Duran v. Mandujano et al, No. 3:2015cv02745 - Document 102 (S.D. Cal. 2017)

Court Description: REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION for Order Granting Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. It is RECOMMENDED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED and that defendants Mandujano, A. Hernandez, L. Hernandez, and Seaman be DISMISSED with prejudice. No later than September 20, 2017, any party to this action may file written objections with the Court and serve a copy on all parties. No replies to objections will be accepted. Signed by Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo on 8/22/2017.(All non-registered users served via U.S. Mail Service)(aef)
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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 DAVID B. DURAN, Case No.: 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG Plaintiff, 12 13 14 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION FOR ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM v. OMAR MANDUJO, et al, Defendants. 15 [ECF No. 94] 16 17 18 Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (“Motion”) Plaintiff David B. 19 Duran’s (“Plaintiff”) Fourth Amended Complaint (“FAC”) for failure to state a claim 20 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendants Omar 21 Mandujano, Alfredo Hernandez, Luis Hernandez, and John Seaman (collectively 22 “Defendants”). As explained below, the Court RECOMMENDS the Motion be 23 GRANTED with prejudice. 24 I. BACKGROUND 25 Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a civil rights 26 Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on December 7, 2015, alleging Defendants 27 violated his rights guaranteed under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments of the United 28 States Constitution. (ECF No. 1.) On August 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to 1 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 File an Amended Complaint in order to add two exhibits. (ECF No. 33.) The Court granted 2 the motion and ordered Plaintiff to file his First Amended Complaint by September 2, 2016. 3 (ECF No. 34.) On August 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Document No. 33 4 by Permission of the Court, requesting the Court to construe his previous motion as his 5 First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 37.) On August 23, 2016, the Court granted the 6 motion and deemed as the First Amended Complaint the complaint and the exhibits filed 7 in the Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 40.) 8 On September 8, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s First 9 Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 41.) On January 31, 2017, this 10 Court filed a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), recommending Defendants’ motion 11 be granted in part with leave to amend and granted in part without leave to amend. (R&R, 12 ECF No. 64.) On March 2, 2017, the Honorable Dana M. Sabraw adopted the R&R, granted 13 Defendants’ motion, and dismissed Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint with leave to 14 amend. (ECF No. 69.) 15 On April 7, 2017 Plaintiff filed a Second Amended complaint, followed by a Motion 16 to Amend on April 11, 2017. (ECF Nos. 73, 76.) In his Motion, Plaintiff requested leave 17 to amend in order to add newly identified defendants Larry Lewis1 and Jonta Yancy. (ECF 18 No. 76.) The motion was granted and on April 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Third Amended 19 Complaint, naming defendants Lewis and Yancy but omitting defendants Mandujano, A. 20 Hernandez, L. Hernandez, and Seaman. (ECF No. 80.) Defendants filed duplicative 21 motions for entry of judgment in favor of the unnamed defendants on April 27, 2017 and 22 May 11, 2017, arguing their omission was tantamount to voluntary dismissal. (ECF Nos. 23 82, 86.) On May 10, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a Fourth Amended 24 Complaint that includes “all allegations against all defendants in one document no later 25 than June 15, 2017.” (ECF No. 85 at 2:1-2.) 26 27 28 1 Erroneously sued as “Larry Louis” in both the motion, Third Amended Complaint, and the FAC. (See ECF No. 91 at 2:1-6.) 2 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 Plaintiff filed his Fourth Amended Complaint on May 19, 2017, naming as 2 defendants Mandujano, A. Hernandez, L. Hernandez, Seaman, Lewis, and Yancy.2 (ECF 3 No. 89.) In the Fourth Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the following: (1) violations 4 of his Fourth Amendment rights through the execution of an invalid search warrant; (2) use 5 of excessive force in executing the search warrant in violation of his Eighth Amendment 6 rights; and (3) illegal search and seizure and cruel and unusual punishment in violation of 7 the his Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights.3 (ECF No. 89.) 8 On June 2, 2017, defendants Mandujano, A. Hernandez, L. Hernandez, and Seaman 9 filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (Motion, ECF No. 94.) On July 13, 10 2017, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to the motion.4 (Pl. Opp’n., ECF No. 99.) 11 Defendants’ filed a Reply on August 11, 2017. (Reply, ECF No. 101.) 12 II. LEGAL STANDARD 13 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a party to raise by motion the 14 defense that the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” 15 generally referred to as a motion to dismiss. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Court evaluates 16 whether a complaint states a cognizable legal theory and sufficient facts in light of Federal 17 Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim 18 showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Although Rule 8 “does 19 not require ‘detailed factual allegations,’ . . . it [does] demand[] more than an unadorned, 20 the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 21 22 2 23 24 25 26 27 28 After receiving Plaintiff’s Fourth Amended Complaint, naming Defendants that were omitted in the Third Amended Complaint, the Court denied Defendants’ motions for an entry of judgment in their favor. (See ECF No. 90.) 3 The third claim is directed at defendants Lewis and Yancy only. (FAC at 33.) 4 Plaintiff added numerous additional facts and claims against Defendants in his Response. (See Pl. Opp’n at 11:23-13:25.) However, these facts and claims will not be considered in determining the present Motion. See Schneider v. California Dept. of Corrections, 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1998) (“[N]ew allegations contained in the inmates’ opposition motion, however, are irrelevant for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes. In determining the propriety of a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a court may not look beyond the complaint to a plaintiff’s moving papers, such as a memorandum in opposition to a defendant’s motion to dismiss.” (emphasis in original)) 3 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, “a 2 plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more 3 than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action 4 will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 5 (1986)). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further 6 factual enhancement.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). 7 “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, 8 accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Id. (quoting 9 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A claim is facially plausible 10 when the facts pled “allow [ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant 11 is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). That is not to 12 say that the claim must be probable, but there must be “more than a sheer possibility that a 13 defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Facts “‘merely consistent with’ a defendant's liability” 14 fall short of a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). 15 Further, the Court need not accept as true “legal conclusions” contained in the complaint. 16 Id. This review requires context-specific analysis involving the Court's “judicial experience 17 and common sense.” Id. at 678 (citation omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not 18 permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has 19 alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Id. The Court 20 will grant leave to amend unless it determines that no modified contention “consistent with 21 the challenged pleadings … [will] cure the deficiency.” DeSoto v. Yello Freight Sys., Inc., 22 957 F.2d 655, 658 (9th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). 23 Where, as here, a plaintiff appears pro se in a civil rights suit, the Court also must 24 be careful to construe the pleadings liberally and afford the plaintiff any benefit of the 25 doubt. Garmon v. Cty. of L.A., 828 F.3d 837, 846 (9th Cir. 2016). The rule of liberal 26 construction is “particularly important in civil rights cases.” Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 27 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). In construing a pro se civil rights complaint liberally, however, 28 a court may not “supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pleaded.” 4 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). “Vague 2 and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not 3 sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.” Id. Thus, at a minimum, even the pro se 4 plaintiff “must allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants 5 engaged in that support [his] claim.” Jones v. Cmty. Redevelopment Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 6 649 (9th Cir. 1984) (internal quotations and citation omitted). 7 The Court should grant a pro se litigant leave to amend his complaint “unless it 8 determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” 9 Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation omitted). Before 10 dismissing a complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff, a court must give some notice of the 11 complaint’s deficiencies. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). 12 Nevertheless, when amendment of a pro se litigant’s complaint would be futile, denial of 13 leave to amend is appropriate. See James v. Giles, 221 F.3d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 2000). 14 III. DISCUSSION 15 A. Judicial Notice 16 Defendants request the Court take judicial notice of Plaintiff’s First Amended 17 Complaint and its attached exhibits. (ECF No. 94-2.) The Court declines to do so. 18 “Generally, a court may not consider material beyond the complaint in ruling on a 19 [motion to dismiss].” Intri-Plex Technologies, Inc. v. Crest Group, Inc., 499 F.3d 1048, 20 1052 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). A court may “take judicial notice of matters of 21 public record without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, 22 as long as the facts noticed are not subject to reasonable dispute.” Id. “However, it is well- 23 established that an amended complaint supersedes the original, the latter being treated 24 thereafter as non-existent.” Valadez-Lopez v. Chertoff, 656 F.3d 851, 857 (9th Cir. 2011) 25 (quotation omitted); see also Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1005 (9th Cir. 2010) 26 (applying the same standard to a pro se prisoner’s second amended complaint made 27 pursuant to § 1983). 28 Had Plaintiff merely filed a Second Amended Complaint, the court would consider 5 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 the First Amended Complaint as non-existent. In the instant case, Petitioner has filed a 2 Fourth Amended Complaint. Even were the Court to disregard Plaintiff’s Third Amended 3 Complaint as mistakenly filed, Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint is far superseded by 4 subsequently filed complaints and the Court treats it as non-existent. Accordingly, the 5 Court declines to judicially notice the First Amended Complaint and its exhibits. 6 B. § 1983 Claims 7 In Plaintiff’s FAC, he states the following claims against Defendants: (1) violations 8 of his Fourth Amendment rights through the execution of an invalid search warrant; and 9 (2) use of excessive force in executing the search warrant in violation of his Fourth and 10 Eighth Amendment rights. (FAC at 4, 16.) Defendants argue the FAC should be dismissed, 11 arguing Plaintiff fails to allege a single claim for relief because Plaintiff “fail[ed] to re- 12 allege the factual allegations concerning the incident which is the subject of this lawsuit.” 13 (P&A at 8:16-17.) 14 i. Applicable Law 15 “Section 1983 provides a cause of action for ‘the deprivation of any rights, 16 privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws’ of the United States.” 17 Wilder v. Va. Hosp. Ass’n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42. U.S.C. § 1983), 18 superseded on other grounds by statute, 42 C.F.R. § 430.0. To prevail on a claim for 19 violation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must prove two 20 elements: (1) that a person acting under the color of state law committed the conduct at 21 issue; and (2) that the conduct deprived the plaintiff of some right, privilege, or immunity 22 conferred by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. See Nelson v. Campbell, 541 23 U.S. 637, 643 (2004). “Dismissal of a § 1983 claim following a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is 24 proper if the complaint is devoid of factual allegations that gave rise to a plausible inference 25 of either element.” Naffe v. Frey, 789 F.3d 1030, 1036 (9th Cir. 2015). 26 ii. Invalid Search Warrant 27 Plaintiff appears to question the validity of a search warrant in his FAC. However, a 28 thorough review of this claim reveals that it is almost entirely devoid of factual allegations. 6 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 Rather, the claim is merely excerpts of case law mixed with objections to this Court’s 2 previous R&R along with requests for explanation from both the Court and Defendants. 3 Plaintiff simply states that “the warrant in question is flawed by defects, more th[a]n 4 harmless error.” (FAC at 7:1-3.) After block quoting a portion of a warrant that is attached 5 as an exhibit and block quoting sections of California Vehicle Code, Plaintiff then states 6 “[t]his was infact (sic) an unnecessary blood draw/DNA extraction.” (FAC at 7:7-8:15.) 7 However, these are nothing more than “legal conclusion[s]” and the Court need not accept 8 them as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. Plaintiff then appears to object to this Court’s previous 9 R&R. (FAC at 9:15-10:4.) Setting aside the legal conclusions and construing the FAC 10 liberally, Plaintiff’s claim does not even reach the point where it could be called a “naked 11 assertion” as it is devoid of any facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. Furthermore, the claim only 12 mentions defendant Mandujano’s name once, merely identifying him as a defendant, and 13 does not mention defendants A. Hernandez, L. Hernandez, or Seaman at all. Thus, Plaintiff 14 has failed to “allege with at least some degree of particularity overt acts which defendants 15 engaged in that support [his] claim.” Jones, 733 F.2d at 649. Given this, the Court is unable 16 to draw a “reasonable inference” that Defendants are “liable for the misconduct alleged.” 17 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. 18 Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS Defendants’ Motion be GRANTED and 19 Plaintiff’s claim that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by executing an 20 invalid search warrant be DISMISSED. 21 iii. Excessive Force 22 Plaintiff’s second claim is for excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Eighth 23 Amendments. (FAC at 16.) However, there is no factual description of any force, let alone 24 excessive force, in the entire claim. Plaintiff also fails to name a single defendant and 25 identify how any of the defendants engaged in any misconduct.5 Similar to the first claim, 26 27 28 5 The Court notes the claim contains the names of defendants Mandujano and Seaman but only in the context of a block quote of this Court’s previous R&R. (See FAC at 18:14-18.) See also Youngblood v. 7 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 Plaintiff spends the majority of the claim for excessive force block quoting and objecting 2 to this Court’s previous R&R. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to “allege with at least some degree 3 of particularity overt acts which defendants engaged in that support [his] claim.” Jones, 4 733 F.2d at 649. Given this, the Court is unable to draw a “reasonable inference” that 5 Defendants are “liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. 6 Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS Defendants’ Motion be GRANTED and 7 Plaintiff’s claim that Defendants violated his Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights by 8 using excessive force be DISMISSED. 9 C. Leave To Amend 10 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that “a party may amend its 11 pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court 12 should freely grant leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). When 13 determining whether to grant leave to amend, courts weigh certain factors: “undue delay, 14 bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of [the party who wishes to amend a pleading], 15 repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice 16 to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [and] futility of amendment 17 [.]” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). 18 Although prejudice to the opposing party “carries the greatest weight[,]...a strong 19 showing of any of the remaining Foman factors” can justify the denial of leave to amend. 20 Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). 21 Analysis of these factors can overlap. For instance, a party's “repeated failure to cure 22 deficiencies” constitues “a strong indication that the [party] has no additional facts to 23 plead” and “that any attempt to amend would be futile[.]” Zucco Partners, LLC v. Digimarc 24 Corp., 552 F.3d 981, 988, 1007 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted) 25 (upholding dismissal of complaint with prejudice when there were “three iterations of [the] 26 27 28 People, 2011 WL 5036995, at *1 (C.D. Cal. 2011) (a court need not consider references to previously filed complaints made in subsequent amended complaints.). 8 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 allegations—none of which, according to [the district] court, was sufficient to survive a 2 motion to dismiss”); see also: Simon v. Value Behavioral Health, Inc., 208 F.3d 1073, 1084 3 (9th Cir. 2000) (affirming dismissal without leave to amend where plaintiff failed to correct 4 deficiencies in complaint, where court had afforded plaintiff opportunities to do so, and 5 had discussed with plaintiff the substantive problems with his claims), amended by 234 6 F.3d 428, overruled on other grounds by Odom v. Microsoft Corp., 486 F.3d 541, 551 (9th 7 Cir. 2007); Plumeau v. Sch. Dist. # 40 Cnty. of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 439 (9th Cir. 1997) 8 (denial of leave to amend appropriate where further amendment would be futile). 9 Including the initial complaint, Plaintiff has now had five opportunities to state a 10 claim for which relief could be granted. When recommending dismissal of Plaintiff’s First 11 Amended Complaint, this Court advised Plaintiff of the deficiencies of that complaint for 12 his claims regarding the warrant and excessive force. (See R&R at 11:1-14, 11:19-12:7.) 13 In the order adopting the first Report and Recommendation, the Honorable Dana M. 14 Sabraw granted Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint and again advised 15 Plaintiff to “cure[] the pleading deficiencies identified in the R&R.” (ECF No. 69 at 2.) 16 When this Court granted Plaintiff’s request to file a Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff 17 was yet again advised the complaint “must specifically allege facts” and “precisely identify 18 which cause(s) of action are brought against each person.” (ECF No. 77.) Plaintiff failed 19 to heed these warnings when filing his Third and now Fourth Amended Complaint. 20 Plaintiff’s repeated failure to cure deficiencies is a strong indication to the Court that 21 Plaintiff has no additional facts to plead. Given this, the Court finds that any further 22 attempts to amend would be futile. Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS that 23 defendants Mandujano, A. Hernandez, L. Hernandez, and Seaman be DISMISSED WITH 24 PREJUDICE. 25 IV. CONCLUSION 26 For the reasons set forth herein, it is RECOMMENDED that Defendants’ Motion 27 to Dismiss be GRANTED and that defendants Mandujano, A. Hernandez, L. Hernandez, 28 and Seaman be DISMISSED with prejudice. This Report and Recommendation is 9 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG 1 submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to this case, pursuant to the 2 provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(1988) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b). 3 IT IS ORDERED that no later than September 20, 2017, any party to this action 4 may file written objections with the Court and serve a copy on all parties. The document 5 shall be captioned “Objections to Report and Recommendation.” The parties are advised 6 that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to raise those 7 objections on appeal of the Court’s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). 8 9 10 11 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED no replies to objections will be accepted, and the motion will be deemed taken under submission on September 20, 2017. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: August 22, 2017 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 10 15-CV-2745-DMS-WVG