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Berenter v. City of Glendale

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 26, 2017

David Alan Berenter, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Glendale, Defendants.

          ORDER

          James A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court are: Defendants City of Glendale, Debora Black, Rick St. John, Mark Burdick, and Anthony Gavalyas's (the “Glendale Defendants'”) Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 26), and Defendant City of Phoenix's (“Phoenix's”) Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 21). Plaintiff David Alan Berenter has filed responses to each Motion, (Docs. 23; 28), and Defendants have filed respective replies, (Docs. 27; 29). The Court now rules on the Motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 11, 2014, a fire broke out at Plaintiff's residence in Glendale, Arizona. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 19). Officers from the Glendale Police Department arrived at the scene and subsequently arrested Plaintiff and charged him with arson. (Id. at ¶ 20). Plaintiff remained in custody for “several weeks until he was able to make bail.” (Id. at ¶ 27). Sometime between March 11, 2014 and September 17, 2014, Defendant Anthony Gavalyas, a Glendale Fire Department arson investigator, conducted an investigation of the fire and concluded that it was caused by arson. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-26).

         On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff's defense counsel interviewed Defendant Gavalyas, who admitted that he was not certified by the National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) and did not complete a full investigation according to NFPA standards. (Id. at ¶ 29).

         On October 16, 2014, the State moved to dismiss the criminal complaint and the motion was granted the following day. (Id. at ¶¶ 30-31). Almost two years later, on June 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice based, at least in part, on an argument that “the State could not prove their case because Mr. Gavalyas's investigation did not meet the [NFPA] standards.” (Id. at ¶ 32). The state court granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice. (Id. at ¶ 33).

         Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court on October 17, 2016 alleging that the prosecution of the criminal complaint caused a loss of personal freedom, physical and emotional pain and suffering, financial hardship, and loss of reputation in his community. (Id. at ¶¶ 34, 36). Plaintiff brings his claims “pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the constitution of the state of Arizona, the constitution of the United States, and for state law claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, conspiracy, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, and invasion of privacy.” (Id. at ¶ 14).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Federal Rule”) 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim, a complaint must meet the requirements of Federal Rule 8(a)(2). This requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” so that the defendant has “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint must also contain sufficient factual matter, which, if accepted as true, states a claim to relief that is “plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Facial plausibility exists if the pleader sets forth factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. Plausibility does not equal “probability, ” but requires more than a sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully. Id. “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         Although a complaint attacked for failure to state a claim does not need detailed factual allegations, the pleader's obligation to provide the grounds for 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 (internal citations omitted). Federal Rule 8(a)(2) “requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief, ” as “[w]ithout some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.” Id. at 555 n.3 (citing 5 Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1202, at 94, 95 (3d ed. 2004)). Thus, Rule 8's pleading standard demands more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         The Court must construe the facts alleged in the complaint in the light most favorable to the drafter and must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, Shwarz v. United States, 234 F.3d at 428, 435 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Cafasso v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., 637 F.3d 1047, 1053 (9th Cir. 2011). However, a court need not accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).

         III. STATE LAW CLAIMS

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights under Arizona law and brings claims for “false arrest, false imprisonment, conspiracy, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, and invasion of privacy.” (Doc. 1 at ¶ 14).[1] Defendants argue that any state law claims should be barred by Arizona's statute of limitations and notice of claim statutes. (Docs. 26 at 3-10; 21 at 4-5).

         Under Arizona law, any action against a public employee “shall be brought within one year after the cause of action accrues and not afterward.” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 12-821.01 (2015). Additionally, the claimant must file a notice of claim with the public employee or persons authorized to accept service for them within 180 days of the cause of action accruing. Id. § 12-821.01(A). The cause of action accrues when the claimant “realizes he or she has been damaged and knows or reasonably should know the cause, source, act, event, instrumentality or condition that caused or contributed” to the injury. Id. § 12-821.01(B); see also Sato v. Van Denburgh, 599 P.2d 181, 183 (Ariz. ...


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