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Bresaz v. County of Santa Clara

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

March 17, 2015

LAUREL BRESAZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS Re: Dkt. No. 13

LUCY H. KOH, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Laurel Bresaz, Donna Hayes, and Steven Marshall (collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring this action against the County of Santa Clara, Aldo Groba, and Kristin Anderson (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated the United States Constitution and various federal and state statutes in connection with an incident that led to the death of Brandon Marshall ("Decedent"). See ECF No. 1 ("Compl."). Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss six of the eleven causes of action in Plaintiffs' Complaint. ECF No. 13 ("Mot."). Having considered the parties' submissions, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion to dismiss, for the reasons stated below.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The following is drawn from the factual allegations in Plaintiffs' Complaint.

Plaintiffs are relatives of the Decedent. Laurel Bresaz ("Bresaz") is the wife and successor in interest to the Decedent. Compl. ¶ 5. Donna Hayes is the mother of the Decedent, and Steven Marshall ("Marshall") is the Decedent's father. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Aldo Groba ("Groba") and Kristin Anderson ("Anderson") are both deputies employed by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, the local sheriff's department for the County of Santa Clara. Id. ¶¶ 9-11.

This lawsuit stems from an incident which occurred on December 10, 2013. Id. ¶ 17. Decedent was an employee at the company Roku, Inc. ("Roku") in Saratoga, California. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiffs allege that the Decedent "had a history of mental illness for which he had taken prescription medication, " and that the Decedent may have been taking prescription medication on December 10, 2013. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. At some point in the late morning or early afternoon of December 10, 2013 (which was a Tuesday), the Decedent entered a conference room in the Roku offices where a meeting was in progress. Id. ¶ 17. The Decedent "appeared emotionally distressed and disoriented." Id. While in the conference room, the Decedent called Marshall and requested that Marshall "pick him up from work right away because he was having a problem." Id. One or more Roku employees also called 911 to request help for the Decedent. Id. No Roku employees who witnessed the Decedent's behavior at that time reported that the Decedent posed a threat of violence or criminal behavior. Id.

The Decedent then left the building and went to the Roku parking lot. Id. ¶ 18. At some point, employees with the Santa Clara County Fire Department arrived on the scene and spoke with the Decedent. Id. According to the fire department employees, the Decedent appeared "manic." Id. The Decedent voluntarily agreed to go to the hospital. Id. Subsequently, paramedics arrived on the scene and advised the Decedent that he could have a family member take him to the hospital. Id. ¶ 19. After the Decedent agreed, a paramedic called Marshall on the Decedent's cell phone. Id. The paramedic told Marshall that the Decedent was not feeling well and needed to be taken to the hospital. Id. Marshall expressed at least twice to the paramedic a desire to take his son to the hospital. Id. ¶¶ 19-20.

Subsequent to the arrival of the paramedics, Groba and Anderson arrived at the scene. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiffs allege that Groba and Anderson, inter alia, knew or should have known at the time that "they were responding to a call seeking help for an emotionally distressed individual" and that the Decedent "was experiencing mental health issues that required specialized medical assistance, procedures, and tactics." Id. Plaintiffs also allege that Groba and Anderson "knew or should have known that the paramedics were making arrangements with [Marshall] to get appropriate medical care for [the Decedent]." Id. ¶ 23. Anderson, "[d]espite lacking a reasonable belief that [the Decedent] presented any threat of harm to anyone... approached [the Decedent] from behind, when his back was to her, and began interacting with him." Id. ¶ 24. This caused the Decedent "further distress" and the Decedent became "even more upset and agitated." Id. ¶¶ 24-25.

At some point, the Decedent "moved toward [Anderson]." Id. ¶ 25. Groba then "moved quickly" to the Decedent, "possibly causing [the Decedent] to fear for his life." Id. The Decedent, "[p]ossibly acting in self-defense, " swung his key chain, a short, thin, rounded, aluminum rod, at Groba and Anderson. Id. Groba then shot the Decedent in the stomach. Id.

At the time Groba shot the Decedent, Marshall was on the phone with one of the paramedics at the scene. Id. ¶ 28. Marshall heard the gunshot over the phone, and heard the Decedent cry out. Id. Marshall heard the Decedent cry out a second time before the paramedic ended the call. Id.

Either Groba or Anderson, or both deputies, restrained the Decedent's legs with zip ties. Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiffs also claim that Groba and Anderson otherwise "delay[ed] critical medical treatment for the gunshot wound." Id. Santa Clara County Emergency Medical Services transported the Decedent to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where Bresaz, Marshall, and Hayes, as well as other members of the Decedent's family, arrived. Id. ¶ 31. The Decedent died at approximately 3:45 p.m. on December 10, 2013. Id.

B. Procedural History

On August 26, 2014, Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit in this Court, alleging eleven causes of action under the U.S. Constitution and various federal and state statutes. See Compl. Bresaz, as successor in interest to the Decedent, asserts a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Decedent's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution; violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12132, the Americans with Disabilities Act; violation of California Civil Code § 52.1, the Bane Act; intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress under California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.30; and negligence. Id. ¶¶ 45, 52, 63, 77, 85, 90 & 97. The Plaintiffs collectively assert causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60 for violation of their Fourteenth Amendment right to familial relationships with the Decedent; wrongful death pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60; and violation of California Civil Code § 52.1, the Bane Act. Id. ¶¶ 58, 71 & 82. Marshall individually asserts a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Id. ¶ 104.

On November 5, 2014, Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss. See Mot. Defendants move to dismiss all of Plaintiffs' claims against Anderson; Bresaz's claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act; Plaintiffs' claim under the Bane Act; Bresaz's claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; and Marshall's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. See id. On November 19, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the motion to dismiss. ECF No. 14 ("Opp'n"). On November 26, 2014, Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 18 ("Reply").

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion to Dismiss

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss an action for failure to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court "accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008).

Nonetheless, the Court is not required to "assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.'" Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981)). Mere "conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss." Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004); accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, "a plaintiff may plead [him]self out of court'" if he "plead[s] facts which establish that he cannot ...


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