United States District Court, W.D. Washington
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS
L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court is Defendants City of Redmond (“the
City”), Redmond Police Department (“RPD”),
RPD Officer Natalie D'Amico, former RPD Chief Ron Gibson,
and former RPD Assistant Chief Kristi Wilson's
(collectively, “City Defendants”) motion to
dismiss certain claims. (MTD (Dkt. # 79).) Plaintiffs Susan
(Shiying) Chen, Naixiang (Nash) Lian, J.L, and L.L.
(collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a response
(Resp. (Dkt. # 81)), City Defendants filed a reply (Reply
(Dkt. # 82)), and Plaintiffs filed a notice of supplemental
authority (Notice (Dkt. # 84)). The court has considered the
parties' submissions in support of and in opposition to
the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the
applicable law. Being fully advised,  the court GRANTS in part and
DENIES in part City Defendants' motion to dismiss with
leave to amend as described herein.
Chen and Mr. Lian are the parents of J.L. and L.L. (SAC
¶¶ 3-6.) J.L. was born in 2008, and L.L. was born
in 2010. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) In 2012, J.L. was
diagnosed with gastrointestinal (“GI”) problems
and Autism Spectrum Disorder. (Id. ¶¶
24-25.) From September 2012 to October 2013, Plaintiffs took
J.L. to a number of clinics at Seattle Children's
Hospital (“SCH”), as well as a naturopath, to
address his GI issues. (Id. ¶¶ 27-33.)
about October 19, 2013, J.L. suffered significant GI
problems. (Id. ¶ 34.) Ms. Chen and Mr. Lian
took J.L. to a number of clinics to have blood work done
because of creatinine levels in his blood that could harm his
kidneys. (Id. ¶¶ 34-36.) The first two
clinics Plaintiffs went to refused to perform blood work.
(Id.) SCH Urgent Care Clinic, the third location
Plaintiffs visited, agreed to perform the blood work and
inform Plaintiffs of any abnormal results. (Id.
next day, Ms. Chen took J.L. back to SCH Urgent Care Clinic
because his condition had not improved. (Id. ¶
38.) Upon returning to the clinic, Ms. Chen learned that
J.L.'s blood work from the previous day revealed
dangerously high creatinine levels. (Id.) The clinic
recommended that Ms. Chen take J.L. to the emergency room
(“ER”). (Id.) The clinic had not
notified Ms. Chen about the blood work results before she
brought J.L. back the following day. (Id.)
on the clinic's recommendation, Ms. Chen and Mr. Lian
took J.L. to the emergency room at SCH. (Id.)
Medical staff supervised J.L.'s condition for several
hours and discharged him later that night. (Id.
¶ 39.) They advised Ms. Chen and Mr. Lian to follow up
with Dr. Halamay-who was not J.L.'s typical primary care
doctor-in one to three days. (Id.)
their visit to the ER at SCH, Ms. Chen took J.L. to see Dr.
Halamay on October 23, 2013. (Id. ¶ 41.) Dr.
Halamay “took the positon that Ms. Chen should take
J.L. to the SCH emergency department for admission”
based on an inaccurate belief that Mr. Chen and Mr. Lian had
not already taken J.L. to the ER just a few days before.
(Id.) Plaintiffs contend that “[a]fter Ms.
Chen expressed her dissatisfaction with Dr. Halamay's
treatment of her and J.L.” and left a complaint about
the treatment with the receptionist, Dr. Halamay referred
J.L's case to DSHS's Child Protective Services
visited Plaintiffs' home on October 23, 2013, to
investigate Dr. Halamay's allegation. (Id.
¶ 43.) The CPS social worker convinced Ms. Chen and Mr.
Lian to take J.L. to SCH, where he was found to be
malnourished and subsequently placed into protective custody.
(Id. ¶¶ 43-44.) On October 24, 2013,
Officer D'Amico and an unidentified RPD officer searched
Ms. Chen and Mr. Lian's apartment without a warrant or an
interpreter. (Id. ¶ 46.) RPD then removed L.L.
from Ms. Chen and Mr. Lian's custody. (Id.
after the children's removal, Officer D'Amico led an
investigation into possible child neglect by Ms. Chen.
(Id. ¶ 59.) On December 9, 2013, Officer
D'Amico signed a probable cause affidavit to file
criminal charges against Ms. Chen. (Id. ¶ 65.)
Plaintiffs allege that the affidavit, made upon Officer
D'Amico's knowledge, contained untrue statements and
omitted exculpatory information. (Id. ¶¶
66-72.) On December 13, 2013, Officer D'Amico sent her
investigation report and probable cause affidavit to the King
County Prosecuting Attorney, whose office filed a criminal
information against Ms. Chen on January 31, 2014.
(Id. ¶¶ 85-86.) In early 2014, Ms. Chen
was arraigned, imprisoned for one day, and released without
bail. (Id. ¶ 87.) Mr. Lian was not
charged with any crime arising from the alleged neglect.
(See Id. ¶ 21.) On September 19, 2014, the
Prosecuting Attorney's office dropped the charges against
Ms. Chen. (Id. ¶ 88.)
allege various constitutional violations pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and violations of Washington State law by
City Defendants and unnamed John Does A-D; Defendant
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
(“DSHS”); and 10 named and unnamed DSHS
employees. (SAC ¶¶ 7-20.) Relevant to City
Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Plaintiffs assert the following
constitutional claims: (1) violation of Ms. Chen's Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendment rights due to her arrest and
prosecution without probable cause (id. ¶¶
110-11); (2) violation of Ms. Chen's Fourteenth Amendment
due process right based on Officer D'Amico's failure
“to use an interpreter to obtain reliable and accurate
testimony from Ms. Chen” (id. ¶ 112); (3)
violation of Ms. Chen's right to equal protection of the
law due to selective prosecution and failure to provide Ms.
Chen “an opportunity to provide exculpatory testimony
obtained without an interpreter” (id.
¶¶ 114-15); and (4) violation of J.L.'s
Fourteenth Amendment due process rights (id. ¶
113). Plaintiffs also bring claims against the City and RPD
for those same constitutional violations pursuant to
Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New
York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); claims of supervisory
liability against Chief Gibson and Assistant Chief Wilson
based on their roles in the constitutional violations; and a
claim of malicious prosecution against Officer D'Amico,
Chief Gibson, and Assistant Chief Wilson. (Id.
¶¶ 119-41, 187-209.) The court now addresses City
Defendants' motion to dismiss. (See MTD.)
12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Although a plaintiff
does not have to make “detailed factual allegations,
” a complaint must include “more than an
accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). In other words, a complaint must include
sufficient factual allegations to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Id.
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the
pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. Under Rule 12(b)(6),
the court can dismiss a complaint based on “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). When considering a motion to
dismiss under Rule 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), and accepts all
well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff's favor, Wyler Summit
P'ship v. Turner Broad. Sys., Inc., 135 F.3d 658,
661 (9th Cir. 1998).
The Motion to Dismiss
Defendants first argue for dismissal of Plaintiffs'
claims against the City for failure to adequately allege
municipal liability. (MTD at 6-9.) They further contend that
leave to amend those claims would be futile because
Plaintiffs cannot plead the underlying constitutional
violations. (Id. at 9-13.) City Defendants then
argue that (1) qualified immunity bars Plaintiffs'
Section 1983 claims against Officer D'Amico, Chief
Gibson, and Assistant Chief Wilson; (2) the applicable
statute of limitations bars those same claims against Chief
Gibson and Assistant Chief Wilson; and (3) Plaintiffs fail to
adequately plead a claim of supervisory liability against
Chief Gibson and Assistant Chief Wilson. The court
addresses the claims against the City first, followed by the
claims against the officers.
contend that Plaintiffs fail to plead municipal liability for
their Section 1983 claims because the complaint lacks
sufficient detail regarding a City policy causing the
constitutional violations. (MTD at 7.) Plaintiffs claim that
the City is responsible for Officer D'Amico's alleged
constitutional violations because the City failed to (1)
adopt and implement policies (SAC ¶ 122-23), and (2)
train or supervise RPD officers to ensure constitutional
practices (id. ¶ 124). Plaintiffs assert that
the City failed to adopt or implement policies and to train
and supervise regarding (1) preparing “probable cause
affidavits that do not contain material falsehoods or
omissions”; (2) accounting for “exculpatory
evidence in order to refrain from prosecuting persons without
probable cause”; (3) not targeting “persons for
investigation and prosecution on the basis of gender or
national origin or ethnicity”; (4) not using
“unreliable testimony obtained from witnesses who are
not English proficient for use in prosecution unless there
was a qualified interpreter present at the
interrogation”; and (5) providing “prosecutors
with exculpatory information to terminate criminal and/or
dependency proceedings in order to halt prosecutions not
founded upon probable cause.” (Id.
¶¶ 122-24.) In response to City Defendants'
motion, Plaintiffs argue that their complaint adequately
pleads both that the City's actions and inactions led to
the constitutional violations asserted. (Resp. at 5.) The
court addresses both theories of municipal liability, as well
as City Defendants' contentions regarding leave to amend
Policy, Custom, or Practice
state a claim against a municipality under Section 1983, a
plaintiff must allege facts supporting the reasonable
inference that a municipality adopted a policy, custom, or
practice that amounted to deliberate indifference to the
plaintiff's constitutional right and resulted in a
deprivation of the constitutional right. See Monell,
436 U.S. at 691-92; see also Plumeau v. Sch. Dist. No. 40
Cty. of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 (9th Cir. 1997). A
plaintiff can plead a policy by supplying sufficient facts
demonstrating that the municipality (1) adopted an official
policy or had an established custom that led to the
constitutional violation, (2) failed to act in a way that
amounts to a policy of deliberate indifference to
constitutional rights, or (3) that an official with final
policy-making authority committed the constitutional
violation or ratified a subordinate's violation. See
Clouthier v. Cty. of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1249
(9th Cir. 2010), overruled on other grounds by Castro v.
Cty. of L.A., 833 F.3d 1060 (9th Cir. 2016). A
plaintiff's allegations “may not simply recite the
elements” of municipal liability and instead must
“put forth additional facts regarding the specific
nature” of the alleged policy and its relationship to
the alleged constitutional violation. AE ex rel.
Hernandez v. Cty. of Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 637 (9th Cir.
that standard, Plaintiffs fail to sufficiently allege facts
from which the court can reasonably infer a municipal policy,
custom, or practice. (See generally SAC.) Their
complaint alleges only that “customs, longstanding
practices, and official policies caused the deprivation of
Plaintiffs' constitutional rights.” (Id.
¶ 125.) That formulaic recitation falls far short of the
pleading standard. See AE ex rel. Hernandez, 666
F.3d at 637; Ahmed v. City of Antioch, Cal., No.
16-cv-01693-HSG, 2016 WL 8729938, at *5 (N.D. Cal. July 1,
2016) (dismissing a Monell claim where the complaint
did nothing more than use “key buzzwords such as
‘conformity, ' ‘customs, '
‘policies, ' and ‘practices'”);
Alston v. Tassone, No. CIV S-11-2078 JAM GGH PS,
2012 WL 2377015, at *8 (E.D. Cal. June 22, 2002) (stating
that a Monell claim “must consist of more than
mere formulaic recitations of the existence of unlawful
policy customs or habits”). Thus, Plaintiffs fail to
state a claim based on this theory of municipal liability.