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Berry v. Pierce County

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

January 24, 2017




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Pierce County's ("County") motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (Dkt. 6). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.


         On September 1, 2016, Plaintiffs Laura and Steve Berry ("Berrys") filed a complaint against the County in Thurston County Superior Court for the State of Washington. Dkt. 1, Exh. A ("Comp.").

         On October 11, 2016, the County removed the matter to this Court. Dkt. 1.

         On October 18, 2016, the County filed the motion to dismiss. Dkt. 6. On November 28, 2016, the Berrys responded. Dkt. 11. On December 2, 2016, the County replied. Dkt. 12.


         Mr. Berry is a corrections officer at the County Jail. Comp., ¶ 3.1. On December 29, 2014, inmate Aaron Leigh filed a complaint against Mr. Berry alleging that Mr. Berry assaulted him. Id. The Berrys allege that “Mr. Leigh has a violent history, including the shooting of a police officer, numerous drug and firearm related offenses and numerous threats to kill law enforcement officers and their families.” Id., ¶ 3.2.

         Subsequent to the dismissal of the suit against Mr. Berry, Mr. Leigh filed a public records request. Id., ¶ 3.3. Although Mr. Berry alleges that he was informed of the request as well as the fact that he would be provided with an opportunity to review any material before it was produced, the County produced material to Mr. Leigh without allowing Mr. Berry any review. Id., ¶¶ 3.9, 3.10. The Berrys allege further that:

On January 25, 2016, Plaintiff Stephen Berry was provided with a copy of what had been released to Mr. Leigh. Within a short time, Plaintiff Stephen Berry discovered that not only had his private information been released to Mr. Leigh, but also the private information of his wife, Plaintiff Laura Berry. Included in the private information were such disclosures as their private residence address, social security numbers, Driver's License Numbers, home and work phone numbers, and places of employment for both. All such information had been delivered to such address as Mr. Aaron Leigh had directed.

Id., ¶ 3.11. In producing this information, the Berrys assert that the County violated state and local statutes and the Berrys' federal and state constitutional rights. Id., ¶ 5.1.


         Motions to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure may be based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under such a theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Material allegations are taken as admitted and the complaint is construed in the plaintiff's favor. Keniston v. Roberts, 717 F.2d 1295, 1301 (9th Cir. 1983). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint does not require detailed factual allegations but must provide the grounds for entitlement to relief and not merely a “formulaic recitation” of the elements of a cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). Plaintiffs must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 1974. When deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court's consideration is limited to the pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

         In this case, the Court agrees with the County that the Berrys' claims fails to identify sufficient facts to state claims. Regarding the federal claim, the Berrys assert that the “release of Plaintiffs' confidential information by Defendant acting under color of law constitutes a deprivation of Plaintiffs' right of privacy, in violation of 42 USC 1983.” Comp., ¶ 5.1(h). This claim fails for numerous reasons, including the fact that the County must act through an individual employee. See, e.g., Hanigan v. City of Kent, C06-176JLR, 2006 WL 3544603, at *6 (W.D. Wash. Dec. 8, 2006). The Berrys may only recover from the County if their injury was inflicted pursuant to city policy, regulation, custom, or usage. See Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Serv. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). The Berrys' claim does not include sufficient allegations to meet ...

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