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Lee D. Lacy v. County of San Diego

September 17, 2012

LEE D. LACY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

ORDER: (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO'S MOTION TO DISMISS [Doc. No. 7]; (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART BARNETT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [Doc. No. 24]; and (3) GRANTING DONAHUE'S MOTION TO DISMISS [Doc. No. 11].

Defendants County of San Diego, Greg Barnett, and William Donahue (collectively, "Defendants") separately move to dismiss Plaintiff Lee D. Lacy's ("Plaintiff") Complaint on grounds that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.*fn1 Plaintiff opposes and Defendants filed replies. The Court finds the motions suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See S.D. Cal. Civ. L. R. 7.1.d.1. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motions.

I. BACKGROUND

On November 14, 2010, Plaintiff went to the Chula Vista courthouse to have Sheriff's deputies sign off on a "fix-it" ticket. (Compl. ¶ 13.) While Plaintiff talked to an employee at the front desk, Sheriff's Department employee Elizabeth Palmer, a non-moving defendant, came over and spoke with him. (Id. ¶¶ 14-18.) Palmer allegedly told Plaintiff that she would not sign off on the ticket and told him to "get the hell out of this office." (Id.) As Plaintiff turned to leave, Sheriff's Department employee Randall Ribada, another non-moving defendant, allegedly followed him and shoved him from behind. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) After a verbal exchange, Ribada allegedly grabbed Plaintiff's arm and, along with Sheriff's Department employee R. Patron and others, "attacked [Plaintiff] and took him to the floor." (Id. ¶¶ 23-27.) Plaintiff's face was slammed onto the floor and he was punched, kicked, held to the floor, and subjected to a "painful" ear hold. (Id. ¶¶ 34-40.) Plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of this incident. (Id. ¶ 41.)

Plaintiff was subsequently charged with four criminal charges, but alleges that Ribada's report of the incident was "rife with inaccuracies and false statements." (Compl. ¶¶ 47-48.) Plaintiff alleges that although he filed a complaint with Sheriff's Internal Affairs ("IA"), and Defendant William Donahue notified him that an investigation had been conducted and resulted in the "Disposition of Unfounded" (Id. ¶¶ 49-51), the office did not conduct an investigation. (Id.) Further, Plaintiff alleges that Palmer has been the subject of "multiple complaints" for excessive force, harassment, and anger management problems, but the Sheriff's Department has taken no corrective action against her. (Id. ¶ 52.)

On March 12, 2012, Plaintiff brought suit against the County of San Diego (the "County") under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 for failure to properly train, failure to supervise and discipline, failure to investigate citizen complaints, and Monell liability. [Doc. No. 1.] Further, Plaintiff alleges failure to properly train, failure to supervise and discipline, and failure to investigate citizen complaints claims against Defendant Greg Barnett, as well as failure to supervise and discipline and failure to investigate citizen complaints claims against Donahue. On April 13, 2012, the County moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against it, and on May 16 and June 29, respectively, Donahue and Barnett moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Material allegations, even if doubtful in fact, are assumed to be true. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, the Court need not "necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). In fact, the Court does not need to accept any legal conclusions as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009).

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, 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." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Instead, the allegations in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. Thus, "[t]o 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.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "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." Id., citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law either for lack of a cognizable legal theory or for insufficient facts under a cognizable theory. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Claims Against the County

1. Failure to Supervise and Discipline, Failure to Investigate Citizen Complaints, and Monell Liability

The Complaint alleges claims against the County for: (1) failure to supervise and discipline; (2) failure to investigate citizen complaints; and (3) Monell liability. (Compl. ¶¶ 75, 76, 84, 94.) The County argues that these claims are "merely a list of generic allegations and legal conclusions lacking any specific factual allegations" and should be dismissed. (County's Mot. to Dismiss at 1:25-28.)

Under section 1983, municipalities are considered "persons" and therefore may be liable for causing a constitutional deprivation. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978); Long v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). Municipal liability may be premised on: (1) conduct pursuant to an expressly adopted official policy; (2) a longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the "standard operating procedure" of the local government entity; (3) a decision of a decision-making official who was, as a matter of state law, a final policymaking authority whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy in the area of decision; or (4) an official with final policymaking authority either delegating that authority to, or ratifying the decision of, a subordinate. See Price v. Sery, 513 F.3d 962, 966 (9th Cir. 2008); Lytle v. Carl, 382 F.3d 978, 982 (9th Cir. 2004); Ulrich v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco, 308 F.3d 968, 984-85 (9th Cir. 2002); Trevino v. Gates, 99 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 1995). After establishing one of ...


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