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Angulo v. County of Los Angeles

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 27, 2014

NORMA A. ANGULO, an individual; ROBERT JONES, an individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, an entity of the State of California, (for itself and for LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, a department of the County of Los Angeles); and DOES 1-20, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [40]

OTIS D. WRIGHT, II, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Robert C. Jones-the Plaintiffs' son-died after suffering a cardiac episode while incarcerated at Pitchess Detention Center in Los Angeles County. The subsequent autopsy revealed that Jones' death resulted from natural causes. The autopsy report states that Jones died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. (Bianco Decl. Ex. B.) Plaintiffs subsequently brought various federal and state claims against the County, asserting that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies failed to provide Jones with adequate medical care. The County now moves for summary judgment. After considering the evidence adduced, the Court GRANTS the County's Motion for Summary Judgment in full. (ECF No. 40.)

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On March 25, 2013, Jones was incarcerated at the Pitchess Detention Center. (SUF 1.) On April 2, 2013, Deputies Torres and Hernandez responded to a "man down" call coming from Dorm 616 where Jones was housed. (SUF at 3.) Deputies radioed for paramedics and entered the dorm to assist Jones. (SUF at 4, 8.) When they entered the dorm, Deputy Hernandez observed Jones convulsing. (SUF at 6.) Deputy Torres supported Jones' head and neck, while Deputy Hernandez supported Jones' lower extremities, in an attempt to prevent any injury while he convulsed. (SUF at 8.) Deputy Hernandez noticed that the Jones did not appear to be breathing and could not detect a pulse. (SUF at 6, 9) Paramedics arrived as Deputy Hernandez began CPR and immediately took over rendering medical aid. (SUF at 11.) The paramedics then transported Jones to Holy Cross Hospital. (SUF at 12.)

Jones was pronounced dead at Holy Cross Hospital on April 2, 2013. (SUF at 13.) The ensuing autopsy revealed that Jones' cause of death was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. ( Id. at 14.) Subsequent interviews of inmates corroborate the medical examiner's finding that there was no violence involved in Jones' death. (SUF at 15.)

Plaintiffs brought suit against the County on April 24, 2013. (ECF No. 1, Ex. A.) The County removed this action to Federal Court on May 22, 2013. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiffs' allege in their Second Amended Complaint state-law claims for wrongful death and survivorship and federal claims for violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, including failure to provide adequate medical care, failure to adequately train, supervise, and discipline jail staff, and impermissible interference with Plaintiffs' right to enjoy continued family relations with their son. Plaintiffs have not opposed this Motion. Accordingly, the Court considers the facts to be undisputed.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify specific facts through admissible evidence that show a genuine issue for trial. Id. ; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Conclusory or speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeat summary judgment. Thornhill's Publ'g Co. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979).

A genuine issue of material fact must be more than a scintilla of evidence or evidence that is merely colorable or not significantly probative. Addisu v. Fred Meyer, 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000). A disputed fact is "material" where the resolution of that fact might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1968). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. Where the moving and nonmoving parties' versions of events differ, courts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

IV. DISCUSSION

The County argues that several doctrines shield them from liability and that Plaintiffs have adduced insufficient evidence to hold them liable for Jones' death..The Court considers each issue in turn.

A. Immunity

The County asserts that it is immune from Plaintiffs' wrongful death and survivorship claims under California Government Code sections 844.6, 845.6, and 855.8. Sections 844.6 and 855.8 are inapplicable here. Section 844.6 immunizes public entities, in relevant part, from liability for "injuries by and to prisoners, " providing immunity from liability for injuries proximately caused by prisoners. But Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint alleges that deputies failed to provide Jones with reasonable medical care-not that he suffered an injury at the hands of another prisoner. And section 855.8 pertains only to mental ...


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