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Lancaster v. King County

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 29, 2017

KING COUNTY, Defendant.


          Mary Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff David Lancaster has submitted to the Court for filing a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court, having reviewed plaintiff's complaint, hereby finds and ORDERS as follows:

         (1) Plaintiff is currently confined at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent, Washington. (See Dkt. 1-1 at 2.) He asserts in his complaint that after arriving at the King County Jail in Seattle on the morning of February 25, 2017, he began experiencing severe chest pain and difficulty breathing. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff states that he notified a corrections officer of his need for medical care, but no medical attention was forthcoming. (Id.) Instead, plaintiff claims, he was transferred to solitary confinement for three days and never received any medical care. (Dkt. 1-1 at 3.) Plaintiff maintains that he is now scared to ask for medical attention, or to grieve this issue, because the last time he requested care he was put in solitary confinement. (Id.) Plaintiff identifies King County as the lone defendant in this action, and he asks that the County be ordered to pay for him to be seen by a cardiologist of his choosing, and that the County pay all related medical expenses. (See id. at 2, 4.)

         (2) In order to sustain a civil rights action, a plaintiff must show (1) that he suffered a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, and (2) that the violation was proximately caused by a person acting under color of state or federal law. See Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). To satisfy the second prong, a plaintiff must allege facts showing how individually named defendants caused, or personally participated in causing, the harm alleged in the complaint. See Arnold v. IBM, 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981).

         A defendant cannot be held liable solely on the basis of supervisory responsibility or position. Monell v. Department of Social Servs., of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691-694 (1978). Rather, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant's own conduct violated the plaintiff's civil rights. City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385-90 (1989). A local government unit or municipality can be sued as a “person” under § 1983. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. However, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 solely because it employs a tortfeasor. Id. A plaintiff seeking to impose liability on a municipality under § 1983 must identify a municipal “policy” or “custom” that caused his or her injury. Bryan County Commissioners v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997) (citing Monell 436 U.S. at 694).

         (3) The Court declines to order that plaintiff's complaint be served because plaintiff fails to allege any viable claim against King County, the only defendant named in this action. The County may not be held liable in this civil rights action solely because it employs individuals whom plaintiff believes caused him harm. If plaintiff wishes to pursue a claim against King County, he must identify the constitutional harm he believes he suffered, he must identify the County policy or custom which caused that harm, and he must set forth specific facts demonstrating the County's involvement in the alleged civil rights violation.

         Plaintiff may also elect to pursue claims against individual employees of King County if he believes specific employees caused him harm. If plaintiff wishes pursue claims against individual King County employees, he must clearly identify each employee he wishes to proceed against, he must identify the constitutional right violated by the conduct of each employee, and he must set forth specific facts demonstrating that each named employee personally participated in causing him harm of federal constitutional dimension.

         (4) Plaintiff may file an amended complaint curing the above noted deficiencies within thirty (30) days of the date on which this Order is signed. The amended complaint must carry the same case number as this one. If no amended complaint is timely filed, the Court will recommend that this action be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         Plaintiff is advised that an amended pleading operates as a complete substitute for an original pleading. See Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir.) (citing Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1546 (9th Cir. 1990) (as amended), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 915 (1992). Thus, any amended complaint must clearly identify each intended defendant, the constitutional claim(s) asserted, the specific facts which plaintiff believes support each claim against each defendant, and the specific relief requested.

         (5) The Clerk is directed to send plaintiff the appropriate forms so that he may file an amended complaint. The Clerk is further directed to send copies of this Order to ...

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