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Brown v. Pond

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

March 13, 2019




         This case comes before me on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [32]. For the following reasons, I GRANT the Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs claims against Defendants Pond and Miller are dismissed with prejudice, and Plaintiffs claims against the United States are dismissed without prejudice.


         Plaintiff Curtis Lamont Brown is currently incarcerated in the custody of the United States and located at the Federal Correctional Institution, Sheridan ("FCI Sheridan"). Brown has filed a Bivens action against Defendants Darrell Miller, a corrections officer at FCI Sheridan, Jennifer Pond, a certified nursing assistant at FCI Sheridan, in their individual capacities. Brown has also filed claims against the United States as the employer of Pond and Miller. Brown alleges that over several years Pond misdiagnosed his eye disease, resulting in pain and the eventual loss of his eye.

         Brown also alleges that as Miller was transporting Brown from a hospital visit back to FCI Sheridan, Miller walked Brown across wet grass when Brown was wearing ankle shackles, handcuffs, a black-box restraint device on his hands, and slide sandals. As Brown entered the transport van, he nearly slipped on the steps up. Entering behind Brown, Miller fell and landed on Brown's shackled wrists. Brown informed Miller that his wrists hurt, but Miller did not remove the shackles or black-box during the ride back to FCI Sheridan. Upon returning to FCI Sheridan, Miller took Brown to receive medical attention for his wrist. Brown alleges that Miller's fall onto his wrists damaged cartilage and ligaments, required surgery, and causes him pain and continued discomfort.

         Brown filed informal and formal grievances regarding his eye and Miller's fall onto Brown's wrists. Brown exhausted his administrative remedies for both injuries, then filed this suit, which Defendants have moved to dismiss.


         A motion to dismiss will be granted when, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A court ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion accepts as true all well-pleaded allegations, but the "[fj actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id., 550 U.S. at 555. "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Review of a 12(b)(6) motion is limited to the contents of the complaint. Enesco Corp. v. Price/Costco, Inc., 146 F.3d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 1998). Courts may also "consider 'documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the [plaintiffs] pleading.'" Northstar Fin. Advisors Inc. v. Schwab Invs., 779 F.3d 1036, 1043 (9th Cir. 2015).

         "Bivens established that compensable injury [by federal officials] to a constitutionally protected interest could be vindicated by a suit for damages invoking the general federal-question jurisdiction of the federal courts[.]" Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 486 (1978). To bring a Bivens claim, a plaintiff must allege that the defendants are (1) federal agents, (2) who violated plaintiffs constitutional rights, (3) while acting under the color of federal law. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1999).


         Brown brings six claims. The first claim is against Pond for deliberate indifference to Brown's medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Brown's second and third claims are against Miller for use of excessive force and deliberate indifference. Brown brings negligence and vicarious liability claims against the United States for Miller's decision to walk Brown across wet grass and for Miller falling on Brown's wrist. Brown also bring claims against the United States for negligent training and direct liability for not training Miller to walk along designated paths when transporting inmates, and a claim for medical negligence for Pond's misdiagnosis of Brown's eye disease.

         I. Claim 1 - Pond's Deliberate Indifference

         42 U.S.C. § 233(a) "grants absolute immunity to Public Health Service (PHS) officers and employees for actions arising out of the performance of medical or related functions within the scope of their employment by barring all actions against them for such conduct." Hui v. Castaneda,559 U.S. 799, 806 (2010). "By its terms, § 233(a) limits recovery for such conduct to suits against the United States." Id. The immunity provided by § 233(a) precludes Bivens actions against individual PHS officers or employees for harms ...

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