United States District Court, D. Utah
v. THE ESTATE OF JULIO GUERRERO, et al., Plaintiffs, SCOTT CROWTHER, and JOHN DOES I-X, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
SAM SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
February 9, 2015, Mario A. Lucero, an inmate at the Utah
State Prison serving a sentence for murder, was placed in a
cell with Julio Guerrero, who was serving a sentence for
robbery. The cell they occupied did not have a functioning
security button that enables inmates to summon assistance.
Prior occupants of the cell allegedly notified prison
officials some two months earlier that the button did not
work. On February 10, 2015, prison officials discovered Mr.
Guerrero dead in his cell. Mr. Lucero was charged with Mr.
Guerrero's death, and subsequently pled guilty to
the estate and heir of Mr. Guerrero, filed a complaint
against the Warden of the Utah State Prison, Scott Crowther,
and other unnamed defendants. Mr. Crowther moves to dismiss the
claims against him in the Amended Complaint pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint
may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. To avoid dismissal the complaint must
plead sufficient facts, that when taken as true, provide
“plausible grounds” that “discovery will
reveal evidence” to support plaintiff's
allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. V. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 556 (2007). The burden is on the plaintiff to frame
a “complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true)
to suggest” that he or she is entitled to relief.
Id. “Factual allegations must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Id. A plaintiff must provide more than labels,
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
claim. Id. at 555. The allegations must be enough
that, if assumed to be true, the plaintiff plausibly (not
just speculatively) has a claim for relief. Robbins v.
Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247-48 (10th Cir.
Amended Complaint contains three claims for relief, two
claims alleging deprivation of rights under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, and one claim for violation of Article 1, Section 9 of
the Utah Constitution.
42 U.S.C. § 1883 - Sufficiency of Pleadings
1983 provides a private cause of action for a person
subjected “to the deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws” by a person acting under color of state law. 42
U.S.C. § 1983. The Eighth Amendment imposes a duty on
prison officials to “provide humane conditions of
confinement” and to “take reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of the inmates.” Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In
particular, prison officials have a duty “to protect
prisoners from violence at the hands of other
prisoners.” Id. at 833 ((internal quotation
marks and citation omitted).
The Tenth Circuit has provided instruction on framing a
proper § 1983 complaint.
[C]ommon to all § 1983 ... claims is the requirement
that liability be predicated on a violation traceable to a
defendant-official's own individual actions. As relevant
here, government officials may not be held liable for the
unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory
of respondeat superior.
[However] .... government officials may be held responsible
for constitutional violations under a theory of supervisory
liability. A plaintiff may therefore succeed in a § 1983
suit ... against a defendant- supervisor by demonstrating:
(1) the defendant promulgated, created, implemented or
possessed responsibility for the continued operation of a
policy that (2) caused the complained of constitutional harm,
and (3) acted with the state of mind required to establish
the alleged constitutional deprivation.
Because § 1983 ... [is a vehicle] for imposing personal
liability on government officials, we have stressed the need
for careful attention to particulars, especially in lawsuits
involving multiple defendants. It is particularly important
that plaintiffs make clear exactly who is alleged to have
done what to whom, ... as distinguished from collective
allegations. When various officials have taken different
actions with respect to a plaintiff, the plaintiff's
facile, passive-voice showing that his rights were violated
will not suffice. Likewise insufficient is a plaintiff's
more active-voice yet undifferentiated contention that
“defendants” infringed ...