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Fluelling v. City of Milpitas

January 25, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph C. Spero United States Magistrate Judge



Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for a More Definite Statement and to Strike Portions Thereof (FRCP 12(b)(6) and (e)) (the "Motion"). A hearing was held on January 14, 2004, at 9:30 a.m. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.*fn1


On September 3, 2004, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the City of Milpitas and the Milpitas Police Department alleging violations of her civil rights. On October 20, 2004, Defendants filed the Motion. Plaintiff responded by filing an amended complaint and an opposition to the Motion. At a case management conference held on December 3, 2004, the parties stipulated that Defendants would not file an amended motion, but rather, that Defendants would respond to any new issues raised by the amended complaint in their Reply brief.

Plaintiff's original complaint is based on an incident involving officers of the Milpitas Police Department alleged to have occurred on October 23, 2003. In Plaintiff's amended complaint, she describes this incident as follows:*fn2

Plaintiff alleges on October 23, 2004, she rented a car from Enterprise Car Rental and drove to Milpitas Mall from a long exhausting trip. She was in intense pain, nauseated and needed to go to a public restroom for a medical emergency, which was in close proximity to the Outback Restaurant in front of the Great Mall movie theater.

Plaintiff states the one officer approached her as she was getting out the car, and told her that he had a report that I was driving a red stolen car and an expired licensee [sic]. Plaintiff was asked to produce her licensee [sic] and registration, which she indicated, but she was nauseated and was vomiting, and needed to go to the bathroom, and that she was a diabetic. She further instructed the police officer, that it was in her trunk of car, and that she would provide her keys, if he would allow her to go to the restroom, so that she would not soil her clothes and the interior of the car. Shortly, she was surrounded by five police officers with battle gear, which shocked plaintiff, since she was attempting to respond to the officer. Plaintiff requested that a female officer accompanied her to the restroom, since she was in pain and agony, but was denied. Officer Thompson stated that if I moved one inch that "you will go to jail this night." Plaintiff started to cry from the discomfort and lifted her dress in public and hundreds of people to urinate in public. Plaintiff requested that Officer Thompson contact Chief of Police Robert Nichellini who was her former law school professor. Plaintiff was then able to secure the registration and driver's licensee [sic] who proved that the car was not stolen and her licensee [sic] was not expired. Plaintiff sought medical treatment from emergency hospital and medical staff coupled with assistance for therapy treatment for anxiety disorders from this horrible mentally taxing incident.

First Amended Complaint ("FAC") at 1-2. In the original complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following purported claims: 1) "False Imprisonment;" 2) "Interference with Federal Constitutional Rights;" 3) "Torts;" and 4) "Damages." In her discussion of the claim for "Interference with Federal Constitutional Rights," Plaintiff cites to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In the section of the complaint entitled "Compensatory Damages," Plaintiff appears to assert claims for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff seeks "Compensatory, Special, General, Non-Economic and Punitive" damages. Complaint at 7.

In the Motion, Defendants assert that the complaint must be dismissed, in its entirety, for lack of clarity. Motion at 2. Alternatively, Defendants request that Plaintiff be required to amend her complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to provide a clearer statement of her claims. Motion at 2. Defendants also identify a number of specific deficiencies which they argue require that certain portions of the complaint be stricken or dismissed.

First, Defendants assert that the claim entitled "Interference with Federal Constitutional Rights" must be dismissed because Plaintiff, while citing to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, has not clearly identified which constitutional amendment has allegedly been violated. Motion at 6. As a result, Defendants argue, they are unable to determine whether or not they may be entitled to assert a defense of qualified immunity. Id.

Second, Defendants assert that "it appears that plaintiff attempts to assert some sort of independent liberty violation, based solely upon the Fourteenth Amendment." Motion at 7. Defendants argue that such a claim must fail under Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989). In that case, the Court held, in the context of a § 1983 claim, that all claims alleging excessive force by a law enforcement officer in the course of an investigatory stop are governed by the Fourth Amendment "reasonableness" standard rather than the substantive due process requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment. 490 U.S. at 395.

Third, Defendants assert that Plaintiff's "Damages" claim should be dismissed because it does not state any claim and moreover, because Defendants may not be subjected to punitive damages. Defendants cite to California Government Code § 818, prohibiting the imposition of punitive damages against public entities. Defendants also cite to City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 271 (1981), in which the Court held that municipalities are immune from punitive damages for claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

In response to the Motion, Plaintiff filed an Opposition brief and a First Amended Complaint. The Opposition brief lists some of the rules and standards that apply to Rule 12 motions but does not address the specific arguments raised in the Motion. Rather, Plaintiff seeks to address these arguments in her amended complaint, which includes additional factual allegations and, possibly, new claims. The amended complaint also includes lengthy arguments with extensive citation to various legal authorities.

In her First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff repeats the allegations regarding the October 23, 2003 incident with only minor modification. Plaintiff also includes new allegations regarding thefts that allegedly occurred in July 2002 ("the Santa Clara theft") and on February 23, 2003 ("the San Francisco theft"), which Plaintiff alleges reveal a conspiracy on the part of Defendants to deprive her of her civil rights. FAC at 18-21, 23-24, According to Plaintiff, the July 2002 theft was investigated by the Milpitas Police Department, who uncovered information establishing that the theft was committed by Selena Rodriguez and Marcella Morrison, yet both the Milpitas Police Department and the Santa Clara District Attorney refused to prosecute these individuals. Plaintiff further alleges that she reported a February 23, 2003 theft to the Ingleside Police Department, resulting in four visits by police officers, but that when she tried to obtain incident reports from the San Francisco Police Department documenting these visits, no reports were found. FAC at 25. Plaintiff alleges that this "may be part of the Conspiracy to erase all police records" regarding the theft. Id. At oral argument, Plaintiff stipulated that the allegations regarding the alleged thefts were intended only to support Plaintiff's conspiracy claim and not to assert any new civil rights claims.

Although the First Amended Complaint alludes to numerous statutes and potential theories of liability, the Court construes the First Amended Complaint as attempting to allege the following claims: 1) False Imprisonment; 2) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; 3) 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 4) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on violation of Plaintiffs' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights; 5) Conspiracy to violate constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; 6) Substantive Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; 7) Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and 6) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.*fn3 At oral argument, Plaintiff stipulated that this is a complete list of the claims asserted her First Amended Complaint and that she is not asserting any other claims in this action. Plaintiff reiterates her demand for punitive, as well as other types of damages, and states that she is now seeking equitable and injunctive relief as well.

In their Reply brief, Defendants repeat their earlier arguments. They assert that as to the claim for "Interference with Federal Constitutional Rights," "plaintiff's Complaint in its current form fails to identify a single provision of the U.S. Constitution she alleges defendant to have violated." Reply at 3. Defendants note that Plaintiff has not provided any authority in support of asserting an independent Fourteenth Amendment claim. Nor, they argue, has she provided authority in support of her request for punitive damages. Defendants assert that rather than providing a clearer statement of her claims, Plaintiff has merely increased the confusion by adding potential theories of liability and "go[ing] off on new, unintelligible tangents." ...

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