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Marquez v. City of San Leandro

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 20, 2017

MITCHELL MARQUEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
CITY OF SAN LEANDRO, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs' Mitchell Marquez and Christian Marquez (“Plaintiffs”) filed this civil rights action. Defendants City of San Leandro and Officers Matthew Barajas, John Robertson, Jason Kritikos, Daren Pasut, Shane Nelson, and Troy Young (“Defendants”) move the court to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Motion to Dismiss (“MTD”) [Docket No. 14]. Plaintiffs oppose. [Docket No. 19]. The court held a hearing on September 28, 2017. Having considered the parties' submissions as well as oral argument, and for the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED with leave to amend.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs make the following allegations in their complaint, all of which are taken as true for purposes of this motion.[1]

         On December 3, 2015 at approximately 4 p.m., Plaintiffs drove into the parking lot of the San Leandro Community Library to return a library book. Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶¶ 16-17. Defendant Barajas approached Plaintiffs' vehicle in an “aggressive manner.” Id. ¶ 17. Since Barajas was not in police uniform and did not identify himself as a law enforcement officer, Plaintiffs thought he was a private citizen. Compl. ¶ 17. Plaintiffs attempted to drive off, but Barajas “prevented them from doing so” in a manner unspecified in the complaint. Id. Plaintiffs tried to drive off a second time, which prompted Barajas to cling to the vehicle's passenger side window for a few seconds, after which he released himself. Id. Once Barajas had disengaged from the vehicle, Plaintiffs parked and entered the library. Id. While Plaintiffs were inside the library, Defendants Robertson, Kritikos, Pasut, Nelson, Young, and Delago surrounded them and informed them that they were under arrest due to the incident with Barajas. Id. Plaintiffs were then transported to Santa Rita Jail where they were detained for four days. Id.

         On February 27, 2017, Plaintiffs filed this action alleging six claims for relief against the officer defendants: 1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) unlawful seizure; 2) Section 1983 excessive force; 3) California Civil Code Section 52.1 (“Bane Act”); 4) negligence; 5) battery; and 6) intentional infliction of emotional distress. The complaint also includes a claim for municipal liability (“Monell”) against the City of San Leandro.

         Defendants now move to dismiss the claims for excessive force, municipal liability, violation of the Bane Act, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the request for punitive damages against the City of San Leandro. Defendants also move to dismiss any implied violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985-86, noting that the complaint makes a passing reference to these statutes.


         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. See Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). When reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must “accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, ” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam), and may dismiss a claim “only where there is no cognizable legal theory” or there is an absence of “sufficient factual matter to state a facially plausible claim to relief.” Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001)) (quotation marks omitted). A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). In other words, the facts alleged must demonstrate “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. 554, 555 (2007) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)); see Lee v. City of L.A., 250 F.3d 668, 679 (9th Cir. 2001), overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v. Cty. of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2002).


         Plaintiffs conceded the following claims in their opposition and at the hearing: (1) punitive damages claim against the City of San Leandro; (2) Monell; (3) battery; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) Bane Act claim against all Defendants except Barajas; and (5) claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985-86. Accordingly, the court grants Defendants' motion as to these claims and dismisses them with prejudice. Additionally, upon the parties' agreement at the hearing, the court dismissed without prejudice the excessive force claim as to all Defendants except Barajas. Therefore, the only claims at issue now are the excessive force and Bane Act claims against Barajas.

         A. Section 1983 Excessive Force

         Plaintiffs allege that Barajas is liable under section 1983 because he violated their Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force. “Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (citations omitted). Section 1983 creates a civil cause of action against a “person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State” deprives another person of any of their “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order to state a claim for damages under Section 1983, a complaint must allege that (1) “the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, ” and that “(2) “this conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986).

         A claim that law enforcement officials used excessive force in the course of making an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” is properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's “objective reasonableness” standard. Knapps v. City of Oakland, 647 F.Supp.2d 1129, 1156 (N.D. Cal. 2009) (citing Graham. v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 388 (1989)). The Fourth Amendment guarantees that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . .” U.S. Const. amend. IV. “Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ...

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