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Londell Austin v. J. Bauer (Vallejo Police Department Star #586)

January 28, 2011


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


This matter is before the court on the motion of defendants Jeremy Huff and Jason Bauer (collectively, "defendants") to dismiss plaintiff Londell Austin's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn1 By their motion, defendants contend (1) plaintiff's federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983") must be dismissed because to the extent the claims are alleged against defendants in their official capacities, the claims are against the City of Vallejo and thus not properly pled; (2) plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the officers in their individual capacities fail because plaintiff does not allege sufficient facts establishing the requisite elements for the claims; and (3) plaintiff's state law claims must be dismissed because they are barred by the statute of limitations pursuant to California Government Code § 946.6. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ["MTD"], filed Dec. 22, 2010 [Docket # 7], at 2.)

Plaintiff only opposes defendants' motion with respect to the dismissal of plaintiff's § 1983 claims on the basis of insufficient pleading. (Opp'n, filed Jan. 14, 2011 [Docket # 11], at 1.) As a result, defendants' motion is granted with respect to the state law claims for violation of California Civil Code § 52.1, assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. With respect to his § 1983 claims. however, it is not clear from plaintiff's opposition whether he seeks to allege claims against defendants in their official capacities. Nonetheless, this order addresses plaintiff's § 1983 claims assuming plaintiff seeks to press his claims against defendants in both their individual and official capacities. In addition, plaintiff requests leave to amend his complaint should the court grant defendants' motion to dismiss.

For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS defendants' motion. Plaintiff is permitted leave to amend.


As alleged in the complaint, on July 11, 2009, defendants responded to a call from plaintiff's wife "indicating that she did not want him around." (Compl., filed October 27, 2010 [Docket # 2], ¶¶ 10-12.) Defendants "repeatedly told [plaintiff's] wife that they had no power to force him to leave the residence; there had not been any complaints of violence, nor had she communicated any fears for her safety." (Id. ¶ 13.) While plaintiff and defendants were in his bedroom, plaintiff "told [d]efendants that he was not going to comply with his wife's request to leave the house and in fact was immediately going to get in his bed." (Id. ¶ 14.) "Defendant Huff, with no warning, deployed his Taser, striking [plaintiff] in his torso." (Id. ¶ 15.) Defendants arrested plaintiff and took him to the emergency room. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) Plaintiff was charged with obstructing a police officer and assaulting a police officer. The charges were ultimately dismissed. (Id. ¶18.)

On the basis of these allegations, plaintiff asserts claims under § 1983 for violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, plaintiff alleges defendants, by their above-described conduct, "violated plaintiff's right to be free from excessive and/or arbitrary force and unreasonable seizure without reasonable or probable cause." (Id. ¶ 21.)


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Under notice pleading in federal court, the complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations omitted). "This simplified notice pleading standard relies on liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002).

On a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The court is bound to give plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). A plaintiff need not allege "'specific facts' beyond those necessary to state his claim and the grounds showing entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

Nevertheless, the court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. A pleading is insufficient if it offers mere "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

Ultimately, the court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff has alleged "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007)). Only where a plaintiff has failed to "nudge [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible," is the complaint properly dismissed. Id. at 1952. While the plausibility requirement is not akin to a probability requirement, it demands more than "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. at 1949. This plausibility inquiry is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950.


A. Plaintiff's ยง 1983 Individual ...

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