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Adam v. Brzyscz

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 22, 2015

SARA ADAM, et al., Plaintiffs,


WILLIAM B. SHUBB, District Judge.

Twenty-six individual plaintiffs brought this action against defendants Bret Brzyscz, the City of Roseville, the County of Placer ("Placer County"), the County of Sacramento ("Sacramento County"), and the City of Sacramento pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth Amendment and related state law claims. Presently before the court are the motions of defendants Placer County, Sacramento County, and the City of Sacramento to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Docket Nos. 5, 7, 8.)

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The allegedly unlawful actions that plaintiffs challenge in this case resulted from their relation to plaintiff Samuel Duran. (See Compl. ¶¶ 51-52 (Docket No. 1).) On October 25, 2013, police officers pursued Samuel Duran to the home of plaintiff Donna Sandoval in Roseville, California. (Id. ¶ 65.) There, Samuel Duran was struck by gunfire, allegedly while he was attempting to surrender. (Id. ¶ 66.) Sometime later, plaintiff Mikkayla Gutierrez allegedly posted a video recording that depicted the shooting on the internet. (See id. ¶¶ 162, 188.)

Approximately one month later, around 7:00 a.m. on November 20, 2013, Roseville Police Officer Bret Brzyscz, along with other unidentified officers, simultaneously executed search warrants at five different residences owned or occupied by one or more plaintiffs. (See id. ¶¶ 75-189.) Plaintiffs allege the officers used excessive force against them during the searches, inflicting various injuries to person and property as well as causing emotional distress. (See id. ¶¶ 56, 58.) Plaintiffs allege the raids were conducted in retaliation for Mikkayla Gutierrez's video post, and the fact that officers seized various electronic devises during the raids shows an attempt to cover up any other photographs or video recordings plaintiffs may have made depicting Samuel Duran's shooting on October 25, 2013. (See id. ¶¶ 51-52, 162, 184, 188.)

Plaintiffs further allege that the warrants authorizing these searches and seizures were issued based on a finding of probable cause supported by material misstatements or omissions made by two officers on November 14, 2013. Plaintiffs allege that Officer Brzyscz and Officer Ken Nakamura[1] either intentionally lied or made these misstatements with reckless disregard for the truth. (See id. ¶¶ 42-44, 46-48.) Without these misstatements, plaintiffs allege there was not probable cause to support the searches and seizures. (Id. ¶¶ 45, 48.)

The only claims brought against these moving defendants are the third, sixth and seventh claims of the Complaint. Plaintiffs' third claim for relief under § 1983 alleges that defendants had "policies, procedures, customs, and practices" that permitted or encouraged unreasonable searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 220-30.) Plaintiffs' sixth and seventh claims assert claims under state law for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence against the municipal defendants.[2]

Placer County, Sacramento County, and the City of Sacramento each move separately to dismiss all plaintiffs' claims against them for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The City of Sacramento initially moved only to dismiss plaintiffs' sixth and seventh claims, but at oral argument on April 20, 2014, the City of Sacramento joined in moving to dismiss plaintiffs' third claim as well.

II. Discussion

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "only 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).

The plausibility standard "does not require detailed factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Nor does it "impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1213 (9th Cir. 2011). This standard "simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' to support the allegations." Id. at 1217 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Ultimately, "[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

A. Monell Liability

A municipality can be held liable under § 1983 only "when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury." Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 693 (1978). Before Iqbal, the Ninth Circuit required plaintiffs facing a motion to dismiss in civil rights actions against local governments to "set forth no more than a bare allegation that government officials' conduct conformed to some unidentified government policy or custom." AE ex rel. Hernandez v. Cnty. of Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 637 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Shah v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 797 F.2d 743, 747 (9th Cir. 1986)). Since Iqbal, the Ninth Circuit has held that "to be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the ...

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