Eteghaei v. Cnty. of Alameda

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
PartiesARASH ETEGHAEI, et al., Plaintiffs, v. COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, et al., Defendants
Decision Date29 June 2023
Docket Number22-cv-04298-KAW

ODER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTIONS TO DISMISS

Re: Dkt. Nos. 61, 62

KANDIS A. WESTMORE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Plaintiffs Arash Eteghaei and Mitra Zade filed the instant action alleging violations of their civil rights by Defendants County of Alameda, Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern, Lieutenant Farruggia, Officer Scott Brandon, Officer R. Walter Detective A. Mateen, Officer J. Dormer, Officer M. Mooncada and Officer Joshua Armillo (collectively, Alameda Defendants), as well as the Regents of the University of California (“UC Regents”), Sergeant G. Levette, Officer Samaniego, and Officer Avila (collectively, “University Defendants). Pending before the Court are: (1) the University Defendants' motion to dismiss, and (2) the Alameda Defendants' motion to dismiss. (University Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 61; Alameda Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 62.)

The Court previously found this matter was suitable for disposition without a hearing. (Dkt. No. 71.) Having considered the parties' filings and the relevant legal authorities, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the University Defendants' motion to dismiss and GRANTS the Alameda Defendants' motion to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

In 2021, Plaintiffs' son, Arian Eteghaei, was accused of crimes while attending the University of California, Santa Barbara. (Third Am. Compl. (“TAC”) ¶ 28, Dkt. No. 59.) The University Defendants obtained a search warrant for Arian's cell phone and an arrest warrant for Arian at Plaintiffs' home. (TAC ¶ 28.) The warrants were executed by the University Defendants, with the assistance of the Alameda Defendants, on November 2, 2021. (TAC ¶ 28.) Prior to the execution of the warrant, the University Defendants had an operational meeting with the Alameda Defendants to discuss and organize the execution and enforcement of the warrant. (TAC ¶ 30.)

Defendants knew that neither Plaintiff had any criminal history, nor were they accused of any crime. (TAC ¶ 31.) Defendants assembled a team of at least ten officers and “came with a full show of force,” blaring their sirens, issuing commands over a loudspeaker, and arriving with their guns drawn. (TAC ¶ 33.) When Plaintiff Eteghaei exited his home in compliance with Defendants' commands, an officer pointed an assault rifle at his face from a close distance and other officers handcuffed him. (TAC ¶ 34.) The same was done to Plaintiff Zade when she exited her home, after she attempted to video record the incident and requested that Defendants produce the search warrant. (TAC ¶ 35.) Plaintiffs allege that the Alameda Defendants placed handcuffs on Plaintiff Zade so tightly that she suffered visible injuries to her wrists. (TAC ¶ 36.) During this time, Defendant Samaniego told the other Defendants to keep Plaintiffs handcuffed. (SAC ¶ 37.) Defendant Avila witnessed the handcuffing but did nothing to prevent it. (SAC ¶ 38.)

On June 21, 2022, Plaintiffs filed the instant case. (Dkt. No. 1 at 9.) On November 18, 2022, the University Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the then-operative complaint. (Dkt. No. 44.) On February 17, 2023, the Court denied the motion on the merits as to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the individual University Defendants,[1] but granted the motion as to the § 1983 claim against Defendant UC Regents, the § 1983 and § 1985 conspiracy claim, the § 1986 claim, the supervisor liability claim, and the common law tort claims. (Dismissal Order, Dkt. No. 56.)

On March 10, 2023, Plaintiffs filed the operative complaint that added new claims, asserting claims for: (1) § 1983 claim for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) supervisory liability as to Defendants Ahern, Farruggia, Mateen, Levette, Samaniego, and Avila; (3) failure to intervene as to all individual Defendants except Defendant Ahern; (4) deliberate indifference as to Defendants Ahern, Farruggia, Mateen, Levette, Samaniego, and Avila; (5) § 1983 claim for unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment, (6) violation of California Constitution, Art. 1, § 7, subdivision (a); (7) violation of California Civil Code § 52.1; (8) conspiracy to violate California Civil Code § 52.1; (9) negligent hiring, training, and supervision; (10) assault; (11) battery; (12) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (13) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (14) negligence; (15) false imprisonment; (16) false arrest; and (17) violation of California Government Code § 7286(b)(5) as to Defendants County of Alameda and Ahern. On April 7, 2023, the Alameda Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' first through fifth claims and tenth through sixteenth claims.[2] The University Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' second through fourth and sixth through sixteenth claims. On April 21, 2023, Plaintiffs filed their oppositions. (Pls.' Opp'n to University Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 67; Pls.' Opp'n to Alameda Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 68). On April 28, 2023, Defendants filed their replies. (Alameda Defs.' Reply, Dkt. No. 69; University Defs.' Reply, Dkt. No. 70.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may file a motion to dismiss based on the failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001).

In considering such a motion, a court must “accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (citation omitted) and may dismiss the case or a claim “only where there is no cognizable legal theory” or there is an absence of “sufficient factual matter to state a facially plausible claim to relief.” Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009); Navarro, 250 F.3d at 732) (internal quotation marks omitted).

A claim is plausible on its face when a plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). In other words, the facts alleged must demonstrate “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action” and “conclusory statements” are inadequate. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Epstein v. Wash. Energy Co., 83 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 1996) ([C]onclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.”). “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 . . . When a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal citations omitted).

Generally, if the court grants a motion to dismiss, it should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend is made “unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION
A. Evidence Presented by the Alameda Defendants

In support of their motion to dismiss, the Alameda Defendants submit numerous declarations and videos regarding the incident at issue, while arguing that the operative complaint violates Rule 11. (Alameda Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 5-8; see also Dkt. Nos. 62-1 (Lucha Decl.), 62-2 (Hall Decl.), 62-3 (seeking judicial notice of search warrant, arrest warrant, prior complaints, unedited body-worn camera footage, and use of force policies and procedures).) At the same time, the Alameda Defendants assert that they “are not intending on turning this motion to dismiss into a motion for judgment on the pleadings or a motion for summary judgment.” (Alameda Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 8 n.6.)

The Court will not review approximately 19 videos of body-camera footage or declarations purporting to describe what occurs in that footage, particularly on a motion to dismiss. If the Alameda Defendants believe that Plaintiffs' counsel has violated his Rule 11 obligations, the Alameda Defendants should file a file a separate Rule 11 sanctions motion, which must comply with Rule 11's requirements.

As to the remaining requests for judicial notice, the Court will take judicial notice of the announcement that Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez was elected as the new Sheriff of Alameda County, as well as Alameda County's use of force procedures, as this is information publicly available on government websites and is not subject to dispute.

B. Claims 1 and 5: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 -- Violation of Fourth Amendment Rights

The first cause of action asserts excessive force based on Defendants employing multiple vehicles with sirens, using loudspeaker commands, pointing guns in the face of Plaintiffs, and handcuffing them. (TAC ¶ 49.) The fifth cause of action asserts unreasonable seizure based on Defendants pointing guns at Plaintiffs, handcuffing them, and forcing Plaintiff Zade into a law enforcement vehicle. (TAC ¶ 82.) The Alameda Defendants seek dismissal of both claims.

i. Individual Alameda Defendants

The Alameda Defendants argue...

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