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Lowry v. Metropolitan Transit Board MTBS

April 16, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Barry Ted Moskowitz United States District Judge


Defendants Metropolitan Transit System ("MTS") (erroneously sued as Metropolitan Transit Board MTBS) and Torrence Joseph have moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint ("FAC") [Doc. 43].*fn1 Defendants Heritage Security Services ("Heritage") also moves separately for dismissal of the FAC. Plaintiff has not opposed the motions. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Motions to Dismiss.


Plaintiff's Complaint appears to arise out of an incident that occurred on September 15, 2007. That day, Plaintiff allegedly exited the "929" bus at "12th and Imperial" and planned to board the San Diego trolley going toward Old Town. Plaintiff makes several factual allegations concerning what happened next. He claims that (1) trolley security officers Jerrod Gressett and Torrence Joseph assaulted Plaintiff and tried to break his wrists by handcuffing him, resulting in swelling to his wrists and hands; (2) Gressett and Joseph punched Plaintiff, grabbed his shirt, and threatened to beat him up; (3) Gressett forged Plaintiff's name on a Notice to Appear issued to Plaintiff; (4) Joseph and Gressett falsely accused Plaintiff of fighting with other people at the station; and (5) trolley security officers falsely imprisoned Plaintiff for eight hours.

Plaintiff filed his original Complaint in April, 2009. Defendants MTS and Joseph moved to dismiss it, and the Court dismissed the Complaint against MTS entirely, but not against Joseph. Defendant Heritage did not move to dismiss the original complaint because it failed to receive notice of it.

Plaintiff has now filed a First Amended Complaint, alleging eight causes of action against all Defendants: (1) violation of his civil and constitutional rights; (2) false swearing; (3) assault and battery; (4) forgery; (5) identity theft; (6) defamation; (7) false imprisonment; and (8) false arrest.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the plaintiff is required only to set forth a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," and "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the allegations of material fact in plaintiff's complaint are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). But only factual allegations must be accepted as true-not legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. Although detailed factual allegations are not required, the factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Furthermore, "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Additionally, courts construe pro se pleadings liberally on a defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895, (9th Cir. 2002). The liberal construction rule "is particularly important in civil rights cases." Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). But this rule "applies only to [a] plaintiff's factual allegations." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n. 9 (1989). "[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Bruns v. National Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).


A. Plaintiff's Constitutional Claims

Defendants argue that the Court should dismiss the Complaint on several different grounds. First, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to adequately state a claim for violation of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff's Complaint mentions 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides that:

[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, 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.

To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must plead "(1) a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, (2) proximately caused (3) by conduct of a 'person' (4) acting under color of state law." Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). Local government units can be "persons" under § 1983. Monell v. New York City Dep't of Social Servs., 939 F.2d 881, 882 (9th Cir. 1991).

Construing Plaintiff's factual allegations liberally, it appears that he claims a deprivation of his Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution when he was allegedly assaulted.

Plaintiff sues a local government entity (MTS), a private corporation (Heritage), and individuals (Joseph and Gresset). As MTS points out, however, a local government entity will only face liability under section 1983 if the alleged constitutional deprivation was the product of a policy or custom of the local government unit. See Bd. of County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997). Similarly, a private corporation is only liable under § 1983 if the alleged deprivation resulted from a policy or custom. See id.; Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Srvc., 577 F.3d 816, 822 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Johnson v. Dossey, 515 F.3d 778 (7th Cir. 2008)). A plaintiff can also establish section ...

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