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Brees v. HMS Global Maritime Inc.

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

October 25, 2019

HMS GLOBAL MARITIME INC, et al., Defendants.



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Pierce County Defendants' Supplemental Brief and/or Amended CR 12(b) Motion to Dismiss (“Amended Motion to Dismiss”). Dkt. 95. The Court is familiar with the motion, all materials filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, and the remainder of the record herein, and it is fully advised. For the reasons set forth below, the Court should grant Pierce County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from allegedly unlawful searches conducted by ferry personnel against Plaintiff Richard Brees when he attempted to board the ferry in his car. Dkt. 83. Pierce County contracts with Defendant HMS Ferries, Inc. (“HMS”) to operate Pierce County's ferry system. Dkt. 46, at 2.

         Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, the operative complaint, alleges two unlawful searches: one occurring on May 17, 2018, and the other on May 18, 2018. Dkt. 83, at 8-10. In the first alleged search, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Steve Caputo, General Manager (“GM”), HMS Ferries, Inc., alongside an unnamed Senior Ticketing Agent and Ferry Captain, attempted to search his vehicle on May 17, 2018. Dkt. 83, at 8-10. Plaintiff apparently resisted the search and was eventually allowed to board the ferry. Dkt. 83, at 9.

         In the second alleged search, Plaintiff claims that an “angry GM” initiated a retaliatory search of his vehicle. Dkt. 83, at 9-10. Plaintiff alleges that he initially resisted the search, but “under duress” and “[d]esperate to get home, … [he] walked to his [vehicle] trunk, opened it, and said ‘fine, I'll play along, I have to get home, my wife is out of town, and our pets need care, so here search away.'” Dkt. 83, at 10-11. Plaintiff alleges that ferry personnel then searched his car's trunk and instructed Plaintiff to open a large bag, the contents of which were inspected. Dkt. 83, at 11. The operative complaint provides that, after the search was completed, Plaintiff told the GM, “I'll see you in court asshole.” Dkt. 83, at 11. Plaintiff was then not allowed to board the ferry. Dkt. 83, at 11.

         On August 22, 2018, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed an initial complaint with claims against HMS Ferries, Inc., HMS Global Maritime, Inc., and Steve Caputo. Dkt. 1-1. On April 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed a first Amended Complaint naming additional defendants, including Pierce County and three of its employees, Tiffany Garcia (“Ms. Garcia, ” Risk Investigator), Lauren Behm (“Ms. Behm, ” Airport and Ferry Administrator), and MaryBeth DiCarlo (“Ms. DiCarlo, ” Risk Manager). Dkt. 35-1.

         Defendants Pierce County, Ms. Garcia, Ms. Behm, and Ms. DiCarlo filed an initial motion to dismiss (Dkt. 51; still pending consideration), which the Court granted in an order that it later vacated. Dkts. 74; 81; and 88. The Court granted leave to Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint. Dkt. 81. The Court also granted leave to the defendants to amend or withdraw their pending motions for dismissal after Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint (Dkt. 83). Dkt. 88.

         Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint abandoned any claims against Ms. Behm, but maintained several claims against Defendants Pierce County, Ms. Garcia, and Ms. DiCarlo (collectively “County Defendants”). Dkts. 83; and 88, at 4-5. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint makes fourteen claims, nine of which are against County Defendants. Dkt. 83, at 12- 15, ¶¶ 4-5 and 8-14. Plaintiff's only federal claim against County Defendants is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim alleging violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Dkt. 83, at 14, ¶ 11. All other cognizable claims against County Defendants appear to be state law claims. Dkt. 83, at 12-15.

         County Defendants filed the instant Amended Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 95. Plaintiff filed an apparent response in opposition to the instant motion. Dkt. 103. County Defendants filed an apparent reply in support of the instant motion. Dkt. 106.



         When a plaintiff proceeds pro se, a district court is required to afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt in ascertaining what claims plaintiff raised in the complaint and argued to the district court. Alvarez v. Hill, 518 F.3d 1152, 1158 (9th Cir. 2008), (citing Morrison v. Hall, 261 F.3d 896, 899 n.2 (9th Cir. 2001)); see also Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988) (pleadings of pro se civil rights plaintiff to be construed liberally, affording plaintiff benefit of any doubt).

         Because plaintiff filed this complaint pro se, the court has construed the pleadings liberally and has afforded plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi, 839 F.2d at 623. However, “[p]ro se litigants in the ordinary civil case should not be treated more favorably than parties ...

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