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Young Han, Individually, and As Successor-In-Interest To Decedent Joseph Han; Nam Han v. City of Folsom

November 8, 2011


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


Plaintiffs, survivors of Decedent, Joseph Han ("Decedent"), seek redress for several federal and state law claims alleging that the City of Folsom ("City"), the City's Chief of Police, Samuel Spiegel ("Spiegel"), officers Paul Barber ("Officer Barber"), Daren Prociw ("Officer Prociw") and Ron Peterson ("Sergeant Peterson") (collectively, "Defendants"), violated Decedent's civil rights during the course of responding to a domestic disturbance call at the home of the Decedent and Plaintiffs, his immediate family.

Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted.


In April, 2009, Decedent began acting increasingly abnormal. (UF ¶1.) For example, according to Decedent's father, he began refusing to eat or drink. (Dep. of Young Han ["Young Dep."] at 13.) Moreover, Decedent's brother testified that when his parents or brother attempted to enter Decedent's bedroom, he would uncharacteristically shout at them to get out. (Dep. of David Han ["David Dep."] at 32-35.)

During one particularly disturbing occasion, Decedent approached his mother in the nude and attempted to kiss her in a fashion that "wasn't a mother[] and son type of kiss." (Id. at 27.) According to Plaintiffs, Decedent had been calling himself god.*fn2

(See Pl.'s Opp'n, filed Sept. 16, 2011, [ECF No. 16], at 6:15.)

On the morning of April 12, 2009, Decedent's mother asked a friend, Mrs. Saito, a registered nurse, to come to their home to speak with Decedent. (David Dep. at 33:16-34:3.) As Mrs. Saito attempted to calm Decedent down, Joseph began yelling at her and ordering her to get out of his room. (Id. at 3:1-36:1.) Left with no other options, the Han family asked Mrs. Saito to call 911 to tell them that they had a "5150"*fn3 situation at the Han residence. (UF ¶ 2.) David Han, hoping that the police could take his brother to the hospital, also called 911 and requested the police meet him down the street from the home. (David Dep. 54:10-17.) David testified that he called the police because he did not believe he would be able to convince his brother to get into the car and go to the hospital. (Id. at 64:10-23.)

When the officers arrived, they informed Plaintiffs that, based on the information at hand, and because Decedent was over 18, they could not take Decedent into custody in accordance with Section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. (UF ¶ 4.) The officers explained to the Han family that they were not permitted to take any action beyond talking to Joseph. (UF ¶ 5.) Upon hearing this, Plaintiffs asked the officers to enter the residence to talk to Decedent in hopes that the officers could calm Decedent down. (UF ¶ 7.) Specifically, Decedent's brother, David Han, told the officers they could enter the home "and talk to him and help out." (David Dep. at 67:10-25.) Before entering the home, David Han warned the officers: "I don't know how he's going to react. He's kind of like sporadic, and he's completely not himself." (Id. at 66:2-5.) David Han warned the officers that Decedent had a camping knife and that they should "have [their] Tasers ready." (Id. at 66:6-25.)

When Plaintiffs and the officers approached the home, they discovered that the previously unlocked door had been locked from the inside. (UF ¶ 9.) When the officers entered the residence, accompanied by Decedent's family, David Han told the officers that Decedent had last been seen in his upstairs bedroom. (UF ¶ 11.)

Officer Barber took one step past the threshold of Decedent's bedroom when he saw Decedent either sitting on, or standing next to his couch, holding a knife in his hand. (PRUF ¶ 13.) Officer Barber addressed Decedent by name and explained that he was only there to talk to him and to ensure that he did not harm himself. (UF ¶ 14. )

Decedent began cursing and told Officer Barber that he did not want to talk and demanded that Officer Barber get out of his house. (Dep. of Paul Barber [Barber Dep.] at 49:15-50:8.) Officer Barber then said: "[w]ell, I'm here now. Let's talk. Just drop the knife. I want to make sure you don't hurt yourself." (Id. at 50:7-50:11.)

At this point, Officer Barber had his Taser drawn and pointed at Decedent's center mass. (Id. at 50:3-6.) Decedent pointed the tip of the blade at Officer Barber and told him, "Get the fuck out of my room, or I'm going to cut your throat and shove it down your neck." (Id. at 51:4-7.) Officer Barber then told Decedent to drop the knife, or he was going to Taser him. (Id. at 59:24-60:1.) As soon as Officer Barber drew his Taser, Officer Prociw did the same. (Dep. of Daren Prociw ["Prociw Dep."] at 86:16-17.) According to Officer Barber, he deployed his Taser*fn4 center mass as Decedent began bending forward, as if to stand up. (Barber Depo 60:2-6.)

The Taser, however, failed to subdue Decedent.*fn5 (Id. at 60:12-15.) After Barber tased him, Decedent, holding the knife at chest level, responded: "You can't stop me, you can't Taser me," or "something to that effect."*fn6 (Id. at 61:1-5; UF ¶ 18) Officer Barber asked Decedent two more times to put the knife down. (Dep. of Ronald Peterson, ["Peterson Dep."] at 37:25-38:1.) Officer Barber drew his firearm, stepped into the bedroom, and took another step in so that he "could get a better shot on him." (See Nisenbaum Decl., Ex. B at 221:17-22.) Decedent then advanced to within six feet of Officer Barber.*fn7 (UF ¶ 20.)

According to Officer Prociw, he then heard Officer Barber ask for another Taser and deployed his Taser at Decedent. (Prociw Dep. at 94:23-95:16.) Officer Prociw did not see the reaction that he would expect from a person receiving an electric shock from a Taser. (Id. at 96:6-10.) After Officer Prociw tased him, Decedent maintained his ground, holding the knife "just below the belly button on the waist, kind of still[,] the blade pointing forward." (Id. at 99:11-15.) Officer Barber then fired a single shot from his firearm.*fn8 (UF ¶ 20.) Prociw, however, did not see Decedent react in any way that would be attributed to a gunshot. (Prociw Depo at 100:18-20.)

Officer Barber then exited the room and entered the bathroom with Decedent's brother. (Barber Dep. at 61:25-62:11.) Decedent then shut the door. (Nisenbaum Decl., Ex. B at 223:25-224:18.) Sergeant Peterson, however, did not see Officer Barber exit the room. (UF ¶ 22.) Believing that Officer Barber was trapped in the room with Decedent, Sergeant Peterson kicked open the bedroom door and entered with his gun drawn. (Peterson Dep. at 41:20-24;UF ¶ 23.) As Sergeant Peterson entered, Decedent was in front of the couch, still standing. (Id. at 42:7-12.)

Sergeant Peterson does not recall whether Decedent was still holding the knife at this juncture. (Id. at 43:5-6.)

Officer Prociw, at the request of Sergeant Peterson, deployed another Taser. (UF ¶ 25.) At first, Sergeant Peterson believed that the third Taser was effective because he "went down on the couch"; however, when officer Peterson approached Decedent to take him back into custody, Decedent "just stood back up." (Peterson Depo at 43:14-25.) When he stood up, Sergeant Peterson saw that Decedent still had the knife in his hand. (Id. at 44:7-10.) After ordering Decedent to drop the knife twice to no avail, Sergeant Peterson began backing up toward the door. (Id. at 44:11-45:4.) Decedent then slowly, but deliberately, advanced toward Sergeant Peterson, refusing to drop the knife. (Id. at 45:45:4-7.) At this point, Sergeant Peterson, aiming for Decedent's hip, discharged his revolver at Decedent. (Id. at 48:13-18.) According to Sergeant Peterson, although contrary to standard operating procedure, he aimed for his hip "[b]ecause [he] just wanted him to go down. [He] wanted to take control of the situation. [He] wasn't looking to kill." (Id. at 48:18:22.)

After this second shot, Decedent began falling slowly toward the ground, still grasping the knife in his hand. (Id. at 49:12-22.) Decedent stumbled towards the doorway, eventually falling into Sergeant Peterson, causing the two of them to fall to the ground. (Id. at 50:3-12.) Sergeant Peterson ordered the other officer to procure possession of the knife. (Id. at 51:4-8.) The officers stepped on Decedent's wrist and pinned the knife down on the ground, thereby obtaining custody of the knife. (Id. at 52:7-12.)

Decedent then freed his right hand and punched Sergeant Peterson in the mouth. (Id. at 52:13-18.) The officers finally handcuffed Decedent. (Id. at 26:24-57:2.)

Within approximately one minute of the officers handcuffing Decedent, Folsom medics and fire department arrived to administer medical care. (Id. at 607:12.) Decedent later died at the hospital. (David Dep. at 106:13-14.)

Based upon these facts, Plaintiffs have brought claims against the City of Folsom, the Folsom Chief of Police and the individual officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for failure to train and/or supervise, illegal search and seizure*fn9 and use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Plaintiffs also allege corollary state law claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress, violation of California Civil Code § 52.1, wrongful death and negligent hiring.


Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists 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(c); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis of 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). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the 'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'" Id. at 324. Indeed, summary judgment should be entered 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. Id. at 322. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, "so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied." Id. at 323.

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, 288-289 (1968).

In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the denials of its pleadings, but is required to 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(c). 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, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, Id. at 251-52.

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, 391 U.S. at 289. 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.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Rule 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any.

Rule 56(c); SEC v. Seaboard Corp., 677 F.2d 1301, 1305-06 (9th Cir. 1982).

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).

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 ...

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