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Adetokunbo Shoyoye v. County of Los Angeles

February 23, 2012


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Michael L. Stern, Judge. Affirmed in part, reversed in part. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC388511)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzukawa, J.



Defendant, the County of Los Angeles (County), appeals from a judgment after jury verdict in favor of plaintiff Adetokunbo Shoyoye arising out of Shoyoye's wrongful detention in County jail. The County acknowledges that although its initial detention of Shoyoye was justified, it over-detained him by about 16 days as a result of unintentional clerical error. The County contends on appeal that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support a verdict in favor of Shoyoye pursuant to Civil Code section 52.1 (the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act).*fn1 In this case of first impression, we agree and conclude that not every wrongful detention is a violation of section 52.1. The evidence here was insufficient to establish the "threats, intimidation, or coercion" necessary to implicate section 52.1. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment as to that cause of action, and reverse the award of attorney fees made pursuant to that statute. We affirm the judgment and damage award in favor of Shoyoye on his claim for false imprisonment.


The Operative Complaint

Plaintiff's third amended complaint alleged causes of action for (1) violations of Penal Code section 1384; (2) false imprisonment; (3) violation of section 52.1; (4) violation of 42 United States Code section 1983; and (5) negligence and negligence per se. The trial court granted the County's motion for non-suit as to the 42 United States Code section 1983 cause of action, and prior to the case being submitted to the jury, the parties agreed that they would present for the jury's consideration only the causes of action for false imprisonment and violation of section 52.1.

Shoyoye's Arrest and Incarceration

The evidence presented at trial included the following undisputed facts. Shoyoye was lawfully arrested on August 19, 2007, when he was reporting an unrelated incident to the police, and the police discovered he had two outstanding warrants.*fn2 The first warrant related to his failure to address a citation he received for riding the subway without a ticket, and the second warrant arose when a former roommate stole his identity and was convicted of grand theft under Shoyoye's name. Shoyoye was incarcerated, and shortly thereafter he appeared in court and was ordered released on the first warrant. A few days later he appeared on the second warrant in a different court, and that matter was also resolved in his favor. On August 22, 2007, he was ordered released, subject to any other holds. He was transported back to Men's Central Jail, where he was processed and placed in a dormitory, expecting to be released at any time.

The Error Resulting in Shoyoye's Over-Detention

A County employee mistakenly attached to Shoyoye's paperwork information pertaining to a parolee scheduled to be sent to state prison for violating the terms of his parole. The other prisoner's name was Marquis Lance Parsee. A Department of Corrections ("DCL") hold intended for Parsee was entered into the County Sheriff's computer system regarding Shoyoye. A subsequent quality control check failed to detect the error. If a County employee had looked at the paper file on Shoyoye rather than the computer records, he or she would have realized that the DCL hold did not pertain to Shoyoye.

Shoyoye's Efforts to Be Released, and the County Employees' Treatment of Him

While he was at Men's Central Jail, Shoyoye attempted to ask one deputy or another almost every day about being released, but he received no assistance. Shoyoye was then transferred to the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, where he was processed and assigned a bed in a dormitory. He did not understand why he was not being released.

Shoyoye asked a total of six to eight people for assistance during his incarceration. At Pitchess Detention Center, inmates were periodically permitted to submit one written question on a "yellow sheet" form. Shoyoye submitted such a form asking, "Why am I here?" He received the response that he was subject to a "DCL hold." He submitted another form inquiring what a "DCL hold" was, along with one other question, and received the response that he was only entitled to ask one question and he had asked two. He submitted other yellow sheets indicating he believed he should not be there, but he received no helpful responses.

Shoyoye told custody assistant Lawrence Wong that he thought he should be released. Wong acknowledged that if what he said was true, then there was a problem. Wong told him to talk to Deputy Niels Gittisarn. Shoyoye asked him for assistance, and Gittisarn told him, "Get back to me." However, when Shoyoye attempted to speak to him the next day, Gittisarn rebuffed him, yelling that he was busy. Other inmates accused Shoyoye of being an informant when they saw him talking to Gittisarn, and thereafter he was hesitant to approach any County employees for fear of being labeled an informant.

Shoyoye asked a deputy named Rodriguez what a DCL hold was, and Rodriguez replied, "[T]hat means that you are going to prison, boy." Rodriguez asked what he had done, and when Shoyoye said it was for not having a ticket on the subway, Rodriguez lost interest.

Shoyoye attended a church service in order to speak to the jail chaplain about his plight. The chaplain listened sympathetically, but did not offer assistance.

Deputy Oren Son monitored the laundry facility where Shoyoye worked. Shoyoye told him that he was being held for a felony he did not commit. Son looked at him as he spoke, but then returned to the book he was reading and gave him the silent treatment for a few minutes, until Shoyoye eventually gave up and walked away. Shoyoye knew that if a laundry worker took breaks or refused to work, he would be subjected to harsh housing discipline and suspension of privileges. Shoyoye asked a civilian employee who worked in the ...

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