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Amy v. Curtis

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 30, 2019

“AMY”, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
RANDALL STEVEN CURTIS, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO. 25

          PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Randall Steven Curtis' motion to dismiss came on for hearing before this court on August 28, 2019. Plaintiffs appeared through their counsel, Carol Hepburn and John Kawai. Defendant appeared through his counsel, Ethan Balogh. Having read the papers filed by the parties and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby DENIES defendant's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         According to the complaint, the defendant was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for knowingly possessing and transporting child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(4)(B) and 2252(a)(1), respectively. Compl. ¶ 66. On July 13, 2017, defendant admitted that the offenses occurred on September 6, 2016, and pled guilty to all counts of the indictment. Id. ¶ 70; see United States v. Curtis, No. 16 Cr. 510 SI (N.D. Cal.), Dkt. 34 ¶ 2.

         On April 23, 2019, fifteen plaintiffs, proceeding under pseudonyms, filed this civil action against Curtis based on the above-described conviction. Dkt. 1. At the time the complaint was filed, seven of the fifteen plaintiffs were adults, Compl. ¶¶ Id. ¶¶ 3, 5, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23 (the “seven adult plaintiffs”), and eight were minors, id. ¶¶ 7, 17, 20, 25, 27. Each plaintiff alleges that they were victims of childhood sexual abuse and that depictions of that abuse have been and continue to be distributed on the internet. Compl. ¶¶ 34-65. Plaintiffs further allege that analysts at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (the “NCMEC”) matched child pornography images found on the defendant's computer to child pornography images of plaintiffs in NCMEC's database. Id. ¶ 67. “On March 14, 2017, plaintiffs first received notice of their images having been among those possessed by defendant.” Id. ¶ 69. Each of the named plaintiffs allege that they have “been and will continue to suffer personal injury by the distribution and possession of child pornography depicting her by persons including the Defendant.” Id. ¶¶ 36, 39, 42, 45, 50, 53, 56, 59, 62, 65; see also id. ¶ 80 (“The Plaintiffs suffered personal injury as a result of the Defendant's violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B).”).

         Based on, inter alia, the above allegations, plaintiffs allege a single cause of action under 18 U.S.C. § 2255(a), which allows victims of certain enumerated crimes to recover civil damages against the perpetrators of those crimes.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         1. Motion to Dismiss

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests for the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Ileto v. Glock, 349 F.3d 1191, 1199-1200 (9th Cir. 2003). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires that a complaint include a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), a complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff fails to state a cognizable legal theory, or has not alleged sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959 (9th Cir. 2013). The factual “allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). That is, the complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Whether a complaint satisfies the plausibility standard is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         2. 18 U.S.C. § 2255

         Section 2255 provides an avenue for victims of certain enumerated crimes to recover civil damages. The relevant part of the statute provides:

Any person who, while a minor, was a victim of a violation of section 1589, 1590, 1591, 2241(c), 2242, 2243, 2251, 2251A, 2252, 2252A, 2260, 2421, 2422, or 2423 of this title and who suffers personal injury as a result of such violation, regardless of whether the injury occurred while such person was a minor, may sue in any appropriate United States District Court and shall recover the actual damages such person sustains and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee. Any ...

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