Thomas v. County of San Diego et al

Filing 73

ORDER denying 46 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Signed by Judge M. James Lorenz on 9/6/2017. (sjt)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 DAVE THOMAS, as Guardian ad Litem on behalf of JONATHAN THOMAS, 15 ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT JORGE NARANJO’S MOTION [Doc. 46] TO DISMISS Plaintiff, 13 14 Case No.: 3:15-cv-02232-L-AGS v. COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, et al., Defendants. 16 17 Pending before the Court is Defendant Jorge Naranjo’s (“Naranjo”) motion to 18 19 dismiss the First Amended Complaint as to him. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1), 20 the Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. For the 21 foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Naranjo’s motion to dismiss. 22 // 23 // 24 // 25 // 26 // 27 // 28 // 1 3:15-cv-02232-L-AGS 1 2 I. BACKGROUND This litigation arises from a young man named Jonathan Thomas (“Thomas”) 3 attempting suicide by jumping off an upper tier of an inmate housing unit. Thomas has 4 suffered from a variety of mental disorders throughout his life. He has been diagnosed 5 with epilepsy, mania, depression, and schizophrenia. Because of his disorders, Thomas 6 has experienced hallucinations and delusions daily and has attempted suicide on multiple 7 occasions. Such troubles led Thomas’ father Dave to conclude that Thomas required the 8 constant observation of mental health professionals. Dave therefore checked Thomas 9 into a home that provided twenty-four-hour monitoring and therapy. 10 A few months after admission, Thomas attempted to set a small couch on fire 11 inside of the psychiatric home. He was subsequently arrested for arson of an inhabited 12 structure and sent to detention to await sentencing. While in detention, Thomas 13 attempted suicide twice by jumping off the second tier of his housing unit. Shortly after 14 the second suicide attempt, Thomas pled guilty to arson of an inhabited structure and 15 received a sentence of three years. Two years into his sentence, Thomas was transferred 16 to Atascadero State Hospital (“ASH”), because the authorities found that he represented a 17 substantial danger of physical harm to himself and others. Thomas’ commitment to this 18 mental institution has been involuntarily extended for a period of one year on three 19 occasions. 20 In October of 2014, Thomas was transferred to San Diego Central Jail (the “Jail”) 21 to await a routine court hearing before the San Diego Superior Court. In connection with 22 this transfer, the Jail received notification of Thomas’ previous suicide attempts. The Jail 23 also received discharge papers from ASH that noted his medical conditions, stated he had 24 attempted suicide twice by jumping off upper housing tiers and ordered that Thomas 25 receive “intensive psychiatric care” and “close psychiatric supervision.” Under these 26 circumstances, Jail policy required Thomas be placed on “Suicide Precautions” and 27 housed in a lower bunk on a lower tier and placed under heightened observation. 28 However, the Jail staff decided to house Thomas on an upper tier of a housing area 2 3:15-cv-02232-L-AGS 1 comparable in supervision levels to conditions in general population. Thomas again 2 jumped from the upper tier, sustaining substantial injuries. 3 Defendant Naranjo was involved in the decision to house Thomas on an upper tier 4 under normal supervision levels. Specifically, Naranjo was a psychiatrist at the Jail. He 5 received and reviewed the above mentioned documentation of Thomas’ medical disorders 6 and previous suicide attempts. Despite knowledge of Thomas’ problems and history of 7 attempting suicide by jumping off upper tiers, Naranjo approved Thomas for housing on 8 the upper tier under supervisory conditions similar to general population. On October 6, 2015, Thomas’ father (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint on behalf of his 9 10 son against the County of San Diego, Dr. Alfred Joshua–the San Diego Chief Medical 11 Officer for the Sheriff’s Detention Services, and William D. Gore–the Sheriff of San 12 Diego County. The Complaint alleged claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for cruel and 13 unusual punishment against all Defendants and negligence against Defendants Alfred 14 Joshua and William D. Gore. (See Compl.) Plaintiff subsequently moved for leave to file 15 an amended complaint adding Jail employed nurses Larry Deguzman, Mary Montelibano, 16 and Marylene Allen; doctors Rick Leigh Malaguti and Jorge Naranjo; Deputy David 17 Guzman; and Public Defender Connie Magana. Defendants opposed, arguing, inter alia, 18 that the proposed first amended complaint would be futile because the statute of 19 limitations had run as to the added defendants and the amended complaint would not 20 relate back under California’s DOE pleading doctrine. The Court found that the proposed 21 first amended complaint would relate back and granted Plaintiff’s motion. 22 Plaintiff has filed the First Amended Complaint. (FAC [Doc. 38].) Naranjo now 23 moves to dismiss the First Amended Complaint as to him. (MTD [Doc. 46].) Plaintiff 24 opposes. (Opp’n [Doc. 55].) 25 // 26 // 27 // 28 // 3 3:15-cv-02232-L-AGS 1 II. 2 LEGAL STANDARD The court must dismiss a cause of action for failure to state a claim upon which 3 relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) 4 tests the complaint’s sufficiency. See N. Star Int’l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm’n., 720 F.2d 578, 5 581 (9th Cir. 1983). The court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and 6 “construe them in the light most favorable to [the nonmoving party].” Gompper v. VISX, 7 Inc., 298 F.3d 893, 895 (9th Cir. 2002); see also Walleri v. Fed. Home Loan Bank of 8 Seattle, 83 F.2d 1575, 1580 (9th Cir. 1996). As the Supreme Court explained, “[w]hile a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) 9 10 motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to 11 provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and 12 conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” 13 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal citations and 14 quotation marks omitted). Instead, the allegations in the complaint “must be enough to 15 raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 1965. A complaint may be 16 dismissed as a matter of law either for lack of a cognizable legal theory or for insufficient 17 facts under a cognizable theory. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 18 534 (9th Cir. 1984). 19 // 20 // 21 // 22 // 23 // 24 // 25 // 26 // 27 // 28 // 4 3:15-cv-02232-L-AGS 1 2 III. DISCUSSION The First Amended Complaint lists Naranjo as a Defendant on the first and fifth 3 causes of action only. The first cause of action alleges deliberate indifference to a serious 4 medical need in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and 42 5 U.S.C. § 1983. The fifth cause of action alleges negligence. Naranjo seeks dismissal of 6 both claims on the grounds that they are untimely under the applicable statutes of 7 limitations. Naranjo further seeks dismissal of the first cause of action under the theory 8 that he was not deliberately indifferent and, even if he was, such deliberate indifference 9 was not a causal factor of Thomas’ injury. Neither argument is persuasive. 10 As to the statute of limitations argument, Naranjo is correct that the causes of 11 action against him are untimely if the First Amended Complaint does not relate back to 12 the time Plaintiff filed the original Complaint. However, in ruling on Plaintiff’s motion 13 for leave to file the First Amended Complaint, the Court already held that the First 14 Amended Complaint would relate back under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(A) and the 15 California DOE pleading doctrine. (April 20, 2017 Order [Doc. 37].) Naranjo 16 nevertheless argues that this holding no longer applies to Naranjo because the Summons 17 [Doc. 39], (which was generated by the Clerk of Court and names Naranjo as a 18 Defendant) does not indicate that Naranjo was previously an unnamed DOE Defendant. 19 Naranjo fails to cite a single authority suggesting that a defendant added under the 20 DOE doctrine must specifically be labeled in the summons as a previous DOE defendant. 21 Nor is there any policy reason for such a requirement given that the summons informs 22 Naranjo that he is now a defendant and it is entirely clear on the docket that he was added 23 under the DOE doctrine. Accordingly, the Court finds that the first and fifth causes of 24 action against Naranjo are timely because they relate back to the filing of the original 25 complaint. 26 As to the deliberate indifference claim, Naranjo argues that, as a matter of law, 27 the required elements of intent and causation are lacking. To adequately plead a 28 deliberate indifference claim based on inadequate medical care, a detained person need 5 3:15-cv-02232-L-AGS 1 only allege that a medical provider was aware of and disregarded his serious medical 2 need. Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2006). Suicidal ideations constitute a 3 serious medical need. Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017–18 (9th 4 Cir. 2009). Here, Naranjo reviewed documentation showing that Thomas had a history of 5 attempting suicide by jumping off upper tier housing units. Notwithstanding, Naranjo 6 violated Jail policy and assigned Thomas to an upper tier housing unit with general 7 population level supervision. Construing all allegations in favor of Plaintiff, the Court 8 finds that the First Amended Complaint plausibly alleges that Naranjo was deliberately 9 indifferent to Thomas’ suicidal tendencies. Next, Naranjo argues that, even if Naranjo’s decision to assign Thomas to an upper 10 11 tier amounted to deliberate indifference, such deliberate indifference did not cause 12 Thomas’ injury. Specifically, Naranjo argues that causation is severed because other Jail 13 personnel could have changed Thomas’ housing assignment. This argument strains 14 credulity. It is akin to arguing that one who drowns a victim by pushing them into a pool 15 is not to blame because a bystander could have come to the victim’s rescue. In other 16 words, from the fact that there was more than one cause of Thomas’ injury, it does not 17 follow that Naranjo’s decision was not a necessary link in the chain of causation. 18 19 20 IV. CONCLUSION & ORDER For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Naranjo’s motion to dismiss. 21 22 IT IS SO ORDERED. 23 Dated: September 6, 2017 24 25 26 27 28 6 3:15-cv-02232-L-AGS

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