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A.N. v. County of Los Angeles

March 5, 2009; as modified April 6, 2009

A.N., A MINOR, ETC., PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Maureen Duffy-Lewis, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC333416).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bigelow, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

A.N. filed a complaint for damages against Los Angeles County claiming he had been harmed while in custody at juvenile hall. Less than a month before trial, A.N. filed and served four "Doe" amendments (Code Civ. Proc., § 474), and served two previously filed Doe amendments, all to bring six County employees into the action as defendants.*fn1

The individual defendants filed a "motion to quash" the Doe amendments on the ground that A.N. had unreasonably delayed in filing and serving the amendments. The trial court granted the motion. We affirm.

FACTS

The Pleadings

In May 2005, A.N. (by and through his guardian ad litem) filed a complaint for damages against the Los Angeles County, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, and "John Doe Deputy Sheriff Officers 1 through 15." A.N.‟s complaint alleged causes of action for negligence, violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code, § 51 et seq.), failure to prevent violation of civil rights, violation of constitutional rights, conspiracy to conceal violation of constitutional rights, and violation of 42 U.S.C. section 1985. All of A.N.‟s causes of action were based on the following allegations: In April 2004, A.N. was in custody at the County‟s juvenile hall facility in Sylmar. While A.N. was in custody, John Doe Deputy Sheriffs 1 through 15 housed A.N. with a juvenile whom the officers knew or should have known had violent propensities, and thereafter unreasonably failed to supervise A.N.‟s safety. The other juvenile sexually abused A.N.

In October 2005, A.N. retained new counsel and in November 2005, A.N. filed a first amended complaint naming the County and "Does 1 through 100" as defendants.

A.N.‟s amended complaint alleged causes of action for negligence, negligent supervision, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The underlying factual allegations largely remained the same as in his original complaint.

On January 18, 2006, A.N. filed a Doe amendment to his operative complaint, naming county employee Edward Anhalt as Doe 16. Two days later, A.N. served Anhalt with a summons and complaint, including the amendment naming Anhalt as Doe 16. Shortly thereafter, Anhalt answered the complaint. The Doe amendment filed by A.N. in January 2006 has never been the subject of any dispute in this case and is not an issue in the appeal before us today.

Subsequent Events During the Litigation

On March 27, 2006, A.N. filed a second Doe amendment to his operative complaint, naming county employee Gilbert Rodriguez as Doe 1. After filing the Doe amendment, A.N. did not effect service of process on Rodriguez.

In August and September 2006, the respective lawyers for A.N. and the County executed a stipulation which included the following provisions:

"1. Plaintiff . . . will file a complaint against individual county employees and file Doe amendments for other individuals whose identities are currently unknown to Plaintiff exclusively on state law negligence theories.

"2. Defendant County . . . will indemnify its personnel for their negligence notwithstanding . . . Government Code [section] 844.6, [subdivision] (d) . . . [¶] . . . [¶] Accordingly, to the extent that Plaintiff is successful in proving his negligence claims, County agrees to indemnify its personnel for injuries that arose out of an act or omission occurring within the course and scope of his or her employment. County does not waive any other statutory or common law immunities or affirmative defenses. . . ." (Capitalization omitted.)

At about the same time as the parties‟ stipulation, the trial court set a trial date for A.N.‟s case for January 8, 2007. On August 22, 2006, the trial court granted A.N.‟s request to correct his pleadings so that the Doe amendment, which he had filed in January 2006, would identify Edward Anhalt as Doe 2, rather than Doe 16. During the latter part of 2006, the parties stipulated to continue the trial date to May 7, 2007.

On March 9, 2007, A.N. filed a third Doe amendment to his operative complaint, naming county employee Ron Barrett as Doe 3. After filing the Doe amendment, A.N. did not effect service of process on Barrett.

On April 2, 2007, the trial court granted the County‚Äüs ex parte application for an order continuing the then-pending May trial date. The record suggests that the court ...


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