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Medeiros v. City of Palo Alto

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

June 21, 2019

THOMAS MEDEIROS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PALO ALTO, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE RE: DKT. NO. 33

          LUCY H. KOH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Thomas Medeiros, proceeding pro se, has brought suit against Defendant City of Palo Alto. Plaintiff asserts one claim against Defendant for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs third amended complaint. ECF No. 33 (“Mot.”). Having considered the submissions of the parties, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to dismiss with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was employed by A-1 Septic Tank Services, Inc. as a jetter, which involves spraying a “high pressure water hose to remove grease from surfaces.” ECF No. 26 (third amended complaint, or “TAC”) at ¶ 7. On December 3, 2001, Plaintiff was assigned to provide maintenance for a grease interceptor located at the Palo Alto Hills Golf and Country Club. Id. at ¶ 8. A grease interceptor is “an underground device that filters and separates kitchen grease from water so as to prevent grease from entering the sewer system.” Id. Plaintiff left the Palo Alto Hills Golf and Country Club with a truck filled with grease. Id. at ¶ 14.

         As Plaintiff was driving away from the Palo Alto Hills Golf and Country Club, Plaintiff was stopped by Defendant's employee Jackie Wilson and accused of “releasing the grease load into the sewer system causing a backup and eventual flow into the Matadero Creek.” Id. at ¶ 13. Defendant's officials began to investigate Plaintiff for allegedly discharging grease from the grease interceptor into the municipal sewer because Defendant “deputized” certain employees to carry out criminal investigations of alleged environmental violations. Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's employees deputized to investigate alleged environmental violations lacked training or knowledge “of proper criminal procedures when investigating environmental crimes” and lacked “training in the protection of a citizen's constitutional rights when accused of a crime.” Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. Plaintiff claims that because of the deputized employees' lack of training, Defendant failed to: “secure the crime scene”; “obtain obvious evidence of innocence”; “secure percipient witness testimony”; “recognize and supply exculpatory evidence”; and “preserve direct evidence regarding the alleged crimes.” Id. at ¶ 30.

         Plaintiff was indicted for a felony environmental crime in November 2003. Id. at ¶ 18. Plaintiff's pleadings are unclear as to the specific crime with which Plaintiff was charged. Plaintiff was tried and convicted of the crime in May 2005. Id. However, in 2007, Plaintiff's conviction was overturned by the California Court of Appeal based on a lack of evidence. Id. at ¶ 18. The California Court of Appeal issued its remittitur on October 2, 2007. ECF No. 34-2.[1]

         Plaintiff timely filed a government claim[2] with Defendant on January 29, 2008. TAC at ¶ 53. Defendant's claims administrator, an outside company called George Hills Company, Inc. (“George Hills Co.”), erroneously rejected Plaintiffs claim as late in correspondence dated February 7, 2008. Id. at ¶ 56. Plaintiff alleges that the “false information [from George Hills Co. about the timeliness of Plaintiff s claim was] calculated to lead [Plaintiff], a pro per claim filer, not to file a lawsuit against [Defendant].” Id. at ¶ 55. Plaintiff further alleges that he “reasonably and justifiably relied upon these misrepresentations [by George Hills Co.], and believing he had no case to file, failed to file any lawsuit against [Defendant] within the two-year limitation period for personal injuries in the state of California.” Id. at ¶ 66.

         B. Procedural History

         Prior to the instant case, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against George Hills Co. in the California Superior Court for Sacramento County. The Court will first discuss the Superior Court case, and then the instant case.

         1. Plaintiffs Lawsuit before the Superior Court for Sacramento County

         On February 8, 2010, Plaintiff filed suit against George Hills Co. in the Superior Court for Sacramento County. ECF No. 34-1 at 1.[3] Plaintiff brought two claims: intentional misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation. Id. These two claims were predicated on the fact that Plaintiff was misled by George Hills Co.'s mistaken statement that Plaintiffs claim filed with Defendant was untimely in correspondence dated February 7, 2008. The Superior Court sustained two demurrers, the latter of which dismissed Plaintiffs claims without leave to amend. Medeiros v. George Hills Co., 2013 WL 174852, at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. Jan. 14, 2013). Plaintiff appealed, and on January 14, 2013, the California Court of Appeal reversed in part the Superior Court's dismissal of the suit, and remanded the suit back to the Superior Court. Id. at *5. On remand, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint against George Hills Co., but George Hills Co. filed its answer and then moved for judgment on the pleadings. Medeiros v. George Hills Co., 2015 WL 4086155, at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. July 7, 2015). The Superior Court granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings and entered judgment in favor of George Hills Co. Id. at *1. Plaintiff once again appealed. On July 7, 2015, the Court of Appeal affirmed the Superior Court's decision. Id. The California Supreme Court denied Plaintiff's petition for review on October 14, 2015. TAC at ¶ 70.

         2. The Instant Case

         On October 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as the sole cause of action against Defendant City of Palo Alto. ECF No. 1 at 5. The case was assigned to United States Magistrate Judge Howard Lloyd. On November 2, 2017, Magistrate Judge Lloyd entered an order reassigning the case to a District Judge; granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis; and included a report and recommendation to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint with leave to amend. ECF No. 4. In the report and recommendation, Magistrate Judge Lloyd noted that Plaintiff's § 1983 claim against Defendant required that an alleged constitutional violation be the product of a municipal policy or custom, but that Plaintiff's complaint “does not link his injury to a policy or custom” of Defendant. Id. Magistrate Judge Lloyd also noted, without deciding, that Plaintiff's claim may be time barred because California has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Id. at 3-4.

         On November 2, 2017, the case was reassigned to this Court. ECF No. 6. On November 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint alleging malicious prosecution under § 1983 as the sole cause of action. ECF No. 7 at 4. On January 10, 2018, this Court adopted the report and recommendation, thereby dismissing the complaint and the first amended complaint with leave to amend because the first amended complaint did not cure the defects identified in the report and recommendation. ECF No. 10 at 5. The Court found that Plaintiff's complaint and first amended complaint fail to link Plaintiff's injury to a policy or custom of Defendant. Id. at 4. Moreover, the Court stated that “it is unclear how Plaintiffs suit is not time barred.” Id.

         On February 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint alleging malicious prosecution under § 1983 as the sole cause of action. ECF No. 12 at ¶¶ 58-67. On December 4, 2018, the Court screened Plaintiffs complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and dismissed Plaintiffs second amended complaint without prejudice. ECF No. 25 at 4 (“December 4, 2018 Order”). In particular, the Court held that “Plaintiffs suit is time-barred under California's two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions.” Id. at 3. The Court also held that “tolling would not save Plaintiffs [second amended] complaint.” Id. However, the Court granted leave to amend because Plaintiffs second amended complaint contained one allegation that equitable estoppel tolled the statute of limitations. Id. The Court warned Plaintiff that “unless Plaintiff can amend his complaint to allege facts against [Defendant] supporting his claim of equitable estoppel, the Court will have no choice but to dismiss [Plaintiffs] claim[] with prejudice for being time-barred under California law.” Id. at 4.

         On January 2, 2019, Plaintiff filed a TAC alleging malicious prosecution under § 1983 as the sole cause of action. ECF No. 26 at 8. On March 24, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the TAC. ECF No. 33 (“Mot.”). On April 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed an opposition. ECF No. 42 (“Opp.”). On April 23, Defendant filed a reply. ECF No. 43 (“Reply”).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss Under Federal Rule of Civil ...


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