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Estate of Claypole v. County of San Mateo

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

October 9, 2014

Estate of JOSHUA CLAYPOLE, deceased, by and through SILVIA GUERSENZVAIG, as Administrator; and SILVIA GUERSENZVAIG, individually, Plaintiffs,
COUNTY OF SAN MATEO, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff Silvia Guersenzvaig ("Plaintiff") brings this lawsuit following the suicide of her twenty-year old son in a Monterey County Jail cell. The deceased, Joshua Claypole ("Claypole"), had been at the jail for three days following his arrest for fatally stabbing a taxi driver. Plaintiff asserts federal and state law claims on behalf of herself and Claypole's estate, seeking to impose liability upon the County of Monterey and other public entities and individuals who interacted with Claypole in the days before his death.

Two motions currently are before the Court: (1) a motion by the City of Monterey ("City"), Monterey Police Chief Philip Penko ("Penko"), and Monterey Police Officer Brent Hall ("Hall") (collectively, "City Defendants"), seeking dismissal of the entire Complaint with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6); and (2) a motion by the County of Monterey ("County"), Sheriff Scott Miller ("Miller"), and Sergeant E. Kaye ("Kaye") (collectively, "County Defendants"), seeking dismissal of certain claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and seeking to strike Plaintiff's punitive damages request under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). The Court has considered the briefing and the oral argument presented at the hearing on October 2, 2014. For the reasons discussed below, both motions to dismiss are GRANTED IN PART with leave to amend and the motion to strike is DENIED.


Claypole was raised in Big Sur, California by his mother. He started having mental health issues in high school, when he began exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, panic disorders, and bipolar disorder. He saw a number of therapists and doctors, including doctors at Defendant Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula ("CHOMP"). Claypole did well when he took his prescribed medications, but when he was not medicated he struggled to maintain normal behavior. In late April 2013, he stopped sleeping, believed he had telepathy, and began acting in an aggressive and paranoid manner. On April 29, 2013, he collected his belongings and left his mother's home without answering her questions about where he was going.

April 30, 2013

At 1:00 a.m. on the morning of April 30, 2013, Claypole was arrested by California Highway Patrol officers in Redwood City, California on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was booked and detained at the Maguire Correctional Facility operated by Defendant County of San Mateo, and his car was impounded. Facility staff took Claypole's medical history from him and then prescribed him three psychotropic medications that typically are used to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis, and mania: Hydroxyzine, Quetiapine, and Lithium Carbonate. Claypole was released at 11:24 a.m. on the morning of April 30, 2013.

May 1, 2013

At 8:30 a.m. on May 1, 2013, Claypole went to the outpatient behavioral health clinic at CHOMP, located in Monterey, California, where he had been treated in 2012. CHOMP staff did not provide treatment to Claypole; instead, they told him to leave and called the Monterey Police Department ("MPD"). By the time MPD officers arrived, Claypole had left. However, he returned later that morning. CHOMP personnel directed building security officers to escort Claypole out of the building and again called the MPD.[2]

After being ejected from CHOMP, Claypole went to a local Wells Fargo branch and withdrew money, then asked bank staff to call him a taxi. Wells Fargo staff later told MPD officers that Claypole appeared "out of it, " displayed mood changes, made strange movements with his head, and exhibited other unusual behavior. Claypole got into the taxi and, at approximately 1:10 p.m., he fatally stabbed the taxi driver. Shortly thereafter, he was detained by Seaside Police Department officers until MPD officers arrived and took custody. Thereafter, while Claypole was seated in the back of Defendant Hall's squad car, Claypole asked Hall, "Can you ask for the [lethal] injection?" Compl. ¶ 59. He also told Hall that he "had to do it." Id. Later, during booking, Claypole asked Hall, "Should I go? I should just take the injection." Id. ¶ 60. While waiting to be interviewed by a detective, Claypole asked Hall, "Is my mom going to get my remains?" Id. ¶ 61.

MPD thereafter transferred custody of Claypole to the Monterey County Sheriff's Department. Neither Hall nor any other MPD officer informed County personnel that Claypole was acting strangely or that he might be a suicide risk. At approximately 8:30 p.m. on May 1, 2013, Claypole met with his criminal defense attorney. After the meeting, Claypole's attorney asked Officer Candi McGregor at the jail to place Claypole on suicide watch. Officer McGregor contacted the on-duty Sergeant, Kaye. An Intake Health Screening form completed shortly thereafter shows the "no" box checked for "Does behavior suggest danger to self or others?" A Classification Inmate Intake Screening Questionnaire completed that same night indicates that Claypole had not shown any bizarre behavior and that he had not been under psychiatric care. It is not clear whether medical personnel administered these screenings. It does not appear that Claypole was given any other mental health evaluation or treatment. Nor was he placed on suicide watch at that time despite his attorney's request.

May 2, 2013

On May 2, 2013, Claypole's attorney visited him again. Claypole asked if his mother could bring his medications to the jail.

May 3, 2013

On May 3, 2013, Claypole made his first court appearance. He was mentally unstable, and he believed that others were speaking to him telepathically. His attorney assumed (incorrectly) that Claypole had been placed on suicide watch. Claypole finally was placed on suicide watch at 2:35 p.m. on May 3, at which time he was transferred to a safety cell.

May 4, 2013

Approximately sixteen hours later, at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, 2013, Claypole was taken off suicide watch and moved from the safety cell to a cell in A Pod, an administrative segregation housing unit. No mental health personnel work at the jail on weekends; it is unclear who ordered Claypole taken off suicide watch. At 1:00 p.m. that afternoon, Plaintiff arrived to visit Claypole and deliver his medications. Jail staff refused to allow her to see Claypole, stating that he had been moved to a new unit and that visitation hours for that unit had not begun. Plaintiff gave the medications to a jail nurse. The medications were not provided to Claypole.

Although jail policy required staff to check Claypole hourly, the Hourly Safety Check log indicates that staff did not check on him for more than six hours. At approximately 2:30 p.m., non-party Deputy Sheriff Raymond Gordano ("Gordano") found Claypole in his cell, hanging from a noose made of torn bed sheets that had been attached to a metal brace on the wall. Gordano did not immediately open the cell or cut Claypole down; instead, he requested and waited for backup. After other staff arrived, Claypole was cut down and the noose was cut with a knife. Claypole was transferred to the custody of emergency room personnel at Natividad Medical Center, and then he was transported via helicopter to San Jose Regional Medical Center. He was pronounced dead on May 9, 2013. A postmortem examination determined that he died from asphyxia due to hanging.

A handwritten note was found in Claypole's cell, reading: "I love you mama. I'm sorry for all the pain I have brought you mama. I love you very much. Maybe I will see you again. Love, Joshua." Compl. ¶ 80.

Plaintiff sues the County of San Mateo; San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks; the County of Monterey; Miller; Kaye; the City of Monterey; Penko; Hall; California Forensic Medical Group ("CFMG")[3]; Dr. Taylor Fithian[4]; and CHOMP. Plaintiff asserts the following claims: (1) a § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) a § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment[5]; (3) a § 1983 claim for deprivation of substantive due process in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments (causing loss of parent/child relationship); (4) professional negligence/medical malpractice claim under California law; (5) failure to furnish ...

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