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Hagen v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 4, 2014

TIFFANY HAGEN, as Personal Representative for the ESTATE OF MICHAEL CLARENCE HAGEN, Plaintiff,
v.
MAX WILLIAMS, individually; MITCH MORROW, individually; MARK NOOTH, individually; JUDY GILMORE, individually; JAMES EASTWOOD, individually; RANDY GILBERTSON, individually, JOSE DELGADO, individually; JOHN GILLUM, individually; DONALD HARRIS, individually; JOHN DOE 1-10, individually, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. McSHANE, District Judge.

Michael Hagen was an inmate at the Snake River Correctional Institute (SRCI).[1] Between October 2011 and January 2012, Hagen repeatedly notified Department of Corrections (DOC) officers and staff that he was being targeted by a white supremacist gang of which fellow inmate Terry Lapich was a member. DOC officials acknowledged the threat to Hagen and approved a transfer to another prison. Instead of being transferred directly from a segregated unit to a new prison, DOC officers transferred Hagen to Lapich's cell. Less than two hours later, on February 2, 2012, Hagen had been so severely beaten that despite being airlifted to a hospital, he died the next day.

I am asked to consider first whether Plaintiff's allegations support a claim of supervisory liability, and second whether some of Plaintiff's claims are time-barred. Because Plaintiff has failed to allege facts connecting the supervisors to Hagen's death, the claims against the supervisors are dismissed. Because the amended complaint's claims against the individual DOC officers at SRCI do not relate back to the original claims, those claims are untimely. Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.[2]

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Tiffany Hagen is the duly appointed personal representative of Michael Hagen's estate and also Michael Hagen's widow. Plaintiff filed the original complaint on January 30, 2014, against supervisor Defendants Max Williams, Mitch Morrow, Mark Nooth, Judy Gilmore, and 10 John Doe DOC employees. On May 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding Defendants James Eastwood, Randy Gilbertson, Jose Delgado, John Gillum, and Donald Harris. The added Defendants are officers and staff at SRCI.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter that "state[s] a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face when the factual allegations allow the court to infer the Defendant's liability based on the alleged conduct. Ashcroft v. lqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). The factual allegations must present more than "the mere possibility of misconduct." Id. at 678.

While considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all allegations of material fact as true and construe in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Burget v. Lokelani Bernice Pauahi Bishop Trust, 200 F.3d 661, 663 (9th Cir. 2000). However, the court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If the complaint is dismissed, leave to amend should be granted unless the court "determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995).

DISCUSSION

Defendants argue that: (1) Plaintiff's claims against the supervisor Defendants fail to state a claim for relief and (2) the claims against the newly added Defendants are barred by the statute of limitations.

I. Failure to State a Claim

Plaintiff alleges Defendants Williams, Morrow, Nooth, and Gilmore, in their respective supervisory roles at the DOC and SRCI "acted with deliberate indifference to the known and recognized constitutional and legal right of Hagen to be free from cruel and unusual punishment." Pl.'s First Am. Compl.13, ECF No. 19 (FAC). Defendants contend that Plaintiff did not sufficiently allege any direct, personal involvement of the supervisor Defendants in the alleged violations of Hagen's constitutional rights.

"Supervisors aren't vicariously liable for constitutional violations under section 1983. But they can be liable for their own conduct." Peralta v. Dillard, 744 F.3d 1076, 1085 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc). A supervisor may be culpable if he or she is personally involved in the constitutional deprivation or if there is a causal connection between the supervisor's conduct and the constitutional violation. Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207 (9th Cir. 2011). "The requisite causal connection can be established... by setting in motion a series of acts by others, or by knowingly refusing to terminate a series of acts by others which the supervisor knew or reasonably should have known would cause others to inflict a constitutional injury." Id. at 1207-08. This includes a supervisor's culpable action or inaction in training, supervising or controlling his subordinates. Id.

The Ninth Circuit's decision in Starr is illustrative because it also involved Eighth Amendment claims against a supervisor for injuries suffered by an inmate. In Starr, deputies opened a locked gate allowing inmates to attack Starr. Id. at 1204. The deputies ignored Starr's pleas for help and, after the other inmates stopped attacking him, several deputies began kicking and yelling at Starr as other deputies looked on. Id. Starr sued Sheriff Baca, the offsite supervisor, and the deputies involved in the attack. Id.

The court held that Starr's complaint successfully stated a claim against Sheriff Baca, because the factual allegations went beyond stating the bare elements of a deliberate indifference claim. Id. at 1216. The Starr complaint specifically detailed numerous incidents in which inmates were injured or killed and specifically alleged Sheriff Baca received notice of each incident. Id. The complaint also alleged that Sheriff Baca received several reports of the systematic problems in the county jails under his supervision that resulted in inmate injuries and deaths. Id. Specifically, when Sheriff Baca was a supervisor in 1997, he received a Department of Justice (DOJ) report detailing constitutional violations including abuse of inmates by sheriff's deputies. Id. at 1209. As Sheriff, Baca received weekly reports detailing jail deaths and injuries. Id. In 1999, Sheriff Baca signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under threat of lawsuit requiring him to address constitutional violations of inmates. Id. In 2006, the DOJ issued another report finding continuing noncompliance with the MOU. Id. Seven inmates were killed between 2002 and 2005 and five of those deaths occurred within a six-month period. Id. at 1209-11. After all but one of these deaths, Sheriff Baca was notified of his deputies' violations for failing to provide reasonable security, lax discipline, and failure to supervise. Id. Sheriff Baca personally signed off on a civil settlement and was aware of another settlement, both involving severe inmate beatings. Id. at 1209-10. In addition, the Sherriff Department's Special Counsel notified the Sherriff that his deputies' conduct was costing the county millions of dollars in civil judgments ...


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