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King v. Best Buy

United States District Court, C.D. California

February 22, 2018

BEST BUY, et al., Defendants.



         On February 14, 2018, plaintiff filed a Complaint in this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985. Plaintiff subsequently was granted leave in forma pauperis. The caption of the Complaint lists as defendants Best Buy; Jorge Solo, a manager at Best Buy; Customer Service Representative Sy at Best Buy; Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputies Lamar Johnson, C. Aguilar-Aldapa, Jr., and Sgt. Hicks. (ECF No. 1 at 1.) The body of the Complaint does not identify any defendants, and the Complaint is not signed.[1] The Complaint arises from an incident on December 6, 2017, at a Best Buy store in Compton, California. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff subsequently was arrested. (Id. at 15.) The charges against him were dismissed sometime in January 2018. (Id. at 27.) Plaintiff purports to raise his Claim 1 and Claim 2 pursuant to state law (id. at 16, 28); his Claim 3 and Claim 4 are raised pursuant to the Fourth Amendment against Deputy Johnson for the excessive use of force and unreasonable arrest (id. at 30), his Claim 5 purports to raise a claim for conspiracy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985 against Best Buy Manager Solo, Customer Service Representative Sy, and Deputy Johnson (id. at 34), and his Claim 6 and Claim 7 are raised pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment against Deputy Aguilar-Aldapa and Sgt. Hicks in connection with a disciplinary action against plaintiff while he was a detainee more than a week after the incident at the Best Buy store (id. at 36, 43).

         The Court has screened the Complaint prior to ordering service for purposes of determining whether the action is frivolous or malicious; or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Section 1915(e)(2) applies to any action by a litigant who is proceeding in forma pauperis. See, e.g., Shirley v. Univ. of Idaho, 800 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and noting that a “district court shall screen and dismiss an action filed by a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis”); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127, n.7 (9th Cir. 2000) (“section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis complaints” and “district courts [should] dismiss a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted”) (en banc).

         The Court's screening of the pleading under the foregoing statute is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Rosati v. Igbinoso, 791 F.3d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir. 2015) (when determining whether a complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court applies the same standard as applied in a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)). In determining whether the pleading states a claim on which relief may be granted, its allegations of material fact must be taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). However, the “tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Nor is the Court “bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Wood v. Moss, 134 S.Ct. 2056, 2065 n.5 (2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Rather, a court first “discounts conclusory statements, which are not entitled to the presumption of truth, before determining whether a claim is plausible.” Salameh v. Tarsadia Hotel, 726 F.3d 1124, 1129 (9th Cir. 2013). Then, “dismissal is appropriate where the plaintiff failed to allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Yagman v. Garcetti, 852 F.3d 859, 863 (9th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted, emphasis added).

         Further, since plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the pleading liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010); see also Alvarez v. Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1158 (9th Cir. 2008) (because plaintiff was proceeding pro se, “the district court was required to ‘afford [him] the benefit of any doubt' in ascertaining what claims he ‘raised in his complaint'”) (alteration in original). However, the Supreme Court has held that “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. . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted, alteration in original); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' . . . 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.” (internal citation omitted)).

         Following careful review of the Complaint, the Court finds that the factual allegations in the Complaint appear insufficient to state any federal claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, the Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend. See Rosati, 791 F.3d at 1039 (“A district court should not dismiss a pro se complaint without leave to amend unless it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         If plaintiff desires to pursue this action, he is ORDERED to file a First Amended Complaint no later than thirty (30) days after the date of this Order, remedying the deficiencies discussed below. Further, plaintiff is admonished that, if he fails to timely file a First Amended Complaint, or fails to remedy the deficiencies of this pleading as discussed herein, the Court will recommend that this action be dismissed without leave to amend and with prejudice.[2]


         On December 6, 2017, plaintiff had $380 in his possession when he entered the Best Buy store. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff bought a Playstation 4 Console and exited the store with a receipt. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff reentered the Best Buy store approximately 20 minutes later to return the purchased Playstation 4 for a cash refund. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff spoke with Customer Service Representative Sy, who informed plaintiff that the box contained a Playstation 3 Console, which was an older and less expensive version. (Id. at 6-8.) The Customer Service Representative accused plaintiff of fraud and attempting to return a product that plaintiff had replaced in the Playstation 4 Console's box, which plaintiff denied. (Id. at 8-9.) Plaintiff asked to speak to the store manager, Jorge Solo, who listened to the employee before talking to plaintiff (id. at 10), and who refused plaintiff's demands for a refund or an exchange (id. at 10-11).

         Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Johnson arrived. (Id. at 11.) Deputy Johnson asked plaintiff to leave after talking to the manager. (Id. at 11-13.) Plaintiff “eventually exited the store after some protest.” (Id. at 13.) Deputy Johnson spoke with the Customer Service Representative and the manager again before telling plaintiff that the manager wished to have plaintiff arrested. (Id. at 13-15.) Plaintiff said that an arrest “would probably result in the loss of plaintiff's personal property which plaintiff was under California Court Order to remove from a premises . . on or before December 6, 2017.” (Id. at 14-15.) Deputy Johnson arrested plaintiff based on the information provided by the Best Buy store employees; plaintiff did not provide any information. (Id. at 15). Within his Claim 3, plaintiff also alleges that Deputy Johnson “physically attacked plaintiff by applying personal [sic] holds and twisting plaintiff's arms and fingers.” Plaintiff did not attempt to resist arrest “until plaintiff began to experience pain in the plaintiff's arms and fingers and upper torso.” (Id. at 31-32.)

         Plaintiff attached exhibits to his Complaint and requests that the Court take judicial notice of the exhibits. (Id. at 15-16.) The Court denies plaintiff's request as unnecessary because any document that plaintiff attached to his Complaint is incorporated into the Complaint by reference. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c) (“A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.”); Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1989) (documents attached to a complaint are incorporated therein by reference). According to plaintiff's Exhibit 1, plaintiff was arrested based on information from Manager Solo and Customer Service Representative Sy that plaintiff was angry and aggressive toward Sy, appeared to have threatened Sy, and was causing a disturbance in the store. In addition, plaintiff used profanity and yelled at Deputy Johnson, and plaintiff refused to provide any information about the incident to the deputy. (ECF No. 1 at 47-51.)


         A. Conspiracy

         In his Claim 5, plaintiff alleges that he is raising a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and he alleges that defendants “have conspired to deprive the plaintiff [of] Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure.” (ECF No. 1 at 34.) Plaintiff alleges that Deputy Johnson “participated in a conspiracy” by “arresting plaintiff with the intent to punish plaintiff for his use of profanity toward Best Buy employees and for seeking to file and [sic] administrative complaints of misconduct against him.” (Id. at 35.) Plaintiff alleges that defendants Solo and Sy “conspired with defendant Johnson by making false statements of fact to defendant Johnson sufficient to effectuate/create probable cause to arrest.” (Id.) Plaintiff also re-alleges his preceding paragraphs 3 - 38 (id.), which begin with the factual ...

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