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JL v. Weber

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 11, 2017

JL, Plaintiff,
LAURA WEBER, in her individual capacity; TAMMY ESSLINGER, in her individual capacity; ALVO GONZO in his individual capacity; LUIS ABANO, in his individual capacity; MICHAEL BODMAN, in his individual capacity; KEVIN GRANSE, in his individual capacity; CITY OF CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA; COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA HHSA/CWS; JANE DOES #1-4, in her individual capacity, Defendants.


          Hon. Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants the City of Carlsbad, Michael Bodman and Kevin Granse's (collectively “Carlsbad Defendants”) motion to dismiss [Doc No. 41], and on Defendants County of San Diego, Laura Weber, and Luis Abano, Tammy Esslinger and Alvo Gonzo's (collectively “County Defendants”) motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 43]. The motions have been fully briefed, and the Court finds them suitable for submission without oral arguments. For the following reasons, Carlsbad and County Defendants' motions are GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff JL, who proceeds pro se, filed his original suit on January 3, 2017. [Doc. No. 1.] The Carlsbad Defendants and the County Defendants each filed motions to dismiss [Doc. Nos. 16, 21] the original complaint which the Court granted with leave to amend [Doc. No. 35]. On March 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). [Doc. No. 40.] His factual allegations, accepted as true, are as follows.

         In July 2015, Plaintiff's minor child (“MC”) attended the Carlsbad Summer Camp at the Stagecoach Community Center & Park in the City of Carlsbad. [Id. at ¶ 26.[1] MC was interviewed by an anonymous person at the camp without Plaintiff's consent. [Id.] The anonymous interviewer “insisted that the MC be confined in a separate room with AP [anonymous person] alone, and not be allowed to leave until the MC answered all of the AP's question.” [Id. at ¶ 30.] No other individuals were present at the interview. [Id.]

         At some unidentified point, either before or after the interview, two administrators of the camp, Defendants Bodman and Granse, relayed the suspected child abuse to the County of San Diego's Child Welfare Services Agency (“CWS”). [Id. at 43.] Both Bodman and Granse are mandatory reporters under California law. [Id. at 45.]

         Following the submission of the report, Defendants Weber and Esslinger, CWS case workers, “interacted with Plaintiff, and made false accusations of child abuse…” and “ostensibly followed CWS policies for their casework.” [Id. at ¶ 58.]

         CWS supervising managers, Defendants Abano and Gonzo “were actively involved in all phases of CWS' investigation.” [Id.] After receiving the alleged complaint, Abano and Gonzo “reviewed the complaint for accuracy and against some standard of care and due diligence, and signed off on the case (eventually) as unfounded, but after Plaintiff had been harmed by placing of his name on the Child Abuse Central Index (“CACI”).” [sic] [Id.] Plaintiff believes that his name was entered into the Child Abuse Central Index (“CACI”) prior to CWS performing an investigation in the allegations of abuse. [Id. at 63.] Plaintiff is concerned that this unfounded allegation could detrimentally effect his security clearance, future employment and FAA pilot's license. [Id. ¶¶ 78, 83, 85, 86.]

         Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendants for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On April 5, 2017, Carlsbad Defendants filed their motion seeking to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [Doc. No. 41.] On April 11, 2017, County Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. [Doc. No. 43.] Plaintiff filed his oppositions to the motions [Doc. Nos. 51, 52.] and Defendants filed their replies [Doc. Nos. 54, 55].

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may bring a motion to dismiss based on the failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of a complaint as failing to allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court “accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008).

         Even under the liberal pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2), which requires only that a party make “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” a “pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “[C]onclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) (“[A]llegations 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.”). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief … [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Because JL proceeds pro se, the Court construes his filings liberally. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010).

         However, “[w]hile the court must construe pro se pleadings liberally and afford plaintiff the benefit of the doubt, even pro se plaintiffs must allege, with a least some degree of particularity, overt acts taken by each defendant which support his claim.” Rasidescu v. Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc., 435 F.Supp.2d 1090, 1099 (S.D. Cal. 2006). Simply put, “the main purpose of a complaint is to provide notice of what plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which the claim rests . . . . [The] plaintiff must at least set forth enough details so as to provide a defendant and the court with a fair idea of the basis of the complaint and the legal grounds claimed for recovery.” Self Directed Placement Corp. v. Control Data Corp., 908 F.2d 462, 466 (9th Cir. 1990) (internal quotations and citations omitted). A complaint that lacks “simplicity, conciseness and clarity as to whom plaintiffs are suing for what wrongs, fails to perform the essential elements of a complaint.” Bielma v. Bostic, Case No.: 15cv1606-MMA (BLM), 2016 WL 29624, *8 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 4, 2016) (quoting McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1180 (9th Cir. 1996)).

         III. Request for Judicial Notice

         At the motion to dismiss stage a court may consider materials incorporated into the complaint or matters of public record, without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Coto Settlement v. Eisenberg. 593 F.3d 1031, 1038 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted); United States v. Ritchie, 432 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). The Ninth Circuit has extended the “incorporation by reference” doctrine to take into account documents “whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the [plaintiff's] pleading.” Id.; See Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005); see also Parrino v. FHP, Inc., 146 F.3d 699, 706 (9th Cir. 1998).

         A document may be incorporated by reference into a complaint, even if a document is not attached to the complaint, if the plaintiff refers extensively to the document or the document forms the basis of the plaintiff's claim. See Van Buskirk v. CNN,284 F.3d 977, 980 (9th Cir. 2002). “The defendant may offer such a document, and the district court may treat such a document as part of the complaint, and thus may assume that its contents are true for purposes of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” U.S. v. Ritchie, 432 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). “The rationale underlying this exception is that the primary problem raised by looking to documents outside the complaint-lack of notice to the plaintiff-is dissipated [w]here plaintiff has actual notice . . . and has relied upon these documents in ...

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