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Dunham v. County of Monterey

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 11, 2019

JOHN F. DUNHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF MONTEREY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER RE DEFENDANT CALIFORNIA FORENSIC MEDICAL GROUP, INC.'S MOTION TO DISMISS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT RE: DKT. NO. 51

          ELIZABETH D. LAPORTE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         In this civil rights action, Defendant California Forensic Medical Group, Inc. (“CFMG”) moves to dismiss the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) against it for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Having heard oral argument on August 13, 2019, and having considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, the Court hereby GRANTS the Motion to Dismiss.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff claims that at the time of his arrest on August 20, 2016, he was suffering from alcohol withdrawal or at high risk for withdrawal. FAC ¶¶ 10-11. He had been fighting alcohol addiction and habitually consumed approximately 2 liters of liquor per day. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that despite this severe alcohol problem, the deputies who performed the intake interviews and screening of Plaintiff concluded that Plaintiff showed no signs of drug or alcohol use. Id. at ¶¶ 13-14.

         On the night of August 23, 2016, while in pre-trial detention at Monterey County Jail, Plaintiff claims he displayed clear signs of untreated severe alcohol withdrawal, including hallucinations, severe anxiety, disorientation to time and place and incoherent mumbling. FAC ¶ 19. Due to the discomfort and dehydration caused by alcohol withdrawal, Plaintiff told deputies repeatedly to get him a bedroll and a cup for water. Id. When Defendants encountered Plaintiff, he was in a hallucinogenic state. Id. at ¶ 22. Defendants claim Plaintiff began acting and speaking irrationally and threatened to harm himself. Def.'s Mot. Strike 2, Dkt. No. 47. The responding Monterey County Sheriff's Deputies determined Plaintiff posed a danger to himself and should be psychologically evaluated. Id. The deputies attempted to move Plaintiff from his cell to a safety cell or the jail infirmary. Id. Defendants claim Plaintiff refused to cooperate, and when the deputies entered into Plaintiff's cell, Plaintiff violently resisted them for an extended period of time. Id. Defendants claim Plaintiff kicked, hit, and attempted to bite the deputies. Id. at 3. Plaintiff claims that the responding Monterey County Sheriff's Deputies violently and repeatedly beat and tased him. Compl. 6.

         Following the August 23, 2016 incident, Plaintiff was admitted to Natividad Medical Center Emergency Department. FAC ¶ 28. In addition to his head injuries and multiple chipped teeth, Plaintiff was diagnosed with paranoid psychosis and severe alcohol withdrawal delirium. Id. at ¶ 31. On August 24, 2016, Plaintiff was discharged from the emergency department, but Plaintiff remained admitted at Natividad Medical Center for acute alcohol withdrawal. Id. at ¶ 34. Plaintiff was treated in the ICU and then later discharged on August 27, 2016. Id. Plaintiff was subsequently released from custody on August 29, 2016. Compl. 1.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 24, 2018, Plaintiff filed the original Complaint pro se against defendants Shannon Anadon, Justin Holloway, Joshua D. Gardepie, Ala H. Najem, Zachariah Swift, and D.E. Vargas (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging two separate causes of action for excessive force pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. Compl., Dkt. No. 1. The Complaint alleged that on or around August 23, 2016, he was assaulted in his cell at the Monterey County Jail by the named defendant deputies and “brutally beaten and tased numerous times.” Id. at 6. The Complaint stated that Plaintiff was simply requesting a bedroll and was not a danger to himself or anyone else during this incident. Id.

         On January 28, 2019, Plaintiff obtained counsel. Dkt. No. 27. On May 29, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) to add, inter alia, CFMG as a defendant in a new § 1983 claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). FAC ¶¶ 54-59.

         On July 3, 2019, CFMG filed the present Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint, arguing that Plaintiff's FAC is barred by the statute of limitations and does not relate to the original Complaint, and thus, Plaintiff's FAC fails to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 51. On July 17, 2019, Plaintiff filed his opposition, arguing that the requirements under Rule 15(c)(1)(C) for relation back have been satisfied and that the statute of limitations should be tolled pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 352.1 and the doctrine of equitable tolling. Dkt. No. 55. On July 24, 2019, CFMG filed its reply and argued again that the FAC is barred by the statute of limitations and does not relate back to the original Complaint. Dkt. No. 57.

         On August 13, 2019, the Court heard oral argument and ordered the parties to submit further briefing regarding the issue of tolling. Dkt. No. 61. On August 20, 2019, CFMG filed a supplemental brief, arguing that California Code of Civil Procedure § 352.1 provides no express tolling of the statute of limitations for Plaintiff and that the claim against CFMG should not be tolled by equity because, inter alia, CFMG did not receive timely notice of Plaintiff's claim. Dkt. No. 62. On August 27, 2019, Plaintiff filed his reply to the supplemental briefing, conceding that § 352.1 does not apply but arguing that equitable tolling should apply because, inter alia, notice should be imputed to CFMG as an agent of Monterey County.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, which when accepted as true, “‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[T]he court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, taking all her allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences from the complaint in her favor.” Doe v. United States, 419 F.3d 1058, 1062 (9th Cir. 2005). Conclusory allegations or “formulaic recitation of the elements” of a claim, however, are not entitled to the presumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681.

         IV. ...


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