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Farmer v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 29, 2019

TRINITA FARMER, Plaintiff,
v.
LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants

          ORDER

          Gloria M. Navarro, District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 12), filed by Defendants Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (“LVMPD”), Sergeant Travis Crumrine (“Sergeant Crumrine”), Officer Michael Tran (“Officer Tran”), and Officer Michael Flores (“Officer Flores”) (collectively, “LVMPD Defendants”), to which Defendant Kenneth Lopera (“Officer Lopera”) filed a Joinder, (ECF No. 13). Plaintiff Trinita Farmer (“Plaintiff”) filed a Response, (ECF No. 27), and LVMPD Defendants filed a Reply, (ECF No. 36).

         Also pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 69). Officer Lopera filed a Response, (ECF No. 70), to which LVMPD Defendants filed a Joinder, (ECF No. 71). Plaintiff then filed a Reply, (ECF Nos. 74, 76).[1]

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES the Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 12), and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 69).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is the mother of Tashii Brown (“Tashii”). (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶ 3, ECF No. 4). Tashii died on May 14, 2017, from the actions of Officer Lopera of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. (Id. ¶ 5). According to the First Amended Complaint, his death was ruled a homicide. (Id.).

         The First Amended Complaint alleges that on May 14, 2017, Tashii approached Officers Lopera and Lif in the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino, while they were on duty. (Id. ¶ 13). Tashii was sweating profusely, and he asked if they knew where he could find a drinking fountain. (Id. ¶ 14). Officer Lopera then asked why he was sweating, to which Tashii responded that “he had just run from across the street because he believed people were following him.” (Id. ¶ 15). There was no indication that Tashii had caused any harm to persons or property, nor was he an immediate threat. (Id.). However, after Officer Lopera's questions, Tashii became frightened and ran. (Id. ¶ 16).

         Tashii ran to an outside roadway on the Venetian's property; and Officer Lopera caught up with him near a vehicle, which, according to Officer Lopera, Tashii was attempting to steal.[2]Officer Lopera then deployed his taser, causing Tashii to become incapacitated. (Id. ¶ 18). Lopera also ordered Tashii to get on his stomach-though Tashii did not have time to comply before being struck again and again by Lopera's taser, for a total of seven times. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19). After using his taser, Officer Lopera “proceeded to deliver several blows to Tashii's face and head while he was on the ground.” (Id. ¶ 19) (stating that Lopera struck Tashii's face and head approximately twelve times). Next, Lopera “choked Tashii for over a minute” by using a chokehold maneuver. (Id.).

         Sergeant Crumrine was Officer Lopera's commanding officer, and he arrived at the scene of the incident within seconds before Lopera administered the chokehold on Tashii. (Id. ¶ 22). Officers Tran and Flores also arrived at the scene as Lopera began the chokehold. (Id. ¶¶ 22- 23). Tran initially told Lopera to let go of Tashii-but Lopera “continued to administer the choke hold for forty-four more seconds” as Sergeant Crumrine, Officer Flores, and Officer Tran allegedly screamed and cursed at Tashii while placing handcuffs on him and holding him down. (Id. ¶ 20, 22).

         Moreover, according to Plaintiffs allegations, Sergeant Crumrine did not intervene at all; nor did Flores or Tran. (Id. ¶ 23). From Lopera's chokehold and beating, Tashii became unconscious and died. (Id. ¶ 23-24).

         On May 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Complaint, (ECF No. 1). Shortly afterward, Plaintiff amended her Complaint, asserting three causes of action based on violations of her due process right to familial association with Tashii: (1) violation of civil and constitutional rights of familial association under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Officer Lopera, Officer Tran, Officer Flores, and Sergeant Crumrine; (2) violation of civil and constitutional rights of familial association under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against LVMPD under a theory of municipal liability; and (3) violation of civil and constitutional rights of familial association under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Sergeant Crumrine for supervisor liability. (FAC ¶¶ 56-92).

         On September 17, 2018, LVMPD Defendants filed their instant Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 12), seeking dismissal of Plaintiff s First Amended Complaint with prejudice. Plaintiff thereafter filed her Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 69).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         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 “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). “Prolix, confusing complaints” should be dismissed because “they impose unfair burdens on litigants and judges.” McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1179 (9th Cir. 1996).

         “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 becomes 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 ...


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