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Guarino v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 21, 2014

FRANCINE GUARINO, Plaintiff,
v.
LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, a Political Subdivision of the STATE OF NEVADA; SHERIFF DOUGLAS GILLESPIE, individually and as policy maker of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; OFFICER SHANNON ROHRBAUGH, #9013; OFFICER M. LAYTHORPE, #5448; OFFICER D. BROTHERSON, #4931; OFFICER K. COLLMAR, #6965; DETECTIVE J. BANGLE, #4677; DETECTIVE K. TOMASO, #6848; DETECTIVE D. FREEMAN #4487; DETECTIVE R. TUSKO, #4515; DOE POLICE OFFICERS I-XX; ROE CORPORATIONS I-X, and JOHN DOES I-X; inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER

GLORIA M. NAVARRO, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) filed by Defendants Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department ("LVMPD") and Sheriff Gillespie ("Gillespie") (collectively "Defendants"), requesting dismissal of the Monell claim (Compl., Ex. B to Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1) filed by Plaintiff Francine Guarino ("Plaintiff") against LVMPD and the dismissal of Gillespie as a defendant.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of a traffic accident on May 8, 2013 between Plaintiff, a motorist, and LVMPD Officer Shannon Rohrbaugh ("Rohrbaugh"). (Compl., Ex. B to Notice of Removal ¶¶ 14-18, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that after she drove through a green light, passing the intersection of Durango Drive and the Summerlin Parkway exit, Rohrbaugh ran the red light coming from the Summerlin Parkway exit and struck the front right of her vehicle with his motorcycle. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Officers Laythorpe, Brotherson, Collmar, Bangle, Tomaso, Freeman, and Tusko (collectively "Defendant Officers") investigated the scene and allegedly detained her for three and a half hours, refusing to let her speak to her boyfriend and daughter who were standing directly behind the police tape. ( Id. ¶¶ 17-18.)

Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging negligence, negligence per se, false imprisonment, and violation of her Fourth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ( Id. ¶¶ 19-67.) Defendants subsequently filed the instant Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5), requesting that (1) Plaintiff's Monell claim against LVMPD be dismissed, and (2) Gillespie be dismissed as a defendant from this suit.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) mandates that a court dismiss a cause of action that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, dismissal is appropriate only when the complaint does not give the defendant fair notice of a legally cognizable claim and the grounds on which it rests. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In considering whether the complaint is sufficient to state a claim, the Court will take all material allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986).

The Court, however, is not required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences. See Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). A formulaic recitation of a cause of action with conclusory allegations is not sufficient; a plaintiff must plead facts showing that a violation is plausible, not just possible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

A court may also dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Hearns v. San Bernardino Police Dept., 530 F.3d 1124, 1129 (9th Cir. 2008). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a plaintiff's complaint contain only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Furthermore, the Supreme Court has already rejected any sort of "heightened" pleading requirement for § 1983 municipal liability claims because such a heightened pleading standard cannot be "square[d]... with the liberal system of notice pleading' set up by the Federal Rules." Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993).

"Generally, a district court may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.... However, material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint may be considered on a motion to dismiss." Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). Similarly, "documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss" without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 454 (9th Cir. 1994). Under Federal Rule of Evidence 201, a court may take judicial notice of "matters of public record." Mack v. S. Bay Beer Distrib., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986). Otherwise, if the district court considers materials outside of the pleadings, the motion to dismiss is converted into a motion for summary judgment. See Arpin v. Santa Clara Valley Transp. Agency, 261 F.3d 912, 925 (9th Cir. 2001).

If the court grants a motion to dismiss, it must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. The court should "freely give" leave to amend when there is no "undue delay, bad faith[, ] dilatory motive on the part of the movant... undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of... the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Generally, leave to amend is only denied when it is clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment. See DeSoto v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 957 F.2d 655, 658 (9th Cir. 1992).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Monell Claim

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Additionally, if a plaintiff is seeking to establish that a municipal entity is liable for the alleged violation, then that plaintiff must also establish that the alleged violation was attributable to the enforcement of a municipal custom or policy. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978) ("Local governing bodies... can be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where... ...


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