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Mohinder Mike Sanwal and Kiran Sanwal, Trustees of the v. County of Sacramento

June 24, 2011

MOHINDER MIKE SANWAL AND KIRAN SANWAL, TRUSTEES OF THE MOHINDER & KIRAN SANWAL LIVING TRUST, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO; SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, SHERIFF SCOTT R. JONES;
CONCORD POLICE DEPARTMENT;
SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT; CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL;
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION;
FOLSOM POLICE DEPARTMENT; AND DOES 1-100, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiffs Mohinder Mike Sanwal and Kiran Sanwal, Trustees of the Mohinder & Kiran Sanwal Living Trust (the "plaintiffs") filed their verified complaint on January 20, 2011. (Complaint ("Compl."), Dkt. No. 1.) Defendant the California Highway Patrol (the "defendant" or "CHP") has moved to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 8.) Plaintiffs failed to file any written opposition or statement of non-opposition to the pending motion.*fn1

The matter came on for hearing on June 23, 2011.*fn2 Plaintiffs Kiran Sanwal and Mohinder Mike Sanwal appeared in propria persona. Attorney Jill Scally appeared on behalf of the CHP. The undersigned has considered the briefs, oral arguments, and the appropriate portions of the record in this case and, for the reasons that follow, grants the CHP's motion to dismiss, but with leave to amend.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are the alleged owners of an apartment complex located at 2410 Arden Way in Sacramento, California. (Compl. at 1.) Plaintiffs allege four claims for relief, all of which arise from events at their apartment complex during a 70-hour hostage standoff, and which allegedly involved law enforcement personnel from various agencies. These claims are: (1) "Violation of Civil Rights Pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983"; (2) "Violation of Civil Rights Pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983"; (3) "Intentional Infliction of Severe Emotional Distress"; and (4) "Negligence per se -- Criminal Trespass in Violation of Cal. Penal Code § 594." (Compl. ¶¶ 55-73.) Plaintiffs allege that the CHP and other county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, caused extensive and unnecessary property damage to their apartment complex during the standoff and caused severe emotional distress to plaintiffs. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that the law enforcement agencies have not paid for the property damage. (Id. at ¶¶ 39-49.) Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs of suit. (Id. at 11.) Plaintiffs name the CHP as an entity defendant and broadly reference all "defendants" who were onsite during the hostage standoff at issue (e.g., Compl. at ¶¶ 22-39), but do not make any allegations against any specific individuals as employees or agents of the CHP.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

1. Motions Pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the pleadings set forth in the complaint. Vega v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 654 F. Supp. 2d 1104, 1109 (E.D. Cal. 2009). Under the "notice pleading" standard of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff's complaint must provide, in part, a "short and plain statement" of plaintiff's claims showing entitlement to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); see also Paulsen v. CNF, Inc., 559 F.3d 1061, 1071 (9th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S. Ct. 1053 (2010). "A complaint may survive a motion to dismiss if, taking all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, it contains 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Coto Settlement v. Eisenberg, 593 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)); accord Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1055 n.6 (9th Cir. 2011) (clarifying that "plausibility" is part of the pleading standard under Iqbal). "'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.'" Caviness v. Horizon Cmty. Learning Ctr., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 812 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949). The court accepts all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Corrie v. Caterpillar, 503 F.3d 974, 977 (9th Cir. 2007). The court is "not, however, required to accept as true conclusory allegations that are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint, and [the court does] not necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Paulsen, 559 F.3d at 1071 (citations and quotation marks omitted).

The court must construe a pro se pleading liberally to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in his complaint and give plaintiff an opportunity to cure them if it appears at all possible that the plaintiff can correct the defect. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc); see also Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990) (stating that "pro se pleadings are liberally construed, particularly where civil rights claims are involved"). In ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b), the court "may generally consider only allegations contained in the pleadings, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters properly subject to judicial notice." Outdoor Media Group, Inc. v. City of Beaumont, 506 F.3d 895, 899 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

Although the court may not consider a memorandum in opposition to a defendant's motion to dismiss to determine the propriety of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, see Schneider v. Cal. Dep't of Corrections, 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n.1 (9th Cir. 1998), it may consider allegations raised in opposition papers in deciding whether to grant leave to amend, see, e.g., Broam v. Bogan, 320 F.3d 1023, 1026 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Orion Tire Corp. v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 268 F.3d 1133, 1137-38 (9th Cir. 2001)).

2. Motions Pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(1)

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) or 12(h)(3) challenges the court's subject matter jurisdiction. Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that "may not grant relief absent a constitutional or valid statutory grant of jurisdiction," and "[a] federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case unless the contrary affirmatively appears." A-Z Int'l v. Phillips, 323 F.3d 1141, 1145 (9th Cir. 2003) (citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) ("If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action."). When ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true. Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004). However, the court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings and "may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction." McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1052 (1989); see also Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003) ("A jurisdictional challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) may be made either on the face of the pleadings or by presenting extrinsic evidence."). "When subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion." Tosco Corp. v. Communities for a Better Env't., 236 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam), abrogated on other grounds by Hertz Corp v. Friend, 130 S. Ct. 1181 (2010); see also Colwell v. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 558 F.3d 1112, 1121 (9th Cir. 2009) ("In support of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the moving party may submit 'affidavits or any other evidence properly before the court . . . . It then becomes necessary for the party opposing the motion to present affidavits or any other evidence necessary to satisfy its burden of establishing that the court, in fact, possesses subject matter jurisdiction.") (citation omitted, modification in original).

III. DISCUSSION

Here, plaintiffs name the CHP as an entity defendant. They do not name any individual CHP officers or officials, and name only the agency itself. The California Highway Patrol is a state agency and is protected from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. As such, based on ...


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