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Rong Dong Li v. Akal Security

April 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorablelarryalanburns United States District Judge


Plaintiff Rong Dong Li, an illegal immigrant and detainee at the El Centro Service Processing Center ("Detention Center"), alleges that Akal Security is liable for personal injuries he sustained when two other detainees attacked him in a bathroom. Akal is a private security company that provided security for the Center pursuant to a contract with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Li accuses Akal of: (1) assault; (2) battery; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (4) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (5) racial and national origin discrimination. Now pending is Akal's motion to dismiss.

I. Background

The facts of this case are pretty straightforward. According to Li, he entered the men's restroom at the Detention Center and saw two men fighting. He alerted guards, who came quickly, broke up the fight, and escorted the two men from the restroom. As he was washing his hands, after using the restroom himself, one of the men who had been fighting, joined by another man, entered the restroom and attacked Li. The attack lasted for three to four minutes, leaving Li bloody with injuries to his face and body.

II. Legal Standard

A rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). In considering such a motion, the Court accepts all allegations of material fact as true and construes them in the light most favorable to Li, the non-moving party. Cedars-Sinai Med. Ctr. v. Nat'l League of Postmasters of U.S., 497 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2007). To defeat a 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint's factual allegations needn't be detailed, they must simply be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, "some threshold of plausibility must be crossed at the outset" before a case can go forward. Id. at 558 (internal quotations 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, - U.S. -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

While the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in Li's favor, it need not "necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). In fact, the Court does not need to accept any legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. A complaint does not suffice "if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement" (id. (internal quotations omitted)), nor if it contains a merely formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action (Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555).

III. Discussion

The Court will address Li's claims in sequence.

A. Assault and Battery

The assault and battery claims succumb to the same argument from Akal and can be considered together. Li admits that "Akal and its employed security guards did not commit the actual assault and battery." (Opp'n Br. at 1.) That's a problem for Li. Assault and battery are specific intent offenses, and Li doesn't sufficiently allege that Akal conspired with Li's attackers or in any other way intended for the attack to take place. Rather, Li attempts to ground Akal's liability in the "failure and refusal" of Akal to protect him, but this kind of deliberate indifference can only give rise to an Eight Amendment claim under the Constitution. Indifference cannot expose Akal to liability for these underlying torts.*fn1

That Akal and its employees "were not present to protect [Li] while the attack took place" cannot be the basis of an assault and battery claim against Akal. (Opp'n Br. at 2.) Those claims are therefore DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

B. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress, as its name suggests, is also a specific intent offense. The parties agree that it requires extreme and outrageous conduct with the intention of causing, or with reckless disregard of the probability of causing, emotional distress. Here again, Li's claim is entirely speculative as to Akal's intent and, for that reason alone, cannot survive Akal's motion to dismiss. Li pleads no facts to show that Akal intended for one of the men who had been fighting to seek revenge on him for alerting the guards to his fight. Nor does he plead facts to show that Akal recklessly disregarded the possibility that the man, after being reprimanded for fighting, would immediately return to the scene of his offense and ...

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