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Reyes v. State

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 18, 2019

LEINETTE KAINOA REYES, et al., Plaintiffs,
STATE OF HAWAI'I, et al, Defendants.




         This action arises out of the alleged sexual abuse of inmates at the Women's Community Correctional Center ("WCCC") by its employees. Plaintiffs assert federal Constitutional and Hawai'i state law claims against the State of Hawai'i (the "State"), Nolan Espinda, Eric Tanaka, Chavon Freitas, Taofi Magalei, Jr., Brent Baumann, Gauta Vaa, James Sinatra, John Does 1-25, Jane Does 1-25, and Doe Entities 1-25. The State, Nolan Espinda, and Eric Tanaka (collectively, "Defendants") move to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint filed on October 19, 2018 as to all claims against them.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the Motion in part and DENIES it in part. Counts I-IV are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to the State, Espinda in his official capacity, and Tanaka in his official capacity. The Motion is DENIED with respect to Counts I-IV as to Tanaka in his individual capacity and Counts V-XII as to all Defendants.


         A. Factual History

         Plaintiffs Leinette Kainoa Reyes; Dana K.A. Baba; Darnell K. Maluyo Artemio Panlasigui, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Dawnielle C. Panlasigui, deceased, and as next friend to A.P., a minor; Tiana M. Soto; Maelene Cruz; Monica J. Alves Peralto; Shawna L. Tallman; Reyna M. Banks; and Victoria Suanoa-Piper (collectively, "Plaintiffs") allege that while incarcerated, they were regularly sexually abused by four Adult Correctional Officers ("ACOs") and one civilian employee. Doc. No. 51 at 3-4. Plaintiffs allege that these assaults often occurred in the WCCC Control Stations. Id. at ¶¶ 34-90. The Third Amended Complaint ("TAC") alleges multiple occasions when WCC employees touched Plaintiffs inappropriately, forcibly gave and received oral sex, digitally penetrated Plaintiffs, and engaged in vaginal sex with the promise of privileges. Id. Plaintiffs allege that as a result of the fear and anxiety caused by these sexual assaults, Plaintiff Dawnielle Pawnlasigui committed suicide. Id. at ¶¶ 58-59. Due to the prevalence of the assaults and the similar circumstances surrounding them, Plaintiffs allege that the State, Espinda (as Director of the Department of Public Safety) and Tanaka (as warden of WCCC) failed to supervise their employees and condoned a culture, pattern, and policy of sexual abuse. Id. at ¶¶ 91-123.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs initiated this action on March 30, 2017. Doc. No. 1. On July 26, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 24, which was dismissed by stipulation on November 15, 2017, Doc. No. 44. The TAC was filed on October 19, 2018 and is the subject of this Motion. Doc. No. 51. The TAC asserts the following claims: (1) violations of § 1983 (Counts I, II, III, and IV); (2) seduction (Count V); (3) negligence (Count VI); (4) negligent hiring, training, and supervision (Count VII); (5) assault and battery (Count VIII); (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IX); (7) negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count X); (8) false imprisonment (Count XI); and (9) wrongful death (Count XII). Id. Plaintiffs pray for general, special, and punitive damages; reimbursement of costs and expenses; pre- and post-judgment interest; injunctive and declaratory relief as separately plead; and any additional relief deemed appropriate. Id. at 37.

         On November 8, 2018, the State, Espinda, and Tanaka filed the instant Motion to Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint Filed on October 19, 2018. Doc. No. 57. Plaintiffs filed an opposition, Doc. No. 66, and Defendants responded with a reply, Doc. No. 67.


         Defendants' Motion is brought pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction may attack either the allegations of the complaint or the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact. Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. Gen. Tel. & Elecs. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir.1979) (internal citations omitted). When the motion to dismiss finds fault with the allegations of the complaint, the court accepts all factual allegations as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Fed'n of African Am. Contractors v. City of Oakland, 96 F.3d 1204, 1207 (9th Cir.1996). If the motion attacks a jurisdictional issue separable from the merits of the case, the judge may consider the evidence presented with respect to jurisdiction and rule on that issue, resolving factual disputes and considering matters outside the complaint when necessary. Thornhill, 594 F.2d at 733.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint that fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, '"the court accepts the facts alleged in the complaint as true,' and '[d]ismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged.'" UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners LLC, 718 F.3d 1006, 1014 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988)) (alteration in original). However, conclusory allegations of law, unwarranted deductions of fact, and unreasonable inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis v. Cal. Bd. of Psychology, 228 F.3d 1043, 1049 (9th Cir. 2000).

         "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.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists "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). Although a court must accept all allegations contained in the complaint as true, this obligation does not extend to legal conclusions. Id. As such, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not 'show[n]'- 'that the pleader is entitled to relief" Id. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)) (some alterations in original). If dismissal is ordered, Plaintiffs should be granted leave to amend unless it is clear that amendment would be futile. Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 760 (9th Cir. 2007).


         Defendants seek dismissal of Counts I-XII as asserted against them. With respect to Counts I-IV against the State, Espinda in his official capacity, and Tanaka in his official capacity, Defendants argue that (1) claims against Espinda and Tanaka duplicate the claims made against the State and (2) Plaintiffs' federal claims against the State are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Regarding Counts I-IV against Tanaka in his individual capacity, Defendants contend that the allegations do not support individual liability under § 1983. In addition, Defendants argue Plaintiffs' claim for declaratory relief must be dismissed. Finally, Defendants argue that Counts V-XIII must be dismissed against them for lack of jurisdiction.

         A. Section 1983 Claims (Counts I-IV)

         Plaintiffs allege that by failing to prevent the repeated sexual assaults at WCCC, Espinda and Tanaka violated Plaintiffs' Constitutional rights while acting ...

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