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James Loran Quinn v. Fresno County Sheriff

May 5, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge



Plaintiff James Loran Quinn "Plaintiff" proceeds with an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against various Defendants. Plaintiff filed his third amended complaint ("TAC") on March 2, 2011. (Doc. 27).

On March 11, 2011, Defendants David Alanis ("Alanis") and the County of Fresno ("the County") filed a motion to dismiss the SAC. (Doc. 30). Plaintiff filed opposition to the motion to dismiss on April 18, 2011. (Doc. 32).


Plaintiff pled guilty to driving under the influence on September 5, 2005, and was sentenced to five years of formal probation. The terms of Plaintiff's probation require him to file a report each month with the probation department. In October 2006, Alanis was designated as Plaintiff's probation officer.

On December 4, 2006, Plaintiff personally delivered his monthly report form for December to Alanis at the probation department office. Upon turning in his monthly report form, Plaintiff had a conversation with Alanis. Sometime prior to January 11, 2007, Plaintiff personally delivered January's monthly report form to the probation department office. Plaintiff spoke with Alanis when he visited the probation department office to turn in his January monthly report. Plaintiff alleges that he also timely submitted his February 2007 report, but the TAC does not allege how or when he did so.

Plaintiff's Arrest

On February 12, 2007, Alanis caused Detective Mark VanWyhe of the Fresno Police Department to arrest Plaintiff for failing to submit monthly reports for December 2006, January 2007, and February 2007. The SAC alleges that VanWyhe went to Plaintiff's place of business and announced that he was arresting Plaintiff due to Plaintiff's failure to file three monthly report forms. Plaintiff responded he had copies of the three forms in question with probation department date stamps. VanWhye refused to give Plaintiff time to find his conformed reports, which were located in another room on the premises where Plaintiff was arrested.

At the time of his arrest, Plaintiff was suffering from heart disease and was taking several prescription medications daily. During the booking process, Plaintiff told Alanis that he was a cardiac patient and needed his heart medications because he had not taken them prior to his arrest. Alanis ignored Plaintiff's request. (SAC at 7). Additionally, as part of the booking process, Plaintiff's prescription pain medication was taken from him and never returned.

By 2200 hours on February 12, 2007, Plaintiff was experiencing severe and increasing pain in his chest. Plaintiff was offered nitroglycerin, but Plaintiff informed jail personnel that it would not address his medical needs. Plaintiff submitted an inmate grievance form on February 13, 2007, requesting medical attention for his unstable heart condition. Plaintiff's associate delivered Plaintiff's medication to the Fresno County Jail some time on February 13, 2007; the medication was never given to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff's request for medical attention was ignored until the early morning hours of February 14, 2007; by that time, Plaintiff's cellmate had flagged down the nurse on duty, who recognized that Plaintiff's condition was very serious. An EKG and blood pressure measurement confirmed that Plaintiff was in grave danger, and Plaintiff was immediately transferred to an emergency room. Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital and released from custody on February 17, 2007.


Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate where the complaint lacks sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.1990). To sufficiently state a claim to relief and survive a 12(b) (6) motion, the pleading "does not need detailed factual allegations" but the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Mere "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. Rather, there must be "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. In other words, the "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The Ninth Circuit has summarized the governing standard, in light of Twombly and Iqbal, as follows: "In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the nonconclusory factual content, and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir.2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Apart from factual insufficiency, a complaint is also subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) where it lacks a cognizable legal theory, Balistreri, 901 F.2d at 699, or where the allegations on their face "show that relief is barred" for some legal reason, Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007).

In deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all "well-pleaded factual allegations" in the pleading under attack. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. A court is not, however, "required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir.2001). "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.


A. Preliminary Matters

1. Defendants Statute of Limitations Argument

Defendants persist in asserting frivolous statute of limitations arguments. Defendants urge the court to apply California Code of Civil Procedure section 474, which sets forth the procedure for naming "doe defendants" under California law, rather than the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. The court previously advised Defendants' counsel that a similar statute of limitations argument was frivolous, as Plaintiff's allegations against Defendant Penner clearly relate back to the same transactions identified in the original complaint. The memorandum decision regarding Defendant's motion to dismiss the second amended complaint advised:

Rule 15(c)(1)(B) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in part: An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when . . . the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out--or attempted to be set out--in the original pleading Claims arise out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence if they "share a common core of operative facts" such that the plaintiff will evidence to prove claim. Williams v. rely Co. same each , 517 Boeing on the F.3d Trilogy Ltd.1133 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Martell v. Percy v. S.F. 1120, F.2d Hosp. , 872 322, 325-26 (9th Cir. 1989) and , 841 F.2d 975, 978 (9th Cir. Gen. 1988))...

Contrary to Defendants' frivolous argument...The SAC expressly relates back to the allegations made in Plaintiff's original complaint with respect to Plaintiff's claims arising out of Plaintiff's alleged probation violation arrest and the Fresno County Jail's failure to provide Plaintiff medical care.

(Doc. 21 at 7-8). Defendants' statute of limitations argument is devoid of merit. The remaining question is whether Defendant's counsel's intentional disregard of the court's prior admonition should be addressed under 28 U.S.C. § 1927.

2. Defendants Redundancy Argument

Defendants assert that claims against Defendant Penner in her official capacity are redundant because the County is named as a Defendant. However, some of Plaintiff's claims are directed against the County based on claims arising out of management of the county jail, while others assert claims against the County based on Penner's conduct as the Chief Probation Officer. Defendants cite no authority for the proposition that the alleged redundancy they complain requires dismissal of the TAC. The cases Defendants cite, Center For Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. v. Los Angeles County Sheriff Dept., 533 F.3d 780, 799 (9th Cir. 2008) and Megargee v. Wittman, 550 F. Supp. 2d 1190, 1206 (E.D. Cal. 2008) contain permissive, not mandatory language.

3. State Law Immunities

Defendants invoke a host of state law immunities. With respect to the immunities invoked on behalf of Defendant Penner in her official capacity, as discussed below, the complaint does not allege any cognizable claim and it is unnecessary to reach the immunity issues.

Defendants invocation of California Penal Code section 847(b)(1) is premature. "Penal Code section 847, subdivision (b)(1) provides '[t]here shall be no civil liability on the part of ... any peace officer ... acting within the scope of his or her authority, for false arrest or false imprisonment ... [if][¶][t]he arrest was lawful, or the peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to believe the arrest was lawful.'" O'Toole v. Superior Court, 140 Cal. App. 4th 488, 510-11 (2006). Because, for reasons explained below, the TAC sufficiently alleges lack of probable cause, section 847 immunity cannot be granted at this stage in the proceedings.

Defendants invocation of California Penal Code section 845.8 is also premature. Section 845.8 provides:

Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for:

(a) Any injury resulting from determining whether to parole or release a prisoner or from determining the terms and conditions of his parole or release or from determining whether to revoke his parole or release

Nothing in the complaint indicates that Alanis made the decision to arrest Plaintiff was part of Alanis' decision to determine or revoke Plaintiff's parole or its ...

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