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Cota v. Penzone

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 30, 2019

Emily Cota, Plaintiff,
Paul Penzone, et al., Defendants.


          Honoraple Rosemary Maftraez United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 18.) Plaintiff Emily Cota filed a combined Response and Motion to Amend Complaint, to which Defendants have responded. (Docs. 21, 22.) The motions are suitable for determination without oral argument.

         I. Background

         The Complaint contains the following allegations: on August 30, 2016, Plaintiff Emily Cota took the day off work to get together with family and mourn the death of her uncle, who had passed on August 29. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiff spent the night at her grandmother's house in West Mesa and was there at approximately 10:50 p.m. (Id.)

         On the same day and time, at the intersection of Power Road and Apache Trail, Deputy A. Bratt observed a Ford Mustang with a Texas license plate registered to a Ford truck. (Id. ¶ 14.) There were four people in the vehicle: a female driver, a male front-seat passenger, and two female backseat passengers. (Id. ¶ 15.) Deputy Bratt followed the Mustang to a nearby Circle K and asked for the license and registration from the female driver. (Id.) Deputy Fortner ran a warrant check on the driver and male passenger, while Deputy Bratt spoke to the backseat passengers. (Id.)

         Deputy Bratt had both backseat passengers exit the Mustang and asked if either had marijuana on them. (Id. ¶ 16.) Both initially said no. (Id.) Subsequently, one of the backseat passengers, who later claimed to be Emily Cota, admitted to having a marijuana pipe in her purse. (Id.) The female claiming to be Emily Cota showed Deputy Bratt the marijuana pipe, and Deputy Bratt detained her in the back of his patrol car. (Id. ¶ 17.) Neither backseat passenger had identification, so Deputy Fortner and Deputy Bratt ran the names provided by the females and compared their physical appearances to images recorded with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (“MVD”). (Id.) Based on the comparison, the deputies determined that both females had provided false information. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         Deputy Bratt asked the female claiming to be Emily Cota to provide a home address. (Id. ¶ 20.) The address provided did not match the information in the MVD profile. (Id.) Deputy Bratt asked for an address a second time. (Id. ¶ 21.) The female claiming to be Emily Cota then stated she lived with the other occupants of the vehicle at 580 W. Galveston Road, Chandler, Arizona. (Id.) The other occupants of the vehicle provided their addresses, none of which were the Galveston Road address. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         None of the four individuals were booked or fingerprinted to verify their identities. (Id. ¶ 23.) Deputy Bratt and Deputy Fortner submitted charges against Plaintiff based upon the information provided by the female claiming to be Emily Cota. (Id. ¶ 24.) The case was submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and, on February 8, 2017, a summons was issued. (Id. ¶ 26.) On February 21, 2017, the summons was returned as non-deliverable. (Id. ¶ 27.) On March 10, 2017, an arrest warrant for Plaintiff was issued. (Id. ¶ 28.)

         Sometime in November 2017, Plaintiff learned there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest. (Id. ¶ 29.) On December 21, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel filed a notice of appearance and moved to quash the warrant. (Id. ¶ 30.) On January 8, 2018, Plaintiff appeared for her initial appearance and was released on her own recognizance. (Id. ¶ 31.) On February 7, 2018, following the presentation of evidence, a Maricopa County court dismissed the case against Plaintiff without prejudice. (Id. ¶ 32.)

         Plaintiff names as Defendants Deputy Bratt, Deputy Fortner, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. She alleges seven claims, each claim against all Defendants. She alleges three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: one for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and failure to train (Count I), one for violation of substantive due process (Count II), and one for violation of equal protection (Count III). She also alleges state-law claims for abuse of process and malicious prosecution (Count IV), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count V), gross negligence and negligent supervision (Count VI), and false arrest and imprisonment (Count VIII).[1]

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendants move for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) “can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988), as amended. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In other words, the complaint's “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 Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). “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. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         A court evaluating a motion to dismiss must view the allegations of a complaint “in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Abramson v. Brownstein, 897 F.2d 389, 391 (9th Cir. 1990). All well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true, although the same does not apply to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.

         III. Discussion

         A. Maricopa County ...

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