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Chase M. Riggi, et al v. City of Placerville; et al

August 5, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Through this action, Plaintiffs Chase M. Riggi, Marty Hansen, Joan Beatrice, and the Estate of Linda Carol Clark (collectively "Plaintiffs") seek to recover from Defendants City of Placerville, Placerville Police Department, City of Placerville Policeman Nicolas Maurer, Placerville Police Chief George Nielsen, El Dorado County, El Dorado County Emergency Services District, El Dorado County Department of Mental Health,*fn1 and Marshall Medical Center (collectively "Defendants") for injuries sustained as a result of the shooting death of Ms. Clark.

Presently before the Court is Defendant El Dorado County Emergency Services District's ("the District") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' fourth cause of action for wrongful death due to negligence and negligence per se and fifth cause of action for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the following reasons, the District's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.*fn2


On, March 27, 2010, Ms. Clark was involuntarily detained at the El Dorado County Mental Health Facility pursuant to California Welfare & Institutions Code § 5150 because she was deemed disabled and a danger to herself. Later that evening, Ms. Clark was taken to the Marshall Medical Center in Placerville, California, for medical evaluation and treatment. Mid-morning the following day, Ms. Clark walked out of her room and down a hallway to the ambulance bay, found an unlocked ambulance with the keys in plain view, climbed in, and drove away. Medical Center staff called 911 to report the ambulance stolen, after which City of Placerville police pursued and eventually stopped the vehicle. Ms. Clark refused to surrender and was subsequently shot and killed.

Plaintiffs assert a variety of causes of action against the various Defendants, only two of which, the fourth claim for negligence and negligence per se and the fifth claim for violation of § 1983, are directed at the District. The District now moves to dismiss each of those causes of action.


Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),*fn4 all allegations of material fact must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Rule 8(a)(2) "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the [...] claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not require detailed factual allegations. However, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (internal citations and quotations omitted).

A court is not required to accept as true a "legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ____, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216 (3d ed. 2004) (stating that the pleading must contain something more than "a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.")).

Furthermore, "Rule 8(a)(2)...requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 n.3 (internal citations and quotations omitted). Thus, "[w]ithout some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirements of providing not only 'fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also 'grounds' on which the claim rests." Id. (citing 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, supra, at § 1202). A pleading must contain "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. If the "plaintiffs... have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed." Id. However, "[a] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and 'that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'" Id. at 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

A court granting a motion to dismiss a complaint must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Leave to amend should be "freely given" where there is no "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant,...undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment...." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (listing the Foman factors as those to be considered when deciding whether to grant leave to amend). Not all of these factors merit equal weight. Rather, "the consideration of prejudice to the opposing party...carries the greatest weight." Eminence Capital, 316 F.3d at 1052 (citing DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 185 (9th Cir. 1987)). Dismissal without leave to amend is proper only if it is clear that "the complaint could not be saved by any amendment." IntriPlex Techs. v. Crest Group, Inc., 499 F.3d 1048, 1056 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal citations and quotations omitted).


A. Legal Duty To Exercise Reasonable Care To Protect Plaintiffs Have Adequately Pled The District Owed A Ms. Clark.

According to the District, Plaintiffs' negligence cause of action must be dismissed because the District owed no duty to Ms. Clark or the Plaintiffs as a matter of law. To prevail in an action for negligence under ...

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