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May v. Board of County Commissioners of Dona Ana County

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 27, 2019

BRANDON MAY, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF DONA ANA COUNTY, CORIZON MEDICAL, JAIL DOCTOR REAL NAME UNKNOWN, JAIL NURSES REAL NAME UNKNOWN, Defendants.

          Brandon May Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, Plaintiff pro se

          Damian Martinez Holt Mynatt Martinez P.C., Attorneys for Defendant Board of County Commissioners of Doña Ana County

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Defendant Board of County Commissioners of Doña Ana County’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint for Violations of Civil Rights (Doc. 13) [sic], filed November 20, 2018 (Doc. 15)(“Motion”). The primary issues are: (i) whether the Plaintiff Brandon May has stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (ii) whether May has established a waiver of immunity for his state law claims. The Court concludes that: (i) May has not stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (ii) May has not established a waiver of immunity for his state law claims. Accordingly, Court grants the Board of Commissioners of Doña Ana County’s (“County Defendant”) Motion.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         May filed his Complaint (Tort) in the Third Judicial District Court, County of Doña Ana, State of New Mexico, on November 14, 2017 (Doc. 1-2)(“Complaint”). “Dona Ana County Jail” [sic] removed this case to the court on February 7, 2018. See Notice of Removal at 1 (Doc. 1). The Dona Ana County Jail removed the case on the grounds that it involves alleged violations of the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States of America. See Notice of Removal ¶ 2, at 1.

         In his Complaint, May alleges that unnamed prison officials showed deliberate indifference to his treatment and therapy needs following hand surgery, or, in the alternative, were negligent in his medical care and treatment. See Complaint ¶¶ 5-9, at 2-4. May alleges that the prison officials’ actions or inactions violated his “Constitutional Rights, Amendment 8: cruel and unusual punishment inflicted, Amendment 5: Deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process, as well as Amendment 14.” Complaint ¶ 9, at 4. May contends that “the impact from this physical torture has drove Plaintiff insane.” Complaint ¶ 9, at 4. May seeks relief in the form of damages: “Punitive Damages $2.5 million dollars, Monetary $100, 000[;] Mental Anguish $50, 000[;] Exemplary Damage[s] $200, 000[;] Compensation $5, 000[;] Compensatory Damages $100, 000[;] Anxiety $10, 000[; . . .] Annoyance $10, 000[;] (IIED) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress $100, 000[;] Negligent Actions $100, 000[; and] Deliberate Indifference $5, 000.” Complaint at 5.

         The Court conducted preliminary screening of the Complaint as 28 U.S.C. § 1915A requires, and entered its Memorandum Opinion and Order on August 23, 2018. (Doc. 12)(“MOO”). In the MOO, the Court denied May’s Motion to Remand, dismissed all of May’s federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and granted May leave to file an amended Complaint within thirty days of the MOO’s entry. See MOO at 1. The Court specifically ruled that “Dona Ana County Jail” is not a suable entity and noted that the proper party would likely be the Board of County Commissioners of Doña Ana County. See MOO at 6-7.

         May then filed the Plaintiff’s Response to the Courts [sic] Memorandum Opinion and Order on September 24, 2018 (Doc. 13)(“Response”). Attached to the Response was an amended Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights (“Amended Complaint”). The Amended Complaint names, as Defendants, the Board of County Commissioners of Doña Ana County, Corizon Medical, Jail Doctor, and Jail Nurses. See Amended Complaint at 2. The Amended Complaint alleges “denial of necessary and adequate medical care that caused severe pain infection of the plaintiff’s hand and in the surgical wound and sever [sic] muscle atrophy in plaintiff’s hand, wrist and arm.” Amended Complaint at 7. May seeks “judgment in favor of the Plaintiff for actual and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the jury at trial.” Amended Complaint at 5.

         Doña Ana County filed its Motion to Dismiss. Doña Ana County seeks dismissal of the claims against it in the Amended Complaint under rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that the allegations do not state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the New Mexico Constitution, or under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (“NMTCA”). See Motion at 4, 7. With respect to Plaintiff’s federal claim, Doña Ana County argues that: (i) the Amended Complaint’s allegations do not contain sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief; (ii) May fails to assert any Doña Ana County policy or custom leading to a violation of constitutionally protected rights; and (iii) May does not identify discrete, distinct actions that Doña Ana County did sufficient to state a § 1983 claim. See Motion at 7. Doña Ana County also contends that there is no waiver of immunity under the NMTCA for the state law claims asserted by Plaintiff, and that the allegations fail to state a plausible claim for relief under the NMTCA or under the New Mexico Constitution. See Motion at 9. Specifically, Doña Ana County notes that May claims relief under N.M. Stat. Ann. § 41-4-1, but the New Mexico Tort Claims Act’s waivers are only in §§ 41-4-5 through 41-4-12. See Motion at 8. Doña Ana County notes that the only immunity waiver for constitutional violations is found in § 41-4-12, but contends that this waiver applies only to law enforcement officers’ constitutional violations. See Motion at 8 (citing Anchondo v. Corr. Dep’t, 1983-NMSC-051, ¶ 2, 100 N.M. 108, 108, 666 P.2d 1255, 1255). Doña Ana County asserts that it is not a law enforcement officer under the statute, and so immunity has not been waived for May’s claim against it. See Motion at 9.

         May filed his Response to Defendant Board of County Comm of Dona Ana County’s Motion to Dismiss on December 20, 2018 (Doc. 16)(“Response”). In his Response, May argues that federal pleading standards do not bind him, that the “essence of Defendants [sic] Motion is that the Plaintiff did not repeat this Defendants name enough, ” that the specifics of May’s claims will be provided through discovery, and that May has proved a waiver of Doña Ana County’s immunity. See Response at 1-3.

         Doña Ana County filed its Reply in Support of the Motion to Dismiss on January 3, 2019 (Doc. 17)(“Reply”). Doña Ana County argues that the Response “can be synthesized into one overreaching [sic] theme, ” that May must follow the same pleading standards as any litigant and that the Amended Complaint does not state any plausible claim for relief against Doña Ana County. Reply at 1.

         LAW REGARDING FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM ON WHICH RELIEF CAN BE GRANTED

         The Court has the discretion to dismiss a pro se complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under rule 12(b)(6) the Court must accept all well-pled factual allegations, but not conclusory, unsupported allegations, and may not consider matters outside the pleading. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)(“Twombly”); Dunn v. White,880 F.2d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 1989). The court may dismiss a complaint under rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if “it is ‘patently obvious’ that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged.” Hall v. Bellmon,935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991)(quoting McKinney v. Okla. Dep’t of Human Serv.,925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a ...


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