Fuciarelli v. Good et al

Filing 39

ORDER denying 30 Motion to Dismiss Count Three of Plaintiff's Complaint. See order for details. Signed by Judge G Murray Snow on 1/27/2015.(LMR)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Kevin Fuciarelli, No. CV-14-01078-PHX-GMS Plaintiff, 10 11 v. 12 ORDER Aaron B. Good, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 Pending before the Court is Defendant City of Scottsdale’s Motion to Dismiss 15 Count Three of Plaintiff’s Complaint. (Doc. 30.) For the following reasons, the Motion is 16 denied. 17 BACKGROUND 18 Plaintiff Kevin Fuciarelli alleges that Scottsdale Police Department Officers Aaron 19 B. Good and Edward A. Chrisman restrained him without any reason or provocation and 20 caused him severe injury. Defendant City of Scottsdale (“Scottsdale”) brings the current 21 Motion, claiming that Fuciarelli failed to provide adequate notice, in his required Notice 22 of Claim (“Notice”) under Ariz. Rev. Stat. section 12-821.01(A), of the facts needed to 23 support a negligence claim for failure to use reasonable care in hiring, training, and 24 supervising Defendants Good and Chrisman. Fuciarelli, in his Response, contends that 25 the current Motion should be considered a motion for summary judgment instead of a 26 motion to dismiss, that his Notice was sufficient, and that Scottsdale waived its right to 27 28 1 raise the issue of an insufficient Notice.1 DISCUSSION 2 3 I. Form of the Motion 4 Fuciarreli first claims that the current Motion should have been brought as a 5 motion for summary judgment and not as a motion to dismiss. The few Arizona courts 6 that have addressed this issue support Fuciarelli’s contention that a Notice of Claim “is a 7 document outside the pleadings,” which should be addressed in a motion for summary 8 judgment. Jones v. Cochise Cnty., 218 Ariz. 372, 375, 187 P.3d 97, 100 (Ct. App. 2008) 9 (“The trial court granted the motion, properly regarding it as a motion for summary 10 judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c), Ariz. R. Civ. P.”); Vasquez v. State, 220 Ariz. 304, 308, 11 206 P.3d 753, 757 (Ct. App. 2008) (“Because the court considered ‘matters outside the 12 pleading,’ it should have treated the motion as one for summary judgment.”). To convert 13 a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment, the “parties must be given a 14 reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed. R. 15 Civ. P. 12(d). However, the parties here have already briefed the relevant issue and have 16 no need to provide further factual support because all facts relevant to the current Motion 17 are undisputed and contained in the Notice. Thus, the Court will simply treat the current 18 motion as one for summary judgment. 19 II. Legal Standard 20 Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most 21 favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates “that there is no genuine dispute as to 22 any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. 23 P. 56(a). Because there are no disputes as to any material facts regarding the Notice, the 24 sole issue to be decided is whether the Notice was sufficient as a matter of law under 25 Ariz. Rev. Stat. section 12-821.01(A). 26 27 1 28 Because, as discussed below, Fuciarelli’s Notice was adequate under the statute, the issue of whether Scottsdale waived this defense becomes moot and is not addressed in this Order. -2- 1 III. Analysis 2 Section 12-821.01(A) states that a plaintiff bringing a claim against a public entity 3 or public employee must provide a Notice, which “shall contain facts sufficient to permit 4 the public entity or public employee to understand the basis on which liability is 5 claimed.” Arizona courts have held that plaintiffs who do not strictly comply with section 6 12-821.01(A) are barred from bringing suit. Salerno v. Espinoza, 210 Ariz. 586, 588, 115 7 P.3d 626, 628 (Ct. App. 2005); Harris v. Cochise Health Sys., 215 Ariz. 344, 351, 160 8 P.3d 223, 230 (Ct. App. 2007). However, the Arizona Supreme Court has held that (1) 9 section 12-821.01(A) “does not require a claimant to provide an exhaustive list of facts” 10 and (2) “courts should not scrutinize the claimant’s description of facts to determine the 11 ‘sufficiency’ of the factual disclosure.” Backus v. State, 220 Ariz. 101, 107, 203 P.3d 12 499, 505 (2009).2 Other courts have held that the factual showing required in the Notice 13 is minimal and that a plaintiff’s failure to state a specific theory of liability will not bar 14 the claim so long as the facts in the Notice allow the public entity to anticipate the claim. 15 See Yollin v. City of Glendale, 219 Ariz. 24, 32, 191 P.3d 1040, 1048 (Ct. App. 2008) 16 (“The claim statute anticipates that government entities will investigate claims, and the 17 supporting facts requirement is intended to be a relatively light burden on claimants, just 18 enough to facilitate the government's investigation.”); Mitchell v. City of Flagstaff, No. 19 CV 11-8140-PCT-FJM, 2011 WL 5826014, at *3 (D. Ariz. Nov. 18, 2011) (“Although a 20 notice of claim must apprise the public entity of the basis of liability, it need not satisfy 21 the pleading standards of Twombly and Iqbal.”) 22 23 24 25 26 27 2 The court in Backus held this in relation to another portion of 12-821.01(A), which requires a plaintiff to state in the Notice the specific amount of damages that it claims and also requires, similar to the factual burden at issue here, “facts supporting that amount.” Other courts have considered this factual burden for the amount of damages under section 12-821.01(A) to be sufficiently analogous to the factual burden for a plaintiff’s claims in section 12-821.01(A) that they have applied the holding in Backus to both factual burdens. See Picht v. Peoria Unified Sch. Dist. No. 11 of Maricopa Cnty., 641 F. Supp. 2d 888, 896 (D. Ariz. 2009). 28 -3- 1 In Mitchell, the court held that a plaintiff’s Notice sufficiently alerted the City of 2 Flagstaff to a negligent training and supervision claim stemming from the conduct of one 3 of its police officers though the notice of claim did not separately identify negligent 4 training and/or supervision by the city. Mitchell, 2011 WL 5826014 at *2-3. The Notice 5 identified the officer as belonging to the city police department and provided specific 6 details of the officer’s “actions and movements from the moment that he arrived at 7 [Mitchell’s] apartment.” Id. 8 Similar to the city in Mitchell, in the present case, Scottsdale contends that 9 Fuciarelli has provided no facts in his Notice from which it could have anticipated a 10 direct claim for negligence—as opposed to a vicarious liability claim—based on failure 11 to use reasonable care in hiring, training, and supervising Defendants Good and 12 Chrisman. However, as with the Notice in Mitchell, the Notice here identifies Officers 13 Good and Chrisman as officers of the Scottsdale Police Department and provides a 14 detailed account of their interactions with Fuciarelli. (Doc. 30, Ex. 1.) For example, the 15 Notice states that Officers Good and Chrisman held Fuciarelli and his father under 16 “investigative detention” without any reason and that, after this, “[s]uddenly, without 17 provocation or warning, Officer Good grabbed [Fuciarelli] from behind, placed him in a 18 chokehold, threw Claimant to the ground, and handcuffed him.” (Id.) The Notice also 19 states that Officer Chrisman assisted in restraining Fuciarelli and in taking him down. 20 (Id.) Further, the Notice states that neither Officer Good nor Officer Chrisman assisted 21 Fuciarelli despite him “complaining that he was injured,” and that he was only given 22 medical assistance with the arrival of a third officer. (Id.) Just as the Notice in Mitchell 23 made the city aware of a negligence claim, Fuciarelli’s Notice was “sufficient to place the 24 City on alert that its training or supervision” of the officers involved “might have been 25 negligent.” Mitchell, 2011 WL 5826014 at *3. Fuciarelli’s failure to specifically state his 26 theory of liability as one of negligence in the Notice does not alter this conclusion. 27 28 -4- CONCLUSION 1 2 Fuciarelli’s Notice was sufficient to alert Scottsdale to a potential negligence 3 claim for failure to use reasonable care in hiring, training, and supervising Defendants 4 Good and Chrisman. 5 6 7 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant City of Scottsdale’s Motion to Dismiss Count Three of Plaintiff’s Complaint (Doc. 30) is DENIED. Dated this 27th day of January, 2015. 8 9 10 Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -5-

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