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Jackson v. City of Mountlake Terrace

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

March 3, 2017

ROBERT LYNN JACKSON, JR., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS SWEDISH MEDICAL CENTER AND GRETCHEN TOPPING'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Defendants Swedish Medical Center (“Swedish”) and Gretchen Topping's (collectively, “Medical Center Defendants”) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims against them. (MTD (Dkt. # 9); see also Reply (Dkt. # 16).) Plaintiffs oppose Medical Center Defendants' motion. (Resp. (Dkt. # 15).) The court has reviewed the motion, all of the parties' submissions related to the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1]the court GRANTS the motion and dismisses Plaintiffs' claims against Medical Center Defendants. Further, the court declines to grant Plaintiffs leave to amend their claims against Medical Center Defendants because their claims against these defendants fail as a matter of law.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The allegations underlying this lawsuit are tragic. Plaintiffs Robert Lynn Jackson, Jr. and Catherine Irene Jackson are the parents of the decedent, Forest Edwin Jackson, who was murdered on March 28, 2014. (Compl. (Dkt. # 1) ¶¶ 1-3.)

         Plaintiffs allege that “law enforcement” knew that Toby Sauceda was a danger to himself and others based on a July 19, 2014, newspaper article that described a February 2014, incident. (Id. ¶ 9.) According to the article, Mr. Sauceda “barricaded himself inside an apartment after threatening to slit his [own] throat and overdose on pills.” (Id.) The article also states that Mr. Sauceda pointed “a BB-gun made to appear like a Beretta semiautomatic pistol” at an officer. (Id.) As a result of this incident, police charged Mr. Sauceda with assault. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs allege that on March 28, 2014, Mr. Sauceda called 911 “and reported that he had raped a woman.” (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs further allege that police officers responded to the scene and “confirmed that [Mr. Sauceda] had in fact raped a woman.”[2](Id.) Plaintiffs allege that instead of arresting Mr. Sauceda for rape, one of the officers filled out an involuntary commitment form (id. ¶ 13(a)) and the officers then “dropped [Mr.] Sauceda off at [Swedish] and drove away” (id. ¶ 13(b)).[3]

         Plaintiffs allege that Medical Center Defendants failed to involuntarily commit Mr. Sauceda for mental health treatment, and that Medical Center Defendants' release of Mr. Sauceda from the hospital created an immediate danger for Forest Jackson. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 13(b), 14.) Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Sauceda killed Forest Jackson on March 28, 2014, “within a span of little over an hour” after Mr. Sauceda's release from Swedish. (Id. ¶ 7.)

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiffs claim that Medical Center Defendants violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights by releasing Mr. Sauceda “with deliberate indifference to the rights of others” after Medical Center Defendants determined that Mr. Sauceda “did not meet any of the criteria for an involuntary hold.” (Id. ¶¶ 7, 13(b)-14.) Plaintiffs also assert a negligence claim, alleging that Medical Center Defendants “violated their own internal policies, practices, and mandates with regard to the creation” of danger and “caused harm to Plaintiffs in such a way that was avoidable and preventable.” (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Medical Center Defendants move to dismiss these claims. (See Mot.; see also Reply.) Plaintiffs oppose Medical Center Defendants' motion. (Resp.) The court now considers Medical Center Defendants' motion.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard for a Motion to Dismiss

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Livid Holdings, Ltd. v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., 416 F.3d 940, 946 (9th Cir. 2005). The court must accept all well-pled facts as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Wyler Summit P'ship v. Turner Broad. Sys., Inc., 135 F.3d 658, 661 (9th Cir. 1998). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see Telesaurus VPC, LLC v. Power, 623 F.3d 998, 1003 (9th Cir. 2010). A court may dismiss a complaint as a matter of law if it lacks a cognizable legal theory or states insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990); Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984).

         The court need not accept as true a legal conclusion presented as a factual allegation. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Although the pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” it demands more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A pleading that offers only “labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Id.

         B. Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claim

          “To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff [1] must allege a violation of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and [2] must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). If a plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts to support both elements of a ยง 1983 claim, dismissal under ...


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