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Reynoso v. Prater

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 4, 2013

A. PRATER, an individual, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and DOES 1-25, inclusive, Defendants.



Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, filed on June 13, 2013. (Doc. No. 8). Plaintiff has filed an Opposition and Defendants replied. (Doc. Nos. 10 and 11.) The Court has reviewed the papers filed in support and opposition and finds it appropriate to rule on the briefs without oral arguments pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. For the following reasons the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.


The following facts and allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff, Blanca Reynoso, is a 58-year old United States citizen. On March 2, 2012, Plaintiff traveled by mini-bus from Tijuana, Mexico, where she was vacationing, to San Diego, California. Plaintiff had a connecting bus in San Diego that would then take her to San Fernando Valley where she resides. ( Id. at 4.) Plaintiff's bus came to a stop at the United States border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry along with a dozen similar buses. According to Plaintiff, the bus waited for over an hour to cross the border. ( Id. ) Plaintiff feared that she would miss her connection in San Diego, when she could not find the bus driver, she left the bus to inquire about the delay. ( Id. )

Plaintiff approached a booth at the border, finding no one, she walked to a second booth where she saw an officer. Plaintiff approached the officer, whom she believes to be Defendant A. Prater, to ask him when the buses would be allowed to cross. According to Plaintiff, Officer Prater appeared angry and told her she was not allowed to be there. ( Id. at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that Officer Prater grabbed her while screaming she would be arrested and pushed her back towards the bus. Plaintiff further alleges that Officer Prater bent her arm backwards, threw her on the ground, and shoved his knee into her back. ( Id. ) Officer Prater handcuffed her in a way that caused Plaintiff "blinding pain, " he then led her towards the Customs and Border Protection ("CPB") office. ( Id. at 5-6.) Plaintiff requested to see a doctor several times during her hour long detention. ( Id. at 6.) An ambulance was called and Plaintiff was transported to Sharp Hospital in Chula Vista where she was treated for multiple contusions, back and chest pain. Plaintiff also alleges she suffered from swelling and pain in her wrists, bruises on her face, tenderness on her ribs and left side, as well as two broken ribs. ( Id. at 6-7.)

Plaintiff filed the instant action on March 25, 2013, against the individual officers and the Department of Homeland Security, a federal agency of the United States of America. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges nine (9) causes of action under Bivens and the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"): (1) Bivens - Excessive Force; (2) Bivens - Unlawful Detention; (3) Bivens - Extortion in violation of Fourth and Fifth Amendments; (4) FTCA - Excessive Force (Civil Code ยง 52.1); (5) FTCA - Unlawful Detention; (6) FTCA - False Imprisonment; (7) FTCA - Battery; (8) FTCA - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; and (9) FTCA - Negligence. ( Id. at 1.)

Defendants move to dismiss some of Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. No. 8.) Defendants argue that (1) the state law claims against officer Prater should be dismissed based on the government's certification that he was acting within the scope of his federal employment (causes of action four through nine) and (2) the Fourth and Fifth causes of action for excessive force and unlawful detention should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction as the United States has not waived sovereign immunity with respect to "Bivens type" constitutional tort claims. ( Id. at 2.)


A. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the pleadings and allows a court to dismiss a complaint upon a finding that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The court only reviews the contents of the complaint, accepting all factual allegations as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. al -Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 956 (9th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (U.S. 2007) (citations omitted). To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, rather, it must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

B. Bivens Claims (Causes of Action One Through Three)

The Supreme Court has created private damages action against federal officials for constitutional torts not covered by the FTCA. In Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment gives rise to a right of action against federal law enforcement officials for damages from an unlawful search and seizure. 403 U.S. 388 (1970). Bivens, thus establishes an implied private right of action for tortious deprivation of constitutional rights against federal officials in their personal capacity. Id.

Defendants do not dispute the propriety of Plaintiff's Bivens claims brought against Officer Prater in his individual capacity and the unnamed Doe Defendants. ...

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