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Tasia R. v. Grossmont Union High School District

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 28, 2014

Minor TASIA R., by and through her Guardian ad Litem, STACY READY, Plaintiff,


WILLIAM Q. HAYES, District Judge.

The matter before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss the Complaint ("Motion to Dismiss") filed by Defendants Grossmont Union High School District, Randy Reid, Jenee Littrell and Pat Keeley (collectively, "moving Defendants"). (ECF No. 9).

I. Background

On December 3, 2013, Plaintiff Tasia R., by and through her Guardian ad Litem, Stacy Ready ("Tasia") initiated this action by filing a Complaint in this Court. (ECF No. 1).

A. Allegations of the Complaint

On March 2, 2013, Tasia was a 10th grade student at Chaparral High School, which is part of Defendant Grossmont Union High School District ("School District"), a public school district located in the City of El Cajon ("City"), California. On March 2, 2013, at approximately 9:15 a.m., "school officials ran a narcotics detector dog through the school." Id. ¶ 13. After the dog completed its search, the school's assistant principal, Defendant Jenee Littrell, instructed Tasia to accompany her to the principal's office. At the principal's office, Tasia asked to be permitted to call her mother, but Littrell refused to allow her to do so.

Shortly after Tasia was taken to the principal's office, Defendant Leroy Jason Becker entered the office. "Becker is provided to Chaparral High School by the City's Police Department for campus security and student safety. Accordingly, he is an employee of the City and an agent of the School District while acting as a school resource officer (as he was in the instant case)." Id. ¶ 16. At the time of the incident, Tasia was 15 years old and weighed approximately 140 pounds, while Becker was an adult who weighed over 240 pounds.

Becker ordered Tasia to sit down, and Tasia refused. "A verbal exchange ensued, after which Officer Becker grabbed Tasia and handcuffed Tasia's hands behind her back." Id. ¶ 17. After handcuffing Tasia, Becker took Tasia to another office and sat her in a chair. "Following another acrimonious exchange between Tasia and... Becker, Becker grabbed Tasia and slammed her to the ground." Id. ¶ 19. Tasia "began screaming that she was hurt. However, ... Becker continued to keep his weight on her back and refused to let her up." Id. ¶ 21. Tasia began screaming for the school nurse. Upon hearing Tasia's screams, the school nurse entered the office, briefly evaluated Tasia, and informed Becker that Tasia needed immediate medical attention. "Becker... brought Tasia to her feet, [and] he placed a white hood over her head." Id. ¶ 26. Becker then called Tasia's mother, Stacy Ready, and told Ready that "Tasia had gotten into trouble and that the school administrators were sending her for a medical evaluation." Id. ¶ 27.

When the paramedics arrived at the school, "Tasia had a swollen and blooded face, carpet burns on her arms, and a broken clavicle bone. The white hood was still over Tasia's head, and her hands remained painfully handcuffed behind her." Id. ¶ 28. The paramedics transported Tasia to the hospital, accompanied by Becker. "Despite Tasia's continued pleas, ... Becker refused to remove the handcuffs." Id. X-rays taken at the hospital confirmed that Tasia had a broken clavicle bone.

"During Defendant Becker's assault on Tasia, Defendant Reid [an employee of the School District] was present in the room and made no effort to intervene and protect Tasia or to deter Defendant Becker in any way, despite the fact that Tasia was screaming that she was hurt and yelling for the nurse." Id. ¶ 23. During Becker's assault on Tasia, Defendants Littrell and Keeley (both employees of the School District) "heard Tasia screaming, but did not investigate why Tasia was screaming, attempt to intervene and protect Tasia, or attempt to deter Defendant Becker in any way." Id. ¶¶ 24, 25.

The Complaint alleges the following causes of action: (1) excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Becker; (2) excessive force/failure to intervene in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Reid, Littrell, and Keeley; (3) violation of the Bane Act, California Civil Code §§ 51-52, against all Defendants; (4) battery against Becker, the City and the School District; and (5) negligence against all Defendants. The Complaint seeks compensatory damages and attorneys' fees against all Defendants and punitive damages against Becker.

B. Motion to Dismiss

On May 21, 2014, the moving Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss, seeking the dismissal of all claims against them pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 9). All moving Defendants contend that they are immune from suit pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With respect to the second cause of action for excessive force pursuant to § 1983, Reid, Littrell, and Keeley contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity and the cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. With respect to the third cause of action for violation of the Bane Act and the fifth cause of action for negligence, Reid, Littrell, and Keeley contend that the causes of action fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving Defendants contend that, "[i]n addition to Eleventh Amendment and qualified immunity, there simply can be no cause of action, under any of the theories asserted by Plaintiff, for a civilian's failure to intervene in a police officer's actions while in the course of duty." (ECF No. 9-1 at 22).

On June 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed an opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 14). Plaintiff contends that the motion should be denied in its entirety. Plaintiff contends that at the time Becker assaulted Tasia, Becker was acting as the agent of the moving Defendants, and "they had a duty to supervise and control Defendant Becker's conduct while he was interacting with students." (ECF No. 14-1 at 10). Plaintiff contends that the moving Defendants have a special relationship with students that includes a duty to ...

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