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Wilson v. Hays

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 19, 2017



          Hon. Cynthia Bashant United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Melanie Wilson commenced this action against Defendants Christopher R. Hays and the City of San Diego on May 13, 2016, alleging violations of her civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). This action arises from an incident in December 2013 where Plaintiff alleges Hays, a San Diego Police Department Officer at the time, sexually battered her after giving her a ride home and then taunted her for an hour and a half. Hays moves to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint on the ground that the claim against him is time barred by the statute of limitations. (ECF No. 21.) Plaintiff opposes. (ECF No. 25.)

         The Court finds this motion suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); Civ. L.R. 7.1(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Hays's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The San Diego Police Department (“SDPD”) hired Christopher R. Hays as a sworn police officer in late 2009 or early 2010. (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶ 24, ECF No. 19.) On December 23, 2013, at approximately 5:12 a.m., Plaintiff was out collecting items for recycling near the intersection of 50th Street and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, California. (Id. ¶ 38.) Earlier that morning, Plaintiff fought with her boyfriend, forgot her glasses, broke her flashlight, and got lost in an unfamiliar part of town. (Id.) Plaintiff admits she had used methamphetamine earlier that morning, but claims she was aware of what was happening around her. (Id.)

         At around the same time she was collecting items for recycling, Plaintiff alleges that Hays-who was on duty in his SDPD uniform and driving a marked patrol car-approached Plaintiff and asked her what she was doing. (FAC ¶ 38.) Plaintiff replied that she was collecting items for recycling and explained to Hays what had happened to her earlier in the morning. (Id.) Hays offered Plaintiff a courtesy ride home. (Id.) Plaintiff accepted the offer, and Hays drove her to the address where she was staying. (Id.)

         Once they arrived at the address, Plaintiff exited the car, and Hays immediately informed her that he needed to search her. (FAC ¶ 39.) Plaintiff consented to the search, despite Hays's lack of probable cause to conduct a search. (Id.) Hays, contrary to SDPD policy and procedure, did not then conduct a quick “pat down.” (Id.) Rather, he allegedly touched Plaintiff “in a continuous motion, ” including “touching her breasts and vagina” and “lingering over every part of her body” for approximately three minutes. (Id.)

         Following the search, Hays remained in the driveway for approximately an hour and a half. (FAC ¶ 40.) While in the driveway, Hays made various comments to Plaintiff, including questions about what color underwear she was wearing, racial comments about Plaintiff's Vietnamese boyfriend, and statements about his sexual preferences. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that she did not report the incident until she was contacted by SDPD detectives after January 1, 2014, because she feared no one would believe her. (FAC ¶ 40.) Moreover, the FAC alleges that Plaintiff suffered from-and continues to suffer from-a mental illness made worse by chronic drug use. (Id. ¶ 36.) This mental illness has allegedly caused Plaintiff to (i) become “incapable of caring for her property, or transacting business, or understanding the nature or effects of her acts, ” and (ii) lack “the legal capacity to make decisions.” (Id.) On February 9, 2014, the SDPD arrested Hays for crimes committed against various women while Hays was on duty as a police officer. (Id. ¶ 35.) On February 18, 2014, the San Diego County District Attorney filed a criminal complaint against Hays, charging him with felonies and misdemeanors for the alleged crimes committed against Plaintiff and two other women while Hays was on duty. (Id.) Hays subsequently resigned from the SDPD on February 19, 2014. (Id.) On August 22, 2014, Hays pled guilty to one count of false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of assault under color of authority. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Hays's actions on December 23, 2013, constitute a violation of her civil rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. (FAC ¶ 41.) Plaintiff also alleges that as a result of Hays's conduct on December 23, 2013, Plaintiff suffered injury, including mental and emotional distress, humiliation, anxiety, and physical pain and suffering. (Id. ¶ 42.)

         Previously, the City of San Diego and Hays moved to dismiss the claims in the Complaint on the ground that they were time barred by the statute of limitations. (ECF Nos. 4, 14.) The Court granted in part and denied in part the City's motion and granted Hays's motion with leave to amend. Wilson v. Hays, ___ F.Supp.3d ___, 2017 WL 131817, at *10 (S.D. Cal. 2017). Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on January 27, 2017. (ECF No. 19.) Hays now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against him. (ECF No. 21.)


         A motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The court must accept all factual allegations pleaded in the complaint as true and must construe them and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the non-moving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations; rather, it must plead “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). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “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. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A court need not accept “legal conclusions” as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Despite the deference the court must pay to the plaintiff's allegations, it is not proper for the court to assume that “the [plaintiff] can prove facts that it has not alleged or that the defendants ...

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