United States District Court, S.D. California
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE
PLEADINGS [DKT. NO. 4]
Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge
March 29, 2017, Plaintiff Saint Onge Orchids, LLC (“St.
Onge”) filed a complaint against Defendant County of
San Diego for destroying St. Onge's orchid plants in
order to control a fungus. Dkt. No. 1-2. The complaint
asserts claims of negligence under Cal. Gov. Code §
815.2 and Fourteenth Amendment violations under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Dkt. No. 1-2. Defendant moved for judgment on
the pleadings on April 5, 2017, arguing failure to exhaust
and state a claim on which relief can be granted. Dkt. No. 4.
The motion has been fully briefed.
following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion
for failure to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with
leave to amend.
Onge operates two Cymbidium Orchid nurseries in San Marcos,
California. Compl. ¶ 10. In July 2015, the County of San
Diego conducted inspections of Plaintiff's nurseries and
took samples of their orchids. Id. ¶ 11. The
subsequent testing of St. Onge's orchids revealed that
plants in both nurseries contained the fungal infection
Colletotrichum Cymbidiicola (“C.
response to the infection, the County's Department of
Agriculture, Weights, and Measures (“Department”)
instructed St. Onge to fumigate the plants held in the
nurseries. The Department directed Plaintiff to spray the
plants with “Pageant” fungicide in week one,
“Torque” fungicide in week 2,
“Pageant” fungicide again in week 3, and
“Torque” again in week 4. Id. ¶ 12.
When re-inspections showed that the spraying had not
eliminated the fungus, the Department ordered that the entire
collection of plants at both locations be destroyed.
Id. ¶¶ 13-14. An estimated 5, 000
plants were affected by this order and their cumulative lost
value was $500, 000. Id.
asserts that other nurseries in the County have similarly
failed to eliminate C. Cymbidiicola using the
“Pageant” and “Torque” rotation
prescribed by the Department. Id. ¶ 15. At
least one grower, however, was able to eliminate the
infection with a third fungicide. Id. Yet despite
knowing that this alternative fungicide had successfully
eliminated C. Cymbidiicola at another nursery, the
Department did not inform Plaintiff of the treatment's
existence before taking action against St. Onge's
2014 to 2016, a number of other Cymbidium orchid nurseries in
San Diego County became infected with C.
Cymbidiicola. Compl. ¶ 16, 38. The complaint
alleges, however, that the Department responded differently
to the fungal infections at these similarly situated
nurseries because it only ordered that the infected plants be
destroyed, not the entire collection of orchids. Id.
complaint contains four causes of action. The first three
assert different theories of state law negligence. The fourth
cause of action, and sole federal cause of action, asserts
that Defendant is liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
discriminating against Plaintiff in violation of its
Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection and Substantive Due
Process rights. Id. ¶¶ 38-39.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(c),
“[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time
as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on
the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c).
principal difference between motions filed pursuant to Rule
12(b) and Rule 12(c) is the time of filing - a motion for
judgment on the pleadings is typically brought after an
answer has been filed whereas a motion to dismiss is
typically brought before an answer has been filed. See
Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192
(9th Cir. 1989). Because the motions are functionally
identical, the same standard of review applicable to a Rule
12(b) motion applies to its Rule 12(c) analog. Id.;
see also Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102,
1108 (9th Cir. 2012) (“Analysis under Rule 12(c) is
‘substantially identical' to analysis under Rule
12(b)(6), because, under both rules, a court must determine
whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true,
entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy.”) (internal
quotations and citation omitted). Thus, when deciding a Rule
12(c) motion, “the allegations of the non-moving party
must be accepted as true, while the allegations of the moving
party which have been denied are assumed to be false.”
Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co.,
Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing
Doleman v. Meiji Mut. Life Ins. Co., 727 F.2d 1480,
1482 (9th Cir. 1984); Austad v. United States, 386
F.2d 147, 149 (9th Cir. 1967)).
Court construes all material allegations in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Deveraturda v. Globe
Aviation Sec. Servs., 454 F.3d 1043, 1046 (9th Cir.
2006). “Judgment on the pleadings is proper when the
moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings
that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and
that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Hal Roach Studios, 896 F.2d at 1550. As such,
judgment on the pleadings in favor of a defendant is not
appropriate if the complaint raises issues of fact that, if
proved, would support the ...