United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND [Re: ECF Nos. 7, 8]
BETH LABSON FREEMAN, District Judge.
In this civil rights lawsuit, Plaintiff Anthony Davis ("Plaintiff") has asserted federal and state law claims against individual police officers Michael Montonye, Tyler Krauel, and Thomas Boyle (collectively, the "Officers") for alleged police misconduct during a May 5, 2012 incident on Santana Row in San Jose, California. Plaintiff also asserts claims against the City of San Jose (the "City") pursuant to Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), and California Government Code § 815.2.
The Officers and the City filed separate motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) contending that the factual allegations in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") are insufficient to state any claims against any of the defendants. (Officers' Mot., ECF 7; City's Mot., ECF 8) The Court heard oral argument on June 19, 2014, after which it took the matters under submission. Having considered the parties' respective written submissions and the oral argument of counsel, for the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS the Officers' and the City's Motions to Dismiss with leave to amend.
A. Factual Allegations
The following facts from Plaintiff's SAC are taken as true and viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff: On May 5, 2012, Plaintiff was celebrating Cinco de Mayo with his girlfriend on Santana Row in San Jose, California. (SAC ¶ 13) Plaintiff "is and was readily recognizable as Latino." ( Id. ¶ 45) Plaintiff walked to the parking structure of Stevens Creek Mall to check on his girlfriend. ( Id. ¶ 13) As Plaintiff "attempted to console" his girlfriend, police officers Montonye, Boyle, and Krauel "viciously attacked and beat" Plaintiff. ( Id. )
The defendant Officers "never identified themselves to the Plaintiff." ( Id. ¶ 14) One officer threw Plaintiff to the ground and held him there, while another used his knee to "squash Plaintiff's head into the concrete pavement." ( Id. ¶ 15) Despite pleas from Plaintiff's girlfriend, the officers continued to beat Plaintiff. Collectively, the Officers are alleged to have "kicked Plaintiff all over his body, " "repeatedly slammed Plaintiff's head against the ground, " and "put Plaintiff in a lethal chokehold" until he lost consciousness. ( Id. ¶ 16) Plaintiff regained consciousness in an ambulance, ( id. ¶ 17), and was at some later point in time charged with "assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, " which charges were ultimately dismissed, ( id. ¶ 18). The City did not discipline the Officers for their alleged misconduct. ( Id. ¶ 19)
B. Procedural Background
On January 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint in Santa Clara County Superior Court asserting three causes of action against the Officers for assault and battery, negligence, and violation of California Civil Code § 52.1. (Removal Not. Exh. A, at 4-11, ECF 1-1) Consistent with the requirements of the California Tort Claims Act and California Government Code § 945.4, Plaintiff submitted a written claim against the City before filing suit ("pre-litigation claim"). ( Id. at 13-16; see also Def.'s Req. for Judicial Notice ("RJN") Exh. B, ECF 9) Following motion practice and a series of communications between opposing counsel, Plaintiff eventually filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"). ( See Removal Not. Exh. A, Part 3, ECF 1-3 (SAC); see also Def.'s RJN Exh. A (same))
The SAC asserts ten claims against the Officers: (1) claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights (First, Second, Third, and Fourth Causes of Action ("COA")); (2) a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985 for conspiracy to violate Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights (Fifth COA); (3) violation of California Civil Code § 51.7 (Seventh COA); (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress (Eighth COA); (5) violation of California Civil Code § 52.1 (Ninth COA); (6) assault and battery (Tenth COA); and (7) negligence (Eleventh COA). The SAC also asserts claims against the City for Monell liability (Sixth COA), and for vicarious liability over the Officers' conduct pursuant to California Government Code § 815.2. Plaintiff seeks general, special, statutory, and punitive damages, and has not requested injunctive relief. (SAC 12:25-13:9) Due to the addition of federal law claims, Defendants removed the SAC to this Court on May 2, 2014 and filed their respective motions to dismiss on May 9, 2014.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Ileto v. Glock Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1199-200 (9th Cir. 2003). Generally, a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must be decided on the face of the complaint. The Court may, however, consider materials incorporated by reference into the complaint, provided the authenticity and relevance of such materials are not reasonably in dispute. Coto Settlement v. Eisenberg, 593 F.3d 1031, 1038 (9th Cir. 2010); Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005).
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must plead sufficient "factual matter, accepted as true" to "allow 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). The emphasis is on factual pleadings, as a pleading that offers "labels and conclusions, " "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " or "naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement" will not do. Id. (citing and quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). In the Section 1983 context, the Ninth Circuit has affirmed that this pleading standard applies not only to allegations against individual defendants, but also to claims based on supervisory and Monell theories of liability. See Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011); AE ex rel. Hernandez v. Cnty. of Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 637 (9th Cir. 2012) (confirming Starr 's interpretation of Iqbal applies to Monell claims); see also Dougherty v. City of Covina, 654 F.3d 892, 900-01 (9th Cir. 2011). As such, allegations in the complaint are only entitled to the presumption of truth if they contain "sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively." Starr, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216.
In assessing the sufficiency of a plaintiff's pleadings, "the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation." Id. The plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, " and a complaint that pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility." Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (internal quotations omitted).
If a motion to dismiss is granted, a court should normally grant leave to amend, "even if no request to amend the pleading was made, " unless amendment would be futile. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations and internal quotations omitted).
III. REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE
As an initial matter, Defendants have requested that the Court take judicial notice of Plaintiff's SAC and pre-litigation claim. ( See Def.'s RJN Exhs. A-B) The SAC is the operative complaint in this action and appropriately before the Court as such. Therefore, judicial notice is not required. Plaintiff's pre-litigation claim is incorporated by reference into the Complaint, as Plaintiff was required to comply with California Government Code § 945.4 before filing suit. ( See SAC ¶ 12) Neither party disputes the authenticity of the copy of Plaintiff's pre-litigation claim attached to Defendants' Request for Judicial Notice, and it is unquestionably relevant to Plaintiff's state law claims. Therefore, Plaintiff's pre-litigation claim may be considered pursuant to the incorporation by reference doctrine. See Knievel, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076. As such, Defendants' request for judicial notice is DENIED as moot.
Defendants have moved to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims against the Officers and the City. ( See generally Officers' Mot.; City's Mot.) In his opposition to Defendants' motions to dismiss, Plaintiff indicated that his conspiracy claim (Fifth COA) against the Officers was pled in error. (Pl.'s Opp. Officers 10:25, ECF 20) Plaintiff also acknowledges that his punitive damages claim against the City was erroneously included, and requested that the claim be withdrawn. (Pl.'s Opp. City, 9:3-8, ECF 21; id. n.1) As such, the Officers' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to Plaintiff's Fifth Cause of Action, and the City's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED as to Plaintiff's request for punitive damages against the City. These claims are dismissed without prejudice. The Court will address each of the remaining claims in turn.
A. Claims Against Defendant Officers
i. Section 1983 Claims (First, Second, Third, and Fourth COA)
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must allege that "(1) the defendants acting under color of state law (2) deprived plaintiff of rights secured by the Constitution or federal statutes." Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1338 (9th Cir. 1986). Plaintiff asserts four Section 1983 claims against the Officers for violations of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure (First COA), unlawful detention (Second COA), unlawful arrest (Third ...