Blanco v. Cnty. of Kings

Decision Date30 October 2015
Docket NumberCase No. 1:14-CV-2046-LJO-EPG
Citation142 F.Supp.3d 986
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
Parties Jessica Blanco, Plaintiff, v. County of Kings, et al., Defendants.

Marguerite Melo, Law Offices of Melo and Sarsfield, LLP, Visalia, CA, for Plaintiff.

Michelle E. Sassano, Weakley & Arendt, LLP, Fresno, CA, Allen Christiansen, Ferguson Praet and Sherman, Santa Ana, CA, for Defendants.


LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge

Plaintiff Jessica Blanco filed this action against Defendants City of Lemoore ("the City"), Lemoore Police Department Officer Kevin Cosper ("Cosper") in his official and private capacity, the County of Kings ("the County"), Kings County Sheriff's Deputy Maribel Mixon ("Mixon") in her official and private capacity, and Does 1-10. Plaintiff's suit stems from her December 19, 2013 arrest and booking in the County jail facility, and alleges violations of her First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as various claims under state law. Now before the Court are the respective Motions to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), filed by Mixon and the County (Doc. 18), and Cosper and the City (Doc. 19). This matter is suitable for disposition without oral argument. See Local Rule 230(g). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motions.


Plaintiff is a female resident of Kings County. (First Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶ 6, Doc. 16). On December 19, 2013, at approximately 3:30 a.m., Plaintiff was driving somewhere in Lemoore. (Id. ¶ 11). She was stopped by Cosper, a male police officer, for a motor vehicle registration violation. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11). After a search during which a controlled substance was discovered, Cosper arrested Plaintiff and took her to the County jail, located in the city of Hanford. (Id. ¶ 11). The jail is operated by Kings County. (Id. ). En route to the jail, Cosper "attempted to elicit incriminating statements from Plaintiff, which she largely refused" to provide. (Id. ).

When they arrived at the county jail, Cosper turned Plaintiff over to Mixon for processing. (Id. ¶ 12). Mixon, a female, conducted a routine strip search of Plaintiff. (Id. ). "On information and belief, this strip search consisted of Plaintiff being compelled to remove all her clothing for inspection and search, as well as a body cavity search." (Id. ). Initially, Mixon conducted the search away from male personnel, and the search was "routine in nature." (Id. ).

At some point during the search, Mixon discovered an additional small amount of a controlled substance on Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 13). While Plaintiff was still undressed, Mixon summoned Cosper, who had been outside the strip search area. (Id. ). Cosper came into the strip search area and began interrogating Plaintiff while she was unclothed, "in an attempt to gain further incriminating information from her." (Id. ). The actions of Mixon and Cosper "caused Plaintiff to suffer severe emotional shock and humiliation, with the resultant stress." (Id. ).

On or around June 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed an administrative claim pursuant to California law regarding the matters described above. (Id. ¶ 17). The County denied this claim on August 15, 2015, and the City denied the claim on August 6, 2014. (Id. ).


Plaintiff filed the original complaint with this Court on December 18, 2014. (Doc. 1). The FAC, filed July 15, 2015, sets forth the following claims against all Defendants: (1) violation of Plaintiff's First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ; (2) violation of Plaintiff's right to privacy under the California Constitution; (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress under California law; and (4) negligent infliction of emotional distress under California law. (Doc. 16). On these bases, Plaintiff seeks general damages of not less than $1,000,000, damages for "mental anguish and emotional distress," and punitive damages against Mixon and Cosper. (Id. ).

In their respective Motions, Mixon and the County seek dismissal of Plaintiff's second, third, and fourth causes of action (Doc. 18), and Cosper and the City seek dismissal of all causes of action and move to strike Plaintiff's prayer for punitive damages (Doc. 19). Plaintiff opposed both Motions (Docs.21, 22). Defendants each submitted responses. (Docs.23, 24). The matter is now ripe for review.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is a challenge to the sufficiency of the allegations set forth in the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir.2001). A 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper where there is either a "lack of a cognizable legal theory" or "the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balist r eri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.1990). In determining whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint, construes the pleading in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolves all doubts in the pleader's favor. Lazy Y Ranch L td. v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580, 588 (9th Cir.2008).

Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." A plaintiff is required to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ).

While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. A pleading is insufficient if it offers mere "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts that it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the ... laws in ways that have not been alleged[.]" Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526, 103 S.Ct. 897, 74 L.Ed.2d 723 (1983). In practice, "a complaint ... must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562, 127 S.Ct. 1955. In other words, the complaint must describe the alleged misconduct in enough detail to lay the foundation for an identified legal claim.

"Dismissal without leave to amend is proper if it is clear that the complaint could not be saved by amendment."

Kendall v. Visa U.S.A., Inc., 518 F.3d 1042, 1051 (9th Cir.2008). To the extent that the pleadings can be cured by the allegation of additional facts, the Court will afford the plaintiff leave to amend. Cook, Perkiss and Liehe, Inc. v. N. California Collection Serv. Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir.1990) (citations omitted).



The first cause of action is brought against Mixon, the County, Cosper, the City, and Does 1–10, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a federal cause of action for plaintiffs who have been deprived of constitutional rights under the color of law. For each defendant that she seeks to hold liable under § 1983, Plaintiff must allege: (1) this defendant was acting under color of state law at the time the complained-of act was committed; and (2) the defendant's conduct deprived Plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981), overruled on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330–31, 106 S.Ct. 662, 88 L.Ed.2d 662 (1986) ; Jensen v. City of Oxnard, 145 F.3d 1078, 1082 (9th Cir.1998).

Plaintiff also must establish causation, by demonstrating that each defendant personally was involved in the constitutional violation, or that there was a sufficient causal connection between the defendant's wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation. Redman v. County of San Diego, 942 F.2d 1435, 1446–47 (9th Cir.1991) (en banc). "The inquiry into causation must be individualized to focus on the duties and responsibilities of each individual defendant whose acts or omissions are alleged to have caused a constitutional deprivation." Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir.1988)

Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is entitled "42 U.S.C. § 1983 —Unreasonable Search and Seizure and Due Process Violation). (Doc. 16, at 2.) The body of the claim more broadly alleges "[t]he actions of Defendants and each of them that morning were designed to retaliate against Plaintiff for her invoking her right to remain silent during the questioning by Defendant Cosper that morning, in violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." (Id. ¶ 14). Mixon and the County do not address this cause of action in...

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