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Diane Ballou v. Los Angeles Police Department; Los Angeles Police Department

September 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge



Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion To Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 5.) Defendants seek to dismiss three causes of action in Plaintiff Diana Ballou's Complaint. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is DENIED.*fn1


On May 18, 2011, after being awakened by loud knocks on her front door, Ballou opened her door to find four police officers, who asked if her name was Diane O'Bleness. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Ballou answered yes, but stated "Diane O'Blenes" was her maiden name, which she had not used for twenty-eight years. (Compl. ¶ 21.) The officers told Ballou that they had a warrant for her arrest-an arrest for a felony. (Compl. ¶ 22.) Ballou asked the officers of the charges, but they never gave her an answer, only telling her that she was under arrest. (Compl. ¶ 24.) After the officers arrested Ballou, they allowed her to change clothes (while under careful watch) and took her to the Los Angeles County Jail. (Compl. ¶¶ 25, 31.) But the officers never otherwise questioned her, nor checked her driver's license or her physical characteristics to determine whether they had the right person. (Compl. ¶ 27.) And after being booked with $50,000 bail, Ballou spent the entire day and part of the night in jail until her boyfriend bailed her out. (Compl. ¶ 31.)

On June 8, 2011, when Ballou appeared in court for her arraignment, her assigned public defender informed Ballou of the charges against her-Ballou then realized that Defendants arrested the wrong person. (Compl. ¶ 34.) When the public defender told Ballou that someone had picked Ballou out of a photo lineup, Ballou was shocked and surprised. (Compl. ¶ 35.) Ballou learned that the true suspect's name was Diane Mary O'Bleness, whereas Ballou's maiden name was Diane Marie O'Blenes. (Compl. ¶ 36.) Further, the true suspect had a different weight, height, hair color, and eye color than Ballou; and the suspect had an arrest record, whereas Ballou had none. (Id.) They also had different social security numbers, addresses, address histories, and cell phone numbers. (Id.)

Ballou had to attend court four times to prove that Defendants arrested the wrong person. (Compl. ¶ 37.) It was only when the victim's daughter, Jocelyn Lew, informed the court that she picked out the wrong person from the black-and-white-photo lineup, that the court finally dismissed the criminal charges against Ballou. (Compl. ¶¶ 38, 39.) The judge issued Ballou a Judicial Clearance Form and instructed her to carry it until the police arrest real Diane O'Bleness. (Compl. ¶¶ 39.) Further, Ballou alleges that the detective in her case spoke with the true suspect, Diane Mary O'Bleness, who told the detective that she was in Tennessee.

On May 16, 2012, Ballou filed this action in state court for: (1) deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unreasonable search and seizure;

(2) deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unreasonable arrest and transport; (3) deprivation of her civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for use of excessive force; (4) assault; (5) battery; and (6) false imprisonment. After removing the case to this Court, Defendants now seek to dismiss Ballou's first, second, and sixth claims.


Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) can be based on "the lack of a cognizable legal theory" or "the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A complaint need only satisfy the minimal notice pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2)-a short and plain statement-to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir. 2003); Fed. R. Civ.

P. 8(a)(2). For a complaint to sufficiently state a claim, its "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While specific facts are not necessary so long as the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which the claim rests, a complaint must nevertheless "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

Iqbal's plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully," but does not go so far as to impose a "probability requirement." Id. Rule 8 demands more than a complaint that is merely consistent with a defendant's liability-labels and conclusions, or formulaic recitals of the elements of a cause of action do not suffice. Id. Instead, the complaint must allege sufficient underlying facts to provide fair notice and enable the defendant to defend itself effectively. Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). The determination whether a complaint satisfies the plausibility standard is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 566 U.S. at 679.

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court is generally limited to the pleadings and must construe all factual allegations in the complaint as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lee v. City of L.A., 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001). Conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact, and unreasonable inferences need not be blindly accepted as true by the court. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). Yet, a complaint should be dismissed only if "it appears beyond doubt ...

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