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Hauser v. City of El Cajon

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 9, 2017

LARRY HAUSER, et al., Plaintiffs,
CITY OF EL CAJON, et al, Defendants.


          Hon. Thomas J. Whelan United States District Judge

         Defendants City of El Cajon and El Cajon Police Officer Samson Pak move to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs oppose.

         The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7. l(d. 1). For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Defendants' motion [Doc. 6].

         I. Background [1]

         Plaintiffs Larry and Judy Hauser are the parents and successors in interest of decedent, Kelsey Hauser. (Compl. [Doc. 1] ¶ 2.) Defendant City of El Cajon is the employer of Defendant Samson Pak and other police officers referred to herein. (Id. ¶ 6.)

         On January 16, 2016, at approximately 1:30 a.m., Kelsey was a passenger in a stolen 2014 Toyota Yaris driven by Geoffrey Sims. (Compl. ¶ 10.) El Cajon police officers attempted to the stop the car, but Sims fled from the officers. (Id.) Defendant Officer Samson Pak engaged in a high speed pursuit of the car on both the freeway and surface streets. (Id.)

         When the Yaris drove into a cul-de-sac on a surface street, Officer Pak, a short distance ahead of several other officers, rammed the right passenger side of the car with his police car, at a speed of approximately 25 miles per hour. (Compl. ¶ 11.) As he did so, Officer Pak saw Sims in the driver's seat, Kelsey in the passenger seat, two males in the back seat, and a dog in between Sims and Kelsey. (Id.)

         After hitting the Yaris with the front of his vehicle, Officer Pak got out of his vehicle with his gun drawn. (Compl. ¶ 12.) The Yaris slowly backed up, and Officer Pak “moved from behind the car to a position in front of the car, then immediately to a position approximately 15 feet off the passenger side of the car.” (Id.) As the car moved backward then forward at a very slow rate of speed, Officer Pak fired several shots “into the Yaris at the passenger.” (Id.) Kelsey was hit twice, in the jaw and chest. (Id.) She was conscious and in severe pain until paramedics arrived, but died following several emergency medical procedures. (Id. ¶ 13.) The Complaint alleges and Defendants' motion concurs that at no point did Kelsey do anything that posed a threat to Officer Pak. (Id. ¶ 12; P&A [Doc. 6-1] 10:16-17.) A gunshot also hit and killed the dog in the front seat. (Compl. ¶ 12.) No shots hit the driver. (Id.)

         On November 27, 2016, Kelsey's parents filed two claims against Officer Pak under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: a 4th Amendment excessive force claim on Kelsey's behalf, and a 14th Amendment loss of familial relationship claim brought on their own behalf. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-21.) Defendants now seek to dismiss these two causes of action, arguing the Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to support a 4th or 14th Amendment claim, and that Officer Pak is entitled to qualified immunity. (P&A 14:22-15:3.) Plaintiffs oppose the motion. (See Opp'n [Doc. 7].)

         II. Legal Standard

         The Court must dismiss a cause of action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law either for lack of a cognizable legal theory or for insufficient facts under a cognizable theory. Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In ruling on the motion, a court must “accept all material allegations of fact as true and construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Vasquez v. L.A. Cnty., 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court has interpreted this rule to mean that “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007). The allegations in the complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         Well-pled allegations in the complaint are assumed true, but a court is not required to accept legal conclusions couched as facts, unwarranted deductions, or unreasonable inferences. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001).

         III. ...

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