Velez et al v. State of California et al

Filing 11

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER signed by Senior Judge William B. Shubb on 10/11/2017 re 5 Defendants' Motion for More Definite Statement: IT IS ORDERED that defendants' Motion for a more definite statement be, and the same hereby is, GRANTED. Plaintiffs have twenty days to file an amended complaint that complies with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a) and 10(b) and clearly identifies which plaintiffs are bringing which claims and against which defendants. (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 11 12 ----oo0oo---HARRY VELEZ, MARIA LAZADA, CIV NO 2:17-CV-00960 WBS KJN. and ANDRE O’HARA, 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Plaintiffs, v. THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA; THE CITY OF DAIRYVILLE; TEHAMA COUNTY; THE TEHAMA COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT; DAVE HENCRATT; STEVE HOAG; ROBERT BAKKEN; and DUSTIN MARIA, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT Defendants. 20 21 22 ----oo0oo---Plaintiffs Harry Velez (deceased), Maria Lazada, 23 (decedent’s mother), and Andre O’Hara (decedent’s son) 24 (collectively “plaintiffs”) filed this action against Sheriff 25 Dave Hencratt, Sergeant Steve Hoag, Deputy Robert Bakken, Deputy 26 Dustin Maria, the State of California, the City of Dairyville, 27 Tehama County, and the Tehama County Sheriff Department, alleging 28 that Deputies Robert Bakken and Dustin Maria used excessive force 1 1 while arresting Harry Velez, causing his death. 2 complaint asserts six claims: 1) a § 1983 claim for violations of 3 plaintiffs’ First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth 4 Amendments rights1; 2) an assault/battery claim; 3) a false 5 arrest/imprisonment claim; 4) an intentional infliction of 6 emotional distress claim; 5) a negligent hiring, training, 7 supervision and/or retention of employees claim; and 6) a 8 negligence claim. 9 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e), Tehama County, Tehama 10 County Sheriff Department, Dave Hencratt, Steve Hoag, Robert 11 Bakken, and Dustin Maria (collectively “defendants”) have filed a 12 Motion for a more definite statement. 13 I. (Compl. 3 (Docket No. 1).)2 Plaintiffs’ Pursuant to Background 14 On September 21, 2016, the Tehama County Sheriff 15 Department responded to a 911 call at 11725 Hwy 99E made by Harry 16 Velez (“Velez”), who claimed he had been drugged by his 17 girlfriend Natasha Finck (“Finck”). 18 Bakken and Deputy Dustin Maria responded to the call. 19 After speaking with Velez and Finck, Deputy Bakken handcuffed 20 Velez, purportedly for his own safety. 21 to the complaint, Velez was not armed and did not initiate 22 contact with either deputy. 23 stepped away from Deputy Bakken and, in retaliation, the deputies (Id.) (Compl. 10.) Deputy Robert (Id. at 11.) (Id.) According Plaintiffs allege that Velez 24 1 25 26 27 28 The complaint seems to assert these five separate constitutional claims as a single claim under “Violation of Civil Rights – 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” 2 The complaint does not contain numbered paragraphs. Therefore, citations will reference page numbers rather than paragraphs. 2 1 repeatedly tased and punched Velez. 2 plaintiffs purport that Velez yelled for help. 3 (Id.) During the attack, (Id.) Velez was transported to the hospital where he died 4 from Hypoxic Encephalopathy (lack of oxygen to the brain) with 5 Multisystem Organ Failure. 6 Velez was tased at least ten times. 7 also reports that Velez had abrasions on his face, forearms, 8 knee, toes, and wrists, and had contusions on his fingers, chest, 9 and abdominal walls. 10 (Id.) According to the autopsy, (Id. at 15.) The autopsy (Id.) Plaintiffs filed their complaint on May 5, 2017, 11 seeking damages for injuries to the decedent and to compensate 12 the family members for mental anguish and pecuniary injuries. 13 II. 14 Legal Standard Rule 12(e) provides that “[a] party may move for a more 15 definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading 16 is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party 17 cannot reasonably prepare a response.” 18 The motion “must point out the defects complained of and the 19 details desired.” 20 statement are disfavored, and ordinarily restricted to situations 21 where a pleading suffers from unintelligibility rather than want 22 of detail.” 23 Supp. 2d 1009, 1013 (E.D. Cal. 2013). 24 definite statement should generally be denied if the complaint 25 “is specific enough to apprise the defendant of the substance of 26 the claim asserted against him or her.” 27 Autoposterpro, Inc., Civ. No. 08-05069 SBA, 2009 WL 890896, at *4 28 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 31, 2009). (Id.) Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). “[M]otions for a more definite Medrano v. Kern Cnty. Sheriff’s Officer, 921 F. 3 A motion for a more Craigslist, Inc. v. 1 III. Discussion 2 Under Rule 8(a)(2), “a claim for relief must contain a 3 short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader 4 is entitled to relief.” 5 allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” 6 8(d)(1). 7 preambles, introductions, argument, speeches, explanations, 8 stories, griping, evidence, attempts to negate possible defenses, 9 summaries, and the like.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). “Each Fed. R. Civ. P. Moreover, “a complaint must not contain lengthy Todd v. Ellis, Civ. No. 2:13-1016 TLN 10 KJN, 2013 WL 3242229, at *2 (E.D. Cal. June 25, 2015), citing 11 McHenry v. Renee, 84 F. 3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996). 12 Here, the complaint is 74 pages, contains 106 13 footnotes, cites over 150 cases, and does not include numbered 14 paragraphs. 15 allegations of facts with legal arguments. 16 contains a four page section devoted to attempting to negate 17 potential defenses. 18 against the city and government employees without specifying 19 which claims are brought against which defendants and in which 20 capacities. 21 more as a press release, prolix in evidentiary detail, yet 22 without simplicity, conciseness and clarity as to whom plaintiffs 23 are suing for what wrongs.” 24 Throughout the entire 74 pages, plaintiffs mix (Compl. 42-46.) The complaint Plaintiffs make allegations Although it is “labeled a complaint [it is] written McHenry, 84 F. 3d at 1180. The complaint makes it very difficult to determine 25 which defendants are allegedly liable for which wrongs. 26 court [and defendants] should be able to read and understand 27 plaintiff’s pleading within minutes.” Todd, 2013 WL 3242229, at 28 *2, citing McHenry, 84 F. 3d at 1177. 4 “The That is not possible here. 1 Defendants argue this makes it excessively difficult for the 2 individual defendants to formulate proper defenses, thus placing 3 an unnecessary burden on the defendants and the court. 4 McHenry, “[a]s a practical matter, the judge and opposing 5 counsel, in order to perform their responsibilities, cannot use a 6 complaint such as the one plaintiffs filed, and must prepare 7 outlines to determine who is being sued for what.” 8 Requiring defendants to file a responsive pleading to this 9 complaint would create an unnecessary burden likely to lead to As in (Id.) 10 confusion regarding which allegations have been admitted and 11 which have been denied. 12 Plaintiffs counter that had the complaint not been pled 13 with this level of particularity, they would have risked 14 dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). 15 in Opp’n to Defs.’ Mot. for More Definite Statement 5 (Docket No. 16 9).) 17 heightened pleading standard is not an invitation to disregard 18 Rule 8’s requirement of simplicity, directness, and clarity.” 19 F. 3d at 1178. 20 pleading contains prolix evidentiary averments. . . rather than 21 clear and concise averments stating which defendants are liable 22 to plaintiffs for which wrongs, based on the evidence,” then the 23 purpose of Rule 8 is defeated. (Resp. However, the McHenry court clearly stated that even “[a] 24 84 The court went on to explain that “[i]f the (Id.) Plaintiffs further argue that defendants’ Motion did 25 not point out any specific details desired, as required by Rule 26 12(e). 27 convinced by this argument. 28 ask that plaintiffs make it clear who is bringing each of the Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). However, the court is not Throughout their Motion, defendants 5 1 claims, in which capacity, and against which of the multiple 2 defendants. 3 Definite Statement 4 (Docket No. 5-1).) 4 details, and defendants clearly articulated their desire for 5 these details to be included in plaintiffs’ complaint. 6 (Defs.’ Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Mot. for More These are important Moreover, a complaint “must state its claims in 7 numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practical to a single 8 set of circumstances.” 9 has no numbered paragraphs and is instead written like a motion. Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b). This complaint 10 As such, it will be very difficult for defendants to clearly 11 identify in an answer which allegations they are responding to. 12 IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendants’ Motion for a 13 more definite statement be, and the same hereby is, GRANTED. 14 Plaintiffs have twenty days to file an amended complaint 15 that complies with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a) and 16 10(b) and clearly identifies which plaintiffs are bringing which 17 claims and against which defendants. 18 Dated: October 11, 2017 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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