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Sanchez v. Bay Area Rapid Transit District

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 5, 2013

JOSE SANCHEZ, Plaintiff,



This case stems from Plaintiff Jose Sanchez's alleged slip-and-fall on the stairs leading down to the 24th Street Mission BART station in San Francisco and subsequent mistreatment while on the platform. Sanchez's Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") asserts thirteen personal injury and civil rights claims against Defendants Bay Area Rapid Transit District ("BART") and BART employee Paul Bailey (collectively, with BART, "BART Defendants"), as well as paramedics Deborah Palmer and Jennifer Ishikawa, and their employer, the City and County of San Francisco ("City"; collectively with Palmer and Ishikawa, "City Defendants"). Nine of Sanchez's thirteen claims name one or both of the BART Defendants.

The BART Defendants seek full or partial dismissal of those nine claims. Dkt. No. 23 ("MTD"). Their key contentions are two: first, that prior to removal of this action, a California state court already dismissed Sanchez's negligence claims with prejudice, and second, that California's Government Tort Claims Act bars Sanchez's civil rights claims because the facts underlying those claims are not reflected in the initial, administrative claim form Sanchez filed with BART. The BART Defendants also move to strike Sanchez's prayer for punitive damages, along with photographs and a putative expert report attached to the SAC. Dkt. No. 25 ("MTS"). The City Defendants previously answered the SAC. Dkt. No. 24 ("Answer").

Having carefully considered the papers submitted and the pleadings in this action, and having had the benefit of oral argument, for the reasons set forth below the Court hereby GRANTS the BART Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The Court PARTLY GRANTS AND PARTLY DENIES the Bart Defendants' Motion to Strike.



In the procedural posture of this case, the Court assumes the truth of Sanchez's factual allegations. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). On January 29, 2010, Sanchez fell down the steps leading from street level to the underground 24th Street Mission BART station. SAC ¶¶ 17-21. Although the steps had "traction non-skid material strips, " the strips "were worn and torn." Id. ¶ 22. Sanchez also alleges a defective handrail. Id. ¶ 23.

After Sanchez fell, he asked the station agent, Bailey, to summon paramedics. Once paramedics arrived, Bailey told them that he had seen Sanchez "walking around the station like a drunk and shuffling' around" and left the paramedics "with the impression that Sanchez was a drunk Mexican male either faking a stairway fall or [was] so drunk that he fell-but in either case that [Sanchez] was not in any true need of medical attention." Id. ¶¶ 39-40. Sanchez denies drinking that night, but for a glass of wine with dinner. Id. ¶¶ 44, 48.

Sanchez alleges that the paramedics: disregarded his claims of injury; mocked his "Spanish/Mexican accent"; belittled him as a drunk; threatened to call the police to have him arrested for public drunkenness; gave Sanchez a clean bill of health after only cursory examination of one of his knees; and then, despite Sanchez's protestations that he could not stand, hoisted Sanchez to his feet "via a violent and forceful yank." Id. ¶¶ 42, 45, 53, 57. Sanchez "was able to lock his knees to keep them from buckling" and then walked "like Frankenstein" in "hundreds of tortured steps" to the BART platform. Id.¶ ¶ 62, 56. As Sanchez walked away, he heard the paramedics mocking both his walk and his accent. Id. ¶ 65. Sanchez made his way to the BART platform unaided. Id. ¶ 81. From the platform, he took a BART train to a station in Alameda County, where a family member picked him up. Id. ¶ 83. From there, Sanchez went to the emergency room and underwent "immediate surgery." Id.

Based on the foregoing allegations, Sanchez asserts thirteen claims in total, nine of which name one or both of the BART Defendants and, sometimes, other defendants as well. As numbered and styled in the SAC, those claims are:

(1) negligence (against the BART Defendants)
(2) negligence per se (against BART)
(7) violation of California's Welfare & Institutions Code § 15600 et seq. - dependent adult abuse (against all defendants)
(8) common carrier negligence (against BART)
(9) Violation of California Government Code § 835 (against BART Defendants)
(10) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (against all defendants)
(11) violation of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act (against all defendants)
(12) breach of duty to aid another harmed by Defendants' conduct (against all defendants)
(13) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (against all defendants)[1]

Sanchez seeks punitive damages against the BART Defendants in connection with Claims 7, 10, 11 and 13. The BART Defendants seek dismissal with prejudice as to eight of the nine claims. As to Claim 9, they concede that it may proceed as to BART, but seek dismissal with prejudice as to Bailey.


California law requires persons claiming damages against a local public entity to submit an administrative claim to the entity. Cal. Gov't Code § 905; see also id. § 910 (governing form of claim). BART is a local public entity. See id. § 900.4. On June 27, 2010, Sanchez, through his attorney, submitted an administrative claim to BART. Dkt. No. 20 (Request for Judicial Notice ["RJN"]), Ex. E ("BART Claim").[2] The BART Claim gives the following description of the incident:

While going down the stairs, Mr. Sanchez slipped and fell on the stairs of the 24th/Mission Street BART station in San Francisco, California.
After the fall Mr. Sanchez was unable to move. Several persons attempted to help him stand up but when Mr. Sanchez tried to stand up he was unable to do so. Passengers went to get the BART attendant who came to look at Mr. Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez requested that the attendant call an ambulance.
Mr. Sanchez was left to lay there until two persons from the SF Fire Dept. came. One of the Fire Dept. personnel pulled Mr. Sanchez's pants leg up and observed his knee and told him there was nothing wrong with him. They threatened him with a charge of public intoxication if he did not get up; and forced him ...

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