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Cameron v. County of Clark Nevada

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 21, 2018

Wayne Cameron, Plaintiff
County of Clark Nevada, et al., Defendants


          Jennifer A. Dorsey, U.S. District Judge

         Pro se plaintiff Wayne Cameron was a pre-trial detainee at the Clark County Detention Center (CCDC).[1] He brings this civil-rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for events related to the destruction of his dentures during a surprise “shake-down” cell search.[2] Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, [3] I screen his first-amended civil-rights complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and consider his pending motion for a continuance.[4] I find on screening that Cameron has pled plausible due-process and negligence claims against some Doe Defendants, so I allow him to proceed on those claims once he learns their identities.


         Cameron alleges that, during his pre-trial detention at CCDC, officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) performed a shake-down search of his cell in the middle of the night. Cameron has no teeth and relies on a full set of dentures. He took his dentures out while he slept and put them in a glass of water near his bunk. Cameron was instructed to exit his cell during the shake down before he had an opportunity to grab his dentures. When Cameron returned to his cell, the glass had fallen on the ground and his dentures were destroyed.

         Without his dentures, Cameron is unable to process food adequately, which causes him several medical complications. Cameron alleges that his dentures were in an open and obvious location, and it was only because of the officers' reckless and “absolute indifference” to his serious medical needs that they were thrown on the floor and broken. Cameron filed multiple grievances to have his dentures repaired or replaced, but those grievances were either ignored or denied.

         Cameron sues the unidentified officers (Does 1-5) who performed the shake down, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, and the LVMPD for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act (RA), the Due Process Clause, and for negligence. He seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.


         A. Screening standard for pro se prisoner claims

         Federal courts must conduct a preliminary screening in any case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity.[6] In its review, the court must identify any cognizable claims and dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who has immunity.[7] To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law.[8] Dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper only if it is clear that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle him to relief.[9]

         In making this determination, the court takes as true all well-pled factual allegations and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.[10] Allegations of a pro se plaintiff are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, [11] but a plaintiff must provide more than mere labels and conclusions.[12] “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported with factual allegations.”[13] “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.”[14]

         All or part of a complaint filed by a prisoner may also be dismissed sua sponte if the prisoner's claims lack an arguable basis either in law or in fact. This includes claims based on legal conclusions that are untenable (e.g., claims against defendants who are immune from suit or claims of infringement of a legal interest that clearly does not exist), as well as claims based on fanciful factual allegations (e.g., fantastic or delusional scenarios).[15] If it's clear from the face of the complaint that any deficiencies could not be cured by amendment, the court is not required to grant leave to amend.[16]

         B. Screening Cameron's first-amended complaint

         1. Right to due process for medical issues

         A pretrial detainee's right to be free from punishment is grounded in the Due Process Clause, but courts borrow from Eighth Amendment jurisprudence when analyzing the rights of pretrial detainees.[17] Although the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit have started to apply an objectively reasonable standard to determine whether a pretrial detainee's rights have been violated, those courts have not fully addressed the new standard for medical claims and pretrial detainees.[18] For screening purposes, I analyze Cameron's claims under the traditional Eighth Amendment deliberate-indifference standard.

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment and “embodies ‘broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency.'”[19] A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment when he acts with “deliberate indifference” to the serious medical needs of an inmate.[20] “To establish an Eighth Amendment violation, a plaintiff must satisfy both an objective standard-that the deprivation was serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment-and a subjective standard-deliberate indifference.”[21]

         To establish the first prong, “the plaintiff must show a serious medical need by demonstrating that failure to treat a prisoner's condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.”[22] To satisfy the deliberate-indifference prong, a plaintiff must show “(a) a purposeful act or failure to respond to a prisoner's pain or possible medical need and (b) harm caused by the indifference.”[23] “Indifference may appear when prison officials deny, delay or intentionally interfere with medical treatment, or it may be shown by the way in which prison physicians provide medical care.”[24] When a prisoner alleges that delay of medical treatment amounts to deliberate indifference, the prisoner must show that the delay led to further injury.[25]

         I find that Cameron has stated a colorable due-process, medical-issue claim. Cameron alleges that the Doe officers destroyed his dentures while they shook down his cell. He also alleges that CCDC refused to replace or repair his dentures, and because of that, he has suffered multiple severe medical complications related to eating and digesting his food and malnutrition. This claim will thus proceed against the Doe officers who performed the shake down once Cameron learns their identities.

         2. ADA and RA claims

         The Ninth Circuit has held that “the ADA prohibits discrimination because of disability, not inadequate treatment for disability.”[26] “Courts hold that allowing prisoners to utilize the ADA and RA as causes of action for not receiving medical treatment is simply making ‘an end run around the Eighth Amendment.'”[27] I therefore dismiss Cameron's claim under the ADA and the RA because it is redundant to his due-process medical claim, which provides the proper standard based on his allegations.

         3. Negligence

         Cameron also alleges that the Doe officers were negligent in performing the shake down. Liberally construed, I find that Cameron has sufficiently pled a negligence claim against them.

         His dentures were in an open and obvious location, and it may have been a breach of the officers' duty when his dentures were knocked over and destroyed. I also find that I may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over this state-law negligence claim, [28] so I will ...

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