McDaniels v. County of San Joaquin

Filing 13

MEMORANDUM and ORDER signed by Senior Judge William B. Shubb on 3/7/2007 GRANTING 8 Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff has fourteen days from the date this Order is signed to file a First Amended Complaint, if she can do so consistent with this Order. (Kirksey Smith, K)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 ----oo0oo---- 11 12 13 14 SYNETTA MCDANIELS, individually and as successor-in-interest to Decedent CELESTINE ALLEN, v. 16 18 MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS Plaintiff, 15 17 CIV. NO. 2:16-2007 WBS DB COUNTY OF SAN JOAQUIN, a municipal corporation; and DOES 1-50, inclusive, Defendants. 19 20 ----oo0oo---- 21 Plaintiff Synetta McDaniels brought this action against 22 23 defendants County of San Joaquin and Doe employees arising from 24 decedent Celestine Allen’s death while incarcerated at San 25 Joaquin County jail. 26 entire Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 27 12(b)(6). (Docket No. 8.) 28 /// Defendants now move to dismiss plaintiff’s 1 1 I. Factual and Procedural History 2 The decedent allegedly was a diagnosed schizophrenic 3 and recovering cocaine addict incarcerated at San Joaquin County 4 jail. 5 were “aware that Decedent required supervision and/or life saving 6 medical treatment,” but “failed to treat and/or monitor 7 Decedent.” 8 cell in August 2015. 9 (Compl. ¶ 1 (Docket No. 1).) (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges defendants Decedent allegedly was found dead in her (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff initiated this action in her individual 10 capacity and as decedent’s successor-in-interest. 11 the following causes of action: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for 12 violation of decedent’s and plaintiff’s constitutional rights; 13 (2) Monell claim under section 1983; (3) wrongful death under 14 California Civil Procedure Code §§ 377.60-61; (4) negligence; (5) 15 and violation of California Government Code § 845.6. 16 II. 17 She alleges (See id.) Discussion On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court 18 must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all 19 reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. 20 Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by 21 Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 22 319, 322 (1972). 23 must plead “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is 24 plausible on its face.” 25 544, 570 (2007). 26 ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer 27 possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” 28 Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Scheuer v. To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a “A claim has facial 2 Ashcroft v. 1 plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that 2 allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the 3 defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” 4 standard, “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it 5 strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is 6 improbable.” 7 Id. Under this Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of 8 action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” 9 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (“While 10 legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they 11 must be supported by factual allegations.”). 12 Plaintiff’s first two causes of action are brought 13 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 14 alleges defendants violated her Fourteenth Amendment substantive 15 due process right to familial relationship, companionship, and 16 society with the decedent when defendants were deliberately 17 indifference to decedent’s medical needs.1 18 right to familial association . . . is a fundamental liberty 19 interest protected under the substantive due process clause of 20 the Fourteenth Amendment.” 21 DAD, 2016 WL 6988597, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 29, 2016) (citing 22 Rosenbaum v. Washoe County, 663 F.3d 1071, 1079 (9th Cir. 2012)). 23 24 In the first cause of action, plaintiff (Compl. ¶ 26.) “The Motley v. Smith, Civ. No. 1:15-905 The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment “guarante[es] more than fair process” and extends to “a 25 26 27 28 1 The Complaint also mentions the First and Fourth Amendments. However, the Complaint lacks any factual allegation regarding plaintiff’s free speech or freedom of association rights and makes no mention of any search, seizure or invasion of privacy that took place. 3 1 substantive sphere as well, ‘barring certain government actions 2 regardless of the fairness of the procedures used to implement 3 them.’” 4 “The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual 5 against arbitrary action of government,” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 6 U.S. 539, 558 (1974), and “only the most egregious official 7 conduct can be said to be ‘arbitrary in the constitutional 8 sense,’” Lewis, 523 U.S. at 846 (quoting Collins v. City of 9 Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 129 (1992)). County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 844 (1998). Official conduct 10 rises to this level only if it “shocks the conscience.” 11 “Where actual deliberation is practical, then an [individual]’s 12 ‘deliberate indifference’ may suffice to shock the conscience.” 13 Wilkinson v. Torres, 610 F.3d 546, 554 (9th Cir. 2010). 14 Id. The Complaint alleges that defendants were deliberately 15 indifferent when they “had been aware that Decedent required 16 supervision and/or life saving medical treatment” but “failed to 17 treat and/or monitor Decedent.” 18 further alleges that defendants “subjected Plaintiff to their 19 wrongful conduct” and decedent’s death “was the consequence of 20 defendants’ reckless indifference for Decedent’s serious medical 21 needs and wellbeing [sic].” 22 contains no factual allegations regarding any wrongful conduct or 23 deliberation by an individual actor, the decedent’s “serious 24 medical needs,” the circumstances surrounding why the decedent 25 needed “supervision and/or life saving medical treatment,” or 26 defendants’ awareness that the decedent was in need of life- 27 saving medical treatment. 28 conclusions and conclusory statements, which are insufficient to (Compl. ¶ 15.) (Id. ¶¶ 16, 27.) The Complaint The Complaint Plaintiff relies solely on legal 4 1 survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). 2 U.S. at 678-79. 3 See Iqbal, 556 In the second cause of action for Monell liability, 4 plaintiff alleges that the Doe defendants acted pursuant to 5 unconstitutional San Joaquin County customs, policies, and 6 practices. 7 under section 1983 “when execution of a government’s policy or 8 custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or 9 acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts (Compl. ¶ 31.) A municipality can only be liable 10 the injury.” 11 436 U.S. 658, 693 (1978). 12 rejected [] conclusory allegations that lack factual content from 13 which one could plausibly infer Monell liability.” 14 of Fairfield, 833 F. Supp. 2d 1189, 1196 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (citing 15 cases). 16 Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of the City of N.Y., “Since Iqbal, courts have repeatedly Via v. City Plaintiff’s Complaint contains only conclusory 17 allegations regarding defendant San Joaquin’s customs, policies, 18 and procedures. 19 policies and customs of (1) failing to properly train concerning 20 the handling of “treatable life threatening conditions”; (2) 21 denying inmates access to appropriate “care for serious medical 22 needs”; (3) failing to properly train concerning the handling of 23 “persons with serious medical conditions at the County Jail”; (4) 24 “failing to properly investigate . . . incidents of the handling 25 [of] person with life threatening medical conditions”; (5) 26 ignoring “unconstitutional or unlawful law enforcement activity”; 27 (6) allowing law enforcement officers to file incomplete and 28 inaccurate reports; (7) tolerating a “’code of silence’ among law The Complaint alleges defendant San Joaquin had 5 1 enforcement officers”; and (8) tolerating inadequate procedures 2 for reviewing complaints of officer misconduct. 3 32.) 4 factual allegations. 5 of the purported practices, policies, or customs caused the 6 decedent’s injury. 7 1:10-982 AWI SKO, 2010 WL 5314360, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 20, 8 2010) (“[T]here are simply no details furnished about any 9 particular incident that indicate how Plaintiff’s rights were 10 11 (Compl. ¶¶ 31- Each alleged policy and custom is unsupported by any Further, plaintiff fails to allege how any See Telles v. City of Waterford, Civ. No. violated.”). Plaintiff concedes that the Complaint “lacks elaborate 12 details that support [plaintiff’s] failure to discipline and 13 inadequate training claims,” but argues that a relaxed pleading 14 standard applies to plaintiff’s Monell claim because of the “pre- 15 discovery posture” of the case and allegations on the basis of 16 “information and belief” suffice. 17 (Docket No. 9).) 18 doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than 19 conclusions.” 20 allegations regarding the customs, policies, and procedures of 21 defendant San Joaquin, plaintiff’s Monell claim cannot survive. 22 Accordingly, the court must dismiss plaintiffs’ first 23 24 (Pl.’s Opp’n 10:14-11:15 However, “Rule 8 . . . does not unlock the Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79. Absent factual two causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff’s third cause of action for wrongful death 25 lacks the requisite factual allegations as well. 26 of the cause of action for wrongful death are the tort 27 (negligence or other wrongful act), the resulting death, and the 28 damages, consisting of the pecuniary loss suffered by the heirs.” 6 “The elements 1 Quiroz v. Seventh Ave. Ctr., 140 Cal. App. 4th 1256, 1263 (6th 2 Dist. 2006). 3 owed the decedent “a legal duty, that defendants breached that 4 duty, and that the breach proximately caused [decedent’s] 5 injuries.” 6 4th 1138, 1145 (2004). 7 Negligence requires allegations that defendants Wiener v. Southcoast Childcare Ctrs., Inc., 32 Cal. As previously stated, the Complaint fails to allege any 8 specific wrongful conduct by defendants, let alone conduct that 9 the court could reasonably infer constitutes negligence. In the 10 Complaint, plaintiff merely alleges that defendants’ “negligent 11 actions and/or negligent failure to act, as set forth herein- 12 above proximately caused the death of decedent.” 13 Plaintiff’s legal conclusion that defendants were negligent is 14 insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. 15 at 678. 16 cause of action for wrongful death. 17 (Compl. ¶ 38.) See Iqbal, 556 U.S. Accordingly, the court must dismiss plaintiff’s third Defendants also move to dismiss plaintiff’s fourth 18 cause of action for negligence. 19 suffers from the same deficiencies as the third cause of action 20 for wrongful death. 21 her opposition. 22 will dismiss plaintiff’s fourth cause of action for negligence. 23 The fourth cause of action Further, plaintiff withdrew this claim in (Pl.’s Opp’n 12:8-11.) Accordingly, the court Plaintiff’s fifth cause of action for violation of 24 California Government Code § 845.6 likewise lacks any factual 25 specificity. 26 if an employee is acting within the scope of his employment and 27 “knows or has reason to know that the prisoner is in need of 28 immediate medical care and he fails to take reasonable action to Under section 845.6, a public entity may be liable 7 1 summon such medical care.” 2 again relies on legal conclusions that defendants “knew or had 3 reason to know that Decedent was in need of immediate and higher 4 level medical care, treatment, observation and monitoring” in 5 order to support her claim. 6 devoid of factual allegations regarding the circumstances 7 surrounding the decedent’s alleged need for immediate medical 8 care, the actions of any jail employees, and whether an employee 9 was acting within the scope of his employment. Cal. Gov’t Code § 845.6. (Compl. ¶ 47.) Plaintiff The Complaint is Accordingly, the 10 court must dismiss plaintiff’s fifth cause of action under 11 California Government Code § 845.6. 12 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendant’s Motion to 13 dismiss all causes of action be, and the same hereby is, GRANTED. 14 Plaintiff has fourteen days from the date this Order is 15 signed to file a First Amended Complaint, if she can do so 16 consistent with this Order. 17 Dated: March 7, 2017 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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