Reyes v. City of Fresno

Decision Date15 May 2013
Docket NumberCASE NO. CV F 13-0418 LJO SKO
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
PartiesJAIME REYES, JR., Deceased through his successors in interest MIRELLA REYES and JAIME REYES, SR., et al., Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF FRESNO, et al., Defendants.



(Doc. 14)


Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseload in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters. This Court cannot address all arguments, evidence and matters raised by parties and addresses only the arguments, evidence and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order given the shortage of district judges and staff. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact United States Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to address this Court's inability to accommodate the parties and this action. The parties are required to consider, or reconsider, consent to a U.S. Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings in that the Magistrate Judges' availability is far more realistic and accommodating to parties than that of U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill who must prioritize criminal and older civil cases.

Civil trials set before Judge O'Neill trail until he becomes available and are subject to suspension mid-trial to accommodate criminal matters. Civil trials are no longer reset to a later date if Judge O'Neill is unavailable on the original date set for trial. If a trial trails, it may proceed with little advance notice, and the parties and counsel may be expected to proceed to trial with less than 24 hours notice. Moreover, this Court's Fresno Division randomly and without advance notice reassigns civil actions to U.S. District Judges throughout the nation to serve as visiting judges. In the absence of Magistrate Judge consent, this action is subject to reassignment to a U.S. District Judge from outside the Eastern District of California. Case management difficulties, including trial setting and interruption, are avoided with the parties' consent to conduct of further proceedings by a U.S. Magistrate Judge.


Defendants City of Fresno ("City") and City Police Chief Jerry Dyer ("Chief Dyer") seek to dismiss several of plaintiffs Mirella Reyes ("Ms. Reyes") and Jaime Reyes, Sr.'s ("Mr. Reyes'") claims arising from the shooting death of Mr. and Ms. Reyes' son Jaime Reyes, Jr. ("Jaime") by four City Doe Officers ("Officers 1-4"). Mr. and Ms. Reyes pursue survival claims for Jaime's estate and wrongful death claims for themselves under 42 U.S.C. 1983 ("section 1983") and California laws. The City and Chief Dyer (collectively "defendants") challenge certain claims as legally barred and lacking sufficient facts. Mr. and Ms. Reyes respond that most of the challenged claims are sufficiently pled. This Court considered defendants' F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on the record and VACATES the May 21, 2013 hearing, pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). For the reasons discussed below, this Court DISMISSES in part Mr. and Ms. Reyes' claims.

Pursuit Of Jaime

During the afternoon of June 6, 2012, Officers 1-4 arrived at Mr. and Ms. Reyes' home to inquire as to Jaime's whereabouts. Jaime was neither present nor dwelled at the home and was suspected of burglarizing a neighbor's home. Ms. Reyes informed two of the officers that Jaime "was suffering from mental disturbance due to methamphetamine use." Officers 1-4 began to look for Jaime in theneighborhood. Two blocks from Mr. and Ms. Reyes' home, Officers 1 and 2 made contact with Jaime, who was obviously "emotionally disturbed and/or intoxicated." Jaime began to run.

Officers 1 and 2 pulled their vehicle next to Jaime and spoke to Jaime, who continued to run away. Officers 1 and 2 exited their vehicle and pointed their guns at Jaime, who carried nothing and ran with this back to Officers 1 and 2.

Officers 3 and 4 cut Jaime off, exited their vehicle, and pointed their guns at Jaime. Jaime hopped a chain-link fence and ran into an empty football field with his back to Officers 1-4 and clearly carrying nothing in his hands.

Fatal Shooting Of Jaime

Without warning, Officers 1-4 fired guns at Jaime, who was hit and fell face down to the ground. At the time of gun firing, there was a chain link fence and a distance no more than five yards between Jaime and Officers 1-4. Jaime had not threatened Officers 1-4 and had run from them "with open hands" and was unarmed. While Jaime lay motionless on the ground and without warning, Officers 1-4 fired again on Jaime. Jaime was emotionally disturbed and/or intoxicated and required urgent medical care which Officers 1-4 did not provide. Officers 1-4 frisked and handcuffed Jaime "as he lay severely wounded on the ground." Several minutes elapsed before Officers 1-4 provided first aid to Jaime, and 20 minutes elapsed before paramedics arrived. Jaime was pronounced dead after emergency hospital surgery.

The Complaint's Claims

The complaint alleges that Jaime "did not pose a significant and immediate threat of death or serious physical injury" and that use of deadly force "was not justified or lawful." The complaint accuses Officers 1-4 of "excessive and unreasonable actions" to create a risk of harm to Jaime and "an escalation of events" leading to Jaime's shooting death. The complaint alleges section 1983 unlawful detention, excessive force, deliberate indifference to medical needs and related survival and wrongful death claims which will be addressed below.

F.R.Civ.P. Motion To Dismiss Standards

Defendants seek to dismiss several of the complaint's section 1983 and related claims as legallybarred and lacking sufficient facts.

A F.R.Civ.P. 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." Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990); Graehling v. Village of Lombard, Ill., 58 F.3d 295, 297 (7th Cir. 1995). A F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion "tests the legal sufficiency of a claim." Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001).

In addressing dismissal, a court must: (1) construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; (2) accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true; and (3) determine whether plaintiff can prove any set of facts to support a claim that would merit relief. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-338 (9th Cir. 1996). Nonetheless, a court is not required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Sciences Securities Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). A court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations," U.S. ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643, n. 2 (9th Cir.1986), and must not "assume that the [plaintiff] can prove facts that it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526, 103 S.Ct. 897 (1983). A court need not permit an attempt to amend if "it is clear that the complaint could not be saved by an amendment." Livid Holdings Ltd. v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., 416 F.3d 940, 946 (9th Cir. 2005).

A plaintiff is obliged "to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' [which] requires 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. 554,127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Moreover, a court "will dismiss any claim that, even when construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, fails to plead sufficiently all required elements of a cause of action." Student Loan Marketing Ass'n v. Hanes, 181 F.R.D. 629, 634 (S.D. Cal. 1998). 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. at 1969 (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984)).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937,1949 (2009), the U.S. Supreme Court explained:

. . . a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." . . . 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. . . . 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. (Citations omitted.)

After discussing Iqbal, the Ninth Circuit summarized: "In sum, for a complaint to survive [dismissal], the non-conclusory 'factual content,' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 989 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).

The U.S. Supreme Court applies a "two-prong approach" to address dismissal:

First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. . . . Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. . . . Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial

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