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Douglas v. Shasta County

July 20, 2010


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


This matter is before the court on Shasta County, Shasta County Sheriff's Department, and deputies Thompson and Nelson of the Shasta County Sheriff's Department's ("defendants") motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Shirley Douglas ("plaintiff") opposes the motion.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.


This case arises out of a domestic dispute between third parties to this litigation Kerriann Rivera ("Rivera") and her former fiancee, plaintiff's son Jean-Paul Heard ("Heard"). As a result of Rivera and Heard's dispute, the Shasta County Superior Court ordered that Rivera be allowed to remove her belongings from the home owned by plaintiff, which Rivera and Heard had previously cohabitated. (DSUF ¶ 1.) Pursuant to the court's order, Heard was not to be present at the time allotted for Rivera to retrieve her belongings from the house. (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff's presence was allowed but not required by the court order. (Id.) Additionally, Rivera was permitted to come accompanied by family members to help facilitate the removal of her belongings from the premises. (Id. ¶ 4.)

Upon her arrival at the house at the date and time prescribed by the court order, Rivera was met by plaintiff, who refused her entry onto the premises. (Id. ¶ 5.) As a result of plaintiff's obstruction, and because of her suspicion that Heard was present, Rivera summoned Shasta County sheriff's deputies to act as a civil standby to enforce the court's order. (Id.) Individual defendants Thompson and Nelson, accompanied by other deputies, arrived at the premises shortly thereafter. (Id. ¶ 6.)

After speaking to plaintiff and Rivera, deputies Thompson and Nelson ascertained that Heard was present at the premises in violation of the court's order. Deputies Thompson and Nelson arrested Heard, who was taken from the premises in a deputy's patrol vehicle. (Id. ¶ 7; Dep. at 82:6-9.) The deputies informed plaintiff that Rivera and those present with her were acting pursuant to a valid court order and had permission to be on the premises. (Dep. at 89:5, 18-22.) Plaintiff complied and allowed Rivera and those present with her to enter the premises and begin the process of collecting and removing Rivera's belongings. (Dep. at 96:19-25, 97:1-4.)

Contrary to plaintiff's requests that sheriff's deputies remain at the premises while Rivera was present, Thompson and Nelson, along with the other deputies present, returned to their patrol vehicles and left. (Dep. at 85:7-25, 86:1-3.) Shortly thereafter, Rivera, along with at least one present family member, allegedly assaulted and battered plaintiff. (Dep. at 99:10-15, 100:2-9. 101:17-24.) Subsequent to the alleged assault and battery and prior to Rivera and her associates leaving the premises, plaintiff spoke on the phone to deputy Nelson. (Dep. 109:17.) At no point during this conversation did plaintiff mention having been assaulted or struck by Rivera or her associates.

Some time after Rivera left the premises, plaintiff began to drive to her attorney's office to report the altercation. (Dep. 117:14-19, 118:8-10.) En route to her attorney's office, Thompson and Nelson performed a traffic stop and arrested plaintiff, acting on Rivera's allegation that plaintiff had threatened and assaulted Rivera and those with her at the premises, and that she had threatened Rivera's son. (Dep. 120:9-10, 125:1-3, 127:16-21.)

Plaintiff alleges that deputies Thompson, Nelson, the Doe deputies present at the premises, and the Shasta County Sheriff's Department violated her constitutional rights. (Pl.'s Compl. ("Compl."), filed Aug. 29, 2008 (docket #1), ¶ 1.) Specifically, plaintiff alleges that by refusing to remain at the premises after she expressed her concern that Rivera and those accompanying her were "hostile," defendants negligently allowed her to be assaulted and battered, and thereby breached their duty to plaintiff and violated her Constitutional rights. (Compl. ¶ 21-22.) Defendants contend that they acted pursuant to valid court order and had no duty to remain at the premises after enforcing the court order.*fn3 (Def.'s Mot Summ. J. ("MSJ"), filed June 8, 2010 (docket #27), at 2.)


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment where "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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see California v. Campbell, 138 F.3d 772, 780 (9th Cir. 1998). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the moving party fails to meet this burden, "the nonmoving party has no obligation to produce anything, even if the nonmoving party would have the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). However, if the nonmoving party has the burden of proof at trial, the moving party only needs to show "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325.

Once the moving party has met its burden of proof, the nonmoving party must produce evidence on which a reasonable trier of fact could find in its favor, viewing the record as a whole in light of the evidentiary burden the law places on that party. See Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmoving party cannot simply rest on its allegations without any significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint. See Nissan Fire & Marine, 210 F.3d at 1107. Instead, through admissible evidence the nonmoving party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). In other words, the evidence presented must be such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968). Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" ...

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