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Buzayan v. City of Davis

February 25, 2010

HALEMA BUZAYAN, AN INDIVIDUAL; DR. JAMAL BUZAYAN, AN INDIVIDUAL; NAJAT ABDALLA DARRAT, AN INDIVIDUAL; MOHAMED BUZAYAN, BY AND THROUGH R. JAMAL BUZAYAN, AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR A MINOR; YOUSEF BUZAYAN, BY AND THROUGH DR. JAMAL BUZAYAN, AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR A MINOR; ALI BUZAYAN, BY AND THROUGH DR. JAMAL BUZAYAN, AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF DAVIS; JAMES HYDE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE CITY OF DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT; STEVEN PIERCE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY WITH THE CITY OF DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT; PHENG LY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN OFFICER OF THE CITY OF DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT; BEN HARTZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS OFFICER OF THE CITY OF DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT; DAVID HENDERSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE YOLO COUNTY OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY;; PATRICIA FONG, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE YOLO COUNTY OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND MEMBER OF THE DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT ADVISORY BOARD; DOUGLAS THORN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS COUNSEL FOR YOLO COUNTY AND THE CITY OF DAVIS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Through the present action, Halema Buzayan and the Buzayan family allege that their constitutional rights were violated as a result of events stemming from hit-and-run charges levied against Halema as a result of an incident which allegedly occurred on June 7, 2005. Defendants City of Davis, James Hyde, the former Davis Chief of Police, and two officers with the City of Davis Police Department, Pheng Ly and Ben Hartz (collectively referred to as "Defendants" unless otherwise noted), now move for partial summary judgment as to the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Thirteenth Causes of Action contained within Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint on grounds 1) that probable cause existed for the arrest of Halma Buzayan; 2) that there is no evidence of any discriminatory animus associated with the arrest; and 3) that the individual officers are entitled to qualified immunity in any event with respect to any liability associated with the arrest. As set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment will be denied.

BACKGROUND

At approximately 7:40 p.m. on the evening of June 7, 2005, Officer Ly was dispatched by the City of Davis Police Department to the home of Adrienne Wonhof-Gustafson to investigate Mr. Wonhof-Gustafson's claim that her 2001 Mazda Protégé had sustained damage as a result of a hit-and-run collision.

Ms. Wonhof-Gustafson told Officer Ly that after shopping at Safeway earlier that evening, she noticed damage to the rear bumper and found a note attached to her windshield from a witness who claimed to have witnessed a collision. According to the note, a blue Toyota Highlander was involved, license plate number 5GXT958. The witness who wrote the note left his name and telephone number.

Officer Ly dialed the number on the note and spoke to a man who identified himself as Marc Rowe. Mr. Rowe stated that he had seen the Highlander back out of a parking spot after pulling in very closely next to Ms. Wonhof-Gustafson's Mazda. Although Mr. Rowe did not profess to have seen any actual collision between the two vehicles, he stated that after the Highlander backed out and parked in a different space he saw scrape marks on the Mazda's bumper near where the Highlander had passed, so believed that an impact had occurred. Mr. Rowe described the Highlander's driver as a "non-white" driver between 17 and 20 years of age. He saw two younger male passengers with the driver.

After running a check on the license plate number provided by Mr. Rowe, Officer Ly discovered that the plate matched a 2004 Toyota registered to Jamal Buzayan and his wife Najat Darrat at 1131 Pistachio Court in Davis. Officer Ly drove to the Buzayan residence and ultimately found Mr. Buzayan at home at about 9:30 p.m. Ly explained that he was investigating a reported hitand run involving a blue Toyota Highlander, license plate number 5GXT958, which Buzayan confirmed was his vehicle.

After Mr. Buzayan asked Officer Ly if he wished to examine the vehicle, they went into the garage. The license number of the Highlander parked there matched the number provided by Marc Rowe and had corner damage to the right front/passenger bumper.

Ms. Darrat then appeared and, while she admitted driving the Toyota to Safeway several times earlier in the day, denied being at Safeway around 6:30 p.m. when Mr. Rowe observed the alleged incident. Neither Mr. Buzayan or Ms. Darrat had noticed the Toyota's bumper damage previously. Officer Ly took pictures of the damage.

When Officer Ly inquired with respect to any other drivers in the household, he learned that the couple's daughter, sixteen-year-old Halema, had a driver's license. Officer Ly then asked to speak to Halema, who denied driving the Highlander to Safeway that day. Despite this denial, Officer Ly asked Mr. Buzayan and Ms. Darrat to call Ms. Wonhof-Gustafson to discuss responsibility for the incident, and to contact their insurance company. Officer Ly also gave the Buzayans' insurance information to Mr. Wonhof-Gustafson himself when he returned to talk with her after discussing the matter with the Buzayans.

Ms. Wonhof-Gustafson admits that a member of the Buzayan family called her shortly thereafter and agreed to pay for the Mazda's damage. An insurance representative prepared an estimate and, according to Ms. Wonhof-Gustafson, she received a check covering the necessary repairs, in full, within three days after the incident. See Decl. of Adrienne Wonhof-Gustafson, ¶ 7.

Ms. Wonhof-Gustafson further maintains that she told Officer Ly the evening of the accident she had no interest in pressing charges as long as she was reimbursed for the damage to her vehicle.

When Officer Ly returned to talk to Marc Rowe a second time, he showed Rowe a photo lineup which included Halema's photo.

Mr. Rowe identified Halema as the driver of the Highlander, but his girlfriend, Carly Collins, could not make a positive identification despite having also been present in the Safeway parking lot when the purported incident occurred. Mr. Collins did describe the driver as a "Middle Eastern" female about 17 years old with wavy, dark shoulder length hair. Collins told Officer Ly that the girl had looked at the Mazda as she walked past it after parking the Highlander.

According to Officer Ly, as a result of this investigation, which all appears to have occurred the evening of the incident, he concluded that Halema Buzayan had likely been driving the Highlander and collided with the Wonhof-Gustafson Mazda on June 7, 2005. Officer Ly did not arrest Halema, however, until almost a week later, on June 13, 2005, when he returned to the Buzayan/Darrat home at about 9:40 p.m with Officer Hartz and transported Halema to the Davis Police Station for booking, fingerprinting and questioning before releasing her to her parents with a Notice to Appear. Halema's arrest was effectuated without any warrant.

On July 14, 2006, Ms. Buzayan, through her father as Guardian Ad Litem, filed suit against Defendants, alleging seventeen causes of action. The Defendants filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss under Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(7) and a Partial Motion to Strike under Rule 12(f) and California Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16. Since Ms. Buzayan had reached the age of majority prior to filing the suit, the Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(7), and granted Plaintiff leave to amend the complaint.

On November 3, 2006, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint which substituted Ms. Buzayan as an individual, and added the additional members of the Buzayan family as Plaintiffs. The First Amended Complaint also added the Davis Enterprise, Debbie Davis, Lauren Keene, the City of Davis, and individuals from the Yolo County Office of the District Attorney as Defendants, and included additional causes of action. As a result of Special Motions to Strike and Partial Motions to Dismiss filed in early 2007, the media defendants (the Davis Enterprise, Debbie Davis and Lauren Keene) were dismissed along with three causes of action. After Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings directed to remaining claims in late 2007, ...


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