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Kelley v. City of Henderson

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 27, 2017

CITY OF HENDERSON, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Vanessa Kelley spent several months in jail for a crime she did not commit. Her spouse (Audrey Young) falsely reported that Kelley stabbed her. Kelley alleges City of Henderson detectives failed to fully investigate her spouse's accusation. Kelley's amended complaint includes causes of action for malicious prosecution, unlawful imprisonment, and Monell liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She also asserts state law claims for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Kelley names the arresting detectives (Mark Hosaka and Chad Mitchell) and their employer (the City of Henderson) as defendants.

         I dismiss Kelley's Monell and IIED claims. I also dismiss the portions of Kelley's other claims that rely on allegations that her post-arrest detention was unreasonable because the detectives knew of exculpatory evidence that would have negated probable cause. But, because Kelley has adequately alleged the detectives lacked probable cause to arrest her, I deny the defendants' motion to dismiss her malicious prosecution and false imprisonment claims entirely.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In October 2013, detectives Hosaka and Mitchell responded to Young's 911 call. ECF No. 51 at ¶¶ 4, 12, 14. Young told the detectives she had been stabbed by her wife, Vanessa Kelley. Id. at ¶ 12. Young could not identify what implement Kelley used to stab her, but she “assumed” it was a deadly weapon. Id. at ¶ 17.

         After interviewing Young, detective Hosaka said, “ideally we'll find [Kelley] today, and she'll be locked up . . . as it goes now, there's enough to arrest her.” Id. at ¶ 18. Kelley alleges the detectives did not collect various pieces of evidence that could have exculpated her. Id. at ¶ 20. For example, the detectives did not impound the rags Young claimed she used to clean her bleeding or the chair she claimed was damaged. Id. at ¶¶ 24, 26. The detectives did not speak to witnesses or neighbors or take photos. Id. at ¶¶ 21, 22. They did not verify whether the couple had protective orders in place at the time of the incident, which the couple did. Id. at ¶ 27. Surveillance video shows Kelley entering a family court around the time of the alleged stabbing. Id. at ¶ 13. Additionally, Young receives treatment for schizophrenia and other mental disorders. Id. at ¶ 40.

         Kelley alleges she called the Henderson Police to request an officer to stand by while she collected her belongings from the residence where the alleged stabbing occurred. Id. at ¶ 19. Kelley indicated she told the detectives she was willing to speak to them in the presence of her attorney. Id. at ¶ 29. The detectives then arrested her. Id. at ¶ 30. Kelley spent several months in jail until the prosecuting attorney dropped the charges against her. Id. at ¶¶ 37, 39.

         Kelley alleges her arrest was not an isolated mistake by the Henderson police but rather was a product of the City's policies that tolerate officer misconduct. Id. at ¶¶ 68, 70. Kelley alleges the City of Henderson has unwritten policies of not preserving and disclosing evidence once detectives have found probable cause to arrest a suspect. Id. at ¶ 5. As evidence of these policies, she alleges the City promoted an officer who used excessive force against a man suffering a diabetic seizure and she lists six other individuals whose civil rights have allegedly been violated by the City. Id. at ¶¶ 68(b), 70.


         A complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8 “does not require detailed factual allegations.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotation omitted). But it does require more than “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. (quotation omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). They must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quotation omitted).

         District courts apply a two-step approach when considering motions to dismiss. Id. at 679. First, courts accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences from the complaint in the plaintiff's favor. Id.; Brown v. Elec. Arts, Inc., 724 F.3d 1235, 1247-48 (9th Cir. 2013). Legal conclusions, however, are not entitled to the same assumption of truth even if cast in the form of factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 679.

         Second, courts consider whether the factual allegations in the complaint allege a plausible claim for relief. Id. A claim is facially plausible when the complaint alleges facts that allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. at 678. Where the complaint does not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has “alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (quotation omitted). Complaints must be dismissed when they have not crossed the line from conceivable to plausible. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.


         A. Section 1983 Malicious Prosecution and Unlawful Imprisonment (Counts One and Two)

         Kelley alleges the detectives maliciously prosecuted her in violation of her Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. She alleges they lacked probable cause to arrest her because no reasonable officer would rely on the testimony of one witness who claims she was the victim of the crime. And Kelley alleges she remained incarcerated for months despite the existence of exculpatory evidence that would have negated probable cause for her continued detention.

         The defendants move to dismiss, arguing Kelley has not alleged specific facts which, if accepted as true, would establish she was arrested without probable cause. They also argue that Kelley had no right to a post-arrest investigation. ...

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