Zeen v. County of Sonoma et al

Filing 13

ORDER by Judge Laurel Beeler denying 8 Motion to Dismiss. (lblc3S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/19/2017)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 San Francisco Division United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 DANE ZEEN, Case No. 17-cv-02056-LB Plaintiff, 13 v. 14 ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS Re: ECF No. 8 15 COUNTY OF SONOMA, et al., Defendants. 16 17 In his complaint, the plaintiff alleges that two Sonoma County deputy sheriffs used excessive 18 force when they responded to a call to conduct a welfare check on him and injured him, allegedly 19 causing a concussion, a nasal deformity, three fractured teeth requiring surgery and a bone graft, 20 facial lacerations requiring stitches, and other injuries.1 One of the two deputies — Deputy Charles 21 Blount — moves to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it does not allege facts sufficient to 22 state a claim against him.2 The court finds that it can decide the matter without oral argument, see 23 Civ. L. R. 7-1(b), and denies the motion. A complaint must contain a ―short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is 24 25 entitled to relief‖ to give the defendant ―fair notice‖ of what the claims are and the grounds upon 26 27 Complaint – ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 11–15. Citations refer to material in the Electronic Case File (―ECF‖); pinpoint citations are to the ECF-generated page numbers at the top of documents. 28 2 1 Motion – ECF No. 8 at 1–2. ORDER – No. 17-cv-02056-LB 1 which they rest. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 50 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A 2 complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but ―a plaintiff‘s obligation to provide the 3 ‗grounds‘ of his ‗entitlement to relief‘ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic 4 recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to 5 raise a claim for relief above the speculative level . . . .‖ Twombly, 550 at 555 (internal citations 6 omitted). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, 7 accepted as true, ―‗to state a claim to relief that it is plausible on its face.‘‖ Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 9 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). ―A claim has facial plausibility when 10 the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 8 defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.‖ Id. ―The plausibility standard is not akin to a 12 ‗probability requirement,‘ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted 13 unlawfully.‖ Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). ―Where a complaint pleads facts that are 14 ‗merely consistent with‘ a defendant‘s liability, it ‗stops short of the line between possibility and 15 plausibility of ‗entitlement to relief.‘‖ Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). The complaint meets this standard. It describes the events that precipitated the officers‘ arrival, 16 17 the context for their engagement with the plaintiff, and his resulting injuries. And it pleads 18 sufficiently that the officers used force that was not objectively reasonable given the 19 circumstances that faced the officers. See Blankenhorn v. City of Orange, 485 F.3d 463, 481 n. 12 20 (9th Cir. 2007). The defendants‘ arguments do not change this outcome. They assert that the plaintiff alleges 21 22 only that Deputy Blount grabbed the plaintiff‘s arm — a trivial complaint that on its face is not 23 objectively unreasonable — and that the complaint plausibly establishes a constitutional claim 24 only against Deputy Yount, who ―took him to the ground,‖ thereby causing the injuries.3 The court 25 thinks that this parses the complaint too severely. Read as a whole, the complaint plausibly alleges 26 objectively unreasonable force by both deputies, acting together. And as the plaintiff points out, a 27 28 3 Id. at 2 (citing Complaint ¶ 13). ORDER – No. 17-cv-02056-LB 2 1 plaintiff does not have to plead evidence not ascertainable except through discovery.4 The court appreciates the defendants‘ argument but thinks it better to raise it in a summary- 2 3 judgment motion. This disposes of ECF No. 8. 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. 5 Dated: June 19, 2017 ______________________________________ LAUREL BEELER United States Magistrate Judge 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 Opposition – ECF No. 11 at 3 (collecting cases). ORDER – No. 17-cv-02056-LB 3

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