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Estate of Zachary v. County of Sacramento

April 2, 2010

ESTATE OF DWAYNE ZACHARY, LINDA LAMPKIN; DWAYNELA' TA'SHAY ZACHARY THOMAS; AUGUSTINE ZACHARY; SHAMIKA THOMAS; AILEEN ELDORA ZACHARY; DWAYNE ZACHARY; LARRY MARTWAINE ZACHARY; JOSHUA CLERANCE ZACHARY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO; CITY OF SACRAMENTO; SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; LOU BLANAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF; SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT; ALBERT NAJERA, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE CITY OF SACRAMENTO; SACRAMENTO SHERIFF OFFICERS DOES 1-24; SACRAMENTO POLICE OFFICERS DOES 50-99; AND ADDITIONAL DOES 100-150, INCLUSIVE. DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Through the present action, Plaintiffs seek redress for several federal and state law claims alleging that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' civil rights during the course of responding to a domestic disturbance call at the home of the now deceased Dwayne Zachary. Presently before the Court is a Motion by Defendants County of Sacramento, Craig Harmon, Brent Jarvis, Brett Spaid, Rebecca Purdy, Jeremy Day, Kenneth Wight, Matthew Tallman, Andrew Croley, Kevin Jordan, Bill Myers, Donald Vagt and Lou Blanas ("Defendants") for Summary Judgment or, in the alternative, Summary Adjudication of issues, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below Defendants' Motion is denied in part and granted in part.*fn1

BACKGROUND

On August 4, 2005, Officers Tallman, Spaid and Harmon responded to a domestic disturbance call at the apartment of Dwayne Zachary. Upon arrival, Zachary opened the door naked and made offensive comments to the officers. He was thereafter handcuffed and seated on the couch as the officers checked the apartment. When it was determined that Zachary was unarmed and did not present a threat, the officers uncuffed Zachary and returned to their cars.

As the officers were leaving the apartment complex, Zachary ran outside of his apartment wearing only a bathrobe. Zachary was sweating and behaving in an erratic manner. The officers ordered Zachary to stop running and to show his hands. Zachary repeatedly refused to comply with their commands. Zachary then turned and ran back to his apartment.

The officers chased after Zachary as a result of his failing to obey their commands and because they were unable to determine if he had some sort of weapon. The officers eventually caught up with Zachary in the apartment and attempted to subdue him. In attempting to subdue Zachary, Officer Tallman used his Taser. The Taser had no effect and Zachary began to run to another part of the apartment. Officer Spaid followed and used a Taser on Zachary a second time, again to no avail. Soon after, Officers Jordan, Jarvis, Croley and Day arrived at the apartment. Jordan shouted a warning to Zachary and then used a Taser on him for the third time. It also had no effect. Harmon then began to hit Zachary with his baton in an effort to subdue him. According to Plaintiffs, several officers beat and punched Zachary in his head, body, and mouth, dislodging his teeth. During the struggle, the officers double cuffed Zachary and placed him under maximum restraints. Zachary was held face down, stomach to the ground, with his ankles strapped toward his waist in a "hog-tie" manner.

During the altercation, Plaintiff Shamika Thomas, Zachary's adult daughter, arrived at the home and could see through the front door that there were officers inside. She alleges she could hear screaming and fighting. Shamika claims she asked deputies if she could speak to her father, but they refused.

She then states she watched the altercation from an open kitchen window on the north side of the premises where she could hear fighting and see deputies making "fighting type movements." According to Plaintiffs, Shamika heard her father cry out and call for his "baby girl" before he went silent.

After a period of time, the Officers observed that Zachary was not breathing. The officers immediately began CPR and called for an ambulance. Zachary was rushed to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead later that evening. The Coroner's Final Report listed the cause of death as "[s]udden cardiac arrest while being restrained prone after physical altercation with police that included [the] use of [T]asers, due to excited delirium due to acute cocaine and MDMA intoxication." The present action followed.

Defendants now move for summary judgment or summary adjudication of Plaintiffs' claims. Specifically, Officer Brett Spaid and Sheriff Lou Blanas move for summary judgment on all causes of action. Defendant County of Sacramento moves for summary adjudication of Plaintiffs' First, Second, Third, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Causes of Action.

The remaining Defendants, Officers Harmon, Jarvis, Purdy, Day, Tallman, Croley, Jordan, Wight, Vagt, and Lt. Meyers, move for summary adjudication of Plaintiffs' Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Causes of Action.

STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-324 (1986).

Rule 56 also allows a court to grant summary adjudication on part of a claim or defense. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ("A party claiming relief may move...for summary judgment on all or part of the claim."); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. Madan, 889 F. Supp. 374, 378-79 (C.D. Cal. 1995); France Stone Co., Inc. v. Charter Township of Monroe, 790 F. Supp. 707, 710 (E.D. Mich. 1992).

The standard that applies to a motion for summary adjudication is the same as that which applies to a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a), 56(c); Mora v. ChemTronics, 16 F. Supp. 2d. 1192, 1200 (S.D. Cal. 1998).

A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. at 323 (quoting Rule 56(c)). If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist.

Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986); First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968).

In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party must tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 251-52 (1986); Owens v. Local No. 169, Assoc. of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, 971 F.2d 347, 355 (9th Cir. 1987). Stated another way, "before the evidence is left to the jury, there is a preliminary question for the judge, not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed."

Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251 (quoting Schuylkill and Dauphin Improvement Co. v. Munson, 81 U.S. 442, 448 (1871)). As the Supreme Court explained, "[w]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts....Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586-87.

In resolving a summary judgment motion, the evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898 (9th Cir. 1987).

ANALYSIS

A. Section 1983 Claims (First, Second, and Third ...


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