United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON
THE PLEADINGS RE: DKT. NO. 15
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is a motion for judgment on the pleadings
brought by Defendants County of Alameda and Sheriff Gregory
J. Ahern, individually and in his official capacity as
Sheriff of the County of Alameda (“Defendants”).
Dkt. No. 15 (“Mot.”). For the reasons articulated
below, the Motion is GRANTED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.
24, 2015, Plaintiff Jennifer Arnold filed this action in
Alameda County Superior Court against Defendants and Does
1-25. Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A (“Compl.”). On September
8, 2015, Defendants removed the action to this Court. Dkt.
No. 1. Plaintiff asserts California negligence and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claims against Defendants for injuries that
Plaintiff sustained at the hands of Elias Michael Diamond, a
criminal defendant who Defendants left unguarded after
transferring him to Valley Care Medical Center
(“VCMC”) where Plaintiff was working as a nurse.
Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages,
attorney’s fees, and costs. Id.
purposes of this motion, the Court accepts the following as
true: In November 2004, Diamond was arrested on suspicion of
strangling and killing his roommate in the psychiatric home
where they both resided. Id. ¶ 16. On August
29, 2014, Diamond was again arrested and taken into custody
in San Leandro, California for indecent exposure.
Id. ¶ 17. Diamond was charged with indecent
exposure and remanded to the Santa Rita Jail, which Defendant
Alameda County owns and the Defendants operate. Id.
¶ 18. Sometime between September 2, 2014, and September
7, 2014, Defendants transported Diamond from Santa Rita Jail
to VCMC for medical treatment. Id. ¶ 19.
Subsequently, when Diamond was transferred to
Plaintiff’s floor during the evening of September 7th
or the morning of September 8th, Defendants did not warn the
VCMC staff that Diamond was in custody or mentally unstable.
Id. ¶ 22. Further, Defendants did not guard
Diamond. Id. ¶ 26. After Diamond was
transferred to Plaintiff’s floor, he wandered out of
his room only partially clothed. Id. ¶ 23.
Plaintiff discovered Diamond, who appeared disoriented, and
escorted him back to his room according to VCMC custom and
practice. Id. When Plaintiff and Diamond entered his
room, Diamond attacked Plaintiff, began to strangle her, and
attempted to force oral copulation. Id. ¶ 24.
As a result of the struggle, Plaintiff suffered physical
injuries and emotional distress. Id. ¶ 25.
articulates four claims for relief: (1) violation of her
Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against Defendants and Does 1-25; (2) supervisory liability
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Ahern and Does
1-25; (3) municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against Defendant Alameda County; and (4) negligence against
Defendants and Does 1-25.
December 15, 2015, Defendants filed the pending motion for
judgment on the pleadings as to all claims for relief.
articulate six main reasons that their motion should be
granted: (1) the Court can take judicial notice of
Diamond’s Promise to Appear, which establishes that he
was not in custody at the time of Plaintiff’s attack;
(2) Plaintiff fails to plead an affirmative duty that
Defendants breached in support of her negligence claim; (3)
Defendant Ahern has statutory immunity to Plaintiff’s
negligence claim; (4) Defendant Alameda County cannot be held
liable for negligence except as provided by statute; (5)
Plaintiff fails to sufficiently plead a special relationship
that would permit Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims; and
(6) Plaintiff fails to allege a state-created danger to
permit Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims.
Request for Judicial Notice
turning to the substance of the motion, the Court considers
Defendants’ request that the Court take judicial notice
of Diamond’s Promise to Appear filed in his underlying
criminal case in Alameda Superior Court. Dkt. No. 16, Ex. A.
Defendants argue that a Promise to Appear, which California
law provides “may be signed by a misdemeanor
arrestee/detainee in order to secure his or her release, per
California Penal Code section 853.6, subdivision (a)(1),
” reflects that Diamond signed his name on September 5,
2014, at 4:32 p.m. Mot. at 3. Accordingly, Defendants contend
that the signed Promise to Appear establishes as a matter of
law that Diamond was released on September 5, 2014, at 4:32
p.m., and was not in custody when Diamond attacked Plaintiff
several days later. Id.
doctrine of judicial notice permits a court to take as true
“a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute
because it: (1) is generally known within the trial
court’s territorial jurisdiction; or (2) can be
accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy
cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201(b).
“In particular, a court may take judicial notice of its
own records in other cases, as well as the records of an
inferior court in other cases.” United States v.
Wilson, 631 F.2d 118, 119 (9th Cir. 1980) (internal
citations omitted). However, “a high degree of
indisputability is the essential prerequisite to taking
judicial notice of adjudicative facts and  the tradition of
taking judicial notice has been one of caution in requiring
that the matter be beyond reasonable controversy.”
Rivera v. Philip Morris, Inc., 395 F.3d 1142, 1151
(9th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Thus, while a court may take notice of the existence of
public court documents, it may not “draw inferences or
take notice of facts that might reasonably be
disputed.” United States v. Corinthian
Colleges, 655 F.3d 984, 999 (9th Cir. 2011); Lee v.
City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 689-90 (9th Cir.
2001) (district court properly took judicial notice of
existence of publicly-recorded, signed extradition waiver
form, but “erred by taking judicial notice of disputed
matters” in concluding that signer of form in fact
validly waived his rights).
Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants’
request to take judicial notice of Diamond’s Promise to
Appear. While the Court may properly notice that the signed
Promise to Appear exists, the Court cannot “beyond
reasonable controversy” infer from the document’s
existence when, or even if, Diamond was released. See
Rivera, 395 F.3d at 1151. Indeed, as Plaintiff asserts,
Diamond’s Promise to Appear reveals nothing about
Defendants’ general practice following an
individual’s completion of a Promise to Appear or
whether such practice was followed with Diamond. See
Dkt. No. 23 (“Opp’n”) at 10. At the
pleading stage, the Court cannot resolve such a disputed
issue based on the existence of a document that is both
“subject to varying interpretations” and
“reasonably  disputed.” See Corinthian
Colleges, 655 F.3d at 999; Reina-Rodriguez v. United
States, 655 F.3d 1182, 1193 (9th Cir. 2011);
Lee, 250 F.3d at 689-690.
the Court will take judicial notice of the existence and
facial content of Diamond’s Promise to Appear, but the
Court will not infer Diamond’s custodial status during
the relevant time period from the Promise to Appear. Rather,
as required at the pleading stage, the Court will accept as
true Plaintiff’s allegation that Diamond was in custody
at the time of Plaintiff’s attack. See Compl.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “[a]fter
the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay
trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.”
The legal standard that governs a Rule 12(c) motion is the
same as that which governs a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Chavez
v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012).
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).
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).
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure neither
expressly provides for, nor bars, partial judgment on the
pleadings.” Plumlee v. Pfizer, Inc., No.
13-CV-00414-LHK, 2014 WL 695024, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 21,
2014). However, courts commonly apply Rule 12(c) to
individual causes of action. Id. A court has
discretion to permit leave to amend in conjunction with a
Rule 12(c) motion and may dismiss causes of action rather
than grant judgment. Id. If a court grants a motion
for judgment on the pleadings, leave to amend ...