Elledge v. County of San Joaquin, et al.,

Filing 18

ORDER signed by Senior District Judge John A. Mendez on 05/07/24 GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART 11 Motion to Dismiss as follows GRANTING County's motion to dismiss Elledge's first cause of action, the 1983 Claim, with leave to ame nd; DENYING County's motion to dismiss Elledge's second cause of action, the Bane Act Claim, without prejudice; DISMISSING Elledge's fourth cause of action in its entirety with leave to amend; and DEYNING as moot County's motion t o dismiss Elledge's fourth cause of action. If Elledge elects to file an amended complaint, he must do so no later than 20 days from the date of this Order. Defendants shall file their responsive pleadings no later than twenty (20) days thereafter. (Licea Chavez, V)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 BRIAN ELLEDGE, 12 15 2:23-CV-02288-JAM-DB Plaintiff, 13 14 NO. v. COUNTY OF SAN JOAQUIN, ET AL., ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT COUNTY OF SAN JOAQUIN’S MOTION TO DISMISS Defendants. 16 On September 12, 2023, Plaintiff Brian Elledge (“Elledge”) 17 18 filed this action in San Joaquin County Superior Court, alleging 19 four (4) causes of action against defendants County of San 20 Joaquin, John Canepa, and Brian Merritt (collectively, 21 “Defendants”). 22 ECF No. 1. 23 action to this Court on the grounds of federal question 24 jurisdiction. 25 2024, County filed the instant motion to dismiss (“Motion”).1 Compl., Exh. A to Notice of Removal (“Compl.”), Defendant San Joaquin County (“County”) removed the Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. On February 20, 26 27 28 This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). The hearing was scheduled for April 9, 2024. 1 1 1 Mot. to Dismiss (“Mot.”), ECF No. 11. 2 first, second, and fourth causes of action do not contain 3 sufficient factual matter to support a cause of relief. 4 3. 5 filed a reply. Elledge filed an opposition. 6 7 County argues Elledge’s Opp’n, ECF No. 12. Id. at County Reply, ECF No. 15. I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS The facts are taken from the Complaint and assumed to be true 8 for purposes of the Motion. In May of 2022, a San Joaquin County 9 Sheriff water patrol boat (“patrol boat”) stopped Elledge’s boat 10 while on the San Joaquin River. 11 was operated by defendants John Canepa and Brian Merritt 12 (collectively, “Deputy Sheriffs”). 13 Elledge because they did not see a required registration sticker 14 adhered to his boat. 15 resolved, Deputy Sheriffs ordered Elledge to board the patrol 16 boat to submit to a blood alcohol test. 17 ordered, without any assistance from Deputy Sheriffs, to step on 18 the railing of the patrol boat, then step down approximately 19 three feet to the steel deck of the boat. 20 down to the steel deck of the boat, Elledge landed hard on his 21 right foot, resulting in an injury to his right ankle and a 22 ruptured Achilles tendon. Id. 23 Compl. ¶ 11. Id. The patrol boat Deputy Sheriffs stopped After the registration issue was Id. Elledge was Id. While stepping Id. II. OPINION 24 A. Legal Standard 25 A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of a 26 complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be 27 granted.” 28 dismiss [under 12(b)(6)], a complaint must contain sufficient Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). 2 “To survive a motion to 1 factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief 2 that is plausible on its face.” 3 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 4 Plausibility requires “factual content that allows the court to 5 draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the 6 misconduct alleged.” 7 are unnecessary, the complaint must allege more than 8 “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, 9 supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. While “detailed factual allegations” Id. Conclusory 10 allegations are not to be considered in the plausibility 11 analysis. 12 framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual 13 allegations.”). 14 which relief can be granted,” the Court must dismiss the claim. 15 Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). 16 17 18 B. Id. at 679 (“While legal conclusions can provide the When a plaintiff fails to “state a claim upon Analysis 1. First Cause of Action – 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Elledge’s first cause of action is for “Unreasonable 19 Detention, Custody, And Control, (42 U.S.C. § 1983)” 20 (hereinafter, “1983 Claim”). 21 focuses on the actions of Deputy Sheriffs. 22 from the Complaint whether the claim is against all defendants, 23 or only Deputy Sheriffs. 24 Deputy Sheriffs were under the control of County. 25 County seeks to dismiss the 1983 Claim with prejudice against 26 County on the grounds that “Elledge does not set forth any facts 27 that an unconstitutional County policy resulted in Elledge’s 28 alleged injury.” Id. Mot. at 4. Compl. at 5, 6. The 1983 Claim Id. It is not clear However, Elledge does allege that Id. ¶ 15. Assuming the 1983 Claim is against 3 1 both Deputy Sheriffs and County, the Court agrees. 2 To establish liability for governmental entities under 3 Section 1983, a plaintiff must prove the entity had “a policy, 4 practice, or custom” that was the “moving force” behind the 5 constitutional violation. 6 892, 900 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing 7 of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). 8 policy includes a formal policy, such as a rule or regulation, 9 adopted by the entity that directly results in the Dougherty v. City of Covina, 654 F.3d Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. An official 10 constitutional violation in question. 11 Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 483-84 (1986). 12 by contrast, includes repeated, widespread, and consistent 13 actions that constitute the standard operating procedure of the 14 entity. 15 Cir. 2002). 16 Pembaur v. City of A practice or custom, Ulrich v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 308 F.3d 968, 984 (9th Upon review of Elledge’s 1983 Claim, the only mention of 17 County includes the following allegation:“[t]he conduct of 18 [Deputy Sheriffs] was done under the [instruction, orders, and 19 control] of command level officers and managers of [County’s] 20 Sheriff’s Office.” 21 focuses on the actions of Deputy Sheriffs. 22 Elledge does not provide sufficient facts in his first cause of 23 action to allow the Court to draw a reasonable inference that a 24 policy, practice, or custom of County’s led to Elledge’s alleged 25 constitutional violation. 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// Id. ¶ 15. The bulk of the 1983 Claim Id. ¶¶ 13-15, 17. Dougherty, 654 F.3d at 900. 4 1 2 Looking beyond the 1983 Claim and to the Complaint as a whole, Elledge’s “Introduction” alleges: 3 The policies and customs behind the detention and 4 taking into custody and control of boat operators on 5 the San Joaquin River in the County of San Joaquin 6 without probable cause to believe said boat operators 7 were under the influence of alcohol are fundamentally 8 unconstitutional and constitute a menace of major 9 proportions to the public. . . . 10 Compl. ¶ 2. 11 County has an unconstitutional policy and custom of detaining 12 boat operators on the San Joaquin River and accusing them, 13 without probable cause, of operating under the influence. 14 conclusory allegation does not pass muster under the Twombly 15 plausibility standard. 16 Albeit confusing, Elledge appears to contend that This Elledge does not allege any specific facts that there is a 17 formal policy of County’s, such as a rule or regulation, that led 18 to any alleged constitutional violation. 19 483-84. 20 there is a widespread practice or custom that led to any alleged 21 constitutional violation. 22 U.S. 397, 404 (1997). 23 make a conclusory statement that there was a policy and custom in 24 place that caused the alleged constitutional violation. 25 or sporadic incidents alone cannot form the basis of a 1983 Claim 26 against government entities. 27 Dist., 44 F.4th 867, 884 (9th Cir. 2022). 28 sufficient factual allegations regarding the key elements of a Pembaur, 475 U.S. at Elledge also does not allege any specific facts that Bd. of the Cty. Comm’rs v. Brown, 520 Elledge takes a single, isolated event and Isolated Sabra v. Maricopa Cnty. Cmty. Coll. 5 The Complaint lacks 1 possible 1983 Claim against County and therefore Elledge’s first 2 cause of action against County is dismissed with leave to amend. 3 2. 4 5 Second Cause of Action – California Civil Code § 52.1 Elledge’s second cause of action is for “Violation of 6 California Civil Rights Act – Civil Code §52.1” (hereinafter, 7 “Bane Act Claim”) against all defendants. 8 9 Compl. at 6. County seeks to dismiss the Bane Act Claim with prejudice because “there are no facts that the individual defendants 10 engaged in egregious activity and intended to cause Elledge’s 11 alleged injury.” 12 its Bane Act argument and focuses solely on the actions of 13 Deputy Sheriffs. Mot. at 3. County does not mention itself in Id. at 5. 14 To the extent County seeks to make arguments on behalf of 15 Deputy Sheriffs, the Court declines to address such arguments. 16 Haley v. Ornelas, No. CV 16-3177-AG(E), 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17 202077, at *6 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 21, 2016). 18 behalf of County alone. 19 Deputy Sheriffs have been served yet. 20 limited exception, a party must assert their own legal rights or 21 interests, not those of third parties. 22 U.S. 125, 129-30 (2004) (discussing the limited exception as 23 “(1) the party asserting the right has a close relationship with 24 the person who possesses that right and (2) whether there is a 25 hindrance to the possessor’s ability to protect their own 26 interests.”). 27 support for its belief that it can assert the rights of Deputy 28 Sheriffs in this motion. See Mot. The Motion is filed on County admits neither of the Id. at 1. Subject to a Kowalski v. Tesmer, 543 County does not provide any legal analysis or County “may not properly act as a 6 1 surrogate” for Deputy Sheriffs. Ornelas, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2 202077, at *6. 3 the Bane Act Claim on behalf of Deputy Sheriffs, this request is 4 denied without prejudice. To the extent County is attempting to dismiss 5 If County is attempting to dismiss the Bane Act Claim 6 against itself, without even mentioning itself, County has 7 failed to provide any factual or legal grounds to support its 8 dismissal motion. 9 particularity the grounds for seeking the order.). County’s 10 motion to dismiss the Bane Act Claim against itself is also 11 denied without prejudice. 12 3. 13 14 Fed. R. Civ. 7(b) (a motion must state with Fourth Cause of Action – Intentional Infliction of Injury Elledge’s fourth cause of action is labeled as a claim for 15 “Intentional Infliction of Injury” against Deputy Sheriffs. 16 Compl. at 9. 17 appears to be a battery claim against Deputy Sheriffs. 18 the cause of action includes the following allegations: Based on the header alone, this cause of action However, 19 [County’s] Sheriff’s Office, and its management and 20 command officers, “deliberately and purposely 21 neglected and failed to instruct, to so train and 22 teach all deputy sheriffs, at all levels of the 23 [County’s] Sheriff’s Office. . . . 24 [Defendants] and each of them . . . knew, [sic] were 25 subject to a duty of care to know and to train and 26 teach all deputy sheriffs . . . what acts and conduct 27 that violated the law . . . 28 [Defendants] knew they were . . . to train and teach 7 1 all deputy sheriffs, at all levels to determine if any 2 laws were broken by [Elledge] before detaining 3 [Elledge] . . . 4 [Deputy Sheriffs] knew . . . what acts and conduct 5 violated the laws . . . detained [Elledge] . . . 6 without any probable cause . . . 7 The conduct of [Deputy Sheriffs] . . . was in total 8 and utter disregard of the rights of [Elledge] and 9 with the knowledge that [Elledge] would be subject to 10 a dangerous condition . . . Said conduct was 11 malicious, wanton, oppressive, and fraudulent. 12 conduct was extreme and outrageous . . . [Elledge] 13 suffered severe personal injuries, pain and suffering, 14 medical and incidental expenses, loss of income and 15 extreme mental and emotional distress and 16 consequential damages. . . . Said 17 See Compl. ¶¶ 29-33. 18 cause of action appears to not only be a battery claim against 19 Deputy Sheriffs, but also a failure to train claim against 20 County, a deliberate indifference claim against Deputy Sheriffs, 21 and an emotional distress claim against Deputy Sheriffs or 22 County or both. 23 an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim (“IIED”) 24 against Deputy Sheriffs. 25 Based on these allegations, the fourth County interprets this cause of action as only Mot. at 5-7. Elledge’s opposition to the County’s motion fails to 26 provide any clarity. The opposition focuses only on the acts of 27 Deputy Sheriffs, includes an irrelevant discussion on peace 28 officers’ standards and trainings, and concludes that Deputy 8 1 Sheriffs were in violation of Elledge’s constitutional rights to 2 be “free from search and seizure” which was “extreme and 3 outrageous.” 4 inconsistent with the multiple legal theories discussed in the 5 Complaint, but it also mirrors Elledge’s first cause of action 6 for “Unreasonable Detention, Custody, And Control.” 7 ¶¶ 12-17. 8 9 Opp’n at 11-12. Not only is the opposition Compl. What is unambiguously clear to the Court is that this cause of action, as currently pled, cannot go forward. Elledge fails 10 to present a cognizable claim and put the defendants or the 11 Court on fair notice of the grounds entitling him to relief. 12 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, 13 10. “The Court should not be required to ascertain what are or 14 will be the litigable issues of fact and law by a process of 15 speculation or surmise.” 16 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1969). 17 Elledge’s fourth cause of action in its entirety with leave to 18 amend. 19 DENIED as moot. Weiss v. Tenney Corp., 47 F.R.D. 283, Therefore, the Court sua sponte DISMISSES County’s motion to dismiss the fourth cause of action is 20 21 III. ORDER For the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS County’s 22 motion to dismiss Elledge’s first cause of action, the 1983 23 Claim, with leave to amend. 24 dismiss Elledge’s second cause of action, the Bane Act Claim, 25 without prejudice. 26 Elledge’s fourth cause of action in its entirety with leave to 27 amend. 28 action is DENIED as moot. The Court DENIES County’s motion to The Court, on its own motion, DISMISSES County’s motion to dismiss Elledge’s fourth cause of 9 1 If Elledge elects to file an amended complaint, he must do so 2 no later than twenty days from the date of this Order. 3 Defendants shall file their responsive pleadings no later than 4 twenty (20) days thereafter. 5 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 7, 2024 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 10

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