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Bobo v. City of Stockton

August 31, 2010

DEREK BOBO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF STOCKTON, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; BLAIR ULRING, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT POLICE CHIEF OF THE STOCKTON POLICE DEPARTMENT; JON SCOFIELD, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; JAMES NANCE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; SHAWN MORIN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; MATTHEW BLUM, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; MICHAEL PRAG, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; BRADLEY BURRELL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; RICHARD BUCKLEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; WILLIAM HUTTO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; AND JAMES RIDENOUR, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff Derek Bobo filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after he was tased by police while attempting to climb onto the roof of a house and rendered a quadriplegic as a result. Presently before the court are defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) and motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On January 10, 2009, plaintiff was walking along Ninth Street in Stockton, California when he was noticed by a police K-9 unit patrol car. (Compl. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff was on probation for a drug-related offense and recently had a warrant issued for his arrest for failure to appear in court as per the terms of his probation. (Shelley Mot. Summary J. Decl. Ex. C. ("Morin Depo.") at 14-17.) The officers allegedly recognized plaintiff because of his outstanding warrant and ordered him to stop. Plaintiff did not comply with the officers' order and ran from them.

(Compl. ¶ 13.)

Once plaintiff began to run, the officers released their police dog to pursue him. (Id.) To allegedly avoid being bitten by the police dog, plaintiff jumped over a fence, and continued running through the backyards of nearby homes. (Id.) Plaintiff eventually climbed onto a large boat on a trailer parked in a residential driveway in an effort to climb onto the roof of the adjacent house. (Id.)

The officers and police dog caught up with plaintiff as he was standing on the railing of the boat. (Id.) The officers then allegedly shot plaintiff with a taser, grabbed him, and took him to the ground with great force. (Id.) Plaintiff fell from the railing of the boat and landed on his head, fracturing two vertebrae and suffering paralysis. (Id.) Police officers allegedly continued to shoot plaintiff with their tasers repeatedly and sicced their police dog on him as plaintiff screamed that he could not move. (Id.) The officers then handcuffed plaintiff, lifted him from under the arms, and dragged him approximately forty feet to the center of the private residence's front yard. (Id.) Plaintiff was transported to a local hospital where he was designated a quadriplegic and underwent a spinal infusion and tracheotomy. (Id.) Plaintiff allegedly cannot stand or walk and remains completely paralyzed on the right side of his body. (Id.)

On March 18, 2009, plaintiff filed this action alleging violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from arrest without probable cause, violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force, and failure to adequately train, supervise, and discipline police officers on the proper use of force, all pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docket No. 1.) Discovery closed in this matter on May 17, 2010. Currently before the court are defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings on plaintiff's excessive force claim and motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's arrest without probable cause and supervisory liability claims.

II. Discussion

A. Judgment on the Pleadings

Defendants Scofield, Nance, Morin, Blum, Prag, Burrell, Buckely, Hutto, and Ridenour (the "officer defendants") move for judgment on the pleadings on plaintiff's second § 1983 claim for use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate after the pleadings have closed when, on the face of those pleadings, accepting the allegations of the non-moving party as true, no material issue of fact remains to be resolved. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c); Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990). Under such circumstances, the moving party can obtain judgment as a matter of law. Hal Roach Studios, 896 F.2d at 1550. "Generally, district courts have been unwilling to grant a Rule 12(c) dismissal 'unless the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Doleman v. Meiji Mut. Life Ins. Co., 727 F.2d 1480, 1482 (9th Cir. 1984) (quoting 5A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil, § 1368 at 690 (1969)).

On a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the factual allegations of the non-moving party are taken as true. Doleman, 727 F.2d at 1482 (citing Austad v. United States, 386 F.2d 147, 149 (9th Cir. 1967)). A Rule 12(c) motion is therefore essentially equivalent to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and consequently, a district court may "dispos[e] of the motion by dismissal rather than judgment."*fn1 Sprint Telephony PCS, L.P. v. County of San Diego, 311 F. Supp. 2d 898, 902-03 (S.D. Cal. 2004). "[D]ismissal can be based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Sprint Telephony, 311 F. Supp. 2d at 902-03; see also Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

1. Sufficiency of the Pleadings

In relevant part, § 1983 provides, Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . , 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 and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

While ยง 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, it provides a cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, deprives an individual of federal constitutional rights or limited federal statutory rights. 42 ...


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