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Titus v. City of La Mesa

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 13, 2014

ROBERT TITUS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF LA MESA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [DOC. 3] AND STRIKING REQUEST FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES AGAINST DEFENDANT CITY OF LA MESA

THOMAS J. WHELAN, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendants City of La Mesa, and Officers D. Perry and B. Wright. Plaintiff opposes.

The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d.1). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Defendants' motion to dismiss [Doc. 3], but ORDERS the request for punitive damages against Defendant City of La Mesa STRUCK.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 31, 2011, an Albertson's grocery store located in La Mesa, California was robbed by an African American male wearing predominantly red clothing. ( Compl. [Doc. 1], ¶ 6.) On or about July 26, 2011, another Albertson's grocery store in La Mesa was robbed by an African American male wearing predominantly red clothing. ( Id. )

La Mesa Police Detective, Defendant D. Perry, investigated the robberies. ( Compl., ¶ 7.) Because the robberies were committed by someone wearing predominately red clothing, Detective Perry believed the suspect was a gang member. ( Id. ) Detective Perry, therefore, sought the assistance of Defendant B. Wright, who was a La Mesa Police Department Special Enforcement Detail Officer. ( Id. )

Officer Wright obtained photographs of African American males that lived in the La Mesa area, including the Department of Motor Vehicles photograph of Plaintiff Robert Titus, Jr. ( Compl., ¶ 8.) According to the Complaint, although Defendant knew that Titus was not a gang member, on August 17, 2011, Titus was arrested and charged with both robberies based on his photograph. ( Id., ¶ 9.) During his arrest, Defendants did not find red clothing at Titus' home. ( Id. )

On August 16, 2013, Titus filed this lawsuit alleging equal protection and false arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a Monell violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants' motion to dismiss raises three issues: (1) whether the Officer Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because there was probable cause to arrest Titus; (2) whether Titus has stated a claim for equal protection violation; and (3) whether Titus has stated a Monell claim.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The court must dismiss a cause of action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Navarro v. Block , 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The court must accept all allegations of material fact as true and construe them in light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cedars-Sanai Med. Ctr. v. Nat'l League of Postmasters of U.S. , 497 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2007). Material allegations, even if doubtful in fact, are assumed to be true. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, the court need not "necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc. , 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). In fact, the court does not need to accept any legal conclusions as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

Generally, courts may not consider material outside the complaint when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co. , 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990). However, documents specifically identified in the complaint whose authenticity is not questioned by parties may also be considered. Fecht v. Price Co. , 70 F.3d 1078, 1080 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995) (superceded by statutes on other grounds). Moreover, the court may consider the full text of those documents, even when the complaint quotes only selected portions. Id . It may also consider material properly subject to judicial notice without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Barron v. Reich , 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The contents of Officer's Narrative Report are not properly subject to judicial notice.

In support of their motion, Defendants request judicial notice of a San Diego Regional Officer's Report Narrative. ( See RJN [Doc. 3-3], ¶ 1.) The report suggests that Titus was not arrested simply because he is African American, but because a witness identified him ...


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