V. v. PieRanch et al

Filing 56

ORDER by Judge Edward M. Chen Granting 47 Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Remanding for Further Action. (emcsec, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/20/2020)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 Y. P. V., Case No. 20-cv-03874-EMC Plaintiff, 8 9 10 PIERANCH, et al., Defendants. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ACTION v. Docket No. 47 12 13 14 On May 12, 2020, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of California, County 15 of San Mateo. Defendant removed this action on June 12, 2020, asserting federal question 16 jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the case arises, in part, under 42 U.S.C. § 2000d 17 (“Title VI”). Notice of Removal (Docket No. 1). Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s 18 First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to 19 state a claim. Motion to Dismiss FAC (Docket No. 47). For the reasons below, the Court 20 GRANTS Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title VI claim and declines to exercise 21 supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. This matter is remanded to state 22 court for further action. 23 24 I. A. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Factual Background 25 In her FAC (Docket No. 46), Plaintiff alleges as follows. 26 Plaintiff is a fourteen-year-old child who brings this action through her mother as guardian 27 ad litem. FAC ¶¶ 5-6. Defendant Pie Ranch is a nonprofit farm and education center that operates 28 a youth education program serving hundreds of young people every year. FAC ¶ 14-15. Pie 1 Ranch operates “live-work premises” for its employees, who are residents on the premises. FAC ¶ 2 17. 3 In 2014, Pie Ranch hired Plaintiff’s mother and father as a farm worker and vegetable 4 packer, and Mr. Isidro Leon Macias as a foreman. FAC ¶ 19. Mr. Macias had supervisory and 5 managerial authority over other Pie Ranch employees, including Plaintiff’s parents. FAC ¶ 20. 6 Around May 1999, Mr. Macias pleaded no contest to one count of misdemeanor indecent 7 exposure and was ordered to complete a sexual offender program and not have any contact with 8 minors. FAC ¶ 22. Pie Ranch failed to conduct a background check prior to hiring Mr. Macias, 9 which would have revealed his prior conviction. FAC ¶ 31-32. 10 As part of his employment, Mr. Macias supervised approximately twelve workers at Pie United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Ranch’s Año Nuevo Ranch site, including Plaintiff’s parents. FAC ¶ 33-34. He was also in 12 charge of communications between the Pie Ranch owners and the farm workers he supervised. 13 FAC ¶ 35. All of the farm workers with families who were supervised by Mr. Macias resided in 14 trailers rented to them by Pie Ranch. FAC ¶ 36. 15 Mr. Macias began an inappropriate relationship with Plaintiff via text messaging. FAC ¶ 16 47. This inappropriate relationship was reported to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. FAC 17 ¶ 48. Mr. Macias also requested that Plaintiff be allowed to help him feed the Pie Ranch chickens, 18 promising Plaintiff a salary for helping him perform this task. FAC ¶ 44, 50-51. 19 On or about June 12, 2017, Mr. Macias asked Plaintiff to accompany him to feed the 20 chickens. FAC ¶ 56. Mr. Macias held Plaintiff’s hand and started to kiss her on the mouth. FAC 21 ¶ 57. Mr. Macias’ 13-year-old son had followed them from a distance, and he witnessed Mr. 22 Macias kissing and touching Plaintiff and ran to tell Plaintiff’s parents. FAC ¶ 58-59. When 23 Plaintiff’s mother learned of this incident, she immediately reported it to the San Mateo County 24 Sheriff. FAC ¶ 60. 25 Plaintiff was interviewed at the Keller Center for Family Violence Intervention at the San 26 Mateo Medical Center, which works with law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office to 27 provide medical and social services for individuals who have suffered sexual abuse, sexual assault, 28 and child abuse. FAC ¶ 61. During the interview, Plaintiff reported three other instances, all at 2 1 the chicken coop, during which Mr. Macias kissed and touched her buttocks. FAC ¶ 62. Mr. 2 Macias was arrested on or about June 12, 2017 in connection with his sexual battery of Plaintiff. 3 FAC ¶ 63. At some point after Mr. Macias was arraigned on the above-described complaint, Ms. 4 Delma Soult, Pie Ranch’s Director of Finance and Administration, came to the trailer of Plaintiff’s 6 family to question Plaintiff’s mother as to Mr. Macias’ whereabouts and whether he had been 7 released on bond. FAC ¶ 66. Once Mr. Macias was released on bond, Ms. Soult asked Plaintiff’s 8 mother to permit Mr. Macias to come stay in his trailer overnight despite the fact that Ms. Soult 9 knew of a restraining order that had been issued against Mr. Macias. FAC ¶ 72, 76. Plaintiff and 10 her mother saw Mr. Macias return to his trailer (in violation of his restraining order). FAC ¶ 80- 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 5 81. In light of the above, Plaintiff has alleged five causes of action: (1) negligent 12 13 hiring/retention by Defendants Pie Ranch, Delma Soult, and Does 1-10; (2) negligent infliction of 14 emotional distress (“NIED”) by Defendants Pie Ranch and Delma Soult Against Plaintiff; (3) 15 sexual battery by Defendant Macias against Plaintiff; (4) battery by Defendant Macias against 16 Plaintiff; and (5) a violation of Title VI by Defendant Pie Ranch against Plaintiff. 17 B. 18 Procedural History In its Order granting Defendant’s first motion to dismiss, the Court granted Plaintiff leave 19 to amend in order to more specifically allege facts regarding Defendants’ alleged discrimination 20 based on Plaintiff’s race or national origin. See Minute Order at 2 (Docket No. 41). As the Court 21 noted, the private right of action to enforce Title VI is limited to instances of intentional 22 discrimination, not disparate impact. See generally Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001). 23 The Court found that Plaintiff had not sufficiently alleged that Defendant’s conduct was based on 24 discriminatory animus. 25 The Court also granted Plaintiff leave to amend two other claims: (1) Defendant’s actual 26 knowledge of Mr. Macias’s criminal propensities for a negligent hiring/retention claim, and (2) 27 more specific facts about Defendant’s wrongful conduct for a NIED claim. Order at 1-2. 28 3 II. 1 2 A. DISCUSSION Title VI 3 Plaintiff has not cured the pleading deficiencies to make out a plausible claim for a Title VI 4 violation. Plaintiff alleges that Pie Ranch failed to create, promulgate, and institute policies which 5 would have prevented the harms that Plaintiff suffered. FAC ¶ 168. First, Plaintiff does not 6 describe what those policies would be. But, more fundamentally, this allegation appears to rest on 7 a disparate impact theory which is not cognizable under Sandoval. 8 Next, Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Soult and Pie Ranch disregarded the complaints and pleas from Plaintiff and her parents because “they are minorities with Latinx heritage.” FAC ¶ 171. But 10 Plaintiff does not elaborate, e.g., she does not allege that Ms. Soult was more receptive to the pleas 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 of Caucasian employees. Nor does Plaintiff provide more specific details about the ways in which 12 Defendants intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff and her parents because of their race 13 and/or national origin. The conclusory allegation is insufficient to state a plausible claim of 14 intentional discrimination. 15 Plaintiff also alleges that Pie Ranch had “Delma Soult interact with the [Plaintiff] and her 16 family so that she could engage in the kind of abhorrent conduct that prevented Pie Ranch from 17 taking action.” FAC ¶ 174. It is unclear what Plaintiff is alleging here. Plaintiff notes that Ms. 18 Soult engaged in all communications with her family because she speaks Spanish, and Plaintiff 19 believes that upper management at Pie Ranch does not speak Spanish and is composed exclusively 20 of Caucasian individuals. FAC ¶¶ 92-94. But if Ms. Soult is the only Pie Ranch employee who 21 can communicate with Plaintiff and her family, it is hard to discern how Pie Ranch engaged in 22 intentional discrimination by dispatching her as an intermediary. 23 Finally, Plaintiff alleges that, “[h]ad Mr. Leon Macias’ conduct occurred against a non- 24 Latinx student in its education program Pie Ranch would not have sought to occlude the fact that it 25 continued to retain a dangerous sexual predator.” FAC ¶ 176. Again, this allegation is conclusory 26 and not supported by any specific facts which suggest that Pie Ranch was deliberately indifferent 27 to Plaintiff because of her race and/or national origin. 28 In sum, Plaintiff has not alleged the any specific facts indicative of intentional 4 1 discrimination to make out a plausible claim for a Title VI violation. Accordingly, the Court 2 GRANTS Defendant’s motion to dismiss the Title VI claim, with prejudice because Plaintiff has 3 already been given leave to amend once and has not cured the pleading deficiencies. 4 B. Supplemental Jurisdiction Because the case at bar was removed on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, and that 5 6 claim (under Title VI) has now been dismissed, the Court must decide whether it wishes to 7 exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. 8 At oral argument, counsel for Plaintiff informed the Court that Mr. Macias has not been 9 served with process on the third and fourth causes of action (for sexual battery and battery) because he is in Mexico. Plaintiff wishes to pursue these two causes of action against Mr. Macias 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 in state court, and desires to avoid a piecemeal approach, wherein some of the remaining state law 12 claims are litigated in federal court and others in state court. A district court may elect to decline supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) 13 14 15 16 17 18 if: (1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law, (2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction, (3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or 19 (4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction. 20 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). Here, the state law claims predominate over the Title VI claim because the 21 case at bar concerns Mr. Macias’s conduct and Pie Ranch’s responsibility for that conduct (i.e., 22 whether Pie Ranch had actual knowledge that Mr. Macias had a propensity to engage in sexually 23 inappropriate conduct with minors before hiring him). These are quintessential claims under tort 24 law, which arises here under the laws of California. Further, the Court has dismissed the only 25 claim over which it had original jurisdiction (i.e., the Title VI claim) and the litigation is still in its 26 preliminary stages (such that the parties have not yet expended significant resources and a remand 27 is in keeping with judicial economy). The factors under § 1367 weigh against exercising 28 supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims. 5 III. 1 CONCLUSION 2 For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s 3 Title VI claim with prejudice, and it REMANDS to the Superior Court of California, County of 4 San Mateo for further action. 5 6 IT IS SO ORDERED. 7 8 Dated: November 20, 2020 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 ______________________________________ EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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