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Martin v. American Automobile Association of Northern California Nevada and Utah

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 14, 2016

RENEE’ L. MARTIN, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the court on defendant CSAA Insurance Exchange’s[1] motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.[2] ECF No. 6. For the reasons explained below, defendant’s motion must be granted.[3]

         I. Factual Allegations

         The complaint alleges that plaintiff is the owner of real property located at 2428 Covered Wagon Circle, Elverta, California (the “subject property”), which she used as a rental property. Compl. (ECF No. 1) 3-4. From 2003 to present, the subject property was insured by a rental insurance policy that plaintiff maintained with defendant. Id. at 5-6.

         Plaintiff visited the property on December 2, 2013, and discovered that the property was in poor condition. Id. at 7. Plaintiff believes that the property was vandalized by the prior tenants, who vacated the property on that date. Id. The damage included carpets that were urine saturated and had burnt iron marks and “large red blotches throughout”; cuts in the floor; broken doors, appliances, and fixtures; and damage to drywall and exterior framing. Id. at 7. Plaintiff allegedly submitted a claim with defendant under her insurance “policy to restore the property back to the condition before it was vandalized, damaged or destroyed.” Id. Defendant paid plaintiff $7, 812.41 to cover damage to the property and approximately $6, 125.00 for loss of rent. Id. at 8. However, plaintiff claims that defendant has failed to pay an addition $34, 689.59 for “work that needs to be done” and $22, 614 for loss of rent. Id. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant’s refusal “to pay the claim adequately” was “racially motivated because she is a Black female.” Id. at 9 (internal quotations omitted).

         II. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action”; it must contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “The pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Id. (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004)). “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Dismissal is appropriate based either on the lack of cognizable legal theories or the lack of pleading sufficient facts to support cognizable legal theories. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         In considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trs., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolve all doubts in the pleader’s favor. Jenkins v. McKeithem, 395 U.S. 411, 421, reh’g denied, 396 U.S. 869 (1969). The court will “presume that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim.’” Nat’l Org. for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler, 510 U.S. 249, 256 (1994) (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)).

         Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985). The Ninth Circuit has held that the less stringent standard for pro se parties is now higher in light of Iqbal and Twombly, but the court still continues to construe pro se filings liberally. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). However, the court’s liberal interpretation of a pro se litigant’s pleading may not supply essential elements of a claim that are not pled. Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992); Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Furthermore, “[t]he court is not required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts alleged.” Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994). Neither need the court accept unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court may consider facts established by exhibits attached to the complaint. Durning v. First Boston Corp., 815 F.2d 1265, 1267 (9th Cir. 1987). The court may also consider facts which may be judicially noticed, Mullis v. U.S. Bankr. Ct., 828 F.2d 1385, 1388 (9th Cir. 1987), and matters of public record, including pleadings, orders, and other papers filed with the court, Mack v. South Bay Beer Distribs., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff’s complaint purports to allege four causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) civil rights violations; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (4) punitive damages. ECF No. 1 at 6-15. Defendant moves to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient facts to support each claim for relief. ECF No. 6.

         A. Breach of Contract

         Defendant argues that plaintiff’s breach of contract claim must be dismissed because the complaint fails to allege the terms of the contract that ...

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