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Andrea Boarman v. County of Sacramento

March 28, 2013

ANDREA BOARMAN PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

The matter comes before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss the third and sixth causes of action (ECF 16) of the First Amended Complaint (FAC). (ECF 15.) For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff, an African-American female, alleges that on January 16, 2011 she was mistaken for a shoplifter by law enforcement officers when leaving a CVS store. (FAC ¶¶ 12-15, ECF 15.) Defendant Officer Barry ("Barry") refused to contact CVS employees to verify her statements absolving herself of any wrongdoing. (Id. ¶16.) She was placed under arrest by Barry and other officers, thrown to the ground, and shot with a Taser. (Id. ¶¶ 17-19.) At some point, Barry issued plaintiff a misdemeanor citation for obstructing a peace officer. (Id. ¶20.)

On October 26, 2011, plaintiff filed the original complaint against the County of Sacramento ("County"), City of Rancho Cordova ("City"), Barry, and DOES 1 - 100.*fn1 (ECF 1.) Defendants moved to dismiss all causes of action. (ECF 6.) On September 27, 2012, the court dismissed the complaint in its entirety against Barry and partially against the County and City, with leave for plaintiff to amend. (ECF 14.)

On October 26, 2012, plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint, alleging six causes of action: 1) excessive force, invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against all peace officer defendants;*fn2 2) false arrest, invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against all peace officer defendants; 3) municipal liability, invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the County and City; 4) common law battery against all defendants; 5) interference with civil rights in violation of California Civil Code § 52.1 against all defendants; and 6) violence based on race in violation of California Civil Code § 51.7 against all defendants.

On November 11, 2012, defendants moved to dismiss the third and sixth causes of action. (ECF 16.) Plaintiff filed an opposition brief on November 29, 2012. (ECF 17.) Defendants filed a reply on December 6, 2012. (ECF 19.)

II. STANDARD

Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A court may dismiss "based on the lack of 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).

Although a complaint need contain only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," (FED R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)), in order to survive a motion to dismiss this short and plain statement "must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint must include something more than "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation" or "'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Determining whether a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. Ultimately, the inquiry focuses on the interplay between the factual allegations of the complaint and the dispositive issues of law in the action. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

In making this context-specific evaluation, this court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as true the factual allegations of the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). This rule does not apply to "'a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation,'" Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (quoted in Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), nor to "allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice" or to material attached to or incorporated by reference into the complaint. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988-89 (9th Cir. 2001).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Municipal Liability "[T]here is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983." Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). For a municipality to be liable under § 1983, plaintiff must show "the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers . . . . [L]ocal governments . . . may be sued for constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental 'custom' even though such a custom has not received formal approval through the body's official decisionmaking channels." Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Specifically, "[i]n order to state a claim under Monell, a party must (1) identify the challenged policy or custom; (2) explain how the policy or custom is deficient; (3) explain how the policy or custom caused the plaintiff harm; and (4) reflect how the policy or custom amounted to deliberate indifference, i.e., show how the deficiency involved was obvious and the constitutional injury was likely to occur." Harvey v. City of S. Lake Tahoe, No. CIV S-10-1653 KJM EFB PS, 2011 WL 3501687, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2011) (citing Young v. City of Visalia, 687 F. Supp. 2d 1141, 1149 (E.D. Cal. 2009)), adopted by 2011 WL 4543195 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 27, 2011); Crockett v. City of Hermosa Beach, No. CV 11-9789-DOC SP, 2012 WL 1694452, at *6 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 16, 2012), adopted by 2012 WL 1694306 (C.D. Cal. May 11, 2012).

Prior to Iqbal, the rule in the Ninth Circuit was that "a claim of municipal liability under section 1983 is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss 'even if the claim is based on nothing more than a bare allegation that the individual officers' conduct conformed to official policy, custom or practice.'" See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 624 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing Shah v. Cnty. of Los Angeles Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 797 F.2d 743, 747 (9th Cir. 1986)).

Post-Iqbal decisions have considered motions to dismiss a claim of municipal liability under a heightened pleading standard. In light of the Supreme Court rulings in Twombly and Iqbal, the Ninth Circuit articulated a two-part ...


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