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Williams v. County of Alameda

United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division

February 10, 2014

CURTIS D. WILLIAMS, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF ALAMEDA; Lieutenant THOMAS F. MADIGAN, Sergeant MARIO M. FELIX, Deputies, KEVIN H. ESTEP, BRIAN R. FERNANDEZ, MICHAEL J. GIAMMALVO, and JUSTIN MIGUEL, members of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office; and DOES 1-5 inclusive, Defendants

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For Curtis D. Williams, an individual, Plaintiff: Darryl Parker, LEAD ATTORNEY, Premier Law Group, PLLC, Bellevue, WA.

For County of Alameda, Justin Miguel, Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Defendants: Robert Dean Reiter, LEAD ATTORNEY, Samantha Nicole Stonework, Office of the County Counsel, County of Alameda, Oakland, CA.

For Kevin H. Estep, Thomas F. Madigan, Mario M. Felix, Brian R. Fernandez, Michael J. Giammalvo, Defendants: Robert Dean Reiter, Samantha Nicole Stonework, Office of the County Counsel, County of Alameda, Oakland, CA.

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ORDER

SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, United States District Judge.

Docket 46, 47

Curtis D. Williams (" Plaintiff" ) brings the instant civil rights action against the County of Alameda (the " County" ) and six law enforcement officers [1] alleging various claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising out of a warrantless entry into his residence. See Dkt. 44. The parties are presently before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss and motion to strike. Dkt. 46, 47. Plaintiff opposes the motion to dismiss, but does not oppose the motion to strike. Dkt. 48. 49. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with these matters and being fully informed, the Court hereby DENIES Defendants' motion to dismiss, and DENIES Defendants' motion to strike. For the reasons stated below, the Court converts Defendants' unopposed motion to strike into a motion to dismiss and DISMISSES Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages against Sergeant Felix and Lieutenant Madigan. The Court, in its discretion, finds these matters 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, which are taken from the SAC, are accepted as true for purposes of resolving the motions presently before the Court. On May 8, 2011, Plaintiff and his fiancé, Rickea Butler (" Butler" ), were arguing about their daughter's behavior. SAC ¶ 14. During their argument, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office was notified by the California Highway Patrol dispatch of a 911 call from a person they thought was a " young boy" who stated that his parents were " about to fight." Id. ¶ 15. The Sherriff's Office attempted to return the phone call from the young boy, but there was no response. Id.

Alameda County Sherriff Deputies were dispatched to the origin of the call, 22322 Center Street in Castro Valley, i.e., Plaintiff's residence. SAC ¶ 15. Lieutenant Madigan directed Sergeant Felix and Deputy Estep to head an " Immediate Action Team" composed of themselves and Deputy Fernandez, Deputy Giammalvo, and Deputy Miguel. Id. ¶ 19.

Approximately 30 minutes after the 911 call, Plaintiff and Butler heard pounding on the front door. SAC ¶ 16. As the two of them approached the door, Deputy Estep " smashed in the door and forced it

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open." Id. The officers then entered the residence with handguns and rifles aimed at both Plaintiff and Butler. Id. Butler, holding her baby, was forced backwards into the kitchen by Deputy Giammalvo, who was holding an M-4 rifle. Id. ¶ 20.

Meanwhile, Plaintiff was directed to get on his knees. SAC ¶ 17. He complied with this command by putting his hands up and kneeling on the floor. Id. Plaintiff was then directed to get on the ground. Id. As he was doing so, several deputies slammed him down, using their body weight to pin his right side and arm against a couch and the floor. Id. One of the officers yelled at Plaintiff while pressing his firearm against his face, causing Plaintiff to bleed. Id. In response to his question: " what did I do?" Plaintiff was told to " shut the Fuck up." Id. Plaintiff was then ordered to place his right arm behind his back, but was unable to do so because of the weight of the officers on top of him. Id. ¶ 17. As a consequence, Plaintiff's arm was " wrenched" behind his back, causing injury to his shoulder. Id. ¶ ¶ 17-18.

Deputy Miguel handcuffed Plaintiff while he was on the ground. SAC ¶ 18. After Plaintiff was escorted to a patrol car, id., the officers interrogated his family members, who confirmed that there had only been an argument, not a fight, id. ¶ 21. Butler displayed no physical signs of an altercation, and the home showed no indication of a disturbance outside of the conduct of the officers. Id.

Plaintiff was taken to Valley Care Hospital in Pleasanton, but declined treatment. SAC ¶ 22. He was then taken to Santa Rita County jail and booked. Id. Plaintiff remained in custody overnight and was released in the morning. Id. Upon his release, Plaintiff returned to the hospital. Id. He was subsequently charged with a violation of California Penal Code § 148(a)(1) - resisting arrest, and California Penal Code § 273a(b) - child endangerment. Id. ¶ 23. However, after several months and multiple court appearances, the charges against Plaintiff were dropped in the interests of justice. Id. ¶ ¶ 23-24.

On May 16, 2012, Plaintiff commenced the instant action. See Compl., Dkt. 1. On May 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed a SAC alleging six claims for relief under § 1983: (1) unlawful entry and damage to property; (2) unnecessary force; (3) violation of equal protection; (4) unlawful arrest; (5) malicious prosecution; and (6) municipal liability under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Dkt. 44. The parties are presently before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss and motion to strike. Dkt. 46, 47.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

" Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper when the complaint either (1) lacks a cognizable legal theory or (2) fails to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory." Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959 (9th Cir. 2013). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). " 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff " pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

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In assessing the sufficiency of the pleadings, " courts 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, 127 S.Ct. 2499, 168 L.Ed.2d 179 (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). However, " the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. " While legal conclusions can provide the complaint's framework, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 679. Those facts must be sufficient to push the claims " across the line from conceivable to plausible." Id. at 683. Ultimately, the allegations must " give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

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). Leave to amend is not required where permitting further amendment to the pleadings would be futile. See Deveraturda v. Globe Aviation Sec. Servs., 454 F.3d 1043, 1049-1050 (9th Cir. 2006).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss


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