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Lucero v. CoreCivic N.W. New Mexico Correctional Facility

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 8, 2020




         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint filed by Core Civic and Warden Betty Judd (together, Defendants) (Doc. 20). The Amended Complaint asserts claims for failure to protect and provide medical care. Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and the applicable law, the Court finds the Motion should be granted in part. The federal constitutional claims will be dismissed with prejudice, but the Court declines to adjudicate any surviving state law negligence claim.


         Plaintiff is a New Mexico Corrections Department inmate. He alleges Correctional Officer Lucero discovered a syringe in a bunkmates' bed and blamed Plaintiff. This purportedly caused tension in the cellblock, and he was beaten by six other inmates for approximately six to 15 minutes. Doc. 11, ¶ 11. He suffered a broken jaw, and welts and contusions to his head, neck, and back. Id.

         Plaintiff appears to allege that the attack is traceable to misconduct by Defendants. He contends prison officials inappropriately mixed Level II and Level III inmates and failed to have sufficient employees to respond to the fight. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs by failing to timely treat his injuries and respond to his request for medical treatment.

         Plaintiff filed his complaint in New Mexico's First Judicial District Court on March 7, 2019. Defendant Centurion Correctional Health Care of New Mexico, LLC (“Centurion”) removed this matter to Federal Court on April 19, 2019. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed an Amended Complaint on May 14, 2019. Doc. 11. Counsel subsequently entered an appearance on behalf of Plaintiff, and Defendants Core Civic and Judd moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint under Fed. R. Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Docs. 18, 20. The matter is fully briefed.


         I. Legal Standard.

         “In reviewing a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) dismissal, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts, as distinguished from conclusory allegations, and those facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Moss v. Kopp, 559 F.3d 1155, 1159 (10th Cir. 2010). “To withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility 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.

         Because Plaintiff filed his amended complaint pro se, the Court liberally construes the factual allegations. See Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1520-21 (10th Cir. 1992). However, the pleadings are still judged by the same legal standards that apply to all litigants. Ogden v. San Juan County, 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994). The Court is not obligated to craft legal theories for the plaintiff or assume the role of advocate. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991)

         Plaintiff asserts federal constitutional claims. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is the statutory vehicle for asserting violations of the United States constitution. A cause of action under section 1983 requires the deprivation of a civil right by a ‘person' acting under color of state law.” McLaughlin v. Bd. of Trustees, 215 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2000). Plaintiff must allege that each government official, through the official's own individual actions, has personally violated the Constitution. Trask v. Franco, 446 F.3d 1036, 1046 (10th Cir. 1998). There must also be a connection between the official conduct and the constitutional violation. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008); Trask v. Franco, 446 F.3d 1036, 1046 (10th Cir. 1998).

         II. Analysis.

         A. Federal Constitutional Claims will be Dismissed with Prejudice

         Plaintiff alleges that prison officials failed to protect him from attack and treat his injuries. Both claims implicate the deliberate-indifference standard under the Eighth Amendment. Hovater v. Robinson, 1 F.3d 1063, 1068 (10th Cir. 1993); Garrett v. Stratman, 254 F.3d 946, 950 (10th Cir. 2001). Deliberate indifference occurs where a prison official is subjectively aware of an excessive risk to health and recklessly disregards that risk. Wilson v. Falk, 877 F.3d 1204, 1209 (10th Cir. 2017). The substantial harm requirement “may be satisfied by lifelong handicap, permanent loss, or considerable pain.” Garrett, 254 F.3d at 950. Assuming without deciding that prison officials caused substantial harm, the Amended Complaint contains no allegations that any particular Defendant knew Plaintiff was likely to be attacked. See, e.g., Butler v. Rios, 2017 WL 6803451, at *5 (W.D. Okla. Nov. 30, 2017) (knowing that certain types of prisoners may be ...

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