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BROWN v. CITY OF EL CAJON

United States District Court, S.D. California


December 13, 2005.

PAULA J. BROWN and JONATHAN D. BROWN, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF EL CAJON, et al., Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN HOUSTON, Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' UNOPPOSED MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS AGAINST THE CITY OF EL CAJON AND THE EL CAJON POLICE DEPARTMENT [DOC. # 9]
INTRODUCTION
Now before the Court is the motion to dismiss filed by defendants City of El Cajon, El Cajon Police Department, Robert Ransweiler and Christopher Baldwin (collectively "the City of El Cajon defendants"). Plaintiffs do not oppose the motion.*fn1 The City of El Cajon defendants' motion was subsequently taken under submission without oral argument. See CivLR 7.1(d.1). After a careful consideration of the pleadings presented, and for the reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS the City of El Cajon defendants' motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

  On August 5, 2005, plaintiff Paula J. Brown was struck by a stray bullet during the attempted arrest by El Cajon police officers of a murder suspect. Plaintiff Jonathan D. Brown, Paula J. Brown's son, observed the incident. On July 27, 2005, plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging the City of El Cajon defendants, among others, violated their constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. On August 23 and 24, 2005, the City of El Cajon defendants and defendant State of California (by and through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) filed their respective motions to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). See Docs. # 3, 5. Because plaintiffs, on September 28, 2005, filed a first amended complaint, this Court denied both motions as moot.

  The City of El Cajon defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss plaintiffs' first amended complaint on October 5, 2005. Plaintiffs filed their notice of non-opposition to the motion on November 15, 2005. This Court took the motion under submission without oral argument on November 23, 2005.

  DISCUSSION

  The City of El Cajon defendants move, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for an order dismissing defendants City of El Cajon and the El Cajon Police Department on the grounds that the first amended complaint fails to state a claim for municipal liability under Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 683 (1978). Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, "[e]very person" who acts under color of state law may be sued. The term "person" has been interpreted broadly, even to include cities, counties, and other local government entities. See Monell, 436 U.S. 658.

  Municipalities, their agencies and their supervisory personnel cannot be held liable under section 1983 on any theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. They can, however, be held liable for deprivations of constitutional rights resulting from their formal policies or customs. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 691-693; Watts v. County of Sacramento, 256 F.3d 886, 891 (9th Cir. 2001); Shaw v. California Dep't of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 788 F.2d 600, 610 (9th Cir. 1986). "In this circuit, a claim of municipal liability under section 1983 is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss `even if the claim is based on nothing more than a bare allegation that the individual officers' conduct conformed to official policy, custom, or practice.'" Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 624 (9th Cir. 1988) (quoting Shah v. County of Los Angeles, 797 F.2d 743, 747 (9th Cir. 1986)); Watts, 256 F.3d at 891; Orin v. Barclay, 272 F.3d 1207, 1217 (9th Cir. 2001).

  The City of El Cajon defendants seek dismissal of plaintiffs' Monell claim against defendant City of El Cajon and defendant El Cajon Police Department because plaintiffs' first amended complaint contains contradictory allegations that undermine any Monell claim for municipal liability. See Mot. at 5-7. Plaintiffs' first amended complaint alleges:

Said discharge of weapons by Defendants was in violation of the municipal policy and custom the CITY, ECPD, the STATE and USA. Said discharge of live rounds was also contrary to the municipal policy and custom of the CITY, ECPD, the STATE and USA . . .
FAC ¶ 18. Because plaintiffs do not allege defendants' conformed to the policies and customs of the defendant entities but, instead, allege the actions were in violation of, or contrary to, those policies, no Monell liability against the municipal defendants can lie based on the allegations presented. See Karim-Panahi, 839 F.2d at 624. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims against the City of El Cajon and the El Cajon Police Department must be dismissed.

  CONCLUSION AND ORDER

  Based on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the City of El Cajon defendants' unopposed motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claims against the City of El Cajon and the El Cajon Police Department pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is GRANTED and plaintiffs' claims against the City of El Cajon and the El Cajon Police Department are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

20051213

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