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Robinson v. City of San Diego

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 28, 2013

SHANNON ROBINSON AND DANTE HARRELL, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Doc. Nos. 39 and 52]

ANTHONY J. BATTAGLIA, District Judge.

Presently before the Court are two motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on their causes of action for: 1) unlawful detention; 2) arrest without probable cause; 3) battery on Plaintiff Robinson; 4) negligence; and 5) violation of Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1, and Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, (Doc. No. 52). A hearing on these motions was held on the record on May 16, 2013. Eugene Iredale and Julia Yoo appeared on behalf of Plaintiffs and Jennifer Gilman appeared on behalf of Defendants. Based upon the parties moving papers, oral arguments and for the reasons set forth below, the Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 39), is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and the Defendants' motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 52), is DENIED.

Procedural Background

On June 5, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint with sixteen causes of action. (Doc. No. 25.) The causes of action in the SAC are: (1) Unlawful Detention; (2) Retaliation; (3) Excessive Force; (4) Arrest without Probable Cause; (5) False Imprisonment; (6) Malicious Prosecution; (7) Assault; (8) Battery; (9) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; (10) Negligence; (11) Failure to Properly Screen and Hire; (12) Failure to Properly Train; (13) Failure to Supervise and Discipline; (14) Monell Liability for a Pattern of Brutality; (15) Violation of California Civil Code § 52.1; and (16) Permanent Injunctive Relief. Id. The first six cause of action are pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

On December 26, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to the First (Unlawful Detention), Third (Excessive Force), Fourth (Arrest without Probable Cause), Eighth (Battery of Plaintiff Shannon Robinson), Tenth (Negligence), and Fifteenth (California Civil Code § 52.1) causes of action. (Doc. No. 39.) On January 31, 2013, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment based on qualified immunity. (Doc. No. 52.)

The Court notes that the Defendants have requested dismissal of Plaintiffs' sixth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth causes of action and Defendants William Lansdowne and Matthew Dobbs from all causes of action. Plaintiffs do not object to the dismissal of these defendants or causes of action. See Doc. No. 66, p. 2:4-8. Based upon the foregoing, Plaintiffs' sixth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth causes of action and Defendant William Lansdowne and Matthew Dobbs are hereby DISMISSED.

Legal Standard

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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). A genuine issue of material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Miller v. Glenn Miller Prod., Inc., 454 F.3d 975, 987 (9th Cir. 2006).

In order to prevail, a party moving for summary judgment must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim, or to a defense on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos. Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). When the nonmoving party would bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden on summary judgment by simply pointing out to the Court an absence of evidence from the nonmoving party. Miller, 454 F.3d at 987. "The moving party need not disprove the other party's case." Id.

Once the movant has made that showing, the burden shifts to the opposing party to produce "evidence that is significantly probative or more than merely colorable' that a genuine issue of material fact exists for trial." LVRC Holdings LLC v. Brekka, 581 F.3d 1127, 1137 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing FTC v. Gill, 265 F.3d 944, 954 (9th Cir. 2001)); see also Miller, 454 F.3d at 988 ("[T]he nonmoving party must come forward with more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence.'") (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

The Court must review the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Hernandez v. Spacelabs Med. Inc., 343 F.3d 736, 738 (9th Cir. 2000). However, unsupported conjecture or conclusory statements are insufficient to defeat summary judgment. Id .; Surrell v. Cal. Water Serv. Co., 518 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2008). "Thus, [w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Miller, 454 F.3d at 988 (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

Discussion

Presently before the Court are two motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment against Officers Savage and McClain on their causes of action for: 1) unlawful detention; 2) arrest without probable cause; 3) battery on Plaintiff Robinson; 4) negligence; and 5) violation of Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1, and Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, (Doc. No. 52).

I. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment

In a Section 1983 action, it is the plaintiff who bears the burden of (1) establishing that the defendant's actions violated a federal constitutional right; and (2) that the right was clearly established at the time of the conduct at issue. Falvo v. Owasso Ind. Sch. Dist., 223 F.3d 1203, 1218-19 (10th Cir. 2000), reinstated in pertinent part Falvo v. Owasso Ind. Sch. Dist., 288 F.3d 1236; LSO, Ltd.v. Stroh, 205 F.3d 1146, 1157 (9th Cir. 2000). Once the Plaintiffs have made that showing, the burden shifts to the Defendants to produce evidence that is significantly probative that a genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. LVRC Holdings LLC v. Brekka, 581 F.3d 1127, 1137 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing FTC v. Gill, 265 F.3d 944, 954 (9th Cir. 2001)).

The Plaintiffs' motion seeks summary judgment against Officers Savage and McClain on the Plaintiff's causes of action for: 1) unlawful detention; 2) arrest without probable cause; 3) battery on Shannon Robinson; 4) negligence; and 5) violation of Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1.

A. Relevant Facts

In ruling on the Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of Defendants.[1] As such, the facts set forth below were taken from the police reports of the incident and the deposition testimony of the Defendant Officers Savage and McClain.

On March 30, 2010, Plaintiffs Shannon Robinson, Dante Harrell, and their friend Ben Thomas drove in Robinson's 2005 maroon Pontiac Sunfire to Canada Steak Burger at 36th and University in San Diego to eat lunch. Doc. No. 25, SAC, at ¶¶16-18. Defendants, San Diego police officers Ariel Savage and Daniel McClain passed Plaintiffs' car driving in the opposite direction. Id. at ¶19. Officer Savage ask Officer McClain to run the plate with Dispatch. Doc. No. 39-5, Exh. D, Police Report of Officer McClain, p. 7, Statement of Officer Savage. Officer McClain states that they decided to run the plate because they encountered the vehicle in "an area where cars are frequently stolen - there have been an average of 32 auto thefts and 22 stolen vehicle recoveries per month in the "830s" service area over the past year." See Doc. No. 39-5, Exh. D-4, Officer McClain's police report.

The plate number on Robinson's car was either misread or incorrectly entered by one of the Officers and it came back as a plate belonging to a Honda. Id., at ¶¶21, 24-5. Defendants initiated the traffic stop of the Plaintiffs' vehicle based solely upon the misread license plate and the suspicion that vehicle was stolen. See Doc. No. 39-5, Exh. D, Police Report of Officer McClain, p. 7, Statement of Officer Savage. Defendants pulled up behind the Plaintiffs' car in a parking lot, blocking them in.

Prior to contacting the Plaintiffs in the vehicle, the license plate was re-checked and Officer Savage and Officer McClain realized that a mistake had been made and that the plate on the car matched the make and model of the Plaintiffs' car.[2] Officer Savage states that they approached the vehicle and made contact with the occupants because the driver had pulled over as soon as they saw the lights and Officer Savage felt "the need to explain the reason for the stop." See Doc. No. 58, Pla. Reply, at 2:17-20 (citing Officer Savages interview with Internal Affairs investigator, Brett Righthouse.) Officer Savage states that after he informed the Plaintiffs of the mistake, ...


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