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Wood v. City of El Cajon

August 28, 2007

BETHANY WOOD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF EL CAJON, MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT ENTITY; EL CAJON POLICE DEPARTMENT, AS A SEPARATE ENTITY AND AS A DIVISION OF THE CITY OF EL CAJON; WILLIAM ROBERT TAYLOR, AN INDIVIDUAL; AND DOES 1-25, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Napoleon A. Jones, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Before the Court is Defendants City of El Cajon and El Cajon Police Department's ("Defendants") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Bethany Wood's ("Plaintiff") First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). [Doc. No. 5.] For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the Motion.

Background

The following factual allegations are set forth in Plaintiff's FAC. Plaintiff alleges that on May 13, 2005, Defendant William Robert Taylor, a former El Cajon police officer, arrested her for taking a small push scooter from a playground and for possession of marijuana. (FAC ¶ 22.) When Taylor arrested Plaintiff, he was on duty and in uniform. (Id.) Taylor took Plaintiff to her home, searched the home, and found a marijuana plant. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Taylor then transported Plaintiff to the Department for processing. (Id. ¶ 25.) Taylor told Plaintiff he was going to take her to jail, although she was not fingerprinted or photographed at the Department, and he placed her in his patrol car. (Id.) Taylor and another police officer stood outside of the car, played with a rifle, and pointed it upward as though they were going to shoot it. (Id.)

Taylor left the Department alone with Plaintiff and drove her back to her home. (Id. ¶ 26.) Once inside the home, Taylor repeatedly asked Plaintiff what she "would be willing to do" to avoid going to jail. (Id.) Taylor rubbed his penis outside of his pants and told Plaintiff, "You don't necessarily have to have sex with me if you have sex with yourself." (Id. ¶ 30.) Taylor told Plaintiff to undress, and she did so. (Id. ¶ 31.) Taylor told Plaintiff that she had a "good body" and that she should "show it off more." (Id. ¶ 32.) Taylor then told Plaintiff that she could put her clothes on. (Id.) Taylor filled out a citation for petty theft and possession of marijuana, and Plaintiff signed the citation. (Id. ¶ 33.)

Plaintiff alleges that between February 22, 2004, and September 27, 2005, Taylor engaged in a continuous pattern of sexual assault and bribery under color of law against seven female detainees. (Id. ¶ 38.) In 2006, Taylor was criminally charged with using his authority to coerce women he had arrested into performing sexual acts. (Id. ¶ 36.) On May 21, 2007, Taylor pled guilty to five felonies. (Id. ¶ 37.)

On July 13, 2007, Plaintiff filed the FAC. [Doc. No. 8.] The FAC contains three causes of action: (1) deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of Fifth Amendment rights; and (3) false imprisonment and false arrest. (See generally FAC.) On July 30, 2007, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss. [Doc. No. 10.] Plaintiff has filed an opposition. [Doc. No. 13.]

Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); see also Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1199-1200 (9th Cir. 2003). A motion to dismiss should be granted if the plaintiff is unable to delineate "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (abrogating Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory, or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable theory. See Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001).

In reviewing the motion, the court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Gompper v. VISX, , 298 F.3d 893, 895 (9th Cir. 2002). However, the court is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986); see also W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). Instead, the court must determine "whether conclusory allegations follow from the description of facts as alleged by the plaintiff." Holden v. Hagopian, 978 F.2d 1115, 1121 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, and documents relied upon but not attached to the complaint when authenticity is not contested. See Cooper v. Pickett,137 F.3d 616, 623 (9th Cir. 1997).

Discussion

Defendants argue that the first and second causes of action of the FAC fail to state facts sufficient to hold them liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for Taylor's alleged constitutional violations. (Mot. at 2-3.) Defendants also argue that, to the extent Plaintiff's third cause of action alleges a § 1983 claim, the cause of action must be dismissed because the City and Department cannot be held liable under the principle of respondeat superior. (Id. at 3.)

Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Cause of Action

Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 because she has not identified a custom or policy of the City or Department that caused her injury. (Id. at 7.) In opposition, Plaintiff argues that her Complaint alleges that Defendants had a "policy, custom and practice of ...


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