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Patterson v. County of San Diego

October 8, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

Order Granting Defendant County of San Diego's Motion to Dismiss

Plaintiff Gene Patterson, by and through counsel, has filed an action alleging Defendants violated his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at the George Bailey County jail and Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. Defendant, County of San Diego ("County"), moves the Court under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 and 12(b)(6) to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against it as set forth in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint*fn1, filed on August 10, 2010. Plaintiff has filed an opposition,*fn2 and the County has filed a reply. The Court found the motion appropriate for submission on the papers and without oral argument, and the September 20, 2010 hearing date was previously vacated. For the reasons explained herein, the County's motion is GRANTED.


Plaintiff filed his initial complaint against the County and several other defendants on October 16, 2009. Although the caption stated Plaintiff was seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1981, and 1985, the body of Plaintiff's complaint contained only claims for general negligence, premises liability, and intentional tort. [Doc. No. 1.] The County of San Diego moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing Plaintiff failed to allege a violation of his constitutional rights and the County was immune from liability on Plaintiff's general negligence and premises liability claims. [Doc. No. 12.]

The Court granted the County's motion, finding Plaintiff failed to allege any violation of the constitution or of federal law which could form the basis of liability against the County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn3 [Doc. No. 31.] The Court granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on August 10, 2010.*fn4 Plaintiff again states claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1981, 1985, and the Civil Rights Act of 1871. [SAC, Doc. No. 32, ¶¶ 25, 26, 27, and 28.] Plaintiff also alleges violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Handicap Accommodations Act, as well as claims for negligence and premises liability. [Id., ¶ 28, 30 and 31.] Finally, Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated California Government Code § 845.6 by failing to provide necessary medical care. [Id., ¶ 24.]

Defendant County of San Diego now moves to dismiss the SAC under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 and 12(b)(6).

Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) "tests the legal sufficiency of a claim" Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Because Rule 12(b)(6) focuses on the "sufficiency" of a claim rather than the claim's substantive merits, "a court may [typically] look only at the face of the complaint to decide a motion to dismiss." Van Buskirk v. Cable News Network, Inc., 284 F.3d 977, 980 (9th Cir. 2002).

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Where a defendant moves to dismiss under Rule 8 as well as Rule 12(b)(6), such motion should be granted if plaintiff fails to proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." [citation omitted]. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 570).

Dismissal also can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). The court need not, however, accept as true allegations that are conclusory, legal conclusions, unwarranted deductions of fact or unreasonable inferences. See Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); Iqbal, 556 U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (on motion to dismiss court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation."). "The pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at __, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

Thus, "[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a compliant, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then decide whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at __, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

"The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that defendant has acted unlawfully. Id. at 1949. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Id.; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570 (when a plaintiff has not "nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [his] complaint must be dismissed.").


1. Claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

A. Underlying constitutional ...

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