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Caronda Graham, Individually and As Successor-In-Interest; Shar'rhonda v. County of Los Angeles

August 25, 2011

CARONDA GRAHAM, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST; SHAR'RHONDA DAVIS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUCCESSOR-IN-INTEREST; AND DEBORAH JEFFERY, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, DEPUTY GRIMES; DEPUTY RANIAG; DEPUTY AUSTIN, DEPUTY GRIFFITH, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

[Motion filed on 12/8/2010]

Presently before the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint of Deborah Jeffrey. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the court denies the motion and adopts the following order.

I. Background

Plaintiff Deborah Jeffery ("Jeffery") was engaged to be married to Reynard Davis ("Davis.") (First Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶ 4). On July 4, 2009, Davis was physically restrained and tased by the individual Defendants, who are peace officers employed by the County defendant. (FAC ¶¶ 5, 16). The FAC alleges that Defendants used unlawful force against Davis, resulting in Davis's death. (FAC ¶¶ 17, 22). Davis's mother, sister, and Jefferey filed this civil rights suit, alleging ten causes of action. Of these, Jefferey brings only one cause of action, the Fourth Claim for Relief for Interference with Familial Relationship and Freedom of Association, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (FAC ¶ 53). Defendants now move to dismiss Jeffery from the FAC for lack of standing under Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)1 and 12(b)(6).

II. Legal Standard

Standing pertains to a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction, and may therefore be raised in a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Chandler v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 598 F.3d 1115, 1122 (9th Cir. 2010). Where the jurisdictional issue is separate from the merits of the case, the court may evaluate the merits for itself, without presuming a plaintiff's allegations as true. Thornhill Pub. Co., Inc. v. General Tel. & Elec. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979).

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint is subject to dismissal when the plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, "all allegations of material fact are accepted as true and should be construed in the light most favorable to [the] plaintiff." Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 433, 447 (9th Cir. 2000).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009), the Supreme Court explained that a court considering a 12(b)(6) motion should first "identify[] pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth."

Id. Next, the court should identify the complaint's "well-pleaded factual allegations, . . . assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief."

Id.; see also Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) ("In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory factual content, and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief" (internal quotation marks omitted)).

III. Discussion

Defendants argue that only spouses, parents, and children of decedents may bring constitutional claims for loss of companionship and society under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 . (Motion at 3). Because Jefferey was merely the fiance of the decedent, Defendants assert, she lacks standing to bring the Fourth Claim for Relief. The court disagrees.

In Ward v. City of San Jose, the Ninth Circuit adopted the Seventh Circuit's rule that, unlike parents or children, siblings do not possess a Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest in companionship. Ward v. City of San Jose, 967, F.2d 280, 283-284 (9th Cir. 1991) (citing Bell v. City of Milwaukee, 746 F.2d 1205, 1248 (7th Cir. 1984), overruled by Russ v. Watts, 414 F.3d 783 (7th Cir. 2005). In so doing, the Ninth Circuit, like the Seventh Circuit, expressed an unwillingness "to attach constitutional significance to [emotional] attachments outside the closely guarded parent-child relationship." Bell, 746 F.2d at 1247; See also Rentz v. Spokane County, 438 ...


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