United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS [Dkt. #20]
RONALD B. LEIGHTON, District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant City of Vancouver's, Defendant Clark County's, Police Chief Cook's, and Sheriff Lucas's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.
In June 2011, Plaintiff Andison's adult daughter called 911 to report that Andison was intoxicated and distraught, and having an acute mental crisis with suicidal ideation. Two dozen City and County officers came to the home, including a SWAT team. The responding officers- which did not include Chief Cook or Sheriff Lucas-entered the home over the daughter's objections, and located Andison in a room above the garage. She was holding a non-firing "starter pistol" and, according to Plaintiffs, informed the officers that it was not a real gun and that "they would have to shoot her." According to the Plaintiffs, Andison's family repeatedly told the officers to leave. They did not; they stayed for two hours. They shot multiple 40 mm "less than lethal" rounds at Andison's room. When she walked out, a SWAT team member, Defendant Junker, shot her in the head with an assault rifle. She went down on the stairs in a pool of blood, and the officers shot additional 40mm rounds at her, apparently and allegedly because she did not respond to their further commands. The officers prevented Andison's husband (an M.D.) and the daughter who called 911 (an R.N.) from attending to her. Andison lived, but suffered severe, permanent injuries.
Andison and her family sued the City, the County, Junker, and other officers, as well as Chief Cook and Sheriff Lucas, for violations of their Fourth Amendment (unlawful search and seizure, and excessive force) constitutional rights. They also assert associated state law claims for False Imprisonment, Assault, Battery, and Negligence. They assert Monell claims against the City and County, and seek to hold Chief Cook and Sheriff Lucas officially and individually liable as the "final policy makers" for the City and County, respectively. In support of these claims, the Andisons claim that the responding officers' actions and violations were caused by inadequate training in at least seven areas related to handling situations like the Andisons'.
The moving Defendants argue that the Complaint against them should be dismissed because the claims are conclusory, formulaic recitations not entitled to a presumption of truth, and are therefore not plausible under Twombly and Iqbal.
Specifically, Cook and Lucas argue that neither the Andisons' complaint nor their Response alleges that either of them did anything in relation to the incident-and that neither of them was even present. They point out that there is no respondeat superior liability under §1983, and that simply being the Sheriff or Chief is insufficient to hold an individual liable under §1983, as a matter of law. They also claim they are entitled to qualified immunity in any event.
The City and County seek dismissal of the Monell claims against them, arguing that the Andisons have only recited the bare elements of a Monell claim and that, as a result, their claim is not plausible and should be dismissed.
Finally, the Defendants claim that the Andisons' state law claims for false imprisonment, assault, and battery are time-barred, because they were not added to this (consolidated) case until more than two years after the incident. The plaintiffs concede that these claims are time-barred, and the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings dismissing these claims is GRANTED. These state law claims are DISMISSED.
A. Judgment on the Pleadings Standard
The standard applicable to a 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings mirrors that of a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner and Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550. Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff's complaint must allege facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. See Aschcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). A claim has "facial plausibility" when the party seeking relief "pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although the Court must accept as true the Complaint's wellpled facts, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences will not defeat a Rule 12(c) motion. Vazquez v. L. A. County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). "[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. 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) (citations and footnotes omitted). This requires a plaintiff to plead "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me-accusation." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly ).
On a 12(b)(6) motion, "a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Cook, Perkiss & Liehe v. N. Cal. Collection Serv., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990). However, where the facts are not in dispute, and the sole issue is whether there is liability as a matter of substantive law, the court may deny leave to amend. Albrecht v. Lund, 845 F.2d 193, 195-96 (9th Cir. 1988).
B. The Andisons' claims against Cook and Lucas are fatally flawed.
The Andisons assert both "official capacity" claims against Cook and Lucas-based on their failure to train their officers and their ratification of their actions-and "individual capacity" claims against them, based on their ...