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Suit v. City of Folsom

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 8, 2016

HEATHER SUIT, ERIC SUIT, individually and as Guardian ad Litem for BRAELYN SUIT, a minor, Plaintiffs



         Plaintiffs Heather and Eric Suit and their minor daughter filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on a car accident that resulted from defendant Officer Kracher’s pursuit of defendant Steve Carson. Defendants City of Folsom (the “City”), Folsom Police Department (the “Department”), and Officer Kracher now move to dismiss plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On October 26, 2015, Heather Suit was driving her minor daughter to school in Folsom, California. (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶ 23 (Docket No. 6).) While they were on the road, Officer Kracher engaged in a vehicle pursuit of Carson because he suspected Carson of having committed a “non-violent ‘cold’” misdemeanor. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 27.) Carson was “driving lawfully” before the pursuit and began driving “recklessly” once Officer Kracher initiated the stop. (Id. ¶ 26.) During the chase, Carson collided with another bystander’s vehicle and subsequently collided with plaintiffs’ vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 32, 42.)

         Plaintiffs initiated this action based on the injuries they incurred when Carson hit their vehicle. After amending their Complaint in response to defendants’ first motion to dismiss, plaintiffs allege five claims in their FAC: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Officer Kracher for violations of plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) Monell claim under § 1983 against the City; (3) “supervisorial liability” claim under § 1983 against the City and the Department; (4) negligence claim against the City, the Department, and Carson; and (5) loss of consortium claim by Eric Suit against all defendants. The City, the Department, and Officer Kracher now move to dismiss plaintiffs’ FAC for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         II. Analysis

         On a motion to dismiss 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 plaintiff. 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). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original) (citations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, ” and “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant’s liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility 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.

         In general, a court may not consider items outside the complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss, but it may consider documents of which it can take judicial notice. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007); Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012). Defendants submitted a copy of the Felony Complaint and Felony Abstract of Judgment to show that, after his arrest on October 26, 2015, Carson was convicted of burglary, vehicle theft, and fleeing or attempting to elude a pursuing police officer while driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. (Docket No. 9-2.) While the court can take judicial notice of such records, see United States ex rel. Robinson Rancheria Citizens Council v. Borneo, Inc., 971 F.2d 244, 248 (9th Cir. 1992), the court declines to do so because the criminal charges brought against Carson after the incident are not relevant to defendants’ motion to dismiss and would not affect the court’s decision.

         1. Section 1983 Claims

         In relevant part, § 1983 provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . ., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. While § 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, it provides a cause of action against any person who, under color of state law, deprives an individual of federal constitutional rights or limited federal statutory rights. Id.; Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989).

         In their initial Complaint, plaintiffs alleged violations of their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable seizures. Likely recognizing that they could not allege a violation of the Fourth Amendment in the absence of an intentional seizure, plaintiffs abandoned that theory in their FAC and instead allege only substantive due process violations under the Fourteenth Amendment. See generally County of Sacramento v. Lewis,523 U.S. 833, 844 (1998) (holding that an officer’s collision into a motorcycle on which plaintiff was riding did not give rise to a cognizable Fourth Amendment violation because, even though the police ...

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