Guy v. Lorenzen, Case No. 20-cv-02027-BAS-BLM

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
Citation547 F.Supp.3d 927
Docket NumberCase No. 20-cv-02027-BAS-BLM
Parties Deovante L. GUY, Plaintiff, v. Matthew LORENZEN, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date02 July 2021

Alvin L. Pittman, Law Office of Alvin L. Pittman, Los Angeles, CA, Douglas A. Oden, Oden & Greene, San Diego, CA, for Plaintiff.

Jacqueline J. McQuarrie, San Diego City Attorney's Office, San Diego, CA, Jessica Y. Lee, Joseph K. Miller, Thomas C. Hurrell, Hurrell Cantrall LLP, Los Angeles, CA, for Defendants Matthew Lorenzen, The City of San Diego.

Kimberly S. Oberrecht, Horton Oberrecht Kirkpatrick and Martha, San Diego, CA, for Defendant Annie Brady.




Cynthia Bashant, United States District Judge

This action arises from a tragic sequence of events which led to Plaintiff Deovante L. Guy being severely injured by oncoming traffic while being detained by a police officer in the middle of the road. Plaintiff brought the present action against the City of San Diego, the arresting officer, and other officers on the scene of the incident, raising state-law claims and federal civil rights claims. The Court is asked to decide whether parts of Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim under the doctrine of qualified immunity and under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court is also asked to decide whether any remaining claims require an abstention under Younger v. Harris , 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971).

For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 6.) The Court DENIES Defendants' request to stay this action under the Younger doctrine. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff leave to amend his pleading.


One early morning before sunrise in February 2019, officers of the San Diego Police Department ("SDPD") received a report of vandalism at a convenience store near the Rosecrans Street and Midway Drive intersection in San Diego, California. (Second Am. Compl. ("SAC") ¶ 13.) Multiple police vehicles carrying SDPD officers descended on Rosecrans Street. Id. The officers identified Plaintiff Deovante L. Guy as the suspect of the vandalism. (Id. ¶ 14.)

Guy walked past the SDPD vehicles, which were parked on the well-lit side of Rosecrans Street. (Id. ¶¶ 15–16.) Guy headed away from the SDPD vehicles and crossed four lanes across Rosecrans street, towards a raised median. (Id. ¶¶ 17–18.) Officer Matthew Lorenzen followed Guy. (Id. ¶ 17.) Guy arrived at the other side of the street, where he was met with a gated fence. (Id. ¶ 18.)

Unable to go through the locked gate, Guy turned around and started to walk back towards the SDPD vehicles. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 21.) Officer Lorenzen followed him. (Id. ¶ 21.) The side of the street where Guy was walking was dark, nearly pitch black, and the lights from the police cars parked on the other side of the street further impaired visibility. (Id. ¶ 20.) As Guy approached the middle of the second lane, Officer Lorenzen grabbed Guy's wrist and twisted his arm behind his back. (Id. ¶ 21.) Guy did not resist, pull away, or struggle at any time and let Officer Lorenzen hold him down to the ground. (Id. ¶¶ 22–23.) Officer Lorenzen pinned Guy down with a knee on his back. (Id. ¶ 24.)

Around 4:45 a.m., an SUV drove into Officer Lorenzen and over Guy's body. (Id. ) ¶ 25. The SUV was driven within the speed limit. (Id. ¶ 28.) As a result of the crash, Guy was severely injured, and his blood drenched the street. (Id. ¶ 26.) Other SDPD officers on the scene ran over to check on Lorenzen but disregarded Guy's medical needs. (Id. ¶ 29.)

Guy was transported to a hospital in an ambulance. (Id. ¶¶ 29–30.) Guy was nearly dead when he arrived at the hospital, and the doctors recommended taking him off life support. (Id. ¶ 30.) His injuries included, among others, internal bleeding, internal decapitation, torn organs, broken bones, and lacerations. (Id. ¶ 31.) Guy survived but remains severely injured.

Guy, by and through his guardian ad litem Quintasia Walker, filed an action for damages in San Diego Superior Court against Officer Lorenzen, Doe Officers, the City of San Diego, the SDPD ("San Diego Defendants"), and the driver of the SUV. (ECF No. 1-2.) The San Diego Defendants removed the action to federal court. (ECF No. 1.) Guy filed an amended pleading, entitled "Second Amended Complaint."1 (SAC, ECF No. 4.) The driver of the SUV later settled with Plaintiff. (See Order, ECF No. 16.) The San Diego Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the SAC for failure to state a claim ("the Motion"). (ECF No. 6.) Guy filed an opposition (ECF No. 12) and San Diego Defendants a reply (ECF No. 14). The Motion is ripe for the Court's decision.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) ; Navarro v. Block , 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Under the "notice pleading" standard of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff's complaint must provide, in part, a "short and plain statement" of plaintiff's claims showing entitlement to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) ; see also Paulsen v. CNF Inc. , 559 F.3d 1061, 1071 (9th Cir. 2009). In assessing a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all factual allegations pleaded in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the non-moving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. , 80 F.3d 336, 337–38 (9th Cir. 1996). To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations; rather, it must plead "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) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). "Where 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.’ " Id. (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ).

"[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (alteration in original) (quoting Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) ). A court need not accept "legal conclusions" as true. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. "Nor is the court required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors , 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001), amended on other grounds by , 275 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2001). It is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts that it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the ... law[ ] in ways that have not been alleged." Assoc. 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).

I. Qualified Immunity

Defendants argue that the doctrine of qualified immunity protects Officer Lorenzen from being held liable for Plaintiff's Fifth Cause of Action for unlawful detention under the Fourth Amendment and Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Causes of Action for the violation of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Under the qualified immunity doctrine, government officials acting in their official capacities are immunized from civil liability unless their actions "violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Pearson v. Callahan , 555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009) (citations omitted). The doctrine protects "all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law." Ashcroft v. al-Kidd , 563 U.S. 731, 743, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 179 L.Ed.2d 1149 (2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "To determine whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity, the Court asks, in the order it chooses, (1) whether the alleged misconduct violated a constitutional right and (2) whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged misconduct." Hernandez v. City of San Jose , 897 F.3d 1125, 1132 (9th Cir. 2018) (cleaned up) (quoting Maxwell v. Cnty. of San Diego , 708 F.3d 1075, 1082 (9th Cir. 2013) ).

A. Violation of a Constitutional Right
1. Unreasonable Detention and Arrest (Fifth Cause of Action)

Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not adequately alleged a violation of the Fourth Amendment in connection with his Fifth Cause of Action for "Unreasonable Search and Seizure—Improper Detention and Arrest." An officer may make a brief investigatory stop if the stop is supported by articulable facts leading to a reasonable suspicion that the person has been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity. Terry v. Ohio , 392 U.S. 1, 21–22, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). Arrest without a warrant requires probable cause, a higher standard than the reasonable suspicion standard applicable to a Terry stop. Beck v. Ohio , 379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964) ; see also Rosenbaum v. Washoe County , 663 F.3d 1071, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011). Courts must consider the totality of circumstances known to the arresting officers to determine the existence of reasonable suspicion and probable cause....

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