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Barry Halajian v. the City of Fresno

February 7, 2011

BARRY HALAJIAN,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF FRESNO, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



ORDER RE: MOTIONS TO DISMISS

(Doc. No. 23 and 32.)

INTRODUCTION

On October 1, 2010, Plaintiff Barry Halajian ("Plaintiff") filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") against Defendants The City of Fresno ("The City"), Frontier Auto Body & Towing ("Frontier"), Chris Clark ("Clark"), Jerry Dyer ("Dyer") and Officer Matt Pantages ("Officer Pantages"). Before the Court are two motions to dismiss. The City, Dyer and Officer Pantages move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that Plaintiff's claims are barred under the doctrine of res judicata. Frontier and Clark move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) under the same res judicata theory. For the reasons that follow, both motions will be granted.

BACKGROUND

1. Fresno County Superior Court Case No. 09CECG04326

On November 25, 2009, Plaintiff filed an action for replevin against Frontier in Fresno County Superior Court.*fn1 (Doc. 32-2 at 6.) In the action, Plaintiff alleged that on October 22, 2009, Frontier and an accomplice wrongfully took and detained his vehicle. Id. at 8-9. On June 4, 2010, the court sustained Frontier's demurrer without leave to amend. Id. at 12. The court concluded that Plaintiff's complaint (1) failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action; (2) failed to allege that Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies; and (3) failed to join a necessary and indispensable party. Id. On July 30, 2010, the court issued an "Order Dismissing Entire Action," which dismissed Plaintiff's action with prejudice. Id. at 15.

2. Fresno County Superior Court Case No. 09CESC02818

On December 1, 2009, Plaintiff filed a small claims case against Frontier and Clark in Fresno County Superior Court. Id. at 18. In the action, Plaintiff alleged that on October 22, 2009, Frontier failed "to adhere to Express Contract for Auto Rental" when his truck was impounded by the Fresno Police Department and stored by Frontier. Id. at 26. Plaintiff also alleged that his state and federal constitutional and statutory rights were violated when the Fresno Police Department impounded his truck and Frontier failed to return his impounded truck. Id. at 27.

The court held a small claims trial on February 18, 2010 and issued its ruling the same day. Id. at 26. The court ruled in favor of Frontier and Clark, concluding that Frontier lawfully impounded Plaintiff's truck and did not violate his state and federal constitutional and statutory rights. Id. at 27. Specifically, the court found that "(1) plaintiff was driving the truck; (2) plaintiff was on a public highway; (3) plaintiff was unlicensed; (4) and plaintiff's vehicle was lawfully impounded pursuant to Vehicle Code section 22651(p)." Id. at 29.

3. The Current Lawsuit

On October 1, 2010, Plaintiff filed the SAC against The City, Frontier, Clark, Dyer and Officer Pantages. In the SAC, Plaintiff again alleges claims for replevin and for violations of his state and federal constitutional and statutory rights. Plainitff's claims arise from the same October 22, 2009 towing and impoundment of his truck.

LEGAL STANDARD

A defendant may raise the affirmative defense of res judicata by motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Scott v. Kuhlmann, 746 F.2d 1377, 1378 (9th Cir. 1984). "When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, if a district court considers evidence outside the pleadings, it must normally convert the 12(b)(6) motion into a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, and it must give the nonmoving party an opportunity to respond." United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907 (9th Cir. 2003). "A court may, however, consider certain materials-documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice-without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment." Id. at 908. "If, in evaluating a motion to dismiss on res judicata grounds, disputed ...


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