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Caronda Graham, Individually and As Successor-In-Interest; Shar'rhonda v. County of Los Angeles

July 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge




Presently before the court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment or, in the Alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment ("Motion"). After reviewing the parties' moving papers and hearing oral argument, the court grants the motion and adopts the following order.

I. Background

This action arises from the death of Raynard Davis ("Davis") following an encounter with Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies, during which Davis was tased twice in the chest. On July 4, 2009, Davis lost control of his vehicle and drove approximately one hundred yards off of a road in Lancaster, California. When Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputies and Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics and firefighters arrived on the scene of the accident, Davis was sitting in his car with swollen eyes and blood on his face. (Opp. Ex. A at 30:17-18.) Deputy John Griffith and the firefighters tried to get information from Davis, who was speaking incoherently and exhibiting erratic behavior. (Mot. Ex. J at 29:19-22.) Firefighters attempted to treat Davis in his car and prevent him from exiting the vehicle, and deputies verbally commanded Davis to stay in the car. (Mot. Ex. I at 27:2-13.) Davis' behavior in the car was "combative." (Opp. Ex. A at 29:16-19.) Davis said "Leave me alone," and hit his hands against the car's steering wheel. (Mot. Ex. M at 14:18-21.) Then Davis, who weighed 440 pounds, pushed himself up to face the firefighters and Deputy Nathan Grimes, and exited the car. (Declaration of Deputy Nathan Grimes in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Grimes Decl.") ¶ 7.)

After he got out of the car, it appeared to the firefighters and deputies that Davis was walking towards them in an "aggressive manner," as if Davis wanted to fight with them. (Opp. Ex. C at 20:17-19; Opp. Ex. A at 48:14-17.) Before he was tased, Davis said to the deputies "I am going to fuck you guys up" (Opp. Ex. A at 47:8-12) and "I'm gonna kick your ass." (Declaration of Deputy Kristoffer Ranaig in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Ranaig Decl.") ¶ 9.) As Davis approached the firefighters and Deputy Nathan Grimes, Grimes said "If you come any closer, I'm gonna tase you." (Grimes Decl. ¶¶ 7-8.) Davis, with fists clenched, continued to approach. (Opp. Ex. A at 51:12-14.) Deputy Grimes drew his taser, aimed at Davis, and fired. Deputy Grimes was the only deputy on the scene to draw his taser. No order, instruction, or request was given for any of the deputies to draw their tasers. Deputy Grimes deployed his taser in dart mode, and the darts punctured Davis' left chest wall. Davis removed the darts and several deputies moved in to restrain him. The other deputies struggled and had a difficult time handcuffing Davis, who was resisting by separating his arms. (Opp. Ex. C at 34:2-35:22.) Deputy Grimes tased Davis a second time in order to get Davis to cooperate with the other deputies. (Grimes Decl. ¶ 10.)

Deputy Grimes contacted his supervisor, Sergeant Steve Sylvies, to report the use of force. Sergeant Sylvies later arrived at the scene. Once handcuffed, Davis continued to resist treatment. (Mot. Ex. H at 27:22-28:22.) Firefighters eventually carried Davis to the ambulance in a cargo net. While being carried by firefighters and paramedics, Davis kicked one of the firefighters and had to be hobbled by Deputy Kristoffer Ranaig and Deputy Griffith. (Ranaig Decl. ¶ 14.)

Davis was then transported by ambulance to the emergency room at Antelope Valley Hospital at about 10:15 p.m. Davis continued to thrash around and resist treatment, tried to spit on medical staff, and continued to say "I'm going to fuck you all up." (Mot. Ex. R at 18:24-19:3.) Davis was placed in four-point restraints and a spit mask, and medical staff then administered calming agents. Laboratory tests of Davis' blood and urine returned positive for cocaine metabolite, cannabinoids, and phencyclidine (PCP). Tests also showed blood alcohol levels of roughly 0.16 or 0.17 milligrams per deciliter.

At approximately 3:30 a.m., Davis' condition began to deteriorate. He died a few hours later at 7:09 a.m. on July 5, 2009.

On July 9, 2010, Davis' two daughters, Shar'Rhonda Davis and Caronda Graham, and his fiancee, Deborah Jeffrey (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed a complaint against Deputy Grimes, Deputy Griffith, Deputy Raniag, Deputy Austin (collectively, the "Individual Defendants"), and the County of Los Angeles (collectively, "Defendants"). On December 8, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") asserting the following causes of action: (1) unreasonable search and seizure (detention and arrest), actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) unreasonable search and seizure (excessive force), actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) denial of medical care, actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) interference with familial relationship and association, actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (5) conspiracy to violate civil rights, actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985; (6) municipal and supervisory liability, actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (7) false arrest/false imprisonment; (8) battery; (9) negligence; and

(10) violation of the Bane Act, California Civil Code § 51.7. Defendants now move for summary judgment.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). All reasonable inferences from the evidence must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 242 (1986). If ...

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