United States District Court, S.D. California
D.T. a minor, by and through his guardian Tanika Tyler, Plaintiff,
SAN DIEGO METROPOLITAN TRANSIT SYSTEM; CITY OF SAN DIEGO; OFFICER J. TORRES; and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
PLAINTIFF'S SIXTH (6) AND TENTH (10) CLAIMS WITHOUT
PREJUDICE [ECF NO. 3]
Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge.
D.T. has filed suit, by and through his guardian, alleging
claims of excessive force, unlawful detention, equal
protection violations, civil rights violations, negligent
conduct, battery, and a violation of the Unruth Act, Cal.
Civil Code § 51, against Metropolitan Transit System
(“MTS”) Officer J. Torres and multiple,
unidentified Doe Officers employed by MTS and the San Diego
Police Department (“SDPD”). ECF No. 1 at
¶¶ 58-95, 110-24. Plaintiff D.T. also alleges
claims against the City of San Diego (“Defendant”
or “City”) and MTS arising under the Bane Act,
Cal Civil Code §§ 52, 52.1, and Monell v.
Dep't of Social Services City of New York, 436 U.S.
658, 691 (1978). Id. at ¶¶ 96-109, 127-30.
Defendant City has filed a motion to dismiss alleging that
D.T. has not adequately pled Monell and Bane Act
claims. ECF No. 3. The motion has been fully briefed and, for
the reasons stated hereinbelow, the Court
GRANTS the City's motion with leave to
D.T. is a 16-year-old juvenile of African American descent.
ECF No. 1 at ¶ 10. At approximately 2:00 p.m. on October
11, 2018, D.T. was waiting near the City College Trolley
Station for a friend. Id. at ¶ 11. At about
3:10 p.m., various officers told D.T. and other students in
the area to move “down the hill.” Id. at
¶ 12. D.T. grabbed his skateboard and obeyed that order.
Id. at ¶ 13.
walked away, Officer J. Torres approached him, grabbed him
from behind, and informed him that he “had to
leave.” Id. at ¶¶ 4-5, 14-15. After
D.T. responded “That's fine. I will leave, please
do not touch me, ” Torres screamed “You must
leave!”. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. Torres
then grabbed D.T. and detained him, threatening to
“taze” him if he disobeyed. Id. at
¶ 17. With the aid of “another security guard,
” Torres “slammed” D.T. on the ground and
began choking D.T. by pressing him against the transit rail.
Id. at ¶¶ 21, 23. The “unidentified
security guard” pressed his knee into D.T.'s ribs
and D.T. lost consciousness. Id. at ¶¶ 23,
24. Torres yelled at D.T. to stop resisting, though D.T. did
not resist. Id. at ¶¶ 13, 17, 20, 22.
D.T. regained consciousness, he found himself tightly
handcuffed and in pain. Id. at ¶ 25. D.T.
overheard a female student yell at the officers, “Why
are you treating him like this? Is it because he's black?
Because I didn't see you treat the other Mexican kid like
that.” Id. at ¶ 26. Torres then
“yanked” D.T. to his feet and pulled him over to
a nearby bench. Id. at ¶¶ 27, 28. As D.T.
tried to comply, Torres kicked him four to five times.
Id. at ¶ 29. D.T. requested to speak to a
supervisor or police officer, but none came. Id. at
¶ 28. Torres then asked to search D.T., who refused.
Id. at ¶¶ 30, 31.
Torres pulled D.T. to the ground behind the bench and began
to kick him again. Id. at ¶¶ 32, 35.
“An unknown number of other MTS officers and security
guards” in the area formed a “human
barricade” to prevent the public from
witnessing” Torres kicking D.T. Id. at ¶
33. Another bystander yelled, “He's a kid.”
Id. at ¶ 34.
point SDPD Officer Doe #1 arrived (“SPDP Officer
1”). Id. at ¶ 36. Plaintiff told the SDPD
Officer that Officer Torres had violated his rights and was
acting unlawfully. Id. at ¶ 37. The SDPD
officer said, “I do not care what you learned in high
school.” Id. at ¶ 38. Torres then began
writing D.T. a ticket. Id. at ¶ 39. D.T. asked
why he was being arrested and the officers either ignored
D.T. or said they did not know. Id. at ¶¶
40, 41. Torres then asked for D.T.'s first name, which
D.T. provided. Id. at ¶ 42. When D.T. told
Torres that he did not have a middle name, Torres replied,
“What's your middle name, nigger?”.
Id. at ¶¶ 43, 44. D.T. asked Torres
“what did you say?”, and Torres smirked in
response. Id. at ¶ 44-46. At some point after
D.T.'s arrest, a security officer loosened D.T.'s
“extremely tight handcuffs.” Id. at
D.T. was placed in a police car. Id. at ¶ 48.
Another Latino student, who was not “mistreated”
by any MTS officer, was also in the car. Id. at
¶ 49. That student was later released. Id. at
¶ 50. Torres then informed D.T. that he was writing him
a ticket “because D.T. had ridden a bike or scooter
through the station, ” though D.T. only had his
skateboard on him at the time. Id. at ¶¶
51, 52. D.T. was released after Torres accused him of
disobeying lawful orders and made D.T. spread his legs.
Id. at ¶¶ 53, 54.
result of this incident, D.T. suffered “multiple
contusions, severe neck strain, and back pain.”
Id. at ¶ 55. D.T. also suffered “a loss
of liberty and emotional trauma.” Id. at
13, 2019, Plaintiff D.T. filed a complaint alleging ten
claims for relief, including two which name the City of San
Diego - Claim No. 6 for Monell relief and Claim No.
10 for Bane Act relief - as Defendant. ECF No. 1 at
¶¶ 96-109, 127-130. In addition to the facts
pertaining to D.T.'s allegedly unlawful arrest, the
complaint references three excessive force cases filed
against MTS and a study published in 2014 by the American
Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) of San Diego and
Imperial Counties detailing racially disparate car stops and
searches conducted by SDPD. Id. at ¶¶ 100,
104; ACLU Report at 1.
7, 2019, Defendant City moved to dismiss D.T.'s
Monell and Bane Act Claims, ECF No. 3, on the basis
that D.T. had failed to “state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). On
August 6, 2019, Plaintiff filed a response to the City's
motion and requested leave to file it as untimely, which the
Court granted for good cause on August 14, 2019. ECF Nos. 10,
10-2, 11. On August 21, 2019, the City filed a reply. ECF No.
Legal Standard on Motion to Dismiss
12(b)(6) motion compels the Court to dismiss a complaint, or
part of a complaint, that fails “to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
12(b)(6). To “survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 566 U.S. 662,
677 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 547 (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.”
Cook v. Brewer, 637 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Consequently,
while “detailed factual allegations” are
unnecessary, the complaint must contain more than
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as
true and must draw all reasonable inferences from them in
favor of the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins.
Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). “It is
not, however, proper to assume that the [Plaintiff] can prove
facts that it has not alleged.” Associated Gen.
Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of
Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). “[T]o be
entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a
complaint . . . may not simply recite the elements of a cause
of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of
underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the
opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr
v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). In
addition, “the factual allegations that are taken as
true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such
that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be
subjected to the expense of discovery and continued
litigation.” AE ex rel. Hernandez v. Cty. of
Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 637 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing
Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216). The Court need not presume
the validity of any “a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (quotations omitted).
courts only consider the complaint itself on a motion to
dismiss. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner &
Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n. 19 (9th Cir. 1990).
“However, material which is properly submitted as part
of the complaint may be considered, ” id., as
long as the documents' authenticity is not questioned by
the parties, Fecht v. Price Co., 70 F.3d 1078, 1080
n.1 (9th Cir. 1995), superseded by statute on other grounds;
see also Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453-54 (9th
Cir. 1994), overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v.
Cty. of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119, 1121 (9th Cir.
2002). Such documents may be considered, so long as they are
referenced in the complaint, even if they are not physically
attached to the pleading. See Branch, 14 F.3d at
453-54; Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668,
688 (9th Cir. 2001). Additionally, the court may consider
materials which are judicially noticeable. Barron v.
Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994).
Plaintiff's Monell Claims
claim for municipal liability incorporates multiple, distinct
sub-claims arising from Monell. ECF No. 1 at 14-19.
Plaintiff alleges, for example, that Defendant failed to
train, supervise, discipline, and investigate its officers,
and that Defendant acted with deliberate indifference to
enforce its policies. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 99(a)-(j). As
the parties' arguments do not respond to each other
one-to-one, the Court will address each of Plaintiff's
claims separately and consider Defendant's applicable
arguments in turn.
General Legal Standard for § 1983 Monell
1983 prohibits any person acting “under color of
[law]” from “depriv[ing]” another person of
the “rights, privileges, or immunities”
guaranteed by the Constitution and federal law. 18 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Section 1983 does not provide a substantive
right and instead acts as a vehicle for “vindicating
federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Doe v. City of
San Diego, 35 F.Supp.3d 1233, 1238 (S.D. Cal. 2014)
(citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94
(1989)); Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441
U.S. 600, 617 (1979). Section 1983 exists “to deter
state actors from using the badge of their authority to
deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed
rights.” McDade v. West, 223 F.3d 1135, 1139
(9th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted).
§ 1983 suits, municipalities cannot be held vicariously
liable for the actions of their employees. Monell,
436 U.S. at 691. Instead, Monell liability arises in
three different contexts. See Rodriguez v. Cty. of Los
Angeles, 891 F.3d 776, 803 (9th Cir. 2018). First, a
defendant can be found liable if a municipality's
“policy or custom” becomes the “moving
force” for a “constitutional violation”
injuring the plaintiff. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694.
Second, a municipality can incur Monell liability by
failing to train or supervise its employees “in a
manner that amounts to ‘deliberate indifference' to
a constitutional right.” Rodriguez, 891 F.3d
at 802 (quoting City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S.
378, 390 (1989)). Third, a municipality may also be liable if
the tortfeasor “was an official with final
policy-making authority or such an official ratified a
subordinate [tortfeasor's] unconstitutional decision or
action and the basis for it.” Id. at 802-03
(quoting Gravelet-Blondin v. Shelton, 728 F.3d 1086,
1097 (9th Cir. 2013)).
Plaintiff's claims arise under the first two theories of
liability identified by Rodriguez: (a) multiple City
policies or customs causing a constitutional violation and
(b) the City's failure to train, supervise, and
discipline its officers in a manner that would prevent
constitutional violations. The Court finds that Plaintiff
fails to state a claim as to each of these theories of
liability under Monell.
Defendant's Widespread Customs and Policies
is when execution of a government's policy or custom . .
. inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is
responsible under § 1983.” Monell, 436
U.S. at 694. A municipal “policy” exists when
“a deliberate choice to follow a course of action is
made from among various alternatives by the official or
officials responsible for establishing final policy with
respect to the subject matter in question.” Pembaur
v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 483 (1986). A
municipality may also be liable “if it has a policy of
inaction and such inaction amounts to a failure to protect
constitutional rights.” Oviatt v. Pearce, 954
F.2d 1470, 1474 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing City of
Canton, 489 U.S. at 388) A custom, on the other hand, is
“a widespread practice that . . . is “so
permanent and well settled as to . . . [accrue] the force of
law.'” City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik,
485 U.S. 112, 127 (1988) (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress
& Co., 398 U.S. 144, 167-68 (1970)).
“proper analysis [of municipal polices and customs]
requires [the separation of] two different issues when a
§ 1983 claim is asserted against a municipality: (1)
whether plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional
violation, and (2) if so, whether the city is responsible for
that violation.” Duenas v. Cty. of Imperial,
No. 14-CV-2460-L, 2015 WL 12656291, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 9,
2015) (quoting Collins v. City of Harker Heights,
Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992)). Hence, the demonstrated
policy or custom need not be unconstitutional per
se; it need only cause the constitutional violation
suffered by the plaintiff. Jackson v. Gates, 975
F.2d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 1992).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is liable for multiple
“unconstitutional policies, ...