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Medrano v. Kern County Sheriff's Officer

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 1, 2013

Jorge MEDRANO and Ronnie Medrano an individuals and as successors in interest to decedent Rodolfo Medrano, Plaintiffs,
v.
KERN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICER; County of Kern and Does 1 to 10, inclusive, Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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George Gevork Mgdesyan, Mgdesyan Law Firm, Sherman Oaks, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Andrew C. Thomson, Office of County Counsel, County of Kern, Bakersfield, CA, for Defendants.

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ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS, OR ALTERNATIVELY FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT

ANTHONY W. ISHII, Senior District Judge.

On April 10, 2012, Plaintiffs Jorge H. Medrano and Ronnie Medrano filed suit in this Court against Defendants Kern County Sheriff's Officer, County of Kern, and Does 1 to 10, alleging causes of action for (1) violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of civil rights under California Civil Code §§ 43 and 52.1, and California Constitution Art. 1, § 13; and (3) wrongful death.[1] Defendant County of Kern (the " County" ) now moves for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or alternatively for a more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). See Court's Docket, Doc. No. 13. For the reasons stated herein, that motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

This case arises from the death of Rodolfo Medrano (" Decedent" ), the brother of Plaintiffs, due to an officer-involved shooting on May 29, 2011, at 2750 South Union Avenue, Bakersfield, CA, 93307. See Compl. ¶ 11. Plaintiffs allege Decedent was in a wheelchair when, without warning, unidentified " sheriff officers" employed by the County repeatedly and unjustifiably shot Decedent, causing his death. Id. Plaintiffs allege Decedent made no aggressive movements, no furtive gestures, and no physical movements which would suggest to a reasonable officer that he posed a threat of violence. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiffs contend Defendants' actions violated Decedent's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and deprived them of their Fourteenth Amendment rights to substantive due process, privacy, as well as the fundamental right to familial association with their brother. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiffs further contend Defendants' actions deprived Decedent of the rights, privileges, and immunities secured to him by Article 1, Section 13, of the California Constitution; and California Civil Code §§ 43 and 52.1. Id. ¶ 33. Finally, Plaintiffs allege they have sustained substantial economic and non-economic damages resulting from Decedent's death due to Defendants' conduct, including funeral and burial expenses. Id. ¶¶ 53-54.

The County filed the instant motion to dismiss, arguing that the Complaint fails to state a claim against the County because it is so ambiguous and unintelligible, and should therefore be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Alternatively, the County contends that the Complaint is so vague, ambiguous, and unintelligible that the County is unable to reasonably frame a responsive pleading thereto and Plaintiffs should be required to provide a more definite statement,

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pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e).

LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion to Dismiss

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed because of the plaintiff's " failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must contain " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Where the plaintiff fails to allege " enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," the complaint may be dismissed for failure to allege facts sufficient to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). " A claim has facial plausibility," and thus survives a motion to dismiss, " when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1940, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court accepts all material facts alleged in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir.2005). However, the court need not accept conclusory allegations, allegations contradicted by exhibits attached to the complaint or matters properly subject to judicial notice, unwarranted deductions of fact or unreasonable inferences. Daniels-Hall v. National Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir.2010). " Dismissal with prejudice and without leave to amend is not appropriate unless it is clear ... the complaint could not be saved by amendment." Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir.2003).

B. Motion for a More Definite Statement

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) provides that " [a] party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading ... which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). " However, motions for a more definite statement are disfavored, and ‘ ordinarily restricted to situations where a pleading suffers from unintelligibility rather than want of detail.’ " Dri-Eaz Products, Inc. v. Nguyen, No. C 11-1654Z, 2012 WL 1537598, at *1, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60860, at *4 (W.D.Wash. May 1, 2012) (quoting Hayton Farms Inc. v. Pro-Fac Corp. Inc., No. C10-520-RSM, 2010 WL 5174349, at *4, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132167, at *4 (W.D.Wash. Dec. 14, 2010)). A Rule 12(e) motion is proper only if the complaint is so indefinite that the defendant cannot ascertain the nature of the claim being asserted in order to frame a response. See Famolare, Inc. v. Edison Bros. Stores, Inc., 525 F.Supp. 940, 949 (E.D.Cal.1981). The Court must deny the motion if the complaint is specific enough to notify defendant of the substance of the claim being asserted. See Bureerong ...


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