United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
PLAINTIFF'S MONELL CLAIM WITH LEAVE TO AMEND RE: DKT. NO.
Town of Danville and Danville Police Officer Tyler Nelson
“Defendants”) move to dismiss Plaintiff John
Wilson III's third cause of action against the Town of
Danville alleging municipal liability under Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)
(“Monell claim”). Motion to Dismiss
(“MTD”) [Docket No. 10]. Plaintiff opposes.
[Docket No. 13]. The court finds this matter appropriate for
resolution without oral argument. See Civ. L.R.
7-1(b). Having considered the parties submissions, and for
the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
makes the following allegations in his complaint, all of
which are taken as true for purposes of this
motion. On the morning of February 13, 2015,
Plaintiff was sitting inside a parked car in the parking lot
of the Best Western Motel located at 803 Camino Ramon,
Danville, California. Complaint [Docket No. 1]
(“Compl.”), ¶ 9. Nelson approached Plaintiff
and asked him why he was sitting in the parking lot.
Plaintiff responded that he was a guest at the motel and was
waiting for his girlfriend to unlock the door to their room.
Id., ¶ 10. Plaintiff asked Nelson why he
stopped him. Nelson replied that Plaintiff looked suspicious.
Id. When Plaintiff lifted the console inside the car
to show Nelson his identification, Nelson noticed a small
amount of cannabis inside the console. Id. Nelson
questioned Plaintiff about the cannabis, and Plaintiff
responded that the cannabis did not belong to him.
Id. Nelson then called for back-up, at which point
approximately 10 police officers including K9
officer Rony arrived on scene. Id.,
¶ 11. Without cause or provocation, the officers began
violently beating Plaintiff. Id. One officer
aggressively pulled Plaintiff's dreadlocks, and another
repeatedly punched Plaintiff in the face. Id. Nelson
then released Rony on Plaintiff. Id. The officers
watched as Rony bit Plaintiff's abdomen, arms, and
thighs. Id. As a result of the incident, Plaintiff
suffered multiple injuries to his left arm, right forearm,
stomach, chest, left thigh, and face. Id., ¶
thereafter filed this civil rights action against Defendants
alleging seven federal and state law claims including: 1) a
42 U.S.C. § 1983 unlawful search and seizure claim based
on the Fourth Amendment; 2) a section 1983 excessive force
claim based on the Fourth Amendment; 3) a section 1983 claim
for municipal liability under Monell ; 4) violation
of California's Bane Act, California Civil Code section
52.1; 5) negligence; 6) battery; and 7) intentional
infliction of emotional distress. All but the Monell
claim are alleged solely against Nelson.
now move to dismiss Plaintiff's Monell claim
against the Town of Danville.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal
sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. See
Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480,
1484 (9th Cir. 1995). When reviewing a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, the court must “accept as
true all of the factual allegations contained in the
complaint, ” Erickson, 551 U.S at 94, and may
dismiss a claim “only where there is no cognizable
legal theory” or there is an absence of
“sufficient factual matter to state a facially
plausible claim to relief.” Shroyer v. New Cingular
Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir.
2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
677-78 (2009); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732
(9th Cir. 2001)) (quotation marks omitted). A claim has
facial plausibility when a plaintiff “pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation
omitted). In other words, the facts alleged must demonstrate
“more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554,
555 (2007) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
286 (1986)); see Lee v. City of L.A., 250 F.3d 668,
679 (9th Cir. 2001), overruled on other grounds by
Galbraith v. Cty. of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119 (9th
government entity may not be held liable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, unless a policy, practice, or custom of the
entity can be shown to be a moving force behind a violation
of constitutional rights.” Dougherty v. City of
Covina, 654 F.3d 892, 900 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing
Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Under section 1983,
“local governments are responsible only for
‘their own illegal acts' . . . and are not
vicariously liable under § 1983 for their employee's
actions.” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60
(2011) (quoting Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469,
479 (1986)) (emphasis omitted).
order to establish liability under Monell, a
plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the plaintiff
“possessed a constitutional right of which [s]he was
deprived;” (2) that the municipality had a policy,
custom and/or practice; (3) that the policy, custom and/or
practice “amounts to deliberate indifference to the
plaintiff's constitutional right;” and (4) the
municipal policy, custom and/or practice was “the
moving force behind the constitutional violation.”
Dougherty, 654 F.3d at 900.
Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011),
the Ninth Circuit set forth the following pleading standard
to be applied to Monell claims:
First, to be entitled to the presumption of truth,
allegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply
recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain
sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair
notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself
effectively. Second, the factual allegations that are taken
as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such
that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be
subject to the expense of discovery and continued litigation.
Id.; see also AE ex rel. Hernandez v. County of
Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 636 (9th Cir. 2012) (reasserting
Starr pleading standard for Monell claims);
Galindo v. City of San Mateo, No. 16-CV-03651-EMC,
2016 WL 7116927, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 7, 2016) (explaining
that “Monell allegations must be [pled] with
specificity”); La v. San Mateo Cty. Transit
Dist., No. 14-CV-01768-WHO, 2014 WL 4632224, at *7 (N.D.
Cal. Sept. 16, 2014) (same); Bagley ...