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Ryder v. Booth

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

May 11, 2016

DEBRA A. RYDER, Individually, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Robert Keawe Ryder; BUDDY K. RYDER; and WAILAU RYDER, Plaintiffs,
v.
MARTIN FRANK BOOTH; COUNTY OF HAWAII; DOE POLICE OFFICERS; DOE INDIVIDUALS 1-10; DOE PARTNERSHIPS 1-10; DOE CORPORATIONS 1-10; DOE GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES 1-10; and DOE ENTITIES 1-10, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE DEFENDANT COUNTY OF HAWAII’S MOTION TO DISMISS, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND (ECF NO. 7)

Helen Gillmor United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit, State of Hawaii, alleging violations of the United States Constitution, the Hawaii Constitution, and related state law tort claims. The Defendant County of Hawaii removed the action to federal court. The County now moves to dismiss all claims against it for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

The County’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 17, 2015, Debra A. Ryder, individually, and as personal representative of the Estate of Robert Keawe Ryder, Buddy K. Ryder, and Wailau Ryder filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit, State of Hawaii. (ECF No. 1-2).

On February 16, 2016, the Defendant County of Hawaii (“the County”) filed a Notice of Removal to the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. (ECF No. 1).

On February 22, 2016, the County filed DEFENDANT COUNTY OF HAWAII’S MOTION TO DISMISS and MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF MOTION. (ECF Nos. 7; 7-1).

On March 9, 2016, Plaintiffs filed PLAINTIFFS’ MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT COUNTY OF HAWAII’S MOTION TO DISMISS. (ECF No. 11).

On March 22, 2016, the County filed DEFENDANT COUNTY OF HAWAII’S REPLY IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION TO DISMISS FILED ON FEBRUARY 22, 2016. (ECF No. 15).

On March 30, 2016, the Court held a hearing on the County’s Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 18).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Debra A. Ryder states that she is the mother of decedent Robert Keawe Ryder (“Ryder”), and is suing Defendants Martin Frank Booth (“Defendant Booth”) and the County of Hawaii (“the County”) in her individual capacity, and as the personal representative of the Estate of Ryder. (Complaint at ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 1-2).

Plaintiffs Buddy K. Ryder and Wailau Ryder state that they are brothers of decedent Ryder. (Complaint at ¶ 3).

Robert Ryder’s Status as a Confidential Informant

The Complaint alleges that from an unknown time to a period between late 2013 and early 2014, decedent Ryder served as a confidential informant for the County and the vice division of the County’s police department. (Complaint at ¶ 9). Ryder aided the County’s efforts to prosecute cases involving the possession and sale of illegal narcotics. (Id.) According to Plaintiffs, Ryder assisted in the County police department’s investigation of Defendant Booth. (Id.)

Knowledge of Defendant Booth’s Criminal History

Plaintiffs contend that during the period in which Ryder served as an informant, the County and its police department knew that Defendant Booth had prior convictions for felony offenses, a history of drug possession, drug distribution, and firearms charges. (Complaint at ¶ 10).

The Importance of Protecting the Identity of Informants

Plaintiffs state that the County and its police department knew that protecting the identity of a confidential informant was critical to the informant’s safety. (Complaint at ¶ 11). According to Plaintiffs, the County recognized the dangerousness of disclosing the details of operations that were supported by confidential informants to anyone not involved in the investigations or operations. (Id.) Plaintiffs maintain that disclosure under such circumstances constituted improper, unreasonable, and prohibited behavior. (Id.)

Failure to Protect Informants’ Identities

Plaintiffs allege that despite knowing the dangers associated with the disclosure of confidential informants’ identities, the County did not create and enforce policies and procedures designed to protect informants from the subjects of criminal investigations. (Complaint at ¶ 12). Instead, the County adopted a policy and practice of failing to safeguard the identities of informants. (Id.) Plaintiffs also state that the County failed to properly train and supervise its police officers, so as to prevent the disclosure of informants’ identities. (Id. at ¶ 13).

Disclosure of Decedent Ryder’s Identity

Plaintiffs contend that at some time before March 2014, the County’s vice division did not properly safeguard information that revealed Ryder’s status as a confidential informant. (Complaint at ¶ 14). As a result, Plaintiffs state that Ryder’s identity was exposed to Defendant Booth. (Id.)

Defendant Booth murdered Ryder on March 11, 2014. (Complaint at ¶ 14).

Plaintiffs state that they sought information regarding Ryder’s death. (Complaint at ¶ 15). According to Plaintiffs, the County and its police department initially hid the nature and circumstances of Ryder’s death in an attempt to conceal their complicity and responsibility for Ryder’s murder. (Id.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Court must dismiss a complaint as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) where it fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Rule (8)(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must presume all allegations of material fact to be true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Pareto v. F.D.I.C., 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998). Conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss. Id. at 699. The Court need not accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or allegations contradicting the exhibits attached to the complaint. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001).

In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, the United States Supreme Court addressed the pleading standards under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the anti-trust context. 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The Supreme Court stated that Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” and that “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555.

Most recently, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Supreme Court clarified that the principles announced in Twombly are applicable in all civil cases. 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). The Court stated that “the pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me-accusation.” Id. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To survive a 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. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). 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. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). 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. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). 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. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

The complaint “must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively” and “must 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.” AE ex rel. Hernandez v. Cnty. of Tulare, 666 F.3d 631, 637 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal quotations omitted).

ANALYSIS

The Defendant County of Hawaii (“the County”) moves to dismiss the Complaint. The County argues that it owed no duty to protect its confidential informant, Robert Keawe Ryder (“Ryder”), from harm caused by third parties, including Defendant Martin Frank Booth (“Defendant Booth”).

The County also seeks, in the alternative, summary judgment in its favor. Neither party, however, has filed a concise statement of fact. The parties have not complied with the local rules of the United States District Court regarding motions for summary judgment. See LR 56.1.

The parties have attached exhibits to their filings addressing the County’s Motion to Dismiss.

The County’s Motion to Dismiss

Exhibit B of the County’s Motion to Dismiss appears to be a liability waiver form, which the County claims was signed by decedent Ryder. (Ex. B of Def. Motion, ECF No. 7-4). Exhibit C is a Declaration from Hawaii County police officer John McCarron, which attests to the veracity of the waiver form in Attachment B. (Ex. C of Def. Motion, ECF No. 7-5). Exhibit D appears to be comprised of a state probation services “Updated Re-Sentencing Report” regarding Ryder, and a state court “Order of Resentencing” concerning Ryder. (Ex. D of Def. Motion, ECF No. 7-6).

The Court will not review these exhibits, as they have not been provided to the Court in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules governing a Motion a Summary Judgment. See United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003).

Plaintiffs’ Opposition to the County’s Motion to Dismiss

Plaintiffs’ Opposition also contained multiple exhibits. Plaintiffs attached a declaration from Debra A. Ryder that challenges the authenticity of the County’s liability waiver form. (ECF No. 11-1). Exhibits 1 and 2 of Plaintiffs’ Opposition appear to be minutes in the sentencing proceedings for Defendant Booth. (Exs. 1 and 2 of Plas. Opp, ECF Nos. 11-3; 11-4).

Plaintiffs’ attachments will not be considered. The Motion before the Court is that of a Motion to Dismiss. Neither party has properly briefed a Motion for Summary Judgment.

The County’s Reply

In its Reply, the County attached an additional eight exhibits. None of the attachments to the County’s Reply will be considered.

The Parties may not ignore the requirements for allowing the Court to reach summary judgment. The attempt to raise factual issues is premature.

A. CAUSES OF ACTION IN PLAINTIFFS’ COMPLAINT

The Complaint contains multiple causes of action.

Plaintiffs allege that the County’s police officers violated the United States Constitution and the Hawaii Constitution. (Complaint at ¶ 8, ECF No. 1-2).

In Count I of the Complaint, the representative of the Estate asserts a negligence claim against all Defendants for the death of Ryder.

In Count II, Debra A. Ryder, Buddy K. Ryder, and Wailau Ryder (the “Individual Plaintiffs”) bring a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress and a request for wrongful death damages against all Defendants.

In Count III, all Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant County, the Police Department, the Doe police officers, and the Doe individuals negligently caused Ryder to be attacked and murdered.

In Count IV, all Plaintiffs assert that Defendants’ negligence caused decedent Ryder’s pain and suffering.

In Count V, all Plaintiffs request punitive damages against Defendant Booth.

In Count VI, all Plaintiffs assert claims of negligent hiring, negligent training, negligent retention, and negligent supervision against the Defendant County, the Police Department, the Doe police officers, and the Doe individuals.

In Count VII, all Plaintiffs allege claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Defendant County, its police department, the Doe police officers, and the Doe individuals. Count VII also requests punitive damages against the Defendant County, the Police Department, its police officers, and the Doe individuals.

Only the County has moved for dismissal.

B. ALLEGED CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATIONS

1. The United States Constitution

a. The Court Construes Plaintiffs’ Claim that the County’s Police Officers Violated the United States Constitution as a Claim Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Congress provides individuals with a private cause of action for alleged violations of the United States Constitution through 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983"). A plaintiff seeking redress for alleged unconstitutional harms need not invoke Section 1983, so long as the elements of a constitutional claim are pled. Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., 135 S.Ct. 346 (2014). Section 1983 nonetheless controls the manner and scope of tort lawsuits alleging violations of the United States Constitution. See Memphis Cmty. Sch. Dist. v. Stachura, 477 U.S. 299, 305-07 (1986).

Plaintiffs’ Complaint does not reference 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court construes Plaintiffs’ claim that the Defendant County’s police officers violated the United States Constitution as a claim pursuant to Section 1983. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. 346.

b. Plaintiffs’ Standing to Pursue a Claim Pursuant to Section 1983

State law controls who may pursue a decedent’s claim governed by 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Estate of Cornejo ex rel. Solis v. City of L.A., 618 F.App'x 917, 919 (9th Cir. 2015).

Hawaii law permits the decedent’s “legal representative” to pursue his tort claims. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 663-7. The term, “legal representative, ” has not been defined by statute or the Hawaii Supreme Court. Agae v. United States, 125 F.Supp.2d 1243, 1248 (D. Haw. 2000); see generally Haw. Rev. Stat. § 663.

The question of legal representation was considered in Agae, 125 F.Supp.2d 1243. In Agae, the district court employed an expansive interpretation of “legal representative, ” as used in Haw. Rev. Stat. § 663:

A legal representative, “in its broadest sense, means one who stands in place of, and represents the interests of another.” Black's Law Dictionary 896 (6th ed. 1990). Examples include “the executor or administrator of an estate and a court appointed guardian of a minor or incompetent person.” Id. “The term ‘legal representatives' is not necessarily restricted to the personal representatives of one deceased, but is sufficiently broad to cover all persons who, with respect to his property, stand in his place and represent his interests, ...

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