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Young v. City of Visalia

August 17, 2009

THAD YOUNG AND SANDRA YOUNG, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF VISALIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anthony W. Ishii Chief United States District Judge

ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

(Doc. Nos. 36, 38)

This is a civil rights case brought by Plaintiffs Thad Young and Sandra Young against 23 defendants. The City of Visalia ("Visalia"), along with 14 individual officers, (collectively "Visalia Defendants") have filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. The City of Farmersville, ("Farmersville") along with Farmersville police officers Troy Evrett and Mike Marquez and Chief Mario Krstic, (collectively "Farmersville Defendants") have also filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. The Farmersville Defendants have filed declarations with their motion and request that the Court utilize Rule 12(d) and convert the motion into one for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court will view the motions only as Rule 12(b)(6) motions, which in turn will be granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

As alleged in the complaint, on November 29, 2007, Defendant Nathan Flaws of the Visalia Police Department obtained a search warrant for property owned and occupied by Plaintiffs. The search warrant application identified the property as having multiple structures and an address of 29022 Road 164. The application did not include a description of a separate, adjacent property parcel. The separate, adjacent property was known locally as the "Old Grange Hall" and had its own separate address, 29006 Road 164, prominently printed on the side of its mailbox. A wooden fence ran along most of the boundary between the "Old Grange Hall" and 29022 Road 164, and other physical characteristics, including a separate parking lot, further showed the separateness of the two properties. The Tulare County Superior Court issued the search warrant, but the warrant made no mention of the Old Grange Hall property.

On December 4, 2007, the warrant was executed. The complaint alleges that all defendants participated in the search of 29022 Road 164 and in detaining Thad Young ("Young"). The defendants also entered and searched the Old Grange Hall despite the fact that this property was not part of the search warrant. The Old Grange Hall was searched without exigent circumstances, permission, or other legal justification and was searched against Plaintiffs' will. Defendants are alleged to have known that the Old Grange Hall was not part of 29022 Road 164. During the search of the two separate properties, the Defendants destroyed or substantially damaged numerous pieces of Plaintiffs' property.

While executing the warrant, Defendants trained their guns on Young, who was working in his shop on the 29022 Road 164 property, and ordered him not to move, but did not identify themselves as law enforcement. Defendants handcuffed Young and led him out of the shop. As they were leaving the shop, the Defendants pepper sprayed Young's dogs without reason, despite his pleas not to do so. Defendants took Young to the residential portion of 29022 Road 164 and set him in a room with other persons. Young informed Defendants that he had diabetes and a heart condition and both of these conditions required that he take medication. Young also informed Defendants that he had a back condition for which he took pain medication. For nearly fives hours, Defendants refused Young access to fluids, the bathroom, and his prescribed medication despite Young's requests. Defendants also kept Young seated on an uncomfortable chair and kept him in handcuffs without reason. During the detention, Defendants requested that Young sign a form. When Young asked for his eyeglasses, defendants refused and threatened to take him to the police station if he did not sign. Defendants told Young that they were "just there for the money" and that they were going to put his son away for 37 years because of a gun that Young owned. Young then signed the form without reading it and later learned that it was a disclaimer of ownership for $2,000 cash that had been discovered during the search.

Young brought this lawsuit in January 2009. He alleges civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various state law claims.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Rule 8 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) sets the pleading standard for claims for relief. "Under the liberal rules of pleading, a plaintiff need only provide a 'short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Sagana v. Tenorio, 384 F.3d 731, 736 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)). This rule does "not require a claimant to set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). The pleadings need only give the opposing party fair notice of a claim and the claim's basis. Conley, 355 U.S. at 47; Sagana, 384 F.3d at 736; Fontana v. Haskin, 262 F.3d 871, 877 (9th Cir. 2001).

47). The pleadings are to "be construed as to do substantial justice," and "no technical forms of pleading . . . are required." Fed. Rules Civ. Pro. 8(e)(1), 8(f); Sagana, 384 F.3d at 736; Fontana, 262 F.3d at 877. "Specific legal theories need not be pleaded so long as sufficient factual averments show that the claimant may be entitled to some relief." Fontana, 262 F.3d at 877; American Timber & Trading Co. v. First Nat'l Bank, 690 F.2d 781, 786 (9th Cir. 1982). However, "[c]ontext matters in notice pleading. Fair notice under [Rule 8(a)] depends on the type of case." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

Rule 12(b)(6)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed because of the plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). In reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Marceau v. Balckfeet Hous. Auth., 540 F.3d 916, 919 (9th Cir. 2008); Vignolo v. Miller, 120 F.3d 1075, 1077 (9th Cir. 1999). The Court must also assume that general allegations embrace the necessary, specific facts to support the claim. Smith v. Pacific Prop. and Dev. Corp., 358 F.3d 1097, 1106 (9th Cir. 2004); Peloza v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 37 F.3d 517, 521 (9th Cir. 1994). But, the Court is not required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1056-57 (9th Cir. 2008); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). Although they may provide the framework of a complaint, legal conclusions are not accepted as true and "[t]hreadbare recitals of elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009); see also Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003). As the Supreme Court has recently explained:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; see Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see also Weber v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.' . . .

Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not shown -- that the pleader is entitled to relief.

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50. "In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the nonconclusory 'factual content,' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. United States Secret Serv., - - -F.3d - - -, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 15694 (9th Cir. Or. July 16, 2009).

If a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is granted, "[the] district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). In other words, leave to amend need not be granted when amendment would be futile. Gompper v. VISX, Inc., 298 F.3d 893, 898 (9th Cir. 2002).

I. VISALIA DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Defendants' Arguments

Visalia argues that the first through third causes of action should be dismissed because the allegations in the complaint do not sufficiently allege Monell liability. Plaintiffs have failed to plead a policy or custom, but have instead merely alleged inadequate training and/or supervision. There are no facts alleged that show Visalia's training reflects a policy or custom or how the training is inadequate.

Visalia also argues that Plaintiffs appear to have alleged a state law negligence claim against it. If Plaintiffs indeed intend to plead such a cause of action, they have failed to allege a specific statute that creates a duty on the part of Visalia.

Finally, the Visalia Defendants argue that the fourth cause of action is inappropriately pled because the allegations are conclusory, ignore principles of immunity, and assume without citation to any authority that the ...


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