United States District Court, N.D. California, Eureka Division
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO. 39
J. VADAS United States Magistrate Judge
Julian Murphy, a minor, by and through Steven Murphy, the
duly appointed Guardian of the person and estate of Julian
Murphy, (“Plaintiff”) filed his First Amended
Complaint (“FAC”) against County of Mendocino
(“County”), City of Fort Bragg, Officers
McLaughlin and Brandon, California Forensic Medical Group
(“CFMG”) and Dr. Taylor Fithian, alleging ten
causes of action for the custodial suicide of Plaintiff's
father, Shane Allen Murphy (“Shane Murphy”).
(Doc. 31) Subsequently, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed
Defendants City of Fort Bragg and Officers McLaughlin and
Brandon. (Doc. 36). CFMG have answered the FAC, while the
County filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 39). Pursuant to Civil
Local Rule 7-1(b), the court took the matter under submission
and for the reasons that follow the Motion to Dismiss is
granted in part and denied in part. In addition, Plaintiff
will be allowed amendment.
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure is to test the legal sufficiency of
the claims stated in the complaint. A motion to dismiss may
be brought under Rule 12(b)(6) when the plaintiff fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). While Rule 8 “does
not require 'detailed factual allegations, '” 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)
(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1955 (2007)). Facial
plausibility is established “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. Thus, in order to survive a
motion to dismiss, the nonmoving party must allege facts that
are “enough to raise a right to above the speculative
level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the
complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
of a complaint can be based on either the lack of a
cognizable legal theory or the lack of sufficient facts
alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v.
Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.
1990). In considering whether the complaint is sufficient to
state a claim, the court will take all material allegations
as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896,
898 (9th Cir. 1986).
framework for §1983 Claims against the
first six causes of action are his federal causes of action
and are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, as
to the County, the court analyzes Plaintiff's claims
pursuant to Monell. “In Monell v. New York
City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct.
2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), [the Supreme] Court held that
civil rights plaintiffs suing a municipal entity under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 must show that their injury was caused by
a municipal policy or custom.” Los Angeles Cty.,
Cal. v. Humphries, 562 U.S. 29, 30-31 (2010). This is
because there is no respondeat superior liability under
§ 1983. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312,
First, Fifth and Sixth Causes of Action
first cause of action is titled as a claim for failure to
provide medical care under § 1983. The fifth cause of
action is titled as “Violation of Decedent's Right
to Personal Safety.” The sixth cause of action is for
the “Violation of Plaintiff's Rights to Enjoy
Continued Family Relationships.” None of these causes
of action allege that Plaintiff's injury was “was
caused by a municipal policy or custom.”
Humphries, 562 U.S. at 31. Thus, the first, fifth,
and sixth causes of action against the County are dismissed.
Second, Third, and Fourth Causes of Action
the second, third, and fourth causes of action, the County
asserts that the FAC is insufficient to state a
Monell claim because “because Plaintiff merely
alleges that a policy existed and alleges that the policy was
the moving force behind [Shane] Murphy's death.”
Def.'s Mot. (Doc. 39) at 10. Further, the County argues
that “Plaintiff does not explain the nexus between each
alleged policy and Murphy's death.” Id.
The County makes broad accusations regarding the generality
of Plaintiff's allegations, but only specifically
challenges two portions of the FAC here.
the County points the court to the fourth cause of action
wherein Plaintiff alleges that “defendants maintained a
policy, custom, or practice of failing to ensure that
lifesaving equipment was available, maintained, and in good
working order, ” and argues that “there is not a
single allegation in Plaintiff's FAC related that would
connect this alleged policy with [Shane] Murphy's
death.” Id. Indeed, the first time lifesaving
equipment is mentioned in the FAC is within the first cause
of action. The next mention of the life-saving equipment
occurs here in the fourth. Nowhere within the FAC does it
allege that the maintenance of lifesaving equipment has
anything to do with Shane Murphy's death.
the County points to the allegations in the third cause of
action and states that “Plaintiff makes allegations
regarding policies of understaffing and states that these
policies were the moving force behind the alleged
constitutional violations. However, then Plaintiff goes on to
make other allegations of Defendants' failures but does
not connect those allegations to the policies.”
Id. at 11. The court does not agree. Plaintiff's
claims in the third cause of action are for failure to train.
The “understaffing” to which the FAC refers is to
“sufficiently trained ...