United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM & ORDER RE: DEFENDANT HEATHER
KING'S MOTION TO DISMISS
WILLIAM B. SHUBB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nicole Swanbeck and Dylan Bussey brought this civil rights
action against the Sacramento County Department of Child,
Family, and Adult Services (“DCFAS”) and various
county employees. Before the court is defendant Heather
King's Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). (Docket No. 7.) Despite being contacted
by the courtroom deputy and being asked for a response,
plaintiffs' counsel has not filed an opposition to this
motion or requested a continuance. The time to file any
response has now expired. Accordingly, the court decides the
motion without a hearing. See Local Rule 230(c) (“No
party will be entitled to be heard in opposition to a motion
at oral arguments if opposition to the motion has not been
timely filed by that party.”).
Nicole Swanbeck and Dylan Bussey are residents of Sacramento
County. (Compl. ¶ 4 (Docket No. 1).) Plaintiff Nicole
Swanbeck is Dylan Bussey's mother. (Id.) Dylan
Bussey was born with severe cerebral palsy and, due to his
physical condition, was entitled to specialized care at Rio
Linda High School. (Id. ¶¶ 14-18.) Moving
defendant Heather King is an employee of Rio Linda High
School. (Id. ¶ 11.)
allege that in 2016 and 2017, King made intentionally false
and misleading referrals to DCFAS that Bussey suffered from
general neglect, inadequate food, inadequate hygiene, and
inadequate supervision by his mother. (Id.
¶¶ 19-24.) In early 2017, defendant Chelsea
Stephney, an employee of DCFAS, interviewed King in response
to the reports about Bussey. (Id. ¶ 25.) King
allegedly repeated what she had previously reported.
(Id.) After further investigation, Stephney obtained
a protective custody warrant. (Id. ¶ 37.) The
complaint makes no further allegations, however, of what
transpired after DCFAS obtained this warrant.
January 22, 2019, plaintiffs filed this action, alleging the
following causes of action against defendant King: (1)
intentional fraud and misrepresentation under California law;
and (2) violation of plaintiffs' familial association
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id.
¶¶ 49-57 & 90-100.) Defendant King now moves to
dismiss the complaint against her in its entirety.
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the inquiry before the court is
whether, accepting the allegations in the complaint as true
and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's
favor, the plaintiff has stated a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “The plausibility standard is not
akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks
for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. “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.”
Id. A complaint that offers mere “labels and
conclusions” will not survive a motion to dismiss.
Id. (citations and quotations omitted).
first claim, for intentional fraud and misrepresentation,
fails because plaintiffs did not allege compliance with
California's claims presentation requirements under the
California Tort Claims Act (“CTCA”). See Cal.
Gov't Code § 905.
the CTCA, before plaintiffs can file suit against a public
entity for damages, they must present a timely written claim
to the public entity. See Mangold v. Cal. Pub. Utils.
Comm'n, 67 F.3d 1470, 1477 (9th Cir. 1995). When a
defendant is a public employee acting within the scope of her
employment,  plaintiffs must also submit a written
claim to the public entity that employs the individual
defendant. See Cal. Gov't Code § 950.2. A claim must
be filed within six months of the accrual of the cause of
action. Cal. Gov't Code § 911.2(a).
“Compliance with the claims statutes is mandatory; and
failure to file a claim is fatal to the cause of
action.” Hacienda La Puente Unified Sch. Dist. of
Los Angeles v. Honig, 976 F.2d 487, 495 (9th Cir. 1992)
(quoting City of San Jose v. Superior Court, 12
Cal.3d 447, 454 (1974)).
in the complaint do plaintiffs allege that they filed any
written claim with the appropriate public entity related to
King's allegedly false and fraudulent allegation of
abuse. Plaintiffs also do not suggest why they are otherwise
excused from complying with this requirement. Because the
presentation of a written claim to the public employer is a
prerequisite to bringing this state law cause of action
against King, see Mangold, 67 F.3d at 1477, this
claim must be dismissed.
second claim, for violation of their familial association
rights found in the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments
to the U.S. Constitution, likewise fails for two separate and
independent reasons. First, to properly allege a Section 1983
claim, plaintiffs must show that King “personally
played a role in violating the Constitution.” See
Hines v. Youseff, 914 F.3d 1218, 1228 (9th Cir. 2019).
Government officials like King are liable under Section 1983
“only if culpable action, or inaction, is directly
attributed to them.” Id. (citation omitted).
Here, the complaint, as to this claim, is devoid of specific
allegations against King. There are no allegations that King
personally made or submitted misleading statements to the
juvenile court. Indeed, plaintiffs allege that defendants
Stephney and Lowry, employees of DCFAS, prepared and signed
the verified petition that resulted in the protective custody
warrant. (See Compl. ¶ 54.) Any allegations
that refer to all defendants are likewise insufficient to
state a claim against King. As pled here, such allegations
are “devoid of further factual enhancement” and
thus “not entitled to the assumption of truth.”
See Iqbal, 556 U.S. 678-79. Because the complaint
does not set forth King's role in making false statements
during the juvenile court proceedings, plaintiffs fail to
state a claim against King as to their Section 1983 cause of
plaintiffs do not properly allege how their constitutional
right to familial association was violated. Both the First
and Fourteenth Amendments protect individuals from
“unwarranted interference” with family
relationships. See Keates v. Koile, 883 F.3d 1228,
1236 (9th Cir. 2018). The Fourth Amendment's protection
against unreasonable seizures applies to “the claims of
children who are taken into state custody.”
Id. (citation omitted). Altogether “the
Fourteenth, First, and Fourth Amendments provide a guarantee
‘that parents will not be separated from their children
without due process of law except in emergencies.'”
Id. (quoting Mabe v. San Bernardino Cty.,
Dep't of Pub. Soc. Servs., 237 F.3d 1101, 1107 (9th
plaintiffs do not allege that Bussey was ever detained or
removed from his parents' care. Instead, the complaint
merely references the fact that defendants had the authority
to detain Bussey from his parents' care (see Compl.
¶ 52), not that they actually exercised that authority
and did so. Moreover, the court is unaware of any authority
that states that the issuance of a protective custody warrant
by itself constitutes unwarranted interference with a family
relationship. Absent specific allegations that explain how
the challenged conduct interfered with plaintiffs'
liberty interests, see Lee v. City of Los Angeles,
250 F.3d 668, 685 (9th Cir. 2001), plaintiffs cannot state a
claim under Section 1983 for the violation of their right to
THEREFORE ORDERED that Heather King's Motion to Dismiss
plaintiff's complaint (Docket No. 7) be, and the same
hereby is, GRANTED. Because plaintiffs have not requested
leave to amend their complaint, nor suggested that they can
cure the above defects by amendment, the court will not
sua sponte grant them leave to do so. ...