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Wheeler v. Payless Towing

January 10, 2010

JOHN FREDERICK WHEELER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PAYLESS TOWING, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS RECOMMENDING DISMISSAL OF PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

(doc. 4)

When a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the court is required to screen each case and to dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that the action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). On November 17, 2009, this court granted plaintiff John Frederick Wheeler's motion to proceed in forma pauperis but dismissed his complaint with leave to amend within thirty days, to allow plaintiff to amend or supplement his complaint to state a cognizable claim (doc. 3). On December 10, 2009, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint (doc. 4). Because the complaint still fails to state a cognizable federal claim, the undersigned recommends that this case be dismissed.

I. Pleading Standards

"Rule 8(a)'s simplified pleading standard applies to all civil actions, with limited exceptions," none of which applies to § 1983 actions. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002); F.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Pursuant to Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). "Such a statement must simply give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 512. Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Plaintiff must set forth sufficient factual matter accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Although accepted as true, "[f]actual allegations must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). A plaintiff must set forth "the grounds of his entitlement to relief," which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 555-56 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). To adequately state a claim against a defendant, a plaintiff must set forth the legal and factual basis for his claim.

If a court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend should be granted to the extent that the plaintiff could cure the complaint's deficiencies through amendment or supplementation. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). But when it becomes obvious that the plaintiff cannot prevail on the facts that he has alleged and that further amendment would be futile, the court may properly dismiss a pro se complaint. Id. at 1128.

II. Plaintiff's Complaint

A. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that, after he purchased a truck at a yard sale and paid the full purchase price, defendant Payless Towing stole the vehicle from his home, ostensibly to repossess it for unpaid debt. Thereafter, defendants Payless Towing, American Lien Sales, Jacqueline M. Clowes, Rickenbacker Collection Services, Angel Perez, and Angel Smith (collectively, the "private defendants") Services wrongfully acted to collect from plaintiff $722.00 for expenses associated with repossessing the truck. Plaintiff alleges claims against the private defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California law.

Plaintiff further alleges that the Bakersfield Police Department violated his constitutional rights by refusing to accept his report of the vehicle's theft.

B. Civil Rights Claims

Section 1983 provides, on pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of [state law]... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States...to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution... shall be liable to the party injured in an ...


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