Yellowowl-Burdeau et al v. City of Tukwila et al, No. 2:2016cv01632 - Document 14 (W.D. Wash. 2017)

Court Description: ORDER denying defendants' 8 Motion to Dismiss by Judge Richard A Jones.(RS)
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Yellowowl-Burdeau et al v. City of Tukwila et al Doc. 14 THE HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 LUIS YELLOWOWL-BURDEAU, No. 2:16-cv-01632-RAJ 10 11 12 13 14 Plaintiff, ORDER v. CITY OF TUKWILA, d/b/a TUKWILA POLICE DEPARTMENT, a local governmental entity, JAMES STURGILL, an individual, and MIKE BOEHMER, an individual, 15 Defendants. 16 17 This matter comes before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 18 # 8. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Dkt. # 11. For the reasons that follow, the Court 19 DENIES the motion. 20 I. 21 On October 13, 2012, a Tukwila Police Department K-9, Gino, bit Plaintiff’s BACKGROUND 22 leg while two officers, James Sturgill and Mike Boehmer, tackled Plaintiff and 23 unleashed pepper spray. Dkt. # 1-1 (Amended Complaint) at ¶ 2.1. Plaintiff 24 sustained serious and permanent injuries due to the dog bite. Id. at ¶ 2.16. On 25 November 9, 2015, Plaintiff sued the City of Tukwila (“City”) in King County 26 Superior Court, alleging that its officers used excessive force during the arrest. 27 In September 2016, Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint by adding ORDER - 1 Dockets.Justia.com 1 Officers Sturgill and Boehmer as individual defendants. Dkt. # 12 at 4. The City 2 opposed Plaintiff’s motion, arguing that the statute of limitations barred Plaintiff 3 from suing the individual officers. Id. at 17. The state court ruled in Plaintiff’s 4 favor. Id. at 41. Defendants removed to this Court and now seek to reargue the 5 statute of limitations issue. 6 II. LEGAL STANDARD 7 Rule 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a 8 claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The rule requires the court to assume the truth of the 9 complaint’s factual allegations and credit all reasonable inferences arising from 10 those allegations. Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007). A court 11 “need not accept as true conclusory allegations that are contradicted by documents 12 referred to in the complaint.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 13 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must point to factual allegations that 14 “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 15 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). If the plaintiff succeeds, the complaint avoids dismissal if 16 there is “any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint” that would 17 entitle the plaintiff to relief. Id. at 563; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). 18 A court typically cannot consider evidence beyond the four corners of the 19 complaint, although it may rely on a document to which the complaint refers if the 20 document is central to the party’s claims and its authenticity is not in question. 21 Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448 (9th Cir. 2006). A court may also consider 22 evidence subject to judicial notice. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th 23 Cir. 2003). 24 III. 25 A. Collateral Estoppel 26 Plaintiff argues that Defendants are collaterally estopped from seeking 27 DISCUSSION dismissal of the individual officers. Dkt. # 11 at 4. Defendants respond that ORDER - 2 1 collateral estoppel is not applicable because the issues presented to the state court 2 are not identical to the issues presented to this Court, the officers lack privity with 3 the City, the officers were not afforded a full opportunity to litigate this issue to the 4 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 5 6 issue on which a court has already ruled. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980). 7 In determining the preclusive effect of a prior state court judgment, federal courts 8 apply the collateral estoppel rules of the state that rendered the underlying judgment. 9 See 29 U.S.C. § 1738 (“Full Faith and Credit Act”); Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. 10 Bd. of Ed., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984); Everett v. Perez, 78 F.Supp.2d 1134, 1136 (E.D. 11 Wash. 1999). In this case, a Washington state court ruled on whether Plaintiff could 12 amend his complaint to add the individual officers as defendants, and therefore this 13 Court will abide by Washington rules regarding collateral estoppel. Everett, 78 14 F.Supp.2d at 1136. Under Washington law, a party may not relitigate an issue after the party 15 16 against whom the doctrine is applied has had a full and fair opportunity to litigate his 17 or her case. Hanson v. City of Snohomish, 852 P.2d 295, 300 (Wash. 1993). Before 18 a court may apply the doctrine of collateral estoppel, the moving party must prove 19 that: 20 (1) the issue decided in the prior adjudication must be 21 identical with the one presented in the second; (2) the prior 22 adjudication must have ended in a final judgment on the 23 merits; (3) the party against whom the plea of collateral 24 estoppel is asserted must have been a party or in privity 25 with a party to the prior litigation; and (4) application of 26 the doctrine must not work an injustice. 27 In re Moi, 360 P.3d 811, 813 (Wash. 2015), as amended (Jan. 25, 2017), cert. denied ORDER - 3 1 sub nom. Washington v. Moi, 137 S. Ct. 566 (2016). Defendants concede that the 2 state court judgment constitutes a final judgment; therefore, the Court need only 3 analyze the three remaining elements. 4 5 1. Identical Issues Courts may look to the Restatement of Judgments for guidance in 6 determining whether an issue in the prior adjudication is identical to an issue in the 7 subsequent proceeding. The Restatement identifies four factors for courts to 8 consider: 9 (1) is there a substantial overlap between the evidence or 10 argument to be advanced in the second proceeding and 11 that advanced in the first? 12 (2) does the new evidence or argument involve the 13 application of the same rule of law as that involved in the 14 prior proceeding? 15 (3) could pretrial preparation and discovery related to the 16 matter presented in the first action reasonably be expected 17 to have embraced the matter sought to be presented in the 18 second? 19 (4) how closely related are the claims involved in the two 20 proceedings? 21 Kamilche Co. v. United States, 53 F.3d 1059, 1062 (9th Cir. 1995), opinion amended 22 on reh'g sub nom. Kamilche v. United States, 75 F.3d 1391 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing 23 the Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 27); see also Lopez-Vasquez v. Dep’t of 24 Labor & Indus. of St. of Wash., 276 P.3d 354, 357 (Wash. Ct. App. 2012). 25 In the prior state court proceeding, the City argued that the statute of 26 limitations barred Plaintiff from suing the individual officers. Dkt. # 12 at 17-25. 27 The City alluded to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c), stating that the “claims ORDER - 4 1 against officers Sturgill and Boehmer would not relate back to the original 2 complaint.” Id. at 22. After reviewing the arguments in opposition to Plaintiff’s 3 motion to amend, the state court granted the motion to amend and allowed Plaintiff 4 to add the individual officers to his complaint. Id. at 41-42. 5 In their current motion, Defendants argue that the “applicable statute of 6 limitations has expired” and “[r]elation-back does not breathe life into Plaintiff’s 7 expired claims.” Dkt. # 8 at 3. This is the identical issue that the City addressed in 8 its opposition to Plaintiff’s prior motion to amend. Moreover, Defendants did not 9 require additional evidence to advance their current argument than the City required 10 when it previously brought this argument. Indeed, the evidence and some of the 11 case law presented in the instant motion substantially overlap with what the City 12 presented in the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the 13 issue decided in state court is identical to the issue presented in the current motion. 14 2. Privity of parties 15 Courts generally “view different defendants between suits as the same party 16 as long as they are in privity.” Kuhlman v. Thomas, 897 P.2d 365, 368 (Wash. Ct. 17 App. 1995). Many courts “have concluded that, in general, the employer/employee 18 relationship is sufficient to establish privity.” Id. This is especially true when a suit 19 against an employer is based upon actions of its employees. Id. at 368-69 (“The suit 20 against SHA was therefore essentially a suit against its employees. That is to say, 21 whether SHA violated Kuhlman’s rights turned on the propriety of its employees 22 conduct.”). Privity may also exist where the initial party “adequately represented the 23 nonparty’s interests in the prior proceeding.” Stevens County v. Futurewise, 192 24 P.3d 1, 6 (Wash. Ct. App. 2008). 25 Officers Boehmer and Sturgill are employees of the City and it is their 26 actions, in part, that prompted Plaintiff to file this lawsuit. Indeed, Plaintiff brought 27 a vicarious liability claim against the City for the actions of these officers. Dkt. # 1- ORDER - 5 1 1 at ¶ 8.1. Moreover, the City adequately represented the officers’ interests when it 2 opposed Plaintiff’s prior motion to amend. The City raised the same arguments in 3 its opposition that Defendants raise here; specifically, the City argued that the statute 4 of limitations had run and therefore Plaintiff was barred from suing the individual 5 officers. It does not appear to this Court that the City failed to properly represent the 6 interests of the officers in the prior proceeding. As such, the Court finds privity 7 between the individual officers and the City. 8 9 3. Whether applying the doctrine will work an injustice “‘[I]njustice’ means more than that the prior decision was wrong.” State 10 Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Avery, 57 P.3d 300, 304 (Wash. Ct. App. 2002). To 11 analyze whether an injustice will occur, the Court looks to whether the party against 12 whom the doctrine is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in 13 the prior proceeding. Nielson By & Through Nielson v. Spanaway Gen. Med. Clinic, 14 Inc., 956 P.2d 312, 317 (Wash. 1998). 15 Defendants argue that applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel will work 16 an injustice to the individual officers. Defendants claim that, though they argued the 17 issue of whether Plaintiff’s amendment would relate back to the original complaint, 18 this was not actually the focus of the prior proceeding. Defendants appear to fault 19 the state court for its summary order granting Plaintiff’s motion to amend; 20 Defendants find that the state court did not expressly address the relation-back issue 21 and therefore there is room for this Court to make a decision on the merits. The 22 Court is not persuaded. 23 In order for the state court to have allowed Plaintiff to sue the individual 24 officers, it would necessarily have analyzed whether the claims against the officers 25 could relate back to the original date of the complaint. This Court need not assume 26 otherwise. Moreover, Defendants claim that they were not offered a chance to fully 27 litigate the relation-back issue, yet they did not present substantially new legal ORDER - 6 1 arguments or factual evidence in this Motion that they failed to present in prior 2 briefing. Allowing Defendants to reargue the issue would grant them a second bite 3 of the apple. Accordingly, the Court finds that applying the doctrine of collateral 4 estoppel does not work an injustice in this context. 5 IV. 6 For all the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendants’ motion to 7 CONCLUSION dismiss the individual officers. Dkt. # 8. 8 9 Dated this 3rd day of May, 2017. 10 A 11 12 The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 ORDER - 7