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Wyatt v. Walmart Store

February 18, 2010


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


Through the present action, Plaintiff Victor H. Wyatt ("Plaintiff") alleges that Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Wal-Mart") and its employee, Defendant Martha Sharpe (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Defendants" unless otherwise indicated), violated both state and federal law when Defendant Sharpe detained him for shoplifting.

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is granted.


On November 26, 2006, Plaintiff allegedly entered Wal-Mart with two empty ink cartridges intending to ensure he purchased the correct new cartridges. Plaintiff did not "check" the cartridges with Wal-Mart because they were used items. After locating another item he intended to purchase, Plaintiff proceeded to the electronics department to obtain new ink cartridges. Since Plaintiff could not read the cartridges without his glasses, he claims he paid for the other item and exited the store.

Plaintiff alleges that he was then stopped by a woman who identified herself as a store employee, but who failed to show identification. Plain-clothed officers asked Plaintiff to return the cartridges, and Plaintiff complied. Plaintiff was then taken into the back of the store where a Wal-Mart employee allegedly became physically abusive and attempted to restrain him. According to Plaintiff, he then broke away and "waited across the street until everyone calmed down."

Plaintiff claims that, at that time, he returned to the store and was handcuffed to a chair by Defendant Sharpe. Defendant Sharpe proceeded to take photographs of some torn ink cartridge boxes. Plaintiff then asserted that the cartridges he had on his person were empty and that he had brought them into the store with him. According to Plaintiff, no one examined the cartridges to confirm the truth of his statements, and the cartridges subsequently disappeared.

Plaintiff also claims that he asked for someone to fingerprint the "new" cartridges to show that his prints were not on them. He further contends that he asked for someone to obtain and look at the surveillance video to show that he had not taken anything. According to Plaintiff, when he asked for the fingerprints and video surveillance Defendant Sharpe replied, "You're a black and in Butte County. All it takes to prove you've done it is my belief and statements. Besides I am going to be working as a sheriff for Butte County Jail where you are going to be going for your lawsuits."

On or about February 5, 2007, as a result of the shoplifting charges levied against him, a jury convicted Plaintiff of felony theft. See Request for Judicial Notice in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("RJN"), Exhibit A. After the California Third District Court of Appeal affirmed Plaintiff's conviction, the California Supreme Court denied Plaintiff's Petition for Review on June 11, 2008. Id., see also Defs.' Request for Judicial Notice filed March 2, 2009, Exhibit A.

Plaintiff claims that his prior history with both Wal-Mart, the Chico Police Department, and the County of Butte provided motivation for the allegedly unconstitutional treatment that led to the above arrest. More specifically, prior to his arrest and conviction, Plaintiff was a lead plaintiff in a civil rights case against Butte County Jail through which he alleged he was deprived of various rights and mistreated by incarcerating authorities. In October of 2006, Plaintiff reported police abuse by the Chico Police Department following an allegedly false report made by a Wal-Mart employee about Plaintiff. Subsequently, in November of 2006, Plaintiff filed a civil rights action against the City of Chico for abuse by law enforcement personnel. Later, on November 23, 2006, Plaintiff was allegedly stopped and beaten by Chico Police officers in retaliation for the demotion of a Chico Police Officer, which had allegedly resulted from Plaintiff's complaints and civil rights cases against the Chico Police Department.

In instituting the action now pending before this Court, Plaintiff pursues civil remedies for violations of both state and federal law that he claims Wal-Mart perpetuated based on his race and in retaliation for his prior claims. Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's original Complaint, filed November 26, 2008, on grounds that they did not qualify as state actors for purposes of imposing liability under 42 U.S.C § 1983. By Memorandum and Order filed July 8, 2009, the Court granted Defendants' Motion, finding that the Complaint stated insufficient facts upon which the requisite state action could be inferred.

Because the Court found that Plaintiff's federal claim under § 1983 lacked viability, it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims advocated by Plaintiff.

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, filed July 26, 2009, incorporates additional allegations in support of Plaintiff's contention that Defendants acted as state actors in his arrest and detention. In moving to dismiss the First Amended Complaint, however, Defendants refrained from challenging Plaintiff's § 1983 claim on that basis. Defendants instead alleged that Plaintiff's claim is barred under the principles set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). We consider that argument below. By Memorandum and Order filed October 16, 2009, the Court found that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims were precluded by Heck. In the absence of a cognizable federal claim, the Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims and dismissed those claims as well. The Court did permit Plaintiff to file a Second Amended Complaint, however, while admonishing Plaintiff to avoid the inclusion of Heck-barred claims if he chose to further amend.

On November 8, 2009, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint. In addition to refashioning his First and Second Causes of Action, for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against both Wal-Mart and Sharpe respectively, Plaintiff also includes a new Third Cause of Action for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. As set forth below, while attempting to add further detail, Plaintiff's ...

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