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Evans v. City of San Diego

United States District Court, S.D. California

December 19, 2012

Jasmine EVANS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO, et al., Defendants.

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David L. Skilling, Frederick W. Gaston, Melissa N. Engle, Gaston & Gaston, APLC, San Diego, CA, for Plaintiff.

John Edward Riley, Office of the City Attorney, San Diego, CA, for Defendant.

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

MICHAEL M. ANELLO, District Judge.

Currently pending before the Court is Defendants City of San Diego, et al.'s motion for summary judgment.[1] [Doc. No. 38] Plaintiff filed a response in opposition on August 27, 2012 [Doc. No. 40] and Defendants filed a reply on August 31, 2012 [Doc. No. 46]. The Court determined the matter suitable for decision on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are not reasonably in dispute.[2] At approximately 1 a.m. on August

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14, 2009, there were large crowds of people exiting from bars onto Fifth Avenue in Downtown San Diego. [ Def.'s MSJ, Doc. No. 38-1, p. 2.] Plaintiff, who was nineteen years old at the time, had consumed some amount of alcohol. [ Id. ] While on the west side of Fifth Avenue, Plaintiff noticed her cousin across the street arguing with people, so Plaintiff crossed to the east side of the street to calm her cousin down. [ Pl.'s Oppo. to Def.'s MSJ, Doc. No. 40, p. 2-3.; Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Oppo., Doc. No. 46-4, p. 8.] Either before or after Plaintiff crossed to the east side of the street, a San Diego police officer discharged pepper spray into a crowd to break up a fight. [ Pl.'s Oppo. to Def.'s MSJ, Doc. No. 40, p. 3; Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Oppo., Doc. No. 46-4, p. 8.] Plaintiff re-crossed to the west side of Fifth Avenue with a woman who had been pepper sprayed, and was arrested.[3] [ Pl.'s Oppo. to Def.'s MSJ, Doc. No. 40, p. 3; Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Oppo., Doc. No. 46-4, p. 9-11.]

Plaintiff initiated the pending action against the City and several individual defendants alleging claims for: (1) excessive force in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; (2) unlawful seizure in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; (3) unlawful policies, customs, or habits in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983[4]; (4) assault and battery; (5) and intentional infliction of emotional distress. [Doc. No. 23.] Defendants move for summary judgment in their favor as to all five claims. [ Def.'s MSJ, Doc. No. 38-1.]

LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a party is entitled to summary judgment " if 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." Hubbard v. 7-Eleven, 433 F.Supp.2d 1134, 1139 (S.D.Cal.2006) (citing former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2)). It is beyond dispute that " [t]he moving party bears the initial burden to demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue of material fact." Horphag, 475 F.3d at 1035 (citation omitted). " Once the moving party meets its initial burden, ... the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."

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Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

A mere scintilla of evidence is not sufficient " to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment; instead, the nonmoving party must introduce some ‘ significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint.’ " Fazio v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 125 F.3d 1328, 1331 (9th Cir.1997) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505). Thus, in opposing a summary judgment motion it is not enough to simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) (citations omitted). However, when assessing the record to determine whether there is a " genuine issue for trial," the Court must " view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor." Horphag, 475 F.3d at 1035 (citation omitted). On summary judgment, the Court may not make credibility determinations; nor may it weigh conflicting evidence. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Thus, as framed by the Supreme Court, the ultimate question on a summary judgment motion is whether the evidence " presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

DISCUSSION

I. EVIDENTIARY OBJECTIONS

" A party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). Relevant evidence is generally admissible. Fed.R.Evid. 402. Evidence is relevant if " it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence" and " the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 401. However, " [e]vidence of a person's character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait." Fed.R.Evid. 404(a)(1). A statement that " the declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing" and which " a party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement" is hearsay. Fed.R.Evid. 801(c). Hearsay is not admissible unless a federal statute, the Federal Rules of Evidence, or the Supreme Court provides otherwise. Fed.R.Evid. 802.

A. PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS

Plaintiff objects that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment relies on inadmissible and irrelevant evidence. Specifically, Plaintiff objects that Defendants' use of video footage recorded after the initial arrest and Defendants' references to " gang" photos found on Plaintiff's phone after the initial arrest are irrelevant to the probable cause determination of the false arrest claim. Plaintiff also objects to Defendants' Undisputed Material Facts (" UMF" ) Nos. 5, 30, 31, 60, 61, 64, 67, 68, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 75, and 77 as irrelevant, " [i]n accordance with the preceding objections." [Doc. No. 40.]

Plaintiff's objections to the use of video footage and references to gang photos found on Plaintiff's phone are sustained in regards to the false arrest claim. The video evidence documenting Plaintiff's actions after the initial arrest is inadmissible because it is used to support the inference that Plaintiff was so agitated and unruly after her arrest that she must have also been agitated and unruly before her arrest, therefore making it more likely that Defendants had probable cause to arrest her. This type of character evidence is

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inadmissible character evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(a)(1). Similarly, evidence of gang photos on Plaintiff's phone is inadmissible because Plaintiff's phone was not searched until after she was arrested. Therefore, any photos on Plaintiff's phone are irrelevant to the Court's determination of whether or not there are genuine issues of material fact regarding the existence of probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest. To the extent that Plaintiff further objects to any of the UMFs ...


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