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Tomeka Justice v. County of Yuba; et al

December 18, 2012



This matter comes before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF 36.) The court heard the motion on March 9, 2012; Robert Blumenthal appeared for plaintiff and Carl Fessenden and Derek Haynes appeared for defendants. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff's surviving state law claims are dismissed.


Plaintiff was arrested on March 11, 2009 by two Yuba County Sheriff Department deputies on suspicion of violating California Penal Code § 273.5 (aggravated assault/domestic violence). (ECF 54-1 ¶¶ 44, 45.) Deputy Thomas Oakes and his partner initially arrived at the residence following a 911 call reporting a domestic disturbance. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 18, 19.) The deputies arrived to find plaintiff on her apartment patio, screaming at Matthew Crocker ("Crocker"). (Id. ¶ 22.) The deputies separated the two; defendant Oakes took plaintiff aside to begin asking questions while his partner did the same with Crocker. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 24.)

The deputies learned that Crocker and plaintiff used to have some degree of intimate and personal relationship. (ECF 54-1¶¶ 36, 39, 41.) While the seriousness of the relationship is now disputed between the pair, plaintiff concedes her relationship with Crocker in the past had been sexual in nature, included a period of cohabitation and entailed Crocker's purchasing furniture for plaintiff's apartment, some of which remained in the apartment until the day in question. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 40, 41.)

The deputies were told Crocker had returned to plaintiff's home to retrieve a coffee table he had purchased for the apartment. (ECF 54-1¶ 25.) Crocker, upon entering the apartment, attempted to remove the coffee table, but was stopped by plaintiff's grabbing the end of the table and standing in front of the doorway. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 30.) A struggle ensued, as Crocker pushed plaintiff against the wall and plaintiff continued trying to pull the table away from Crocker. (Id. ¶ 15.) At some point in the struggle plaintiff admitted she bit Crocker's arm, creating an open wound that the deputies subsequently observed and photographed. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 32, 33.) After hearing the nature of their relationship, the respective accounts of the struggle and observing the injury on Crocker's arm, the deputies together concluded there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff for suspected aggravated assault/domestic violence. (Id. ¶ 45.) Crocker also was arrested for the same charge, as well as suspected violation of California Penal Code § 602.5(b) (unlawful entry). (Id. ¶ 46.) Plaintiff ultimately was released on her own recognizance, without having to pay bail. (Id. ¶ 48.)

Plaintiff now alleges the arrest was unlawful and brings this action against the arresting officer ("Oakes") and vicariously against Yuba County ("County") as the officer's principal (collectively "defendants"). (ECF 25 at 3.) Plaintiff states five causes of action:

1) deprivation of rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, under 28 U.S.C. § 1983, against Oakes; 2) false arrest, imprisonment and prosecution under applicable state law, against all defendants; 3) intentional infliction of emotional distress under applicable state law, against all defendants; 4) negligent infliction of emotional distress under applicable state law, against all defendants; and 5) bystander liability, asserted on behalf of her son, Acqucer Hill, against all defendants. (Id. at 2, 6-7.)

Plaintiff filed the original complaint on April 16, 2010, followed by the first amended complaint on August 25, 2010. (ECF 1, 17.) On October 22, 2010, defendants' motion to dismiss was granted, with leave to amend. (ECF 24.) Plaintiff amended the complaint accordingly and filed the operative complaint on October 26, 2010.

Defendants filed this motion for summary judgment on February 6, 2012. (ECF 36.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on February 23, 2012. (ECF 38.) Defendants filed their reply to the opposition on March 3, 2012. (ECF 54.) After hearing the motion, the court allowed plaintiff leave to amend or supplement her opposition, to comply with Local Rule 133. (ECF 58). Plaintiff did amend on March 9, 2012 and March 13, 2012. (ECF 59, 60.)


A court will grant summary judgment "if . . . there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The "threshold inquiry" is whether "there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).*fn1

The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the district court "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, which "must establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact . . . ." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585 (1986). In carrying their burdens, both parties must "cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or show [] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1); see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 ("[the nonmoving party] must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts"). Moreover, "the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact . . . . Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphasis in original).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court draws all inferences and views all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88; Whitman v. Mineta, 541 F.3d 929, 931 (9th Cir. 2008). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, ...

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