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Shoval v. Sobzak

August 31, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court


On June 23, 2009, Plaintiff Menachen Shoval filed a complaint for violation of civil rights against Defendants San Diego Sheriff Deputy Evan Sobczak (erroneously sued as Evan Sobzak) and the County of San Diego. (Doc. No. 1, Compl.) On July 30, 2009, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss three causes of action in the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 2.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition on August 17, 2009. (Doc. No. 3.)

The Court, pursuant to its discretion under Local Rule 7.1(d)(1), determines this matter is appropriate for resolution without oral argument and submits it on the parties' papers. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Defendants' motion to dismiss.


Plaintiff alleges causes of action for: (1) excessive force, unlawful detainer, unlawful arrest; (2) municipal federal civil rights liability; (3) assault and battery in violation of California Civil Code 52.1; (4) assault and battery; (5) false arrest; (6) negligence; and (7) negligent supervision. (Compl.) As the basis for these claims, Plaintiff alleges that on or about July 3, 2009, he was lawfully on his property at the 1400 block of Mina De Oro Road in Poway, California when Defendant Sobczak, acting under color of law as a San Diego County Sheriff Deputy, entered Plaintiff's property. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 13.) Plaintiff alleges that without probable cause Sobczak falsely detained Plainitff by placing handcuffs on him after pointing a gun at him and pulling the trigger. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff also alleges that Sobczak assaulted and battered Plaintiff without just or reasonable belief in the lawfulness of his actions. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff alleges that after he was placed in handcuffs, Sobczak searched his person and thereafter released Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Sobczak's actions would not have occurred but for an official policy, decision, and guidelines of Defendant County of San Diego that authorized and condoned the use of excessive force on Plaintiff's person. (Id. 13.)

Defendants brought a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's second, third, and seventh causes of action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff states in his opposition that he concurs with Defendants' request for the seventh cause of action to be dismissed, and requests that the dismissal be without prejudice. (Doc. No. 3 at 1.)


A motion to dismiss a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Navarro v. Black, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). A complaint generally must satisfy only the minimal notice pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) to evade dismissal under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir. 2003). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading stating a claim for relief contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The function of this pleading requirement is to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). "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." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964--65 (2007). A complaint does not "suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting id. at 556). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235--36 (3d ed. 2004)). "All allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. However, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Epstein v. Wash. Energy Co., 83 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir.1996); see also Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1964--65.

A. Municipal Civil Rights Violation

Plaintiff alleges in his second cause of action that senior officers of the San Diego Sheriff Department, a division of Defendant County of San Diego, authorized, sanctioned, and ratified each action of Sobczak and that Defendant County of San Diego failed to train or supervise Sobczak in a reckless and/or grossly negligent manner. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) Plaintiff also alleges that it was the custom or usage of the San Diego County Sheriff Department to allow its officers to proceed without supervision and with explicit authorization to use unconstitutional means to detain Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 16.)

To prevail on a § 1983 complaint against a local government under Monell v. Department of Social Services, a plaintiff must satisfy a three-part test: (1) The official(s) must have violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights; (2) The violation must be a part of policy or custom and may not be an isolated incident; and (3) A nexus must link the specific policy or custom to the plaintiff's injury. 436 U.S. 658, 690-92 (1978). A plaintiff may establish municipal liability based on policy or custom in one of three ways:

(1) by showing a longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the standard operating procedure of the local government entity;

(2) by showing that the decision-making official was, as a matter of state law, a final policymaking authority whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy in the area of decision or

(3) by showing that an official with final policymaking authority either delegated that authority to, or ratified ...

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