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Villarreal v. County of Monterey

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

May 26, 2017

BRANDON VILLARREAL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF MONTEREY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE, GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART COUNTY DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS, AND GRANTING DEFENDANT MARINA CITY'S MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NOS. 44, 50

          LUCY H. KOH United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Brandon Villareal, a minor, by and through his guardian ad litem, Donald Villareal, and James Gregor, individually and as the successor in interest of the estate of Larra Ann Gillis, allege that Defendants County of Monterey, Sherriff Steve Bernal, Deputy J. Mendoza, Officer P. Sanchez, Deputy Wong, Officer Ann Rocamora, Deputy Douglas Raarup, the City of Marina, the Board of Trustees of the California State University, Officer Robin Leland, Corporal Carolyn Peliova, Corporal Daniel Andrada, California Forensic Medical Group, Dr. Taylor Fithian, Nurse Lori Edwards, and Does 1-100 are liable under federal and state law for the death of Decedent Larra Ann Gillis (“Gillis”). Before the Court are: (1) the motion to dismiss filed by Defendants County of Monterey (“County”), Monterey County Sherriff Steve Bernal (“Bernal”), Deputy J. Mendoza (“Mendoza”), Officer P. Sanchez (“Sanchez”), Deputy Wong (“Wong”), Officer Anna Rocamora (“Rocamora”), and Deputy Douglas Raarup (“Raarup”) (collectively, “County Defendants”), ECF No. 50; (2) the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant City of Marina (“City”), ECF No. 44; and (3) the motion to strike filed by the County Defendants, ECF No. 52. Having considered the parties' briefing, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court hereby GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the County Defendants' motion to dismiss, GRANTS with leave to amend the City's motion to dismiss, and DENIES the County Defendants' motion to strike.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         1. Parties

         Plaintiff Brandon Villareal (“Villareal”), the son of Decedent Larra Ann Gillis, brings this action individually through his guardian ad litem for violations of his rights. ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 8-9. Plaintiff James Gregory (“Gregory”), another son of Gillis, brings this action individually and as successor in interest to the Estate of Larra Ann Gillis. Id. ¶¶ 12-13.

         Defendant County of Monterey is a public entity organized and existing under the laws of the State of California. Id. ¶ 14. According to Plaintiffs, the County operates and manages Monterey County Jail. Id. Defendant Steve Bernal was the Sheriff of the County of Monterey at the time of Gillis's death. Id. ¶ 15. As Sheriff, Bernal “was charged by law with the administration of the Monterey County Jail” and “was responsible for promulgation of the policies and procedures and allowance of the practices/customs” alleged in the complaint. Id. County Deputy J. Mendoza, County Officer P. Sanchez, County Deputy Wong, County Officer Ann Rocamora, and County Deputy Douglas Raarup (collectively, “County Officers”), were allegedly present at the Monterey County Jail during the events described in the complaint. Id. ¶¶ 16-20, 65.

         The County contracts with Defendant California Forensic Medical Group (“CFMG”) to provide medical, mental health, and dental services for the Monterey County Jail. Id. ¶ 30. Defendant CFMG is a California corporation headquartered in Monterey, California. Id. Defendant Taylor Fithian, MD, is a physician employed by CFMG at the Monterey County Jail. Id. ¶ 31. Defendant Lori Edwards, RN, is a nurse employed by CFMG at the Monterey County Jail. Id. ¶ 31.

         Defendant Marina City is a municipality organized under the laws of the State of California. Id. ¶ 22. The City contracted with Defendant Board of Trustees of the California State University (“CSU”) to provide police services for the City on the day of Gillis's arrest. Id. Specifically, on the day of Gillis's arrest, CSU provided police services to the City through its police officers at California State University Monterey Bay (“CSUMB”). Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiffs allege that CSU was “responsible for the actions and/or inactions and the policies, procedures, and practices/customs of the CSUMB police department and its respective employees and/or agents.” Id. ¶ 25. Defendants Officer Robin Leland (“Leland”), Corporal Carolyn Peliova (“Peliova”), and Corporal Daniel Andrada (“Andrada”) (collectively, “CSUMB Officers”) are CSUMB police officers. Id. ¶¶ 26-29.

         2. The Events of December 4 and 5, 2015

         On December 4, 2015, CSUMB police department Officer Leland responded to a call reporting that Gillis was walking in and out of traffic in Marina, California. Id. ¶ 54-55. After Leland arrived on the scene, Leland attempted to grab Gillis's arm, but Gillis ran away. Id. ¶ 55. Leland called CSUMB police department Corporal Peliova and CSUMB police department Corporal Andrada and informed them where they could find Gillis. Id. After Peliova and Andrada found Gillis, Andrada grabbed Gillis's arm and attempted to put her hands behind her back. Id. ¶ 57. However, Andrada was not successful and therefore Andrada tripped Gillis, who fell to the ground. Id. Peliova then handcuffed Gillis while Gillis was face down on the ground. Id. ¶ 58. Plaintiffs allege that at the time of her arrest, Gillis was delusional, “[h]er pupils were dilated, she was pale and sweaty and her mouth was extremely dry with thick white saliva around her lips. Ms. Gillis also had irregular and rapid breathing even after she had been sitting for a period of time.” Id. ¶ 59. Soon after Gillis was handcuffed, Leland again arrived on the scene. Id. Gillis was then placed in the back of a patrol vehicle, and Leland transported Gillis to Monterey County Jail, where Gillis was booked by Rocamora at 8:15 a.m. Id. ¶¶ 60-61.

         At the time that Gillis was arrested and booked, Gillis exhibited “clear signs of being under the influence.” Id. ¶ 61. Plaintiffs allege that the County was also well aware that Gillis “suffered from substance abuse and mental illness from her prior incarcerations.” Id. ¶ 61. At the time of booking, Gillis also suffered from lacerations to her head, hands, and wrists. Id.

         After booking, Plaintiffs allege that Mendoza, who was “a deputy and not a medical provider, determined that Ms. Gillis should be put in restraints and placed in a safety cell.” Id. ¶ 61. Plaintiffs allege that Gillis remained in the safety cell with no medical attention or food and only a single cup of water for the next 28 hours. Id. ¶ 63. During her time in the safety cell, no physician evaluated Gillis, although Dr. Fithian was notified of Gillis's condition. Id. ¶ 64. Nurse Edwards and other staff at the jail allegedly acknowledged that while Gillis was in the safety cell, Gillis was “acting erratic and yelling ‘help me, ' but they did not provide her medical attention.” Id. ¶ 65. During this time, Gillis allegedly lay on her side and got on her knees to beg for help. Id. ¶ 66.

         At 11:30 a.m. on the morning of December 5, 2015, Gillis was found “laying on her side covered in feces moaning and unresponsive.” Id. ¶ 67. A nurse contacted Dr. Fithian, but Dr. Fithian did not come to see Gillis. Id. Instead, an hour later Dr. Fithian advised nursing staff to send Gillis to the hospital for “drug induced detoxification.” Id. At the time she was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, Gillis's “blood glucose was 44, her oxygen saturation was in the 60s and she had agonal breathing.” Id. ¶ 68. Gillis never regained consciousness and died at Natividad Hospital on December 19, 2015. Id. ¶ 69.

         3. Allegations against the County Defendants and CFMG

         Plaintiffs allege that the County and Bernal “failed to have policies or procedures in place to properly care for inmates, including Ms. Gillis, who were in need of detoxification.” Id. ¶ 62. Plaintiffs further allege that “[t]he County of Monterey and CFMG have a policy and practice of failing to provide adequate medical care to inmates at Monterey County Jail.” Id. ¶ 44.

         Plaintiffs allege that the County and CFMG “have been on notice that their provision of medical care to inmates is inadequate and results in needless harm since at least 2007, when the Monterey County Sheriff's Office and the Monterey County Board of Supervisors hired an outside consulting firm to perform a needs assessment” for the Monterey County Jail. Id. ¶ 45. Plaintiffs allege that the needs assessment was updated in December 2011. Id. ¶ 46 & Ex. 1. The needs assessment found that the Monterey County Jail was chronically understaffed and that chronic understaffing hinders the Jail's ability to provide adequate medical care. Id. ¶ 46. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that the “available health care staff [at the Jail] is insufficient to provide medical evaluations, monitoring, and follow-up care to inmates who are suffering from serious and chronic illnesses, or to treat inmates on an emergency basis.” Id. ¶ 48.

         In addition to the needs assessment, Plaintiffs allege that “the County of Monterey was again specifically put on notice of serious problems with detoxification and sobering treatment in the jail” via a class action lawsuit, Hernandez v. Cnty. of Monterey, No. 5:13-cv-2354-BLF (N.D. Cal.), filed against the County of Monterey in 2013. Id. ¶ 49. Plaintiffs allege that class counsel in Hernandez “specifically objected to the fact that defendants' agents and staff were employing a dangerous and punitive ‘detox protocol, ' refusing medications to inmates who then suffered from intense, untreated pain as well as powerful, dangerous and unnecessary withdrawal symptoms.” Id. ¶ 49.

         In April 2015, the district court in Hernandez issued a preliminary injunction requiring the County to file a plan including the following elements:

a. Medical staff shall timely conduct the initial evaluation to determine if an inmate is intoxicated and/or suffering from withdrawal or at high risk for withdrawal;
b. Medical staff shall make the decision on who should be placed in a sobering cell and who should be transferred to the hospital to be treated for possible or actual withdrawal;
c. Medical providers (physicians, physicians assistants, and/or nurse practitioners) shall be timely involved in assessing and treating inmates potentially undergoing withdrawal, and non-provider medical staff shall timely refer to providers those inmates undergoing withdrawals when clinically indicated;
d. Detoxifying inmates shall be adequately monitored using the CIWA protocol or equivalent validated monitoring protocol, shall receive pharmacological treatment as indicated and be appropriately housed based on their clinical conditions;
e. Defendants shall develop separate treatment protocols for opiate, alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal . . . . Id. ¶ 51.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs filed their complaint on November 17, 2016. ECF No. 1. On February 2, 2017, the Court granted the parties' stipulation to dismiss with prejudice all claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants CSU, Leland, Peliova, and Andrada. ECF No. 18. After this stipulation of dismissal, Plaintiff alleges eleven causes of action against the Defendants as follows:

County

Bernal

Mendoza

Sanchez

Wong

Rocamora

Raarup

City of Marina

CSU

Leland

Peliova

Andrada

CFMG

Fithian

Edwards

Doe Defendants

Claim 1: 42 U.S.C. § 1983- excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment

X

1-50

Claim 2: 42 U.S.C. § 1983- failure to provide medical care in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

51-100

Claim 3: 42 U.S.C. § 1983- failure to protect in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1-100

Claim 4: 42 U.S.C. § 1983- deprivation of substantive due process rights in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1-100

Claim 5: Failure to Summon Medical Care in violation of Cal. Gov't Code § 845.6

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1-100

Claim 6: Medical Malpractice

X

X

X

X

51-100

Claim 7: Negligent Supervision, Training, Hiring, and Retention

X

X

X

X

X

1-100

Claim 8: Violation of Cal. Civil Code § 52.1

X

X

X

X

X

1-50

Claim 9: Battery

X

X

X

X

X

1-50

Claim 10: Wrongful Death

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

51-100

Claim 11: Negligence

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

1-100

         The City filed a motion to dismiss on February 23, 2017. ECF No. 44. Plaintiffs filed an opposition on April 7, 2017. ECF No. 64. The City filed a reply on April 21, 2017. ECF No. 67.

         The County Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on March 3, 2017. ECF No. 50. Plaintiffs filed an opposition on April 21, 2017. ECF No. 68. The County Defendants filed a reply on April 28, 2017. ECF No. 71.

         The County Defendants filed a motion to strike on March 3, 2017. ECF No. 52. Plaintiffs filed an opposition on April 21, 2017. ECF No. 69. The County Defendants filed a reply on April 28, 2017. ECF No. 72.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” A complaint that fails to meet this standard may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The U.S. Supreme Court has held that Rule 8(a) requires a plaintiff to 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). “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. (internal quotation marks omitted). For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] 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).

         However, a court need not accept as true allegations contradicted by judicially noticeable facts, Shwarz v. United States, 234 F.3d 428, 435 (9th Cir. 2000), and the “[C]ourt may look beyond the plaintiff's complaint to matters of public record” without converting the Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one for summary judgment, Shaw v. Hahn, 56 F.3d 1128, 1129 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995). Nor is the court required to “‘assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.'” Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (quoting W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981)). Mere “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004); accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, “a plaintiff may plead herself out of court” if she “plead[s] facts which establish that [s]he cannot prevail on h[er] . . . claim.” Weisbuch v. Cnty. of L.A., 119 F.3d 778, 783 n.1 (9th Cir. 1997).

         B. Leave to Amend

         If the Court determines that the complaint should be dismissed, it must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, leave to amend “should be freely granted when justice so requires, ” bearing in mind that “the underlying purpose of Rule 15 . . . [is] to facilitate decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). When dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim, “a district 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.” Id. at 1130 (quoting Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995)). Nonetheless, a court “may exercise its discretion to deny leave to amend due to ‘undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party. . ., [and] futility of amendment.'” Carvalho v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 629 F.3d 876, 892-93 (9th Cir. 2010) (alterations in original) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         C. Motion to Strike

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) permits a court to “strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). “[T]he function of a 12(f) motion to strike is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial.” Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir.1983). Motions to strike are generally disfavored and “should not be granted unless the matter to be stricken clearly could have no possible bearing on the subject of the litigation . . . . If there is any doubt whether the portion to be stricken might bear on an issue in the litigation, the court should deny the motion.” Platte Anchor Bolt, Inc. v. IHI, Inc., 352 F.Supp.2d 1048, 1057 (N.D. Cal. 2004) (citations omitted). “With a motion to strike, just as with a motion to dismiss, the court should view the pleading in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Id. “Ultimately, whether to grant a motion to strike lies within the sound discretion of the district court.” Cruz v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, 2012 WL 2838957, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 10, 2012) (citing Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court considers the County Defendants' motion to strike, the County Defendants' motion to dismiss, and the City Defendants' motion to dismiss in turn.

         A. Motion to Strike

         The County Defendants move to strike Exhibits 1 and 2 to Plaintiffs' complaint, as well as paragraphs 49 -50 of the complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). Rule 12(f) provides in relevant part that a court “may strike from a pleading ... any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” “Motions to strike are generally disfavored.” Abney v. Alameida, 334 F.Supp.2d 1221, 1234 (S.D. Cal. 2004) (citing Cairns v. Franklin Mint Co., 24 F.Supp.2d 1013, 1037 (C.D.Cal.1998)). “[T]he function of a 12(f) motion to strike is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial.” Sidney-Vinstein, 697 F.2d at 885. Ultimately, whether to grant a motion to strike lies within the sound discretion of the district court. See Whittlestone, Inc. v. Handi-Craft Co., 618 F.3d 970, 973 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Exhibit 1 to Plaintiffs' complaint is a document entitled “County of Monterey, Office of the Sheriff, Jail Needs Assessment” dated December 30, 2011 (“Needs Assessment”). Exhibit 2 to Plaintiffs' complaint is a letter dated April 15, 2013 from the law firm Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld (“Rosen Bien”) to the Sheriff of the County of Monterey and the Monterey County Board of Supervisors (“Rosen Bien Letter”). The letter asserts that the Monterey County Jail suffers from serious overcrowding and delays in medical care, and the letter threatens a class action lawsuit against the County if these concerns are not addressed. Finally, paragraphs 49-50 of the complaint describe the case of Hernandez v. Cnty. of Monterey, No. 5:13-cv-2354-BLF (N.D. Cal. 2013), and the Court's findings in that case. Specifically, paragraph 50 contains the Hernandez Court's findings that the Jail does not provide adequate medical care for inmates in need of detoxification. These findings are then used to justify the preliminary injunction that the Hernandez Court issued in April 2015, which is described in paragraph 51 of the complaint.

         According to the County Defendants, the Needs Assessment was created in 2007 and updated in 2011 and was “commissioned by the Monterey County Sheriff's Department as a prerequisite for the competition for jail construction grants.” ECF No. 52, at 3. The County Defendants argue that the Needs Assessment is “immaterial” or “impertinent” within the meaning of Rule 12(f) because the Needs Assessment was created “for a very narrow purpose relating to grant funding and jail construction planning and [is] not an indicator that the Sheriff' is operating his or her jail in a manner that violates the U.S. Constitution.” ECF No. 52, at 3.

         Similarly, the County Defendants argue that the Rosen Bien Letter is “immaterial” or “impertinent” within the meaning of Rule 12(f) because it “touch[es] upon areas which are not germane to this litigation and are not confined to what occurred in one safety cell over a relatively brief period of time, as to the provision of medical care.” Id. ...


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