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Ward v. National Railroad Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 6, 2017

ELTON WARD, Plaintiff,



         This action came before the undersigned on August 4, 2017, for hearing of defendant's motion to dismiss.[1] (ECF No. 14.) Plaintiff Elton Ward appeared in person on his own behalf. Attorney Selim Mounedji appeared telephonically on behalf of the defendant. After hearing oral argument, defendant's motion was taken under submission.

         For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion to dismiss is granted and plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint.


         Plaintiff commenced this action on April 6, 2017, by filing a complaint and paying the required filing fee. (ECF No. 1.) The complaint alleges that on April 7, 2014, plaintiff purchased “a superliner roomette ticket, to travel on an AMTRAK train from Sacramento CA to St. Louis MO . . . .” (Compl. (ECF No. 1) at 3.) On April 10, 2014, “a passenger manifest was created, ” and “plaintiff ended up being the only black male within the roomette portion of the manifest.” (Id.)

         “Between April 10, 2014 and April 12, 2014, ” defendant “willfully and unlawfully shared all the passenger's information” with the Galesburg Illinois Police Department “for the purpose of conducting passenger background checks prior to the AMTRAK train making it into Galesburg Illinois.” (Id.) When plaintiff's train arrived in Galesburg, Illinois, Galesburg Illinois Police Department officers Ming and Carnes boarded the train and proceeded “directly to the train car and room of the plaintiff.” (Id.) The officers “escorted plaintiff from the train to be detained at their police station” pending the resolution of a search warrant. (Id. at 4.)

         Based on these allegations, the complaint asserts three causes of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On May 25, 2017, defendant filed the pending motion to dismiss but noticed it for hearing before the assigned District Judge in violation of the Local Rules. (ECF Nos. 5 & 7.) On May 30, 2017, defendant re-noticed the motion for hearing before the undersigned. (ECF No. 8.)

         Plaintiff filed an opposition to defendant's motion on June 12, 2017. (ECF No. 9.) Defendant filed a reply on June 30, 2017. (ECF No. 10.) The matter came for hearing before the undersigned on July 7, 2017. (ECF No. 11.) However, the hearing of defendant's motion was continued to August 4, 2017, as noted above, due to defense counsel's failure to appear at the July 7, 2017 hearing. (ECF No. 11.)


         I. Legal Standards Applicable to Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)[2]

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). “Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff is required 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). “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).

         In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). In general, pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). However, the court need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading is insufficient if it offers mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff “can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged.” Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court is permitted to consider material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint, documents that are not physically attached to the complaint if their authenticity is not contested and the plaintiff's complaint necessarily relies on them, and ...

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