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Collins v. San Diego Metropolitan Transit System

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 7, 2013

VICTOR COLLINS, an Individual, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN DIEGO METROPOLITAN TRANSIT SYSTEM; OFFICER D. BELVIS; OFFICER F. MOYA; UNIVERSAL SERVICES OF AMERICA, INC.; AND DOES 1-10, INCLUSIVE, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT (Doc. No. 9.)

ANTHONY J. BATTAGLIA, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Defendants San Diego Metropolitan Transit System ("MTS") and Officer D. Belvis' (collectively, "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 9), Plaintiff Victor Collins's ("Plaintiff") First Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 5, "FAC"). In accordance with Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1, the Court finds the motion suitable for determination on the papers and without oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.

BACKGROUND

The instant action arises from an incident that occurred on April 12, 2012, on the San Diego Blue Line trolley. (FAC ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Officers Belvis, an employee of MTS, and Moya, an employee of Universal Services of America, conducted a fare inspection of Plaintiff's ticket. ( Id. at ¶¶ 4-6.) Plaintiff further alleges that, after he provided a valid ticket, Officer Belvis hesitated to return the ticket and Officer Moya told Plaintiff "I will deny you service." ( Id. ) Officers Belvis and Moya then escorted Plaintiff off the trolley at the subsequent stop. ( Id. )

As the officers escorted Plaintiff off the trolley, Officer Moya allegedly took Plaintiff's computer case, dropped it on the floor with unnecessary force and then used extreme force while applying hand restraints on Plaintiff. ( Id. at ¶¶ 7-8.) According to Officer Belvis's report, he had been attempting to conduct a welfare check on Plaintiff, who was combative and non responsive. ( Id. at ¶ 18.) After restraining Plaintiff, the officers then asked if there were any illegal drugs or weapons in the computer case, if Plaintiff was the subject of any outstanding warrants, and if he was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication. ( Id. at ¶¶ 9-10.) After fifty minutes, Officer Williams of the San Diego Police Department arrived and Plaintiff was cited for failure to comply with a lawful order. ( Id. at ¶ 12, Ex. A at 4.) On October 19, 2012, Plaintiff appeared at a state trial to argue the citation. ( Id. ¶ 19.) The state court ordered Plaintiff to pay a $275 fine by working at a non-profit organization. ( Id. )

Plaintiff filed the present FAC on May 7, 2013, alleging five causes of action: (1) malicious prosecution; (2) abuse of process; (3) violation of civil rights; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (5) damage to personal property. ( Id. at ¶¶ 18-19, 20-21, 22-23, 24-25, 26.) Defendants move this Court to dismiss the action and Plaintiff has filed an Objection. (Doc. No. 9 and 10.) Officer Moya is not joined in this Motion, nor has he filed an independent motion or answer.

LEGAL STANDARD

I. Motion to Dismiss

Dismissal is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) when a plaintiff's allegations fail "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must "accept all material allegations of fact as true and construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the non-moving party." Vasquez v. L.A. Cnty., 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). However, courts are not "bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 664 (2009).

A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal "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). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Plausibility does not equate to probability, but it requires "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664. "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." Id. Dismissal of claims that fail to meet this standard should be with leave to amend unless it is clear that amendment could not possibly cure the complaint's deficiencies. See Steckman v. Hart Brewing, Inc., 143 F.3d 1293, 1296 (9th Cir. 1998).

DISCUSSION

I. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

Defendants move to dismiss the FAC in its entirety on grounds that Officer Belvis and MTS have qualified immunity, and even if Plaintiff pierces that immunity, each of Plaintiff's claims independently fail. ( Id. ) The Court addresses Plaintiff's ...


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