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Williams v. City of Weed

February 3, 2009

THOMAS LEE WILLIAMS, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, DARIUS WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF WEED, CHRIS YOUNG, AN INDIVIDUAL, STEVEN SHANNON, AN INDIVIDUAL, MARTIN NICHOLAS, AN INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on defendants City of Weed, Chris Young ("Young"), Steven Shannon ("Shannon"), and Martin Nicholas' ("Nicholas") (collectively "defendants") motion to dismiss plaintiff's First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Causes of Action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff Estate of Thomas Lee Williams*fn1 ("plaintiff") opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below,*fn2 defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

This is a civil rights action in which plaintiff alleges that Williams was beaten by defendant police officers, whose failure to provide him necessary medical care resulted in death. Plaintiff alleges that on or about September 6, 2006, defendants Young and Shannon performed a traffic stop on Williams, who was driving a vehicle without a functioning licence plate light. (First Am. Compl. ("FAC"), filed Oct. 15, 2008, ¶ 11.) According to Shannon's report, Williams placed something in his mouth and began to chew; Shannon suspected that Williams was attempting to swallow contraband and ordered him to spit the item out and exit the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 12.) Williams did not respond and reached down to unbuckle his seat belt. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Young subsequently reached into the vehicle through a driver's side window, grabbed Williams by the neck, and slammed Williams' head into the steering wheel, rendering him unconscious. (Id. ¶ 13.) Young and Shannon then pulled Williams from the vehicle, threw him to the ground, and dropped a knee onto Williams' head. (Id.) Williams was subsequently handcuffed behind his back and dragged to the location of the officers' patrol vehicle. (Id.)

Plaintiff further alleges that during the time that Shannon and Young were with Williams, Williams stopped breathing and suffered irreversible brain damage when Shannon and Young allowed him to lie unconscious on the road without attempting to remove the item from his mouth or timely obtain emergency medical assistance. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges that Williams laid unconscious and not breathing on the roadway before emergency medical aid was eventually summoned. (Id.) Williams was transported to a hospital, where it was discovered that he had suffered a catastrophic anoxic brain injury. (Id.) Subsequently, when Williams' condition did not improve, he was transferred to a sub-acute hospital, where he remained in a coma. (Id.) On November 24, 2007, Williams died. (Notice of Suggestion of Death [Docket #19], filed Feb. 14, 2008.)

STANDARD

On a motion to dismiss, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The court is bound to give plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). Thus, the plaintiff need not necessarily plead a particular fact if that fact is a reasonable inference from facts properly alleged. See id.

Nevertheless, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Calif., Inc. v. Calif. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Moreover, the court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986).

Ultimately, the court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff has alleged "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). Only where a plaintiff has not "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible," is the complaint properly dismissed. Id. "[A] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (quoting Hudson v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)).

ANALYSIS

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Causes of Action on the basis that plaintiff's claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are not founded upon a cognizable constitutional right.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

Section 1983 confers no substantive rights itself, but rather, "provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere." City of Oklahoma ...


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