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Prince v. Fremont Police Department

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 20, 2013

KISHA PRINCE, DARYL PRINCE, JUSTICE PRINCE, KHLOE PRINCE, Plaintiffs,
v.
FREMONT POLICE DEPARTMENT, DETECTIVE HOQUIN, DETECTIVE GAGHES, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND STRIKING PLAINTIFFS' UNAUTHORIZED SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT Docket 10, 14.

SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Kisha Prince and Daryl Prince, along with minor children, Justice Prince and Khloe Prince, bring the instant pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants City of Fremont Police Department ("FPD"), Detective Craig Gaches (erroneously sued as Detective Gaghes) and Detective Anthony Holguin (erroneously sued as Detective Hoquin). The action arises out of an incident occurring on May 30, 2012, during which Fremont police officers engaged in a vehicle pursuit of Daryl which ultimately resulted in his arrest.[1]

The parties are presently before the Court on Defendants' unopposed Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint or For a More Definite Statement. Dkt. 10. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with this matter and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons set forth below. In addition, the Court sua sponte STRIKES Plaintiffs' unauthorized second amended complaint from the record. Dkt. 13. The Court, in its discretion, finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b).

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiffs' handwritten Amended Complaint originally filed in the Alameda County Superior Court on March 1, 2013. See Notice of Removal, Ex. A ("Am. Compl."), Dkt. 1. The complaint is not a model of clarity and is extraordinarily difficult to decipher. Nonetheless, it appears that on or about May 30, 2012, Plaintiffs' vehicle was being pursued by Detective Holguin in an unmarked police van near Irvington High School in Fremont, California. Id. at 1. At some point, Plaintiffs' vehicle crashed, causing all of the Plaintiffs to suffer personal injuries. Id. at 2-3. Daryl was charged with six felonies, including child endangerment and kidnapping, among other charges (which are not specified). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants' actions "violated State and Federal laws and the Constitutional Rights [sic]." Id. at 3. The Complaint also appears to allege a state law cause of action for negligence.[2] Plaintiffs seek $800, 000 in damages..

Kisha originally filed a Complaint in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of herself, Daryl, Justice and Khloe, on November 12, 2012. Mot. at 2. On March 1, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint, which, apparently unlike the original Complaint, included some details regarding the incident giving rise to this action.[3] On March 27, 2013, Defendants removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a) on the grounds that this Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims. Dkt. 1.

On April 2, 2013, Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss or for a more definite statement under Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(e), respectively. Dkt. 10. Plaintiffs did not file a response to the motion. Instead, on May 20, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), which is styled as "Complaint for Recovery and Damages of Environment Law Suit [sic] Amended Complaint #2." Dkt. 13.[4] Briefing on the motion to dismiss is closed and the matter is now ripe for adjudication.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Pleadings in federal court actions are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]" Rule 12(b)(6) "tests the legal sufficiency of a claim." Navarro v. Block , 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cognizable legal theory or insufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't , 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). "[C]ourts must consider the complaint in its entirety, as well as other sources courts ordinarily examine when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, in particular, documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice." Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd. , 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). The court is to "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Outdoor Media Group, Inc. v. City of Beaumont , 506 F.3d 895, 899-900 (9th Cir. 2007). In addition, a pleading filed by a pro se plaintiff must be liberally construed. Balistreri , 901 F.2d at 699.

To 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.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The complaint must afford the defendants with "fair notice" of the claims against them, and the grounds upon which the claims are based. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A. , 534 U.S. 506, 512 (2002). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678. Where a complaint or claim is dismissed, "[l]eave to amend should be granted unless the district court determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Knappenberger v. City of Phoenix , 566 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2009).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants' motion to dismiss presents the following arguments: (1) Justice and Khloe are minors who, in the absence of a guardian ad litem, lack the capacity to sue; (2) the pleadings fail to allege facts sufficient to state a claim for municipal liability; and (3) there are insufficient facts alleged to maintain a cause of action for negligence. The Court discusses each of these contentions, in turn.

A. MINORS' STANDING TO SUE

Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a court to "appoint a guardian ad litem-or issue another appropriate order-to protect a minor or incompetent person who is unrepresented in an action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(c)(2); cf. Johns v. San Diego , 114 F.3d 874, 877 (9th Cir. 1997) (affirming dismissal of minor-plaintiff, noting that "[b]ecause Casey is a minor, he lacked the capacity to sue on own"). In addition, "a parent or guardian cannot bring an action on behalf of a minor child without retaining a lawyer." Johns , 114 F.3d at 877 (9th Cir. 1997). Since there is ...


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