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Maria Ahmed v. City of Antioch

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 1, 2016

MARIA AHMED, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF ANTIOCH, CALIFORNIA, et al., Defendants.

          GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND Re: Dkt. Nos. 10, 11

          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are two motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint brought by (1) Contra Costa County and Director William Walker, M.D. (the "County MTD") and (2) the City of Antioch, the Antioch Police Department, Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando, Officer Huleman, and Officer Smith (the "City MTD"). Dkt. Nos. 10, 11. For the reasons articulated below, the motions are GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         For purposes of deciding the motions, the Court accepts the following as true: On April 4, 2015, Defendant Antioch Police Department received a call from Afroza Chowdhury, who was living at her ex-husband's home. Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl.") ¶¶ 1, 24. Defendants Officer Huleman and Officer Smith responded to the call, but when they arrived they found it difficult to understand Ms. Chowdhury. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. The officers spoke with Ms. Chowdhury's son, Plaintiff Yassar Ahmed, who gave them his number and asked them to call him if they took his mother anywhere so that he could come to assist her. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. Ms. Chowdhury was mentally unstable and expressing suicidal ideations. Id. ¶ 23.

         Officers Huleman and Smith decided to put Ms. Chowdhury in an involuntary psychiatric hold under California Welfare & Institutions Code § 5150, and simultaneously took her ex-husband into custody for suspicion of domestic violence. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Ms. Chowdhury was taken to the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center ("CCMC") by ambulance, but Officers Huleman and Smith did not inform Mr. Ahmed. Id. ¶¶ 30-31.

         Once at CCMC, Ms. Chowdhury was seen by Defendant Victor Torres-Collazo, M.D., a psychiatrist. Id. ¶ 32. Dr. Torres-Collazo released Ms. Chowdhury from the involuntary psychiatric hold in the early hours of April 5, 2015. Id. ¶ 32. Despite CCMC's policy of notifying next of kin prior to releasing mental health patients, no one attempted to notify Ms. Chowdhury's family before she was released. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.

         Upon her release, Ms. Chowdhury was placed in a taxi cab owned by Defendant Concord Cab Company and driven by Defendant Kyle Gourley. Id. ¶ 35. CCMC gave Mr. Gourley a payment slip and directed him to drive Ms. Chowdhury back to her ex-husband's home. Id. ¶ 36. Ms. Chowdhury repeatedly questioned Mr. Gourley about their destination during the drive. Id. ¶ 37. While the taxi was still moving on the freeway, Ms. Chowdhury opened the passenger door and jumped out. Id. at ¶¶ 38-39. She was struck and killed on the freeway. Id. ¶ 39.

         Plaintiffs Maria Ahmed and Yassar Ahmed, successors-in-interest to Ms. Chowdhury's estate, bring five claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California statutes: (1) deliberate indifference to Ms. Chowdhury's medical needs in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) supervisory liability in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) a Monell claim; (4) a "survival action"; and (5) wrongful death. See generally id.

         II. DISCUSSION

         On April 28, 2016, Defendants Contra Costa County and Dr. Walker[1] (together, the "County Defendants") moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims as to the County Defendants. County MTD. On April 29, 2016, Defendants City of Antioch, Chief Cantando, [2] the Antioch Police Department, Officer Huleman, and Officer Smith (together, the "City Defendants") moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint as to the City Defendants. Both the County Defendants and the City Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]" A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). "Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory." Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 540, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when a plaintiff pleads "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         In reviewing the plausibility of a complaint, courts "accept factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe 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, Courts do not "accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Secs. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). And even where facts are accepted as true, "a plaintiff may plead [him]self out of court" if he "plead[s] facts which establish that he cannot prevail on his . . . claim." Weisbuch v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 119 F.3d 778, 783 n.1 (9th Cir. 1997) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         If dismissal is appropriate under Rule 12(b)(6), a court "should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         B. Section 1983 Claims (Claims One, Two, Three, and Four)

         Plaintiffs assert four claims under § 1983: (1) deliberate indifference to Ms. Chowdhury's medical needs in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) supervisory liability in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) a Monell claim; and (4) a "survival action." See Compl.

         "To state a section 1983 claim, the plaintiff must allege that (1) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a constitutional right." L.W. v. Grubbs, 974 F.2d 119, 120 (9th Cir. 1992).

         "In order for a person acting under color of state law to be liable under section 1983 there must be a showing of personal participation in the alleged rights deprivation: there is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983." Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)). Likewise, a government entity "cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory." Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. A government entity can only be liable under § 1983 if "a policy, practice, or custom of the entity can be shown to be a moving force behind a violation of constitutional rights." Dougherty v. City of Covina, 654 F.3d 892, 900 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. 658)).

         With these principles in mind, the Court will address the sufficiency of each of ...


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