Hass v. County of Sacramento, et al.

Filing 28

ORDER signed by Judge John A. Mendez on 4/17/14 GRANTING 20 Motion to Dismiss. Defendant's 20 Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's first and second causes of action is GRANTED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. Defendant's 20 Motion to Dismiss P laintiff's third cause of action is GRANTED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint must be filed within 20 days from the date of this order. Defendant's responsive pleading is due within 20 days thereafter. If Plaintiff elects not to file a Second Amended Complaint, the case will proceed without the Defendant County on the remaining causes of action. (Meuleman, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 JAMES D. HASS, No. 2:13-CV-01746 JAM KJN 9 Plaintiff, 10 v. 11 12 13 SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT, ATTORNEY SEAN GJERDE, AND DOES 1 through X, inclusive, 14 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT SACRAMENTO COUNTY’S MOTION TO DISMISS Defendants. 15 This matter is before the Court on Defendant Sacramento 16 17 County’s (“Defendant” or “Defendant County”) Motion to Dismiss 18 (Doc. #20) Plaintiff James Hass’ (“Plaintiff”) First Amended 19 Complaint (“FAC”) (Doc. #18) for failure to state a claim 20 pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil 21 Procedure. 22 replied (Doc. #26). 1 23 motion is GRANTED. Plaintiff opposed the motion (Doc. #24) and Defendant For the following reasons, Defendant’s 24 I. 25 On December 8, 2010, Plaintiff was arraigned on charges of 26 27 28 FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND 1 This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). The hearing was scheduled for March 19, 2014. 1 1 contempt of court for violation of a court order to pay child 2 support. 3 Sacramento County Superior Court on February 7, 2011 for trial on 4 the contempt matter. 5 failed to appear in court. 6 non-appearance, the court ordered that Plaintiff be incarcerated 7 in the Sacramento County Jail for 55 days. 8 February 8, 2011, Plaintiff appeared in Sacramento County 9 Superior Court, under the mistaken belief that trial was set for FAC ¶ 10. Plaintiff was ordered to appear in FAC ¶ 11. On February 7, 2011, Plaintiff FAC ¶ 12. As a result of Plaintiff’s 10 that date. 11 On remained in custody until March 5, 2011. 12 FAC, Ex. 2. FAC ¶¶ 18, 21. 13 FAC ¶¶ 16-17. Plaintiff was taken into custody, and Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant County was not authorized 14 by the Sacramento County Superior Court to arrest, detain or 15 incarcerate Plaintiff.” 16 that “the Clerk’s minutes of the proceedings on February 7, 2011 17 did not constitute a final order or judgment in the matter,” and 18 the Sacramento County Court did not execute and file a “Warrant 19 of Commitment” until March 4, 2011. 20 FAC ¶ 23. Plaintiff further alleges FAC ¶¶ 15, 24. On his first day in custody, Plaintiff was interviewed by a 21 “medical staff person” to determine his health needs while in 22 Sacramento County Jail. 23 disclosed the following medical conditions: high blood pressure, 24 acute sleep apnea, diabetes, and “diminished strength due to a 25 major stroke.” 26 he was originally provided with medication for his high blood 27 pressure, but “at some point during his incarceration, Defendant 28 County ceased providing” the medication. FAC ¶ 42. FAC ¶ 41. Plaintiff alleges that he While incarcerated, Plaintiff claims 2 FAC ¶ 45. While in 1 custody, Plaintiff alleges he was not provided with any other 2 medication, nor was he permitted to use a CPAP machine for his 3 sleep apnea. 4 allowed a single shower for 6 days,” was held in a cell with “no 5 windows and . . . bags of old food/garbage,” and was not 6 permitted “to exercise on a regular basis or to have time out of 7 his cell.” 8 alleges he was not brought in front of a judicial magistrate to 9 challenge the legality of his confinement. 10 FAC ¶¶ 46, 49. FAC ¶¶ 47-48, 51. Plaintiff was allegedly “not While incarcerated, Plaintiff FAC ¶¶ 32, 38-39. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant “has a policy of 11 segregating those incarcerated pursuant to a civil matter from 12 those in criminal matters.” 13 that, “as a proximate result of this policy,” he suffered 14 constitutional injuries in violation of the Fourth and Eighth 15 Amendments. 16 FAC ¶ 64. Plaintiff further alleges FAC ¶ 68. Plaintiff was represented by Sean Gjerde (“Defendant 17 Gjerde”) in the above-mentioned family court matter. 18 Defendant Gjerde’s representation of Plaintiff is the subject 19 matter of Plaintiff’s fourth through eighth causes of action. 20 However, as Defendant County’s Motion to Dismiss only addresses 21 Plaintiff’s first through third causes of action, the facts of 22 Defendant Gjerde’s representation are not relevant and are not 23 summarized here. 24 FAC ¶ 71. On December 19, 2013, this Court granted Defendant County’s 25 Motion to Dismiss with leave to amend. (Doc. #16) On January 8, 26 2014, Plaintiff filed the FAC (Doc. #18) in this Court. 27 Plaintiff’s FAC includes the following causes of action against 28 the Defendant County: (1) False Imprisonment; (2) Negligence; and 3 1 (3) “Violation of Civil Rights”. 2 jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because Plaintiff has 3 asserted a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation 4 of his federal civil rights. This Court has original 5 6 II. OPINION 7 A. 8 Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s first cause of action for 9 First Cause of Action—False Imprisonment false imprisonment is barred by California Penal Code (“CPC”) 10 section 847(b). 11 847(b)(1) “precludes civil liability for false imprisonment 12 against a peace officer for an act within the scope of his or her 13 authority arising out of a lawful arrest, or an arrest that the 14 officer had reasonable cause to believe was lawful.” 15 Plaintiff does not directly respond to this argument, but argues, 16 generally, that’s “Defendant’s assertion of immunity is an 17 affirmative defense” and that “motions to dismiss . . . do not 18 typically and/or necessarily embrace litigation of affirmative 19 defenses.” 20 Mot. at 4. Defendant notes that CPC section Mot. at 4. Opp. at 1-2. As an initial matter, immunity defenses are properly raised 21 in a motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Mullis v. U.S. Bankr. Court 22 for Dist. of Nevada, 828 F.2d 1385, 1387 n. 6 (9th Cir. 1987). 23 Plaintiff cites no case law in support of his position that the 24 issue of immunity has been raised prematurely. 25 Supreme Court has “stressed the importance of resolving immunity 26 questions at the earliest possible stage of litigation.” 27 v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991). 28 does not “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief,” it would 4 Opp. at 1-2. The Hunter Accordingly, if the FAC 1 be “unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the 2 expense of discovery and continued litigation.” 3 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). 4 Starr v. Baca, Under the California Government Code, Defendant County is 5 generally liable for the actions of its employees under the 6 theory of respondeat superior. 7 Therefore, to state a cause of action against Defendant, 8 Plaintiff must plead facts that, if true, would expose a County 9 employee to civil liability for false imprisonment. Cal. Gov’t. Code § 815.2. However, CPC 10 section 847(b) provides that “[t]here shall be no civil liability 11 on the part of . . . any peace officer . . ., acting within the 12 scope of his or her authority, for . . . false imprisonment 13 arising out of any arrest” if “[t]he arrest was lawful or the 14 peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to 15 believe that the arrest was lawful.” 16 jailer cannot be held liable for false imprisonment unless “he 17 knew or should have known of the illegality of the imprisonment.” 18 Sullivan v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 12 Cal.3d 710, 717-18 (1974). 19 Accordingly, Defendant is immune from civil liability for falsely 20 imprisoning Plaintiff unless one of its employees lacked 21 reasonable cause to believe that Plaintiff’s arrest was lawful, 22 or knew or should have known that Plaintiff’s imprisonment was 23 illegal. 24 CPC § 847(b). Similarly, a On February 7, 2011, Plaintiff failed to appear at his 25 scheduled court appearance and Commissioner Danny Haukedalen 26 sentenced Plaintiff to 55 days in jail for his failure to appear. 27 FAC ¶¶ 12, 14. 28 arrested Plaintiff and took him into custody. On February 8, 2011, a Deputy County Sheriff 5 FAC ¶ 18. The 1 Commissioner’s February 7, 2011 order, as well as the Clerk’s 2 minutes reflecting that order (FAC, Ex. 2), provided the 3 arresting officer with “reasonable cause to believe that the 4 arrest was lawful.” 5 who subsequently served as Plaintiff’s “jailer” did not know or 6 have reason to know that Plaintiff’s imprisonment was illegal. 7 The fact that the Warrant of Commitment was not issued and signed 8 until March 4, 2011 is immaterial: both the arresting officer and 9 the jailer could reasonably rely on the Clerk’s minutes to CPC § 847(b). Moreover, the County employee 10 reflect the Commissioner’s order that Plaintiff be committed for 11 55 days. 12 held liable for false imprisonment of Plaintiff. 13 FAC, Ex. 2. Accordingly, Defendant County may not be CPC § 847(b). Plaintiff’s argument that Defendant is not immune from suit 14 under the Eleventh Amendment is misplaced. 15 Defendant claims statutory immunity, under CPC section 847(b)(1), 16 rather than constitutional immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. 17 Reply at 2. 18 to municipalities or political subdivisions of a state, such as 19 Defendant County. 20 Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977). 21 Amendment arguments are non-responsive to Defendant’s claim of 22 statutory immunity. 23 Opp. at 2-3. Indeed, Eleventh Amendment immunity does not extend Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Therefore, Plaintiff’s Eleventh For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s first cause of action 24 for false imprisonment is DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. As 25 Defendant is entitled to statutory immunity under CPC section 26 847(b), any attempts to amend the first cause of action would be 27 futile. 28 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). Eminence Capital, L.L.C. v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 6 1 B. 2 Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s second cause of action for Second Cause of Action--Negligence 3 negligence is barred by several sections of the California 4 Government Code (“CGC”). 5 argues that the CGC immunizes a public entity from liability 6 stemming from (1) “an injury to any prisoner,” (2) interference 7 with a prisoner’s right to obtain a judicial determination or 8 review of the legality of his confinement, and (3) failure to 9 furnish or obtain medical care for a prisoner. Mot. at 5. Specifically, Defendant Mot. at 5-6 10 (citing CGC § 844.6(a)(2)). 11 the issue of statutory immunity in his opposition brief. 12 Plaintiff alleges two distinct forms of harm in his Plaintiff does not directly address 13 negligence claim. 14 Defendant “was ignorant of material facts about his incarceration 15 that would have provided him an opportunity” to obtain a judicial 16 determination as to the legality of his confinement. 17 Second, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to provide 18 appropriate medical care despite its knowledge that Plaintiff 19 suffered from high blood pressure, acute sleep apnea, diabetes, 20 and “diminished strength due to a major stroke he suffered in 21 early 2009.” 22 FAC ¶ 33-61. First, Plaintiff alleges that FAC ¶ 39. FAC ¶ 40-49. Defendant cannot be held liable for “interfering with the 23 right of a prisoner to obtain a judicial determination or review 24 of the legality of his confinement,” unless such interference was 25 “intentional and unjustifiable.” 26 alleged that Defendant’s failure to bring him in front of a judge 27 was an “intentional” interference with that right. 28 based on the Clerk’s minutes of the February 7, 2011 proceeding, CGC § 845.4. 7 Plaintiff has not Furthermore, 1 it cannot be said that Defendant’s failure to provide Plaintiff 2 with an opportunity to further challenge his confinement was 3 “unjustifiable.” 4 justified in concluding that Plaintiff had been sentenced to 55 5 days of confinement, and that no further judicial hearing was 6 necessary. 7 liability for interfering with Plaintiff’s right to a judicial 8 review of the legality of his confinement. Relying on the Clerk’s minutes, Defendant was Accordingly, Defendant is statutorily immune from 9 Moreover, Defendant cannot be held liable for an injury 10 caused by the failure of a County employee to “furnish or obtain 11 medical care for a prisoner in his custody,” unless the prisoner 12 is “in need of immediate medical care” and the employee “fails to 13 take reasonable action to summon such medical care.” 14 CGC § 845.6. 15 were aware of his medical conditions, he does not allege that he 16 was “in need of immediate medical care,” within the meaning of 17 the statute. 18 2006) (finding that an inmate with a fractured thumb required 19 immediate medical care to set and cast the fracture). 20 Although Plaintiff alleges that County employees Cf., Jett v. Penner, 439 F.3d 1091, 1099 (9th Cir. Furthermore, even if these conditions did require immediate 21 medical care, Plaintiff does not allege that Defendant County 22 failed to summon such care. 23 Rehab., 212 Cal.App.4th 1051, 1074 (2013) (distinguishing between 24 the failure to summon medical care and negligence by those 25 providing medical care, the latter of which the State may not be 26 held liable for, under section 845.6). 27 with a “medical staff person” upon booking into the Sacramento 28 County Jail. FAC ¶ 41. Castaneda v. Dep't of Corr. & Plaintiff had contact Plaintiff was originally provided with 8 1 his medication for high blood pressure, but “at some point during 2 his incarceration,” this medication ceased; Plaintiff was never 3 provided with medication or treatment for diabetes or sleep 4 apnea. 5 “as a matter of statutory interpretation, . . . the act of a 6 doctor or other such professional who, in the course of treatment 7 of a prisoner, fails to prescribe and/or provide the correct 8 medication is [not] the legal equivalent to a failure to summon 9 medical care” under § 845.6. FAC ¶¶ 43-49. California state courts have held that, Nelson v. State of California, 139 10 Cal.App.3d 72, 80-81 (1982) (emphasis added). 11 alleged failure to provide medication to Plaintiff does not 12 expose Defendant to liability under CGC section 845.6. 13 Defendant’s As CGC sections 844.6(a)(2), 845.4, and 845.6 preclude 14 Defendant’s liability for injuries to Plaintiff resulting from 15 the negligence of Defendant or Defendant’s employees, Plaintiff 16 has failed to state a claim for relief in his second cause of 17 action. 18 DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. 19 statutory immunity under the California Government Code, any 20 attempts to amend the second cause of action would be futile. 21 Eminence Capital, 316 F.3d at 1052. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s second cause of action is As Defendant is entitled to 22 23 C. Third Cause of Action—Civil Rights Claims 24 In his third cause of action, Plaintiff alleges a “violation 25 of [his] civil rights.” Although Plaintiff does not expressly 26 invoke a statute, it can be inferred that Plaintiff’s claim is 27 brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 28 Defendant County, his civil rights claim takes the form of a 9 As Plaintiff has sued 1 § 1983 Monell claim. 2 New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). 3 Plaintiff’s first and second causes of action purport to state 4 constitutional (rather than common law) claims, the analysis is 5 identical to that set forth below. 6 Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of To the extent that Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s third cause of action must 7 be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Mot. at 7. 8 Specifically, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has failed to 9 allege a policy or custom that was the cause of any 10 constitutional violations. 11 the “de facto policies and customs of incarceration in 12 California” violated his rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and 13 Fourteenth Amendments. 14 Defendant’s policy of “segregating those incarcerated pursuant to 15 a civil matter from those in criminal matters” resulted in the 16 constitutional violations. 17 Mot. at 7. Opp. at 19. Plaintiff responds that Plaintiff also alleges that FAC ¶ 64. Although a municipality can be sued under § 1983, “it cannot 18 be held liable unless a municipal policy or custom caused the 19 constitutional injury.” 20 Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 166 (1993). 21 Furthermore, the complaint must allege the policy, as well as its 22 causal relationship to the constitutional injury, in sufficient 23 detail. 24 See, e.g., Estate of Brooks ex rel. Brooks v. United States, 197 25 F.3d 1245, 1247 (9th Cir. 1999) (approving the dismissal of a 26 Monell claim, on the grounds that “the complaint did not allege a 27 deliberate County policy with sufficient particularity”). 28 Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics General or conclusory allegations will not suffice. The only policy expressly alleged in the FAC is the County’s 10 1 “policy of segregating those incarcerated pursuant to a civil 2 matter from those in criminal matters.” 3 is also described as “discriminating between an inmate being 4 housed in the county jail pursuant to a civil matter rather than 5 a criminal matter.” 6 “[a]s a proximate result of this policy,” he suffered various 7 constitutional harms. 8 brief, Plaintiff largely ignores this policy and does not explain 9 the causal nexus between the policy and the constitutional harms FAC ¶ 63. FAC ¶ 64. This policy Plaintiff further alleges that, FAC ¶ 66-68. However, in his opposition 10 alleged. 11 causal relationship between a policy of separating individuals 12 incarcerated in criminal and civil matters, and allegedly 13 inhumane prison conditions. 14 allegation of a causal relationship between the policy and his 15 constitutional injuries is insufficient to withstand Defendant’s 16 motion to dismiss. 17 (elements of a Monell claim must be alleged with “sufficient 18 particularity”). 19 Opp. at 9-10. Moreover, there is no self-evident Plaintiff’s mere conclusory See Estate of Brooks, 197 F.3d at 1247 Plaintiff’s argument that his incarceration violated the 20 Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments is unpersuasive. 21 This argument focuses on Plaintiff’s allegations that the 22 “Warrant of Commitment” did not issue until March 4, 2011, and 23 that Plaintiff was never brought before a judicial magistrate 24 after his confinement began. 25 assuming that these circumstances were improper, Plaintiff simply 26 does not allege or argue that a County policy was the driving 27 force behind these events. 28 standard, Plaintiff erroneously cites the standards for the good- Opp. at 4-9. Opp. at 4-9. However, even In lieu of citing the correct Monell 11 1 faith exception to the exclusionary rule and qualified immunity 2 for individual government officials. 3 States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984) and Anderson v. Creighton, 4 483 U.S. 635 (1987)). 5 is misplaced. 6 (9th Cir. 1992). 7 policy of inaction and deliberate indifference existed, where the 8 County failed to take remedial action despite the fact that the 9 Sheriff “knew of at least 19 incidents . . . in which individuals Opp. at 7-8 (citing United Moreover, Plaintiff’s reliance on Oviatt Oviatt By & Through Waugh v. Pearce, 954 F.2d 1470 In Oviatt, the Ninth Circuit determined that a 10 sat in jail for periods of undetermined length after they missed 11 arraignment.” 12 markedly different, as there is no allegation that a policy- 13 making County employee had knowledge of a similar pattern of 14 incidents. 15 Oviatt, 954 F.2d at 1478. The case at bar is Likewise, Plaintiff’s argument that Defendant violated his 16 Eighth Amendment rights is unavailing. Opp. at 9-17. Plaintiff 17 cites a number of cases in which prison conditions were found to 18 violate the Eighth Amendment, and attempts to draw parallels to 19 the conditions he allegedly endured in the present case. 20 14-17. 21 these conditions or that a County employee at the policy-making 22 level had actual or constructive knowledge of these conditions. 23 Without doing so, Plaintiff cannot maintain a Monell claim based 24 on a policy of inaction or deliberate indifference. 25 F.2d at 1477. 26 which the U.S. Supreme Court examined various Eighth Amendment 27 violations in the California state prison system. 28 Plata, 131 S.Ct. 1910 (2011). Opp. at However, he fails to allege that a County policy caused Oviatt, 954 Plaintiff relies heavily on Brown v. Plata, in Brown v. However, Plaintiff fails to draw a 12 1 connection between the conditions described in Plata, and those 2 encountered by him while incarcerated in the entirely separate 3 prison system run by Defendant County. 4 that the Plata ruling on state prison conditions placed Defendant 5 on “constructive notice” of the alleged violations in Sacramento 6 County Jail does not follow. 7 contention that the “denial of medical care and deprivation of 8 exercise and basic necessities” are the “de facto policies and 9 customs of incarceration in California” is unsupported by the Plaintiff’s conclusion Opp. at 13. Moreover, Plaintiff’s 10 FAC. 11 mistreatment suggests “a practice so permanent and well settled 12 as to constitute a ‘custom or usage’ with the force of law,” 13 would eviscerate the requirements of Monell altogether. 14 436 U.S. at 691. 15 unhelpful in this regard, given the heightened pleading 16 requirements that have subsequently developed. 17 (citing Atchinson v. D.C., 73 F.3d 418 (D.C. Cir. 1996) and 18 Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination 19 Unit, 507 U.S. 163 (1993)). Opp. at 19. To find that an isolated instance of alleged Monell, Plaintiff’s citation to pre-Twombly case law is Opp. at 20 20 Finally, Plaintiff’s argument that Defendant violated his 21 procedural and substantive due process rights is unconvincing. 22 Opp. at 9, 17-18. 23 support of this argument is a case involving § 1983 liability of 24 an individual government official. 25 523 U.S. 833 (1998). 26 acknowledged that “the issue of municipal liability is not before 27 us.” 28 arguments, it ultimately fails because Plaintiff fails to connect The only legal authority cited by Plaintiff in Cnty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, Indeed, in Lewis, the Court expressly Lewis, 523 U.S. at 838 n. 2. 13 As with Plaintiff’s other 1 the alleged constitutional violations to an official County 2 policy. 3 cause of action is DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s third 4 5 6 III. ORDER For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss is 7 GRANTED. Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s first and 8 second causes of action is GRANTED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND. 9 Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s third cause of action 10 is GRANTED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. 11 Complaint must be filed within twenty (20) days from the date of 12 this order. 13 (20) days thereafter. 14 Amended Complaint, the case will proceed without the Defendant 15 County on the remaining causes of action. 16 17 Plaintiff’s Second Amended Defendant’s responsive pleading is due within twenty If Plaintiff elects not to file a Second IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: April 17, 2014 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 14

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