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Richardson v. Kanouse

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 19, 2013

ESTATE OF DAMION RICHARDSON BY DANIELLE BROWN, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE SUBSTITUTED FOR DAMION L. RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. KEITH KANOUSE, LEE BACA, DEP. STEVEN GOODWIN, DEP. KASEY OWENS, DEP. ALEJANDRO HERNANDEZ, DEP. HECTOR VASQUEZ, DET. TIA TYAL.OR, LT. XAVIER AGUILAR, CAPT. DANIEL CRUZ, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, DENNIS A. CONTE, DON RODRIGUEZ, STEPHEN B. JOHNSON, ROBERT J. OLMSTEAD, DENNIS H. BURNS, JOHN DOE, RICHARD ROE, M.D., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN PART AND DENYING IN PART [Dkt. No. 97]

DEAN D. PREGERSON, District Judge.

Presently before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by thirteen remaining defendants. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the court grants the motion in part, denies in part, and adopts the following order.

I. Background

On March 13, 2010, Damion Richardson was an inmate at Los Angeles County Central Jail. Upon returning to his housing module, Richardson was ordered to stand near the entrance of the module, facing a wall. Plaintiff alleges that guards proceeded to beat Richardson, without provocation. Plaintiff further alleges that other Sheriff's Deputies conspired to cover up the incident and cause Richardson to be criminally prosecuted. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint alleges several causes of action against different groups of Defendants for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants now move for summary judgment, on various grounds.

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 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 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 the moving party does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it is entitled to summary judgment if it can demonstrate that "there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 323.

Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party opposing the motion, who must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 256. Summary judgment is warranted if a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322. A genuine issue exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, " and material facts are those "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248. There is no genuine issue of fact "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

It is not the court's task "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact." Keenan v. Allan , 91 F.3d 1275, 1278 (9th Cir. 1996). Counsel has an obligation to lay out their support clearly. Carmen v. San Francisco Sch. Dist. , 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001). The court "need not examine the entire file for evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact, where the evidence is not set forth in the opposition papers with adequate references so that it could conveniently be found." Id.

III. Discussion

As an initial matter, Plaintiff either explicitly acknowledges or implicitly concedes, by omission and failure to oppose, that summary judgment should be entered with respect to several claims and defendants. The court is satisfied that Defendants' papers are sufficient to support summary judgment with respect to these issues. The court addresses each of the contested arguments in turn.

A. Availability of Damages

Richardson died in 2012. Generally, Fourth Amendment claims such as those brought here cannot be vicariously asserted. United States v. Struckman , 603 F.3d 731, 746 (9th Cir. 2010). In a Section 1983 action, however, a decedent's survivors may bring a survival action if state law authorizes such a suit. Moreland v. Las Vegas Metro. Police Dept. , 159 F.3d 365, 369 (9th Cir. 1998). California law does allow survival actions. Cal. Code Civ. P. § 377.30.

Section 1983 does not, however, address what damages are recoverable in a survival action. Nor does federal law look exclusively to state law. Rather, "42 U.S.C. § 1988(a) requires the application of state-law survival remedies in § 1983 actions unless those remedies are inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States." Jefferson v. City of Tarrant , 522 U.S. 75, 79 (1997) (emphasis added) (internal quotation and citation omitted). While California law does allow survivors to recover "any penalties or punitive damages or exemplary damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover, state law disallows recovery for pain and suffering. Cal. Code Civ. P. § 377.34.

Defendants argue that summary judgment is warranted because the Second Amended Complaint seeks only pain and suffering damages of the type disallowed under California law. As discussed above, however, California law is only applicable to the extent that it does not conflict with federal law. The Ninth Circuit has acknowledged that it has not yet weighed in on this question. Mahach-Watkins v. Depee , 593 F.3d 1054, 1060 (9th Cir. 2010). In the absence of controlling authority, California district courts are split. In general, courts in the Eastern District of California have barred Section 1983 claims for pain and suffering on the basis of California's Section 377.4. See, e.g., Herrera v. City of Sacramento, No. 13-cv-00456-JAM-AC, 2013 WL 3992497 at *5-6 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 2, 2013). Courts in the Central, Southern, and Northern Districts have come to the opposite conclusion, reasoning that it would ...


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