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Ogbonnaya v. City of Mesa

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 20, 2015

GABRIEL OGBONNAYA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MESA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

H. RUSSEL HOLLAND, District Judge.

Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; Motion to Amend

Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings.[1] This motion is opposed by plaintiff, [2] and plaintiff moves for leave to file an amended complaint.[3] Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is opposed.[4] Oral argument has been requested on the motion for judgment on the pleadings but is not deemed necessary.

Background

Plaintiff is Gabriel Ogbonnaya, M.D. Defendants are the City of Mesa; Frank Milstead, the Mesa Chief of Police; Detective Laurie Kessler, Detective Rick Scott, and Detective Rick Berry.[5] Plaintiff has sued the individual defendants in both their official and individual capacities.

Plaintiff alleges that "[o]n June 9, 2010, " he "was arrested by the Mesa Police for unspecified acts of sexual misconduct involving three of his female patients."[6] Plaintiff alleges that "[o]n June 10, 2010, " he "was released from custody on his own recognizance."[7]

Plaintiff alleges that "[i]mmediately after his arrest, ... the Mesa Police Department sent out a press release listing the charges against [him], quoting the victims' verbatim and... asking other women to come forward if they had a similar report."[8] On June 25, 2010, he "was again arrested by the Mesa Police on charges of sexual assault and sexual abuse of a total of nine women."[9] Plaintiff alleges that he "was released on bond after he used his house as financial security, but [he] had to wear an ankle bracelet with 24/7 monitoring restrict[ing] his movement and travel, and be supervised by pretrial services."[10]

Plaintiff alleges that his medical license was suspended in July 2010.[11] Plaintiff alleges that the suspension was "based in large measure on the media press releases from the Mesa Police Department and information provided to the Medical Board by the Mesa Police Department."[12]

Plaintiff alleges that the Mesa Police Department's investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct was deficient. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Kessler coached the alleged victims during interviews and that defendant Scott "cajoled a woman to become a complainant because the police needed a credible' victim."[13] Plaintiff alleges that the Mesa Police Department did not ask to review his medical records in order to verify the dates and locations the alleged victims had seen plaintiff.[14] Plaintiff alleges that Mesa Police Department ignored or disregarded interviews with family members of the alleged victims who "either denied or did not corroborate what the women had reported."[15] Plaintiff alleges that the Mesa Police Department "never asked to interview [his] office staff to ascertain basic facts that the women relayed[.]"[16] And, plaintiff alleges that defendant Kessler "refused to speak to [him] and would not interview him, despite the fact that [plaintiff] asked to be interviewed."[17]

The case against plaintiff was presented to a Grand Jury.[18] Plaintiff alleges that Kessler testified at the Grand Jury and that he asked to testify but the Deputy County Attorney who presented the case to the Grand Jury refused his request.[19]

Plaintiff's case went to trial on January 9, 2013 and on February 27, 2013, he was found "not guilty on all counts."[20]

On February 26, 2014, plaintiff commenced this action. In his complaint, plaintiff asserts six causes of action. In his first claim for relief, plaintiff asserts § 1983 claims for wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, and denial of a fair trial against all defendants.[21] In his second claim for relief, plaintiff asserts a § 1983 claim against the City and Milstead for failure to train and supervise. Plaintiff's third claim for relief is a state-law negligence claim against all defendants. Plaintiff's fourth claim for relief is a state-law malicious prosecution claim against the individual defendants. Plaintiff's fifth claim for relief is a state-law abuse of process claim against the individual defendants. Plaintiff's sixth claim for relief is an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against all defendants. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages against all defendants and punitive damages against the individual defendants.

On August 11, 2014, defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings on all of plaintiff's claims. After briefing on the motion was complete, plaintiff asked the court to defer ruling on the motion until he had filed a motion to amend his complaint.[22] The court denied plaintiff's motion to defer on November 17, 2014 because "it [was] not at all clear... that deferring a ruling on defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings w[ould] be the most efficient way to address the issues raised by the motion for judgment on the pleadings."[23] Nonetheless, on November 19, 2014, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a first amended complaint.

Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint contains six claims. Claim One is a § 1983 Fourth Amendment claim against Kessler, Scott, and Berry based on allegations that they fabricated probable cause. Claim Two contains a § 1983 deliberate-fabrication-of-evidence claim and a § 1983 malicious prosecution claim against Kessler and Scott. Claim Three is a § 1983 claim against the City and Milstead based on allegations about the police department's official policies and practices for the investigation of "sex crimes." Claim Four is a § 1983 failure to train claim against the City and Milstead. Claim Five is a gross negligence claim against the individual defendants. Claim Six is a state-law malicious prosecution claim against Kessler, Scott, and Berry.[24]

Defendants filed a perfunctory response to plaintiff's motion to amend in which they argue that the motion is premature and that amendment would be futile. But, plaintiff insists that the proposed amended complaint corrects many of the issues raised in defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings and that amendment would not be futile.

Discussion

" Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), [a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.'" Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012). "Analysis under Rule 12(c) is substantially identical' to analysis under Rule 12(b)(6) because, under both rules, a court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy.'" Id . (quoting Brooks v. Dunlop Mfg. Inc., No. 10-04341 CRB, 2011 WL 6140912, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 9, 2011)). "The [c]ourt inquires whether the complaint at issue contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim of relief that is plausible on its face.'" Harris v. Cnty. of Orange, 682 F.3d 1126, 1131 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). "Judgment on the pleadings is properly granted when [, accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true, ] there is no issue of material fact in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Chavez, 683 F.3d at 1108 (quoting Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009)

"Leave to amend a party's pleading pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure should [be] freely give[n]... when justice so requires and generally shall be denied only upon showing of bad faith, undue delay, futility, or undue prejudice to the opposing party[.]" Chudacoff v. Univ. Medical Ctr. of S. Nev., 649 F.3d 1143, 1152 (9th Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted).

First Claim for Relief (§ 1983 wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, and denial of fair trial claims

Plaintiff's § 1983 false arrest, malicious prosecution, and denial of a fair trial claims against the City are dismissed. "[T]here is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983." Chudacoff, 649 F.3d at 1151. These § 1983 claims are based on the actions of Kessler and Scott. The City is not liable for their actions simply because the City employs them. Amendment of these claims would be futile ...


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