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Sussan v. Polk County

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

February 18, 2014

THEADORE T. SUSSAN, Plaintiff,
v.
POLK COUNTY, OREGON, and TIMOTHY W. HILKER, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL W. MOSMAN, District Judge.

This civil rights lawsuit arises from injuries sustained by Plaintiff Theadore Sussan ("Mr. Sussan") while performing community service in August of 2012. Following a drug conviction in Polk County (the "County"), Mr. Sussan was sentenced to serve 120 hours of community service. While performing his community service under the supervision of Defendant Timothy Hilker ("Mr. Hilker"), Mr. Sussan's eye was seriously injured. His injuries required extensive medical treatment.

Mr. Sussan brings claims against the County and Mr. Hilker (collectively, "Defendants"): under two causes of action: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violations of his rights secured by the Fourteenth, Eighth, and Fourth Amendments; and (2) common-law negligence. (Compl. [1] at 6-8.) Mr. Sussan seeks compensatory damages and attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Id. at 10-11.

Now before me is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [7], seeking: (1) dismissal of the § 1983 cause of action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim; and (2) dismissal of the negligence cause of action, which is in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Mr. Sussan filed a response [9] to the motion to dismiss, and Defendants filed a reply [10].

I find that the complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to state a plausible claim that the Defendants violated Mr. Sussan's constitutional rights. Further, I find that dismissal of the § 1983 cause of action calls for dismissal of the negligence cause of action. Therefore, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [7] is GRANTED, and both claims for relief are dismissed without prejudice.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

While Mr. Sussan was serving his community service on a trail crew in a park owned by the County, his eye was severely injured after he tried to break a live tree branch without proper equipment. (Compl. [1] at 5.) Mr. Sussan alleges that Mr. Hilker, who was supervising the community service crew, left protective goggles and gloves, as well as a chain saw, "back at the office." Id. Mr. Hilker instructed Mr. Sussan to break the tree branch, and despite the lack of safety equipment, Mr. Sussan complied, "[f]earing the consequences that not obeying could have on his probationary status." Id. When Mr. Sussan attempted to break the branch, the branch struck him in the eye. Id. He was then taken to the hospital, where he underwent multiple surgeries to correct a long list of eye injuries. Id. at 5, 9-10. Subsequently, Mr. Sussan submitted a workers' compensation claim with the County, but was denied coverage. Id. at 5.

DISCUSSION

I. The 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claim

Mr. Sussan bases his § 1983 claim on Defendants' alleged violation of his Fourteenth, Eighth, and Fourth Amendment rights. This claim appears to depend on two somewhat independent groups of facts: the injury to Mr. Sussan's eye while performing community service work under the supervision of Mr. Hilker, and the County's denial of Mr. Sussan's workers' compensation claim following the injury.

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2006)). This Court "must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint." Id. However, to satisfactorily state a plausible claim to relief, a plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Cook v. Brewer, 637 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). I will address each alleged constitutional violation in turn.

A. Fourteenth Amendment

Mr. Sussan bases his Fourteenth Amendment claim on the circumstances leading to his eye injury, as well as the subsequent denial of workers' compensation. (Compl. [1] at 6-8.) It is not clear from the Complaint, but I assume that Mr. Sussan means to contend that each ...


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