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Lopez v. County of Merced

January 15, 2009

ERIC LOPEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF MERCED, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

SCHEDULING CONFERENCE ORDER

Discovery Cut-Off: 12/1/09 Non-Dispositive Motion Filing Deadline: 12/15/09 Dispositive Motion Filing Deadline: 12/30/09

I. Date of Scheduling Conference

January 15, 2009.

12/9/09 10:00 Ctrm. 7 Settlement Conference Date:

Pre-Trial Conference Date: 3/8/10 11:00 Ctrm. 3 Trial Date: 4/20/10 9:00 Ctrm. 3 (JT-5 days)

II. Summary of Pleadings

1. This case involves the detention of the Plaintiff, Eric Lopez, pursuant to a warrant issued for a person named Eric Heribeto Lopez. Plaintiff was originally booked into the Imperial County Jail until ultimately transferred to Merced County. Plaintiff was released from Merced County's Jail when it was shown to the court that he looked nothing like the person in the warrant and was in fact not the person Merced County was looking for.

2. On December 28, 2007, Plaintiff went to Calexico, Mexico with two of his cousins. Upon re-entering the United States, Plaintiff was stopped and held pursuant to a warrant for the arrest of an Eric Heribeto Lopez regarding an assault of a woman in Merced County. Plaintiff showed his California Driver's License as well as his Social Security Card to prove his identity and the fact that he did not have a middle initial and was a different person than the person named in the warrant.

3. Plaintiff was booked and held in Imperial County Jail for 10 days until he was transferred to the Los Angeles County Jail. Plaintiff was held for one day until being transferred to Merced County. Plaintiff was once again booked, all the while professing his innocence and claiming he was the victim of mistaken identity.

4. Each time Plaintiff was booked, he professed his innocence, informed the jailers he had no middle name and was not the person named in the warrant. Plaintiff further informed the jailers that he was on probation and under the supervision of Proposition 36 at "The Ark" and to contact "Robert" who would verify his identity. This was never done. During his incarceration, Plaintiff was told that his address and fingerprints matched that of the alleged person they were seeking. This information was completely false.

5. At no time did Defendant, County, ever fax, e-mail or transmit any information to Imperial or Los Angeles County regarding the alleged suspect. At all times, Defendant County was in possession of video graphic and photographic evidence depicting the true person that the warrant was issued for. That evidence clearly showed that the individual being sought looked nothing like the Plaintiff and, therefore, was not the person (Lopez) that was being held in custody pursuant to their warrant.

6. While Plaintiff was in the custody of the Merced County Jail, on or about January 16, 2008, an investigator from the Public Defender's Office interviewed the Plaintiff. Plaintiff was told that he was accused of physically assaulting a woman in Merced County as alleged in a Merced County Sheriff's Department Police Report, No. 070041961. Plaintiff was also told for the first time that Merced County Sheriff's Department investigators had possession of a videotaped interview of the alleged suspect as well as a photograph of him. Plaintiff was shown a picture of the alleged suspect and the person depicted looked nothing like the Plaintiff. Plaintiff provided Sheila Cooks' name and telephone number to the investigator and requested that he verify Plaintiff's claim that he could not possibly be the same person as the alleged suspect.

7. On January 17, 2008, Plaintiff was brought back to court and the court was informed by Plaintiff's public defender that he is not the person depicted in the photograph. Plaintiff is held one additional day in custody and brought back to court on January 18, 2008, at which time he is told there was a misunderstanding and he was released after spending 21 days in police custody.

8. At each jail facility location in Imperial, Los Angeles, and Merced County, Plaintiff was booked and asked questions about the alleged assault. Each time he told the same story. At no time during this process did Defendant County or Does 1 through 10 provide any information, which they had in their possession, to the other police agencies to verify the true identity of the alleged suspect or to compare Plaintiff's likeness to that of the alleged suspect.

9. Pursuant to the holdings in Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994) and Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991), Plaintiff must establish Defendants acted recklessly, knowingly, or with unnecessary and wanton behavior. Defendants maintain that they at all times complied with the applicable standard of care [Monroe v. Regents of the University of California, 215 Cal.App.3d 977, 983-84 (1989)]. Defendants maintain that Plaintiff will be unable to establish a mere negligence case against them pursuant to Flowers v. Torrance Memorial Hospital Medical Center, 8 Cal.4th 992, 999 (1994), and will be unable to establish Monell responsibility as against the County of Merced. Monell, supra, 436 U.S. at 694.

10. Plaintiff demanded a jury trial in his Complaint dated September 18, 2008, and Defendants demanded a jury trial in their answer dated November 10, 2008.

11. Defendant asserts the following:

12. Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

13. Any and all acts or omissions of this Defendant and its agents and employees, which allegedly caused the injury complained of, was the result of an exercise of the discretion vested in them.

14. The County of Merced is not liable for any of the acts or omissions complained of in the complaint because the complaint alleges that this Defendant is liable based on the acts or omissions of others.

15. The County of Merced's officers and employees were at all times duly qualified, appointed, and acting as peace officers of the County of Merced and peace officers of the State of California in accordance with the Constitutions of the State of California and of the United States and the laws of the State of California and United States; and at all times mentioned herein, said officers and employees were engaged in the performance of their regularly assigned duties within the scope of their duties as peace officers. All acts of said employees were lawful and privileged such that said employees and those employing these defendants are immune from liability.

16. This answering Defendant acted in good faith and with a reasonable belief that the actions were lawful and further did not directly or indirectly perform any act whatsoever which would constitute a breach of any duty owed to Plaintiff. The acts of this Defendant were lawful and proper and in all respects reasonable and legal.

17. Plaintiff was subject to restraint as was reasonably necessary for his detention.

18. The acts of this Defendant, if any there were, occurred in the proper exercise of police powers without malice or intent to deprive any person of any right arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States or to do any person any other injury.

19. This Defendant is immune from liability pursuant to the provisions of §§ 815, 815.2, 815.6, 818, 820.2, 820.4, 820.6, 820.9, 821.6, 844.6, and 845.6 of the Government Code, Civil Code § 43.55 and Penal Code § 847.

20. The facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint do not involve any custom, practice, procedure or regulation of this Defendant which causes a violation of a constitutional right pursuant to Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).

21. This defendant acted at all times herein relevant, in good faith, with due care, within the scope of discretion and pursuant to laws, regulations, rules, and practices reasonably believed to be in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the United States. There is no liability pursuant to the Federal Civil Rights Act where one acts in good faith and entertains an honest belief that one's actions are in accord with clearly established law. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982).

22. Should Plaintiff recover non-economic damages against Defendant, the liability for non-economic damages is limited to the degree of fault and several liability of any said Defendant and a separate several judgment shall be rendered against said Defendant based upon said Defendant's degree of fault and several liability.

23. Plaintiff, by the exercise of reasonable effort and/or care, could have mitigated the damages alleged to have been ...


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