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Murphy v. City of Hood River

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 20, 2019

CITY OF HOOD RIVER, et al., Defendants.


          Michael H. Simon United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff asserts three claims arising from Plaintiff's arrest by Officers of the Hood River Police Department on or about July 15th, 2016: (1) a violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights by being unlawfully arrested, detained, and searched by the Officers, and their use of excessive force; (2) a violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights based on the City of Hood River's failure to adequately train, monitor, and supervise its Police Officers; and (3) an Oregon common-law negligence claim for failure to exercise reasonable care. The first two claims are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants argue that the claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, for failing to give tort notice as required by Oregon law, and because at least some of Plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Defendants request in the alternative that Plaintiff be ordered to amend his Complaint to make it more definite. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is denied in part and granted in part.


         The following background is drawn from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that on or about July 15, 2016, Hood River Police Department Officers parked an automobile against the curb in a narrow section of a road in Hood River, which forced Plaintiff to cross the double yellow line so his truck could safely pass the automobile. Officers then initiated a stop and requested that Plaintiff exit his vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. Plaintiff complied, but during the encounter, Plaintiff began to experience chest discomfort and was transported to Hood River Providence Hospital's emergency department.

         At the hospital, Defendant Officer Miller read Plaintiff his implied consent rights and explained Plaintiff's right to refuse a blood draw. Plaintiff alleges that as Officer Miller explained Plaintiff's rights, the other Officers present forcibly pinned Plaintiff to his hospital bed and held down Plaintiff's arms and legs while a nurse attempted to draw his blood. Officer Miller then asked Plaintiff if he would consent to a blood draw to which Plaintiff answered no. Officer Miller allegedly joined the other Officers pinning Plaintiff down so that the nurse could obtain the blood draw. Plaintiff also alleges that during this process another Officer slammed Plaintiff's head into a metal cabinet causing a laceration to Plaintiff's forehead.


         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim may be granted only when there is no cognizable legal theory to support the claim or when the complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to state a facially plausible claim for relief. Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint's factual allegations, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded material facts alleged in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 668 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2012); Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). To be entitled to a presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint “may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). All reasonable inferences from the factual allegations must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Newcal Indus., Inc. v. Ikon Office Solution, 513 F.3d 1038, 1043 n.2 (9th Cir. 2008). The court need not, however, credit the plaintiff's legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

         A complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation.” Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). “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.” Mashiri v. Epstein Grinnell & Howell, 845 F.3d 984, 988 (9th Cir. 2017) (quotation marks omitted).


         A. Notice Pursuant to the Oregon Tort Claims Act

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not complied with the notice requirement of the Oregon Tort Claims Act (“OTCA”), and therefore that his common law negligence claim must be dismissed. In Oregon, a plaintiff may pursue common law tort claims against public bodies and employees under the OTCA, but the plaintiff must first timely file a tort claim notice. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the requisite notice was given, Or. Rev. Stat. § 30.275(7) (hereinafter “O.R.S.”), and “[t]he requirement that notice be given timely is a substantive condition precedent to recovery under the Oregon Tort Claims Act that, if not satisfied, deprives a plaintiff of the right to make a claim.” Tyree v. Tyree, 116 Or.App. 317, 320 (1992).

         The OTCA mandates that “[n]otice of a claim shall be given . . . within 180 days after the alleged loss or injury.” O.R.S. § 30.275(2)(b). Notice may be satisfied by formal notice or actual notice, or by commencement of an action on the claim. O.R.S. § 30.275(3). Formal notice requires that notice of a claim be given by mail or personal delivery “to the public body at its principal administrative office, to any member of the governing body of the public body, or to an attorney designated by the governing body as its general counsel” if the claim is against a local public body or an officer or employee of the public body. O.R.S. § 30.275(5)(b).

         Actual notice is defined as

any communication by which any individual to whom notice may be given as provided in subsection (5) of this section or any person responsible for administering tort claims on behalf of the public body acquires actual knowledge of the time, place and circumstances giving rise to the claim, where the communication is such that a reasonable person would conclude that a particular person intends to assert a claim against the public body or an officer, employee or agent of the public body. A person responsible for administering tort claims on behalf of a public body is a person who, acting within the scope of the person's responsibility, as an officer, employee or agent of a public body or as an employee or agent of an insurance carrier insuring the public body for risks within the scope of ORS 30.260 to 30.300, engages in ...

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