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Wyatt v. City of Chico Police Dept.

September 30, 2010



Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 The matter is before the court on a motion for summary judgment brought on behalf of defendant Lara. Dckt. Nos. 71-76. Plaintiff has filed an opposition and Lara has filed a reply.*fn2 Dckt. Nos. 82, 84. Also pending is plaintiff's motion for default judgment against defendant Gama, which Gama opposes. Dckt. Nos. 107-109.

I. Background

This action proceeds on the March 19, 2007 second amended complaint. Dckt. No. 24. In relevant part, plaintiff alleges the following.

On June 16, 2002, defendant Gama struck plaintiff with her car while backing out of a parking lot, injuring plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 1-2. Gama and another witness accused plaintiff of faking the accident. Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital. Id. ¶ 5. Two officers entered plaintiff's hospital room, one of whom was defendant Lara. Id. While plaintiff was strapped to a gurney, and as the second officer stood by the door as a "look out," Lara "deceitfully engaged plaintiff into describing the incident in the parking lot." Id. After plaintiff described the incident, Lara stated, "That's not what the lady tells me. Besides I know the lady." Id. ¶ 7. Then, claims plaintiff, Lara pressed down onto plaintiff's sore injured areas causing him to scream. Id.

Subsequently, Lara allegedly drafted a false police report charging plaintiff with violating California Penal Code section 148.5 (false report of an emergency). Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff, a parolee, was arrested, his parole was revoked, and he was returned to custody for seven months. Id. ¶¶ 15-16, 28. Gama participated in plaintiff's parole revocation hearing, where she allegedly admitted to having a "personal relationship" with Lara, and to striking plaintiff with her car while driving irresponsibly. Id. ¶ 20. Gama also, allegedly, admitted to telling Lara that she thought plaintiff was faking his injuries. Id. ¶ 21.

On December 12, 2002 plaintiff filed a complaint with the Chief of the Chico Police Department against Lara, for his "wilful interference with [plaintiff's] civil rights, assaulting, battering, threatening, [and] intimidating [plaintiff] while a victim in the hospital to aid[] a personal acquaintance escape liability." Id. ¶ 24. In December 2002, plaintiff also filed a civil rights lawsuit based on the conduct described above. Id. ¶ 27.

On April 5, 2004, plaintiff was on his way to a copy store in downtown Chico. Id. ¶ 31. Lara followed plaintiff in his patrol car, rolled down his window and threatened, "I'm going to get you." Id.

On November 23, 2006, after plaintiff had initiated the instant lawsuit against Lara, plaintiff was driving a friend home and noticed a patrol car following him. Id. ¶¶ 32-33 Plaintiff was then pulled over. Id. ¶36. The officer who pulled plaintiff over turned out to be Lara, who recognized plaintiff as he approached plaintiff's car. Id. ¶ 38. However, plaintiff claims that Lara pretended not to recognize plaintiff and called him by the wrong name of "Eric." Id. ¶¶ 39, 42. Plaintiff contends that he informed Lara his name was not "Eric." Id. ¶ 42. Plaintiff showed his identification to Lara, who then arrested plaintiff for giving a fake name and lying to a police officer. Id. ¶ 43. Lara then forcefully placed plaintiff into the patrol car and drove to the Chico Police station. Id. ¶¶ 43-44.

Plaintiff further claims that while at the police station, Lara ordered plaintiff to get out of the car, but plaintiff was looking at the floor of the car, where he had dropped some money. Id. ¶ 44. Lara then allegedly grabbed plaintiff's right leg and began to pull plaintiff out of the car. Id. ¶ 45. Once Lara had removed plaintiff from the car, Lara "forcefully rammed" plaintiff against the back of the patrol car and placed his hand over plaintiff's mouth to prevent him from screaming and stated, "this is for your accident complaint." Id. ¶ 47. Lara is claimed to have then forcefully walked plaintiff into the police station, where plaintiff was physically overwhelmed by Lara and other officers who took plaintiff to the floor "gang style." Id. ¶ 48. Plaintiff alleges that on the way down, he felt like he was being hit in the abdomen by Lara and began to spit up blood. Id. ¶49. Plaintiff says he was then tied at the ankles and felt like the officers were going to kill him. Id. ¶ 50. He claims that Lara then attempted to break plaintiff's wrists and dislocate his shoulder. Id. ¶51. As a result, plaintiff claims that he had lower back pain, an injured knee, and lacerated, bruised and swollen wrists. Id. ¶54.

The court construes plaintiff's allegations as asserting the following claims against Lara:*fn3

1) a state law battery claim, as well as a Fourth Amendment claim based on the 2002 touching in the hospital;

2) a fabrication of evidence claim based upon the allegedly falsified police report;

3) a Fourth Amendment claim based upon the 2006 traffic stop and arrest;

4) a Fourth Amendment claim and a retaliation claim based on the events alleged to have occurred at the Chico Police station.*fn4

II. Summary Judgment Standards

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "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)(2). Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases in which the parties do not dispute the facts relevant to the determination of the issues in the case, or in which there is insufficient evidence for a jury to determine those facts in favor of the non-movant. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 600 (1998); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986); Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1994). At bottom, a summary judgment motion asks "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52. "When reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate." Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n, 18 F.3d at 1472.

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party 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. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting the prior language of Rule 56(c), which was amended in 2007 to implement purely stylistic changes). If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the opposing party must "set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The opposing party must demonstrate -- through evidence in the form of affidavits and/or admissible discovery material -- a factual dispute that is both material (i.e. it affects the outcome of the claim under the governing law) and genuine (i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party).Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-50; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. Summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 322. Thus, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323.

In resolving a summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits filed by the parties. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). 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 his or her favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, as to inferences it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which a favorable inference may reasonably be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "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 587 (citation omitted).

On February 1, 2008, the court advised plaintiff of the requirements for opposing a motion pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 1998) (en banc), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1035 ...

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