The opinion of the court was delivered by: PHYLLIS HAMILTON, District Judge
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
The motion of defendant Derek Meza for summary judgment came on
for hearing before this court on November 16, 2005. Plaintiff
appeared by his counsel Julie M. Houk, and defendant appeared by
his counsel Clyde A. Thompson. Having read the parties' papers
and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal
authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS the
motion as follows and for the reasons stated at the hearing.
This is an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff
Angel James Mendez ("Mendez") alleges that defendants County of
Alameda and Alameda County Sheriff's Deputies Derek Meza ("Deputy
Meza") and J. Russell ("Deputy Russell") violated his rights
under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution.
Mendez also asserts state law claims of negligence (against all
defendants), battery (against all defendants), violation of his
rights under California Civil Code §§ 52 and 52.1 (against all
defendants), and false arrest and imprisonment (against the
County and Russell only).
Deputy Meza now seeks summary judgment on all claims asserted
Mendez's allegations against Deputy Meza arise from an incident
that occurred on October 5, 2002. On that date at approximately
12:55 a.m., Deputy Russell and another Alameda County Sheriff's
Deputy responded to a complaint from Nancy Arteaga ("Arteaga"),
who was Mendez's girlfriend at the time. Arteaga complained that
Mendez had arrived at her house with a gun.
Deputy Russell prepared an incident report, and Arteaga signed
a statement indicating that Mendez had been violent and had
assaulted her several times in the past while under the influence
of crystal methamphetamine, and that she was fearful for her own
safety and the safety of her family. She stated that on October
5, 2002, Mendez had come to her house, threatened her father with
a gun, called her a "bitch," and pushed her into the bushes
outside of her house. Arteaga, who was four months pregnant with
Mendez's child at the time, sustained injuries to her right knee,
leg, and arm. When she asked Mendez why he had shoved her into
the bushes, Mendez allegedly spit on her and said, "Shut up,
bitch!" According to Arteaga, Mendez then got into a car driven
by his mother, and the car left the scene.
Deputy Russell wrote up the report and took the statement from
Arteaga. He stated in his report that two other officers went to
Mendez's house, but no one answered. According to Deputy Russell,
while he was at Arteaga's residence, she received three phone
calls from Mendez, who was calling her from his residence.
Arteaga told Mendez to stop calling her. At Deputy Russell's
request, Arteaga called Mendez, but when Deputy Russell tried to
talk to him, Mendez hung up. Deputy Russell called Mendez again
from Arteaga's phone; Mendez answered but then immediately hung
Later the same morning, Deputy Meza spoke briefly with Deputy
Russell in the locker room of the Sheriff's Office. Deputy
Russell was just ending his shift as Deputy Meza was starting
his. Deputy Russell told Deputy Meza that if Meza got a
"callback" to "the house on A Street" (referring to Arteaga's house), there was probable cause
to arrest Mendez on a domestic violence charge.
Deputy Meza's supervisor, Sergeant Dan Murray ("Sgt. Murray"),
also told Deputy Meza that there was probable cause to arrest
Mendez on a domestic violence charge. Sgt. Murray told Deputy
Meza to contact Mendez and arrest him. He told Deputy Meza to go
to Arteaga's home to look for Mendez if he could not contact
Mendez at home.
Deputy Meza then went to Mendez's home with the intent of
arresting him. He knocked on the door to Mendez's apartment, and
saw the vertical blinds open and close quickly, but there was no
response. He continued to knock on the door, but no one came out
of the apartment.
As instructed by Sgt. Murray, Deputy Meza next went to
Arteaga's house, and asked her whether she had seen Mendez. When
Arteaga received a phone call from Mendez, Deputy Meza asked her
for the phone, and listened as Mendez shouted, "You fucking
bitch, why did you send the police to my house?!!" Deputy Meza
then introduced himself to Mendez on the phone, and asked Mendez
why he had not answered the door earlier. Mendez responded, "I
don't give a fuck who you are. I don't have to do anything you
say. You punk motherfucker, I'll kick your fucking ass." Deputy
Meza told Mendez he needed to talk to him about the incident that
had happened during the previous night. Mendez hung up the phone.
Deputy Meza obtained Mendez's telephone number from Arteaga and
called him back. Mendez did not pick up the phone, so Deputy Meza
left a message on his answering machine. On the message, Deputy
Meza asked Mendez to pick up the phone, and indicated that he
would apprehend him if he saw him:
Angel, pick up the phone. As soon as you step out
your door, I'm going to nab you. If you call over to
her house again, make any threats, I'm going to kick
your door down and take you out, ok? You need to grow
up, quit being a little baby. You got a problem, you
call me directly, Deputy Meza. You step outside your
door, you better be ready `cause I'm going to get you
myself. Next time beat up on a guy instead of messing
with a girl. Step outside and I'll be waiting for
Deputy Meza did not attempt to call Mendez again, did not leave
any other messages for him, and had no further contact with him.
No arrest warrant was issued for Mendez, and he was never charged in connection with the October 5, 2005, incident.
On October 10, 2005, Barbara Overland ("Mrs. Overland"), a
resident of Hayward who did not know Mendez and had never
previously seen him, found him sleeping on a lounge chair in the
garage of her home shortly before 8:00 p.m. She noticed that he
had a bruise on his forehead. Neither she nor her son Cory
Overland was able to wake Mendez, and she called Hayward police
for assistance in removing him from her property. The initial
call for service was put out on the police radio at 8:28 p.m.
Deputy Gemmell responded that he was a few minutes away.
Before Deputy Gemmell arrived, however, Deputy Russell arrived
on the scene in an Alameda County Sheriff's Department vehicle.
Mrs. Overland told Deputy Russell she did not necessarily want
Mendez arrested, but just wanted him off her property. Deputy
Russell told Mrs. Overland he would take care of it. At 8:49
p.m., Deputy Russell radioed dispatch that he had Mendez in
While the officers were in the garage, Mrs. Overland (who could
not see what was going on in the garage) heard Mendez say, "Okay,
okay, I'll quit struggling." The officers then walked out of the
garage with Mendez, who was in handcuffs. Deputy Gemmell arrived
at about that time. He could not recall if Mendez seemed to be in
any physical distress. Mrs. Overland recalled that Mendez was
able to walk without any problem, and she saw no blood on
him.*fn1 Deputy Russell and Deputy Gemmell walked Mendez to
the patrol vehicle, and Deputy Gemmell conducted a pat-down
After Mendez was placed in the police vehicle, one of the
officers Mrs. Overland could not recall which one told her
that it was a good thing she had called them, as Mendez was
wanted for having beaten someone up. Deputy Gemmell believed that
Mendez was going to be charged with public intoxication and
resisting arrest. That was the last interaction Deputy Gemmell had with Mendez.
Deputy Gemmell returned to his shift, and Deputy Russell
transported Mendez to Santa Rita Jail. Mendez testified that it
took about 20 minutes to drive to Santa Rita from Mrs. Overland's
home. He admitted that during that time, he was cursing Deputy
Russell. Deputy Russell claimed that Mendez slipped out of his
seatbelt during the ride, and attempted to kick out the window of
the patrol vehicle.
According to Mendez, after they arrived at Santa Rita and he
was removed from the patrol vehicle, he began walking toward the
door of the jail. At that point, he asserts, Deputy Russell
grabbed him from the back of his head and slammed his face into
the wall of the building, chipping his tooth, and then began
beating him. Mendez claims that some of the blows were to the
stomach area, and that he collapsed and fell to the sidewalk.
Deputy Russell denies that he assaulted Mendez when they
arrived at Santa Rita. He maintains that after he pulled Mendez
(whom he claims was still kicking) out of the patrol vehicle, he
placed Mendez in a holding cell at the jail. After removing the
handcuffs, he noticed that Mendez had vomited and was drooling on
himself. He attempted to find a jail nurse to obtain clearance
for Mendez to be booked into the jail.
According to deposition testimony of Irene Favila, the nurse at
Santa Rita who responded to the request, the arresting agency
will not bring an arrestee to the jail if he is in acute
distress, but will generally automatically take him to the
hospital to get a clearance before transporting him to the jail.
She also testified, however, that when an inmate or arrestee is
extremely drunk, or belligerent or agitated, the officer will
bring him straight to a holding tank, and a nurse has to clear
the inmate/arrestee to determine if he can be safely held in
custody there, before he can be fingerprinted and booked.
When Nurse Favila arrived at the holding tank, a number of
deputies were standing inside. She noticed that Mendez was lying
on his side on the concrete bench. She asked him to sit up so she
could evaluate him, and a deputy attempted to pull him up into a
seated position, but Mendez kept slumping back down. She had the
impression that Mendez could not sit up on his own. She thought
at first that he was intoxicated, because she noticed the smell of alcohol. She believed he was conscious because every
time she asked him a question e.g., "Are you sick?" "Are you on
any medication?" "Are you injured?" "Can you talk to me?" he
would moan. She observed that his eyes were crossed and he had
some contusions on his face. Because she could not get answers to
her questions and because she was concerned that the crossed eyes
might indicate some neurological condition, she stated that she
would not clear Mendez, that Mendez would have to be taken to the
hospital to be cleared.
After Nurse Favila said she would not clear Mendez, she became
aware that Mendez was Deputy Russell's arrestee. She claims that
Russell became upset and yelled at her, saying that her decision
was "BS," and that he wanted another nurse to clear Mendez, to
get a second opinion. Favila told Deputy Russell that there was
another nurse he could talk to.
Nurse Ella Garrido was in the office, but she indicated to
Nurse Favila that she did not want to go see Mendez, because she
did not want to override Favila's decision. Deputy Russell told
Favila that he was familiar with Mendez, that Mendez had been at
Santa Rita on many occasions and that his eyes were always
crossed, and that he was simply intoxicated. However, Favila
still refused to clear him.
Nurse Favila asked Deputy Russell if Mendez had been involved
in a car accident or a fight, because she wondered why he had
contusions on his face, and Russell said that he had received a
call from an old lady saying there was a drunk guy sleeping in
her garage, and that when Russell arrived, Mendez looked as he
did when he arrived in the holding tank.
Deputy Russell testified that he then attempted to locate a
sergeant to override Nurse Favila's decision, because he believed
that Mendez was merely drunk, and that Favila had not conducted
an adequate assessment because she simply stood at the doorway to
the holding tank while she made her decision, rather than going
inside to see Mendez. Deputy Russell spent five or ten minutes
looking for the sergeant Sgt. Rosales but Rosales said she
would stand by the nurse's decision.
At that point, Deputy Russell decided to take Mendez to the
hospital. He removed Mendez from the holding tank, walked him to
another cell closer to the exit, and waited for two other deputies to arrive so they could follow Deputy Russell to
the hospital in case Mendez tried to kick out the window again.
When Deputy Russell returned to the cell, he found Mendez lying
on the floor in a spread-eagle position. He noticed that Mendez
was sweating quite a bit. He told Mendez to sit up, but Mendez
did not respond. Deputy Russell cuffed him, and more or less
carried him to the patrol vehicle. Deputy Russell then drove
Mendez to the hospital, and the other deputies followed. Mendez
was admitted to Valley Care Medical Center in Pleasanton a few
minutes before 11:00 p.m.
Mendez was assessed at Valley Care, and was determined to be in
critical condition. The doctor who treated him, Dr. Howard
Yoshioka, testified that Deputy Russell stated that Mendez had
been injured earlier in the day in an altercation while
intoxicated, and that Mendez had been tackled to the ground
during his arrest.
Mendez was then transported by ambulance to Eden Hospital in
Castro Valley, for emergency surgery. The doctor who treated him
at Eden Hospital, Dr. Kristen Engle, asked Mendez what had
happened, and testified that he told her he had been beaten by
the police. Dr. Engle also testified that Mendez was "near
extremis" when he was admitted his blood pressure was almost
non-existent, and he had lost a lot of blood. She performed
emergency surgery, and determined that Mendez's liver was crushed
and his severe blood loss was caused by the liver damage.
According to Dr. Engle, the injury that caused the damage to
Mendez's liver occurred within an hour of his admission to Valley
Care, and was consistent with either one blow or multiple blows
of a deep and narrow nature to the abdomen.
Mendez claims that following this incident, an unidentified
Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy visited Cory Overland, and
suggested to him that he should forget anything he might know
about the incident on the Overland property. According to Cory
Overland, he had an outstanding warrant for a seatbelt violation,
and was afraid that if he talked to anyone about the incident he
might be arrested.
Mendez also asserts that after he filed this lawsuit, Deputy
Russell retaliated against him on February 13, 2004, claiming
that Mendez was violating a domestic violence restraining order obtained by Arteaga, even though Arteaga (who by this time
had become Mrs. Mendez) had told Deputy Russell that there was no
violation of the restraining order because the order had been
Finally, Mendez claims that on another occasion, Alameda County
Deputy Sheriff Frank Cessna, with whom Deputy Russell has
socialized outside of work, responded to a subsequent incident
involving Arteaga that had nothing to do with Mendez. Arteaga
testified that Deputy Cessna told her that Mendez was "no good"
and that she should leave him, and that if she saw him again, she
should tell him that Cessna was going to beat him up worse than
Deputy Russell did. (Deputy Cessna denied saying this.)
Mendez filed this action on October 3, 2003, and filed a
first amended complaint on January 24, 2005. Mendez alleges that Deputy
Meza threatened Mendez when he left the message on Mendez's
answering machine, and that Deputy Russell and Deputy Meza later
agreed to violate Mendez's constitutional rights. Mendez asserts
that Deputy Russell and Deputy Meza acted pursuant to this
conspiracy when they ...