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Cifuentes v. Keast

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 16, 2017

GLENDY CIFUENTES, et al., Plaintiffs,
CYNTHIA KEAST, et al., Defendants.


          JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States Magistrate Judge.

         Glendy Cifuentes and H.D.C (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) allege their civil rights were violated by the Central Marin Police Authority (“Marin Police”), officer Cynthia Keast (“Keast”), officer Sean Fahy (“Fahy”), officer Robert Anderson (“Anderson”), and officer Jean McVeigh (“McVeigh”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Now pending before the Court is Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint fails to state facts sufficient to sustain any of Plaintiffs' six claims against Defendants and that attorney's fees under “U.S.C Section 794(a)” is improper.

         Having carefully considered the pleadings and briefs submitted by the parties, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss with leave to amend.


         This action arises out of an incident on January 26th, 2016 when Plaintiffs Cifuentes and her son 9-year-old son H.D.C. were allegedly attacked by police officers in their home. Plaintiffs were preparing for bed after a verbal argument with Cifuentes' boyfriend Hugo Malina when a neighbor called in a disturbance and officers Keast, Fahy, Anderson and McVeigh were dispatched to the Cifuentes home. (Dkt No. 15 at ¶¶15-16.) Plaintiffs were in Cifuentes' bedroom when officers Keast and Anderson came to their closed bedroom door. Keast spoke with Cifuentes, who told the officers that everything was fine. (Id.) Anderson is a field training officer and Keast appeared to be in field training as Anderson was providing Keast with directions. (Id. at ¶17.)

         Cifuentes tried to close the door; however, Keast violently grabbed Cifuentes by the arm, pushed Cifuentes into the bedroom, and pushed Cifuentes by her face. (Id.) Officer Fahy came into the bedroom and one or more officers grabbed Cifuentes by the neck and threw her against the closet. (Id.) Two of the officers then grabbed Cifuentes' arms, twisting and pulling them. Cifuentes' son cried out for his mother at which point one of the male officers allegedly grabbed the child's arms and twisted them behind his back until the child's wrist fractured. (Id.) Defendant McVeigh then transported H.D.C. down the hallway and into the living room, where the child is seen on lapel camera nursing an injured wrist. (Id.)

         Cifuentes was not behaving in an unlawful manner yet Cifuentes was charged with resisting arrest and battery on a police officer. (Id. at ¶18.) The charges against Cifuentes were eventually dismissed. (Id.) The video from the incident clearly demonstrates the poor training of Keast who “unnecessarily escalated the situation” by using “unwarranted and excessive force” against Cifuentes. (Id.) H.D.C. was taken to the hospital for his injuries and diagnosed with a broken wrist. (Id. at ¶19.) Plaintiffs suffered physical and psychological injuries. (Id. at ¶20.)


         I. Plaintiffs' Claims

         A. Claim One: Sufficiency of Plaintiff's Section 1983 Allegations

         Plaintiffs' first cause of action is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleges violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. There are two requirements for a Section 1983 claim: (1) that a person acting under color of state law committed the conduct at issue, and (2) that the conduct deprived the claimant of some right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 662 (1988). Therefore, the “first step in any [§ 1983] claim is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed.” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). Liability under section 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant. Fayle v. Stapley, 607 F.2d 858, 862 (9th Cir. 1979). Vicarious liability is inapplicable in Section 1983 actions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Plaintiff must show that each defendant, through their own individual actions, violated the constitution. Id.

         Plaintiffs' section 1983 claim fails because it does not distinguish between Plaintiffs and the individual defendants. For example, although the complaint alleges that there were two male officers and two female officers, that one of the two male officers broke H.D.C.'s wrist, and there are no other allegations that suggest either of the female officers used excessive force against H.D.C, H.D.C. (through his guardian ad litem) has sued all four officers. Moreover, in their opposition, Plaintiffs assert that Officer Anderson caused H.D.C.'s injuries, but that is not included in the complaint. And while Ms. Cifuentes does not know which one of the officers, besides Officer Keast, used force against her, presumably she knows whether it was a male or female officer or at least where that force occurred.

         Accordingly, Plaintiffs' section 1983 claim is dismissed with leave to amend. Any amended complaint should plead each plaintiff's claim separately and identify, to the best of their ability, the defendants they believe responsible for their injuries.

         B. Second Claim: ...

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