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Jimenez v. City of Napa

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 16, 2017

CITY OF NAPA, et al., Defendants.


          EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge.


         On March 13, 2015, Decedent Jaime Jimenez was shot to death by Officer Thomas Keener of the Napa Police Department while he was allegedly lying defenseless on the ground after a motorcycle accident. The shooting happened in the presence of Defendants John Corrigan, Thomas Keener, Adam Davis, and Curtis Madrigal. On March 13, 2017, Plaintiff Janet Jimenez, individually and as successor-in-interest to Decedent, brought this civil rights and wrongful death action against Defendants City of Napa, Corrigan, Keener, Davis, and Madrigal for violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and state law in connection with the death of Decedent.

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss all five causes of action under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Docket No. 6. The Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion to dismiss but with leave to amend.

         A. Plaintiffs Statement of Facts

         According to the complaint, on March 13, 2015, Decedent Jaime Jimenez was riding his dirt bike near the intersection of Spring Street and Hill Street, located in Napa, California. Docket No. 1 at ¶ 14. As Decedent approached the intersection, Defendants John Corrigan, Curtis Madrigal, Adam Davis, and Thomas Keener drove directly towards him in their police cruisers. Id. at ¶ 15. Decedent then turned around on his dirt bike and crashed in the middle of the street. Id. Decedent fell to the ground and remained motionless. Id. Defendant Keener then approached Decedent, id., as Defendant Corrigan, Madrigal, and Davis provided backup and assistance, Docket No. 13 at 2. Without legal justification, Defendant Keener shot Decedent multiple times, striking him on the right side of his neck, right arm, and on the right side of his chest. Docket No. 1 at ¶ 15. Defendants Corrigan, Madrigal, and Davis failed to intervene as Defendant Keener unconstitutionally shot Decedent to death while Decedent was in their custody. Docket No. 13 at 2.

         Plaintiff alleges the killing of Decedent was brutal, malicious, and done without just provocation. Docket No. 1 at ¶ 20. Defendants were on notice that Decedent posed no threat of harm to anyone at the time that he was shot to death. Id. at ¶ 16. Further, Defendants Corrigan, Madrigal, and Davis were in a position to prevent Defendant Keener from shooting and killing Decedent. Docket No. 13 at 2.


         A. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motions

         Under FRCP Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss based on the failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged. See Parks Sch. of Bus. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). In considering such a motion, a court must take all allegations of material fact as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, although “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.” Cousins v. Lockyer, 568 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2009). Thus, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires 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. 544, 555 (2007).

         At issue in a 12(b)(6) analysis is “not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims” advanced in his or her complaint. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). While “a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, ” “it must plead 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Cousins, 568 F.3d at 1067 (9th Cir. 2009). “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); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully.” Id.

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court may look to documents whose contents are specifically alleged as part of a complaint, even though the plaintiff did not append them to the complaint. Although generally “a district court may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, ” “material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint may be considered” on such a motion. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990). A “document is not 'outside' the complaint if the complaint specifically refers to the document and if its authenticity is not questioned.” Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453 (9th Cir. 1994), overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v. County of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Townsend v. Columbia Operations, 667 F.2d 844, 848-49 (9th Cir. 1982)). “[D]ocuments whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.” Id. at 454.

         B. First Cause of Action

         Plaintiff brought a survival action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violation of the Fourth Amendment against Defendants Corrigan, Keener, Davis, and Madrigal. Docket No. 1 at ¶¶ 27-18.

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's first cause of action is “unsupported by facts to state a claim against each of the defendants” for two reasons. Docket No. 6 at 4. First, Defendant argues that the complaint “fails to state facts showing that plaintiff is authorized to prosecute a survival action on decedent's behalf.” Id. Second, Defendant argues that the first cause of action should also be dismissed “because it asserts excessive force claims against all defendants, ” and “yet the complaint alleges only that Keener shot decedent”; “there are no facts showing any use of force by Corrigan, Davis or Madrigal, or any basis to impose liability on them for the alleged use of force by Keene.” Id. at 5. The Court agrees with Defendant on both points and thus dismisses the first cause of action but with leave to amend the complaint.

         First, Plaintiff concedes on Defendant's first point. Section 277.32 of the California Code of Civil Procedure requires that a person seeking to commence an action as a decedent's successor-in-interest “shall execute and file an affidavit or a declaration under penalty of perjury.” Plaintiff concedes in her opposition brief that “Defendants correctly point out that Plaintiff has not yet filed a declaration in conformance with Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 377.32. Accordingly, Plaintiff will file a duly executed Successor-in-Interest Declaration in conformance with Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 377.32 after ...

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