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Thomas Via v. City of Fairfield

June 10, 2011

THOMAS VIA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF FAIRFIELD, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; CADE BECKWITH, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF FAIRFIELD; STEVE TROJANOWSKI, SR., INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF FAIRFIELD; STEVE TROJANOWSKI, JR., INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF FAIRFIELD; JIMMIE WILLIAMS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF FAIRFIELD; AND, FAIRFIELD POLICE OFFICERS DOES 1-25, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

Plaintiff Thomas Via brought this civil rights action against defendants City of Fairfield and City of Fairfield police officers Cade Beckwith, Steve Trojanowski, Sr., Steve Trojanowski, Jr., and Jimmie Williams based on events leading to his arrest, his arrest, and subsequent criminal charges brought against him. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), defendants now move to dismiss the federal and state law claims in plaintiff's Complaint.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On May 8, 2006, plaintiff's ex-girlfriend, Brenda Millner, was arrested after allegedly committing commercial burglary at the Solano County Mall in Fairfield, California. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Although plaintiff was not involved with the burglary, Millner was driving plaintiff's car and Officer Beckwith contacted plaintiff to inquire about Millner's explanation for the burglary. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) During a different conversation, Officer Beckwith also informed plaintiff that plaintiff needed to call Officer Trojanowski, Jr., to arrange to pick up his car. Plaintiff called the number Officer Beckwith provided and left a message requesting Officer Trojanowski, Jr., return his call. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff later learned that Officer Trojanowski, Jr., had ordered his car impounded. (Id. ¶ 14.)

Later that day, plaintiff had a conversation with Millner that Officer Trojanowski, Jr., overheard because Millner was on a speaker phone in a holding cell. (Id.) During that conversation, plaintiff explained to Millner that she was being treated badly because she is an African-American woman and the Fairfield Police Department is corrupt. (Id.)

Around 2:00 a.m. on May 9, 2006, Officer Trojanowski, Sr., allegedly called plaintiff at his residence and accused plaintiff of threatening him over the phone on May 8, 2006. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff denied threatening Officer Trojanowski, Sr. (Id.) Around 7:00 a.m. that same morning, Officer Trojanowski, Sr., called plaintiff several more times about the alleged threatening phone call. (Id. ¶ 16.) Around 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, Officer Trojanowski, Sr., called plaintiff again and recorded their conversation without plaintiff's permission. (Id.)

Officers Trojanowski, Sr., and Beckwith allegedly prepared false police reports, which included allegedly false statements by Officer Trojanowski, Jr., and stated that plaintiff had threatened a police officer over the phone. (Id. ¶ 17.) Based on the reports, Officer Trojanowski, Sr., requested that criminal charges be filed against plaintiff, and a warrant for plaintiff's arrest was issued. (Id.)

On May 13, 2006, Officer Williams went to plaintiff's residence to arrest him and allegedly tasered plaintiff without warning even though plaintiff did not resist arrest. (Id. ¶ 18.) After tasering plaintiff, Officer Williams allegedly pointed "OC spray" at plaintiff and threatened to spray him. (Id. ¶ 19.) Other officers subsequently arrived at the scene and handcuffed plaintiff, at which time plaintiff suffered a seizure and was transported to a hospital. (Id.) In his police report, Officer Williams stated that plaintiff resisted arrest, which resulted in subsequent criminal charges against plaintiff. (Id.)

After being released from the hospital, plaintiff was in jail for about three to four hours and was released on bail. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff was subsequently arraigned and, at plaintiff's preliminary hearing, Officers Trojanowski, Sr., and Beckwith allegedly testified falsely against him. (Id.) The resisting arrest charges were dismissed on May 26, 2010, and all remaining charges against plaintiff were dismissed on September 14, 2010. (Id. ¶ 21.)

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on November 29, 2010, alleging claims for 1) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the officer defendants based on his Fourth Amendment rights; 2) Monell liability against the City of Fairfield; 3) assault and battery against Officer Williams; 4) false arrest and imprisonment against the officer defendants; 5) intentional infliction of emotional distress against the officer defendants;6) violations of California Civil Code section 51.7 against the officer defendants; 7) violations of California Civil Code section 52.1 against the officer defendants; and 8) negligence against the officer defendants.*fn1 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), defendants now move to dismiss plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety.

II. Discussion

On a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). "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.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, ----, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This "plausibility standard," however, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully," and "[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57).

In general, a court may not consider items outside the pleadings when deciding a motion to dismiss, but may consider items of which it can take judicial notice. Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994). A court may take judicial notice of facts "not subject to reasonable dispute" because they are either "(1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned." Fed. R. Evid. 201. Judicial notice may properly be taken of matters of public record outside the pleadings. See MGIC Indem. Corp. v. Weisman, 803 F.2d 500, 504 (9th Cir. 1986). Defendants request that the court take judicial notice of the Claim for Damages plaintiff submitted to the City of Fairfield on October 20, 2006, and the City of Fairfield's Notice of Rejected Claim for Damages dated March 15, 2007. Because both of these documents are public records and plaintiff does not dispute the authenticity of the copies provided or object to the court's consideration of them, the court will take judicial notice of the two documents.*fn2

A. Section 1983 Claim Against the Officer Defendants In relevant part, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . , subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured ...


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