-14 (“Claim Form”).) (See Docket No. 38 at 4.) 2 Plaintiff The court will See 1 (a court “may take judicial notice of a record of a state agency 2 not subject to reasonable dispute”). 3 II. 4 California Government Claims Act The California Government Claims Act requires 5 presentation of a claim as a condition precedent to maintaining 6 any cause of action seeking damages against a public entity. 7 Cal. Gov’t. Code § 905; City of San Jose v. Superior Court, 12 8 Cal. 3d 447, 454 (1974); Mangold v. Cal. Pub. Utilities Comm’n, 9 67 F.3d 1470, 1477 (9th Cir. 1995). See “Compliance with the claims 10 statutes is mandatory and failure to file a claim is fatal to the 11 cause of action,” see City of San Jose, 12 Cal. 3d at 454 12 (internal citations omitted), including for actions asserting 13 tort claims, see Donohue v. State, 178 Cal. App. 3d 795, 797 (2d 14 Dist. 1986). 15 To sufficiently present a claim, the claimant must 16 include “[t]he date, place and other circumstances of the 17 occurrence or transaction which gave rise to the claim asserted,” 18 and “[a] general description of the indebtedness, obligation, 19 injury, damage or loss incurred so far as it may be known at the 20 time of the presentation of the claim.” 21 The claim must “provide the public entity sufficient information 22 to enable it to adequately investigate claims and to settle them, 23 if appropriate, without the expense of litigation.” 24 Jose, 12 Cal. 3d at 455. 25 Cal. Gov’t. Code § 910. City of San In Stockett v. Association of California Water Agencies 26 Joint Powers Insurance Authority, 34 Cal. 4th 441 (2004), the 27 California Supreme Court thoroughly explained the standards a 28 claim must meet to satisfy the Government Claims Act. 3 The Court 1 stated that a claim “need not contain the detail and specificity 2 required of a pleading” or “specify each particular act or 3 omission later proven to have caused the injury,” but rather 4 “need only fairly describe what the entity is alleged to have 5 done.” 6 adopted). 7 entity notice sufficient for it to investigate and evaluate the 8 claim, not to eliminate meritorious actions, the claims statute 9 should not be applied to snare the unwary where its purpose has 10 Id. at 446 (internal quotation marks omitted, alteration “As the purpose of the claim is to give the government been satisfied.” 11 Id. (internal quotations omitted). “A complaint’s fuller exposition of the factual basis 12 beyond that given in the claim is not fatal, so long as the 13 complaint is not based on an entirely different set of facts.” 14 Id. at 447 (internal quotation marks omitted). 15 has been a complete shift in allegations, usually involving an 16 effort to premise civil liability on acts or omissions committed 17 at different times or by different persons than those described 18 in the claim, have courts generally found the complaint barred.” 19 Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). 20 merely elaborates or adds further detail to a claim, but is 21 predicated on the same fundamental actions or failures to act by 22 the defendants, courts have generally found the claim fairly 23 reflects the facts pled in the complaint.” 24 Court explained that because additional “theories [of liability] 25 do not represent additional causes of action,” they “need not be 26 separately presented” in a claim to satisfy the Government Claims 27 Act. 28 “Only where there “Where the complaint Id. Further, the Id. The court finds that plaintiff’s claim form in this 4 1 case adequately provides a general description of the injury 2 alleged and gives sufficient notice of defendants’ alleged 3 wrongful conduct. 4 the incident that led to Mr. Hastey’s death, along with his name 5 and CDCR number. 6 that the claimant seeks damages for the “[p]re-death injuries and 7 death of Michael Hastey” and describes the incident, stating: 8 “Michael Hastey . . . was violently murdered by two armed inmates 9 on the yard at High Desert State Prison.” The claim includes the date and location of (See Claim Form at 1.) The claim indicates (Id.) The claim 10 indicates that CDCR officials were aware of Mr. Hastey’s “unique 11 vulnerability” to harm by other inmates. 12 alleges that CDCR officials “failed to safely house” Mr. Hastey. 13 (Id.) 14 view of corrections officers” and that CDCR and its employees 15 “failed to . . . adequately protect” him, indicating that CDCR 16 officials were present at the time of the incident and failed to 17 prevent his death. (See id.) The claim It also alleges that Mr. Hastey’s death occurred “in full (See id.) 18 The claim form closely tracks several of the 19 allegations made in support of the wrongful death and negligence 20 causes of action. 21 defendants were “correctional officials charged with intervening 22 during the attack that claimed Michael’s life”); id. ¶¶ 86, 94 23 (“As Michael’s jailers, each of the Individual Correctional 24 Defendants had an affirmative duty to protect Michael from 25 reasonably foreseeable harm inflicted by third parties, including 26 [the inmates who killed him].”).) 27 28 (See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 29 (certain of the Defendants argue that the additional facts and theories presented in the complaint were not fairly presented in the 5 1 claim. Specifically, defendants point to the complaint’s 2 allegations that correctional officials failed to act in a manner 3 that would protect Michael by placing him at High Desert, where 4 he was likely to be targeted due to his father being a local CDCR 5 guard; failing to place him in protective custody given his 6 vulnerability; failing to transfer him to a different facility 7 where he would not be targeted; failing to search the other 8 inmates for weapons before entering the yard where the incident 9 occurred; failing to fire shots to intervene during the attack; 10 and failing to summon or provide medical care following the 11 attack. (See Compl. ¶¶ 3-10, 80, 88.)1 12 These details constitute merely additional theories of 13 liability under plaintiff’s negligence and wrongful death causes 14 of action, which also rely upon the allegations cited above that 15 more closely mirror the content of the claim. 16 97.) 17 causes of action -- need not have been specifically expounded 18 upon in the claim, and plaintiff is not precluded from asserting 19 them now. 20 Stockton v. Superior Ct., 42 Cal. 4th 730, 738 (2007) (“[t]he 21 purpose of the claims statutes is not to prevent surprise, but to 22 provide the public entity sufficient information to enable it to (See Compl. ¶¶ 83- As a result, these details -- which do not present separate See Stockett, 34 Cal. 4th at 447; see also City of 23 At oral argument, defense counsel also referenced a supposed allegation that defendants “disseminated” Mr. Hastey’s juvenile records. However, the court does not find that the complaint makes such an allegation. The complaint refers to the content of those records becoming known among High Desert officials and inmates, but does not accuse any entity or individual of disseminating that information and does not appear to directly premise liability on the spread of that information. (See Compl. ¶¶ 51-56.) 6 1 24 25 26 27 28 1 adequately investigate”). 2 Further, contrary to defendants’ arguments, the 3 allegations of the complaint “are predicated on the same 4 fundamental actions or failures to act by the defendants” alleged 5 in the claim form, see Stockett, 34 Cal. 4th at 447 -- namely, 6 the failure to prevent Mr. Hastey’s death resulting from the 7 attack by other inmates that occurred on February 18, 2022. 8 claim form alleged that defendants failed to “safely house” Mr. 9 Hastey despite his “unique vulnerability” to other inmates (see The 10 Claim Form at 1), which fairly reflects the complaint’s 11 allegations that defendants placed Mr. Hastey at risk despite 12 their knowledge of his vulnerability by housing him at High 13 Desert, failing to place him in protective custody, and failing 14 to transfer him to a different facility. 15 that correctional officers were present at the time of the attack 16 yet “failed to . . . adequately protect” Mr. Hastey (see id.), 17 which fairly reflects the complaint’s allegations that defendants 18 failed to intervene during the attack and failed to summon 19 medical care following the attack. 20 assertions, the claim refers not merely to the isolated actions 21 of the inmates in attacking Mr. Hastey, but also the broader 22 context in which that attack occurred and caused Mr. Hastey’s 23 death. The claim also alleged Contrary to defendants’ 24 It is reasonable to expect that the state, based on the 25 information provided in the claim, would investigate the chain of 26 events leading to the attack, correctional officials’ actions 27 during the attack, and officials’ actions immediately following 28 the attack. Indeed, is hard to imagine how the state could 7 1 adequately investigate whether it was liable for Michael’s death 2 without investigating those facts, which are inherently connected 3 to both the incident itself and the notion that defendants were 4 in some way at fault for Mr. Hastey’s death. 5 Because the additional theories pled in plaintiff’s 6 complaint “did not shift liability to other parties or premise 7 liability on acts committed at different times or places,” the 8 claim “fairly reflects the facts pled in the complaint.” 9 Stockett, 34 Cal. 4th at 447-48. See See also Blair v. Superior 10 Court, 218 Cal. App. 3d 221, 226 (3d Dist. 1990) (where claim 11 alleged that state negligently maintained highway surface by 12 failing to sand it to prevent icing, it was permissible for 13 complaint to assert that state failed to provide warning signs 14 and a guardrail because both the claim and complaint “generally 15 assert[ed] negligence in the construction and general maintenance 16 of the highway”) (cited with approval in Stockett, 34 Cal. 4th at 17 448-49); White v. Superior Court, 225 Cal. App. 3d 1505, 1511 18 (1st Dist. 1990) (where claim alleged that officer assaulted and 19 battered plaintiff, it was permissible for complaint to assert 20 claims for negligent hiring and intentional failure to train 21 because there had not been any “shift in the fundamental facts 22 about her injury”) (cited with approval in Stockett, 34 Cal. 4th 23 at 447). 24 Accordingly, the court concludes that plaintiff’s claim 25 satisfied the requirements of the California Government Claims 26 Act. 27 III. Statutory Immunity 28 Generally, a California public entity “is not liable 8 1 for . . . an injury proximately caused by any prisoner . . . [or] 2 [a]n injury to any prisoner.” 3 failure to summon medical care is an exception to this statutory 4 immunity. 5 statutorily immune from suit under § 844.6(a). 6 See id. § 845.6. Cal. Gov’t Code § 844.6(a). The Defendants argue that CDCR is Only the negligence cause of action is brought against 7 CDCR. (See Compl. at 17.) The negligence cause of action 8 alleges failure to “promptly summon and/or procure life-saving 9 medical care.” (See id. ¶ 87.) The negligence cause of action 10 also expressly cites the statute establishing the exception to 11 CDCR’s statutory immunity for causes of action alleging failure 12 to summon medical care. 13 845.6).) 14 failure to summon medical care, CDCR is not statutorily immune 15 from suit on that cause of action.2 (See id. at 17 (citing Cal. Gov’t Code § Because the cause of action against CDCR asserts 16 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendants’ motion for 17 partial judgment on the pleadings (Docket No. 31) be, and the 18 same hereby is, DENIED. 19 Dated: February 6, 2024 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 To the extent defendants argue that CDCR is immune because plaintiff’s claim did not provide adequate notice of the failure to summon theory, this argument fails. As explained above, the court concludes that plaintiff’s claim form provided adequate notice of the content of the complaint, including the failure to summon medical care theory. 9 2

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