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Yellowowl-Burdeau v. City of Tukwila

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

May 3, 2017

CITY OF TUKWILA, d/b/a TUKWILA POLICE DEPARTMENT, a local governmental entity, JAMES STURGILL, an individual, and MIKE BOEHMER, an individual, Defendants.


          Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. # 8. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Dkt. # 11. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 13, 2012, a Tukwila Police Department K-9, Gino, bit Plaintiff's leg while two officers, James Sturgill and Mike Boehmer, tackled Plaintiff and unleashed pepper spray. Dkt. # 1-1 (Amended Complaint) at ¶ 2.1. Plaintiff sustained serious and permanent injuries due to the dog bite. Id. at ¶ 2.16. On November 9, 2015, Plaintiff sued the City of Tukwila (“City”) in King County Superior Court, alleging that its officers used excessive force during the arrest.

         In September 2016, Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint by adding Officers Sturgill and Boehmer as individual defendants. Dkt. # 12 at 4. The City opposed Plaintiff's motion, arguing that the statute of limitations barred Plaintiff from suing the individual officers. Id. at 17. The state court ruled in Plaintiff's favor. Id. at 41. Defendants removed to this Court and now seek to reargue the statute of limitations issue.


         Rule 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The rule requires the court to assume the truth of the complaint's factual allegations and credit all reasonable inferences arising from those allegations. Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007). A court “need not accept as true conclusory allegations that are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must point to factual allegations that “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). If the plaintiff succeeds, the complaint avoids dismissal if there is “any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint” that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Id. at 563; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         A court typically cannot consider evidence beyond the four corners of the complaint, although it may rely on a document to which the complaint refers if the document is central to the party's claims and its authenticity is not in question. Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448 (9th Cir. 2006). A court may also consider evidence subject to judicial notice. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003).


         A. Collateral Estoppel

         Plaintiff argues that Defendants are collaterally estopped from seeking dismissal of the individual officers. Dkt. # 11 at 4. Defendants respond that collateral estoppel is not applicable because the issues presented to the state court are not identical to the issues presented to this Court, the officers lack privity with the City, the officers were not afforded a full opportunity to litigate this issue to the state court, and applying the doctrine would be unjust. Dkt. # 8 at 6-9.

         Collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, prevents a party from relitigating an issue on which a court has already ruled. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980). In determining the preclusive effect of a prior state court judgment, federal courts apply the collateral estoppel rules of the state that rendered the underlying judgment. See 29 U.S.C. § 1738 (“Full Faith and Credit Act”); Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Ed., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984); Everett v. Perez, 78 F.Supp.2d 1134, 1136 (E.D. Wash. 1999). In this case, a Washington state court ruled on whether Plaintiff could amend his complaint to add the individual officers as defendants, and therefore this Court will abide by Washington rules regarding collateral estoppel. Everett, 78 F.Supp.2d at 1136.

         Under Washington law, a party may not relitigate an issue after the party against whom the doctrine is applied has had a full and fair opportunity to litigate his or her case. Hanson v. City of Snohomish, 852 P.2d 295, 300 (Wash. 1993). Before a court may apply the doctrine of collateral estoppel, the moving party must prove that:

(1) the issue decided in the prior adjudication must be identical with the one presented in the second; (2) the prior adjudication must have ended in a final judgment on the merits; (3) the party against whom the plea of collateral estoppel is asserted must have been a party or in privity with a party to the ...

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