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Carmona v. County of San Mateo

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

September 12, 2019

OSCAR TAPIA CARMONA, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN MATEO; CARLOS G. BOLANOS; and DOES 1-100, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART WITH PREJUDICE AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NO. 29

          LUCY H. KOH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Second Amended Complaint of Plaintiff Oscar Tapia Carmona, an inmate at the Maguire Correctional Facility in San Mateo County, California, sues Defendants Sheriff Carlos Bolanos (“Sheriff Bolanos”); San Mateo County (“the County”); and Doe Deputies 1-100 (“Doe Defendants”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Monell claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants, as well as Plaintiff's remaining five causes of action but only as to Sheriff Bolanos. Having considered the parties' submissions, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice as to Plaintiff's Monell claim against Defendants, but DENIES Defendants' motion to dismiss the remaining claims against Sheriff Bolanos.

         I.BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         As alleged in the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), on March 28, 2018 at approximately 11:00 p.m., an unidentified Deputy from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office entered Plaintiff's cell and directed Plaintiff to remove his clothes. ECF No. 28 ¶ 11. Plaintiff, a native speaker of Spanish with a limited command of English, did not understand the Deputy's instruction. Id. The Deputy left Plaintiff's cell, and a while later, a second unidentified Deputy entered Plaintiff's cell before also leaving without incident. Id. ¶ 12. As the Deputies were arriving and leaving, Plaintiff remained on his bed. Id. ¶ 13. Around 2:00 a.m., four Deputies- all “yet-to-be-identified”-and a trainee Deputy stood at Plaintiff's cell door, shut off the lights, opened Plaintiff's cell, entered Plaintiff's cell, and began to “violently and unnecessarily assault Plaintiff.” Id. ¶¶ 14-15. The SAC concedes that Plaintiff did not recognize any of these deputies, but claims that “[o]n information and belief, Defendant BOLANOS participated in the violent assault of Plaintiff.” Id. ¶ 15.

         The SAC alleges that “this violent and unnecessary assault continued for what seemed like forty-five minutes” and that “about thirty minutes after the initial raiding, twenty more . . . Deputies showed up at Plaintiff's cell and a camera was brought in.” Id. ¶¶ 16, 18. “Forty-five minutes after the initial raiding, ” Plaintiff's waist and hands were shackled, and Plaintiff was allegedly brought out of his cell naked. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff was forced to walk in plain view of other inmates and was brought to a chair within the pod. Id. Plaintiff was then allegedly punched in the head by a Deputy and thrown to the floor by around six other unidentified Deputies, who began jumping on Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 19.

         Eventually, medical personnel were called to the pod to attend to Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 20. Deputies allegedly told the medical personnel that Plaintiff simply needed to be “bandaged up.” Id. Medical personnel, however, recognized that Plaintiff was seriously injured and gave Plaintiff immediate medical attention. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff underwent surgery for a broken left arm and was informed that he may “never recover full mobility and will have to undergo additional surgeries.” Id.

         B. Procedural History

         On August 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint against San Mateo County Sheriff Officers Does 1-99. ECF No. 1 at 1. On November 29, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, ECF No. 13, but dismissed the complaint with leave to amend because Plaintiff failed to name an appropriate defendant for service, ECF No. 12.

         Plaintiff obtained counsel, who entered an appearance on December 12, 2018. ECF No. 14. On December 27, 2018, Plaintiff (through counsel) filed a First Amended Complaint against Sheriff Bolanos, the County, and Doe Defendants. ECF No. 15 (“FAC”). The FAC alleged six causes of action: (1) violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (3) assault and battery; (4) negligence; (5) a Monell claim; and (6) a violation of California Civil Code § 52.1. Id. ¶¶ 26-52. Plaintiff asserted his fifth cause of action (the Monell claim) against all Defendants, but asserted his remaining causes of action against only Doe Defendants. Id.

         On February 27, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's fifth cause of action (the Monell claim). ECF No. 20. On March 13, 2019, Plaintiff filed an opposition. ECF No. 22. On March 19, 2019, Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 23. On May 23, 2019, the Court held that “the allegations regarding the purported policies of San Mateo County are unsupported by any factual pleadings.” ECF No. 27 at 6. The Court dismissed the Monell claim against the County with leave to amend. Id. at 6-7.

         The Court also dismissed with prejudice the Monell claim against Sheriff Bolanos and Doe Defendants in their official capacity because Plaintiff's claims against these defendants in their official capacity were “subsumed by Plaintiff's Monell claim under § 1983 against San Mateo County, the governmental employer.” Id. at 7, 9-10. Finally, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's Monell claim against Sheriff Bolanos and Doe Defendants in their individual capacity without prejudice because the allegations were “[t]hreadbare recitations of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 8, 10-11. The Court directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint within 30 days curing the identified deficiencies and prohibited Plaintiff from adding new causes of actions or parties without leave of the Court or stipulation of the parties. Id. at 11.

         On June 24, 2019, Plaintiff filed the SAC. ECF No. 28. The SAC only included one additional allegation not present in the FAC. Plaintiff alleged that “[o]n information and belief, Defendant BOLANOS participated in the violent assault of Plaintiff.” Id. ¶ 15. At the same time, the SAC continued to allege that Plaintiff could not recognize or identify any of the deputies who allegedly attacked him. SAC ¶¶ 11-19. The SAC also added Sheriff Bolanos as a defendant to the remaining five causes of action. The County, Sheriff Bolanos, and Doe Defendants remained as defendants as to the Monell claim, the fifth cause of action.

         Despite this Court's order dismissing with prejudice the Monell claim against Sheriff Bolanos and Doe Defendants in their official capacity, the Monell claim in Plaintiff's SAC sued both Sheriff Bolanos and Doe Defendants in their official capacity again. SAC ¶ 5 (Bolanos “is sued individually and in his official capacity”); SAC ¶ 41 (asserts fifth cause of action (the Monell claim) against the County, Bolanos, and Does 51-100 “individually and/or in their capacities as official policy-maker(s) for COUNTY OF SAN MATEO, including the San Mateo Sheriff's Office”). The Court strikes this language in the SAC that violates the Court's prior order and admonishes Plaintiff that future violations of Court orders may result in sanctions.

         On July 1, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Monell claim as to all Defendants and the remaining five causes of action as to Sheriff Bolanos. ECF No. 29 (“Mot.”). On July 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed an opposition. ECF No. 30 (“Opp.”). On July 22, 2019, Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 31 (“Reply”).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to 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 that fails to meet this standard may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The U.S. Supreme Court has held that Rule 8(a) requires a plaintiff to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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. 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir.2008). The Court, however, need not “assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.” Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). Mere “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004).

         B. Leave to Amend

          If the Court determines that a complaint should be dismissed, it must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, leave to amend “shall be freely given when justice so requires, ” bearing in mind “the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decisions on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted). At the same time, a court is justified in denying leave to amend when a plaintiff “repeated[ly] fail[s] to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed.” See Carvalho v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 629 F.3d 876, 892 (9th Cir. 2010).

         III.DISCUSSION

         The SAC asserted the same six causes of action as the FAC: (1) violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (3) assault and battery; (4) negligence; (5) a Monell claim; and (6) a violation of California Civil Code § 52.1. SAC ¶¶ 26-52. Defendants Sheriff Carlos Bolanos (“Sheriff Bolanos”); San Mateo County (“the County”); and Doe Deputies 1-100 (“Doe Defendants”) (collectively, “Defendants”) move to dismiss Plaintiff's fifth ...


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