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Raullerson v. Johnson

March 10, 2008

BERNICE RAULLERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GREG JOHNSON, JOHN BENNETT AND DOES I THROUGH XX, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Thomas J. Whelan United States District Judge

ORDER: 1) GRANTING MOTION FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT; 2) DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO CITY OF EL CAJON, STATE A CLAIM; AND 3) GRANTING MOTION TO STRIKE [DOC. 3]

Plaintiff Bernice Raullerson ("Plaintiff") commenced this action against Defendants City of El Cajon ("the City"), Greg Johnson, John Bennett, and Does I-XX, (collectively, "the Officers") after the Officers allegedly used excessive force in executing a search warrant. Defendants filed this motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that it is vague and ambiguous, fails to state a claim, and requests an improper prayer for relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), 12(e), 12(f).

The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. Local R. 7.1(d.1). For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for a More Definite Statement, DENIES Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Strike.

I. BACKGROUND

According to the complaint, on or about October 25, 2006, the Officers attempted to execute a search warrant at Plaintiff's address. (Compl. at 3:13-15.) However, the search warrant was intended for the apartment next door. (Id. at 3:14-16.) Plaintiff alleges that during the search, the Officers unnecessarily, unlawfully, and carelessly used excessive force, causing her serious and permanent injuries. (Id. at 3:11-13.) Plaintiff also alleges that she was arrested without a warrant and without reasonable or probable cause. (Id. at 5:12-14.) Plaintiff further alleges that the City has a practice and custom of negligently training and supervising its law enforcement personnel with respect to observing and protecting citizens' rights. (Id. at 6:28-7:1-2.)

Before filing this lawsuit, Plaintiff filed a claim, presumably under the Government Tort Claims Act, against the City. (Compl. at 2:17-18.) After the City denied the claim, Plaintiff filed this action against the City and the Officers. Plaintiff asserts four causes of action: negligence, assault and battery, false arrest, and violation of civil rights. (Id. at 1:13-15.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A complaint filed in federal court requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Thus, a complaint is sufficient if it gives the defendant "fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, -- -- -- U.S. -- -- --, -- -- --, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A plaintiff "is not required to state the statutory or constitutional basis for his claim, only the facts underlying it." McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (1996) (quoting McCalden v. California Library Ass'n, 955 F.2d 1214, 1223 (1990)).

Accordingly, in the face of the liberal notice pleading rule, a motion for a more definite statement under Rule 12(e) will only be granted if a pleading is "so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e).

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the complaint's sufficiency. See North Star Int'l. v. Arizona Corp. Comm'n., 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). Dismissal of a claim under this rule is proper only in "extraordinary" cases. United States v. Redwood City, 640 F.2d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 1981). 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. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Gompper v. VISX, Inc., 298 F.3d 893, 895 (9th Cir. 2002). The complaint and all reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the plaintiff's favor. Walleri v. Fed. Home Loan Bank of Seattle, 83 F.3d 1575, 1580 (9th Cir. 1996).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Defendants' Motion for a More Definite Statement

Defendants contend that Plaintiff should be required to prepare a more definite statement because her pleading is vague and ambiguous. More specifically, Defendants assert that Plaintiff "fails to set forth which causes of action are being brought against which defendant." (Defs.' P.&A. at 2:26-27.) The Court agrees.

In her Opposition, Plaintiff claims that the complaint "clearly alleges" negligence, assault and battery, and false arrest against "all three defendants." (Pl.'s Opp'n at 2:5-6, 3:9-10, 4:19-20.) However, based on the allegations in the complaint, the first three causes of action appear to only be asserted against the Officers. ...


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