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Sutton v. Ruiz

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

August 20, 2014



SALVADOR MENDOZA, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court, without oral argument, is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum in Support, ECF No. 72. Defendants ask the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 70, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Having reviewed the pleadings and the file in this matter, the Court is fully informed and will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.


A. Procedural History.

Plaintiff, an inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, had his Amended Complaint, ECF No. 25, dismissed for failure to state a claim. See ECF No. 69. The Court dismissed his Washington Public Records Request Act claim with prejudice, but gave Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint on his Eighth Amendment claim. ECF No. 69 at 15, 18. Specifically, the Court indicated that Plaintiff could possibly survive dismissal if he pled sufficient facts demonstrating that Defendants knew of the alleged risk to Plaintiff's safety and if he pled sufficient facts regarding an incident involving a physical confrontation with another inmate. ECF No. 69 at 14-15.

Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint ("complaint"), ECF No. 70, on May 22, 2014. In addition to Ramon Ruiz, the original named Defendant, Plaintiff has also added Bernard Warner, the Secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections, Stephen D. Sinclair, the Superintendent of the Washington State Penitentiary, and Scott Lowder, the Shift Lieutenant at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, [1] as Defendants in the action. Plaintiff reasserts his claims under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, arguing primarily that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by (1) issuing an infraction report that named him as an informant and (2) failing to take any action to protect him once informed of the dangers he faced as a result of being labeled a "snitch" due to the infraction report. Plaintiff also argues that this conduct violated the Washington Administrative Code and constitutes negligence under state law.[2] ECF No. 70, at 33-40.

Defendants have asked the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's various claims under Rule 12(b)(6). ECF No. 72. Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state an Eighth Amendment claim because he has not satisfied either the objective or subjective components necessary to maintain such an action. ECF No. 72 at 10-13. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff has failed to establish a violation of the Washington Administrative Code because two of the sections that Plaintiff relies on are inapplicable and the third permits prison officials to include the names of witnesses on infraction reports. ECF No. 72 at 13-14. Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to establish a state law negligence claim because he has not complied with statutory requirements necessary to maintain a tort claim against the state.[3] ECF No. 72 at 14-15.

In addition, Defendants Sinclair and Lowder argue that Plaintiff has not established their personal participation, which warrants dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against them. ECF No. 72 at 15-16. In the alternative, all Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity from damages. ECF No. 72 at 17-19.

The additional facts pled by Plaintiff have sufficiently cured the deficiencies present in his first complaint to survive Defendants' 12(b)(6) motion on the Eighth Amendment claim. However, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Defendant Sinclair and his other claims fail. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 72, is granted in part and denied in part.

B. Factual History.[4]

On or about September 17, 2011, Plaintiff observed an inmate enter another inmate's cell, which was against prison rules. ECF No. 70 at 17. Suspecting a fight or some other dangerous conduct, Plaintiff reported what he had seen to Defendant Ramon Ruiz, a corrections officer on duty at the time. Id. After a brief investigation, Ruiz determined that there had been a violation of prison rules, documented the inmates' misconduct in an infraction report, and submitted it to his superiors for review. Id. at 18. Defendant Scott Lowder reviewed the infraction report, approved it as written, and ordered that it be served on the infracting inmate. Id. Though the infraction report listed Plaintiff as an informant, none of the prison officials redacted or removed Plaintiff's name from the report before serving it on the offending inmate. Id. at 19.

This caused Plaintiff to be labeled "a snitch" and "a rat" and has led to Plaintiff's harassment at the hands of other inmates. Id. Plaintiff has been bullied, verbally assaulted, threatened, and physically confronted. Id. at 24. In particular, Plaintiff has had issues with James Reeder, an inmate who has repeatedly targeted Plaintiff as a result of the infraction report. Id. at 24-25. According to Plaintiff, Reeder has bullied and harassed Plaintiff for months. Id. at 25. On October 22, 2013, Plaintiff and Reeder fought and Plaintiff sustained an injury. Id. at 24.

None of these incidents, other than the one involving the fight with Reeder, were reported to prison staff. Id. This was because Plaintiff did not trust Defendants or other prison officials to maintain his anonymity and he did not want to further his reputation as a "snitch" among inmates. Id. Despite his failure to report these incidents through official channels, Plaintiff informally told Defendants Ruiz and Lowder of the threats he faced and believes the Defendants knew of the dangers he was facing for at least two years prior to the reported incident. Id. at 25. None of the Defendants took any steps to address the danger Plaintiff faced as a result of the infraction report.


A. Legal ...

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