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Jeffrey Totten v. City of Torrance

September 30, 2011

JEFFREY TOTTEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF TORRANCE, CHIEF JAMES HERREN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A PEACE OFFICER, SERGEANT JAMES CARRERAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A PEACE OFFICER, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [27]

Currently before the Court is Defendants, City of Torrance (the "City") and Santiago Carreras's ("Carreras," erroneously sued as Sergeant James Carreras and collectively, "Defendants"), Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 27.) After careful consideration of the briefing and evidence submitted by the parties in support of and in opposition to the instant Motion, the Court deems the matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; L.R. 7-15. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants' Motion.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On August 26, 2008, Plaintiff Jeffrey Totten ("Plaintiff") arrived in the Traffic Division lobby of the Torrance Police Department to complain about an alleged dangerous intersection. (Def.'s Statement of Uncontroverted Facts ("SUF"), Dkt. No. 30, No. 1.) Plaintiff first spoke to secretary Brenda Felt ("Ms. Felt") who then called Carreras to speak to Plaintiff at the counter. (SUF. Nos. 3-4.) While the parties dispute as to whether Plaintiff entered the Traffic Division lobby yelling and using profanity, it is undisputed that Plaintiff was told to settle down and admits to having used profanity on several occasions during this time. (See SUF No. 2.)

Carreras attempted to calm Plaintiff down and walk him out of the Traffic Division lobby to the main lobby. (SUF No. 5.) With Carreras close behind, Plaintiff approached the doors leading to the main lobby. (SUF No. 6.) As Plaintiff reached for the door leading in to the main lobby a physical altercation ensued. (SUF Nos. 6-8.) The parties dispute as to who initiated physical contact, but nevertheless, Carreras ended up pinning Plaintiff against the door and wall with his forearm while other officers responded to aid Carreras. (SUF Nos. 9, 13.) Plaintiff either lost his footing or was forced to the ground where he was eventually handcuffed and arrested at which time Plaintiff alleges to have torn a ligament in his knee. (SUF Nos. 14-15; Opp'n at 3.) Plaintiff was ultimately booked and released shortly thereafter. (SUF No. 18.)

The City's prosecutors charged Plaintiff with two counts of assault and battery pursuant to California Penal Code (the "Penal Code") §§ 242 and 243(b). (SUF No. 19.) In addition, Plaintiff was charged with two counts of violating Penal Code § 148(a) for resisting, delaying, or obstructing a police officer.*fn1 (SUF No. 19.) On May 17, 2010, a criminal jury found Plaintiff guilty of violating Penal Code § 148(a) and not guilty as to the assault and battery charges. (SUF No. 22.)

On September 22, 2010, Plaintiff instituted this action against the City, Chief James Herren of the Torrance Police Department, and Carreras alleging the following claims: (1) violation of Plaintiff's First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unreasonable force, false arrest, and malicious prosecution against Carreras; (2) Monell claim against Chief James Herren and the City of Torrance; (3) assault and battery against Carreras and the City; (4) false arrest against Carreras and the City; (5) "torts in essence" against all Defendants; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (7) negligence and negligent employment; and (8) violations of the California Civil Rights Act against all Defendants. Subsequently, Chief James Herren was dismissed from this case on February 1, 2011. (Dkt. No. 11.)

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56©. Evidence the court may consider includes the pleadings, discovery and disclosure materials, and any affidavits on file. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2).

The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). That burden may be met by "'showing' -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify specific facts that show a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 323-34; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1968). Summary judgment is appropriate if a party, after adequate time for discovery, "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." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.

Only genuine disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248; see also Aprin v. Santa Clara Valley Transp. Agency, 261 F.3d 912, 919 (9th Cir. 2001) (the nonmoving party must present specific evidence from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in its favor). "A scintilla of evidence or evidence that is merely colorable or not significantly probative does not present a genuine issue of material fact." Addisu v. Fred Meyer, 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000).

It is not the task of the district court "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact. [Courts] rely on the nonmoving party to identify with reasonable particularity the evidence that precludes summary judgment." Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001) ("The district court need not examine the entire file for evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact, ...


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