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Arias v. Amador

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 21, 2014

ELIDA ARIAS and JOSE J. MARTINEZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
JULIO AMADOR, et al., Defendants

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For Elida Arias, Jose J. Martinez, Plaintiffs: Frank Michael Pacheco, Law Offices Of Frank Pacheco, Stockton, CA.

For Julio Amador, Dedra Borges, Jason Coley, Pat Dayton, Bryan Ferreira, Mike Perez, Jon Vera, Defendants: Cornelius John Callahan, Stephanie Yee Jean Wu, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Borton Petrini, LLP, Modesto, CA.

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MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 31)

Lawrence J. O'Neill, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. INTRODUCTION

This case concerns the circumstances surrounding the April 15, 2010 arrest and detention of Plaintiffs Elida Arias and Jose J. Martinez by Ceres Police Department (" CPD" ) Officers. Plaintiffs advance five causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, some of which incorporate multiple legal theories. Before the Court for Decision is a Motion for Summary Judgment (" MSJ" ) brought on behalf of Defendants City of Ceres (the " City" ) and CPD Officers (" Officers" ) on all claims. Doc. 31. Subsequent to the filing of the MSJ, Parties stipulated to the dismissal of Defendants City of Ceres and Chief of Police Art De Werk. Doc. No. 36. Plaintiff opposes summary judgment. Doc. 35. Defendants replied. Doc. 38. The motion was set for hearing November 5, 2014, but the hearing was vacated and the matter submitted for decision on the papers pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). Doc. 49.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint on April 13, 2012, alleging constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 1. Plaintiffs allege: (1) CPD officers conducted unlawful searches and seizures of Plaintiffs and used excessive force, (2) CPD officers failed to intercede or prevent constitutional deprivations, (3) CPD officers conspired to violate Plaintiffs' civil rights, and (4) that CPD officers failed to provide medical attention to Plaintiffs.[1] Defendants move for summary judgment on the basis that there are no genuine issues as to facts that would establish that the Officers are liable for alleged civil rights violations. Doc. 31 at 2; Defs.' Mem. of Points and Auth. In Supp. of Mot. For Summ. J. (hereinafter " Defs.' Mem." ), Doc. 32, at 4.

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

On April 15, 2010 Plaintiffs went to the Walmart Store located on Mitchell Road in

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Ceres, California. Defs.' Reply to Pls.' Response to Separate Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, Doc. No 48 (hereinafter " DSUF" ) #1. The parties dispute the events that followed.

A. Events Surrounding Martinez's Arrest

Defendants submit that Plaintiff Martinez was involved in " multiple altercations with customers and Walmart staff" while attempting to return a video game console. Deposition of Walmart manager Pardeep Saini (hereinafter " Saini Depo." ), Defs.' Ex. E, at 6-7. Martinez insists he was involved in a single altercation with an inebriated customer. Declaration of Jose Martinez (hereinafter " Martinez Decl." ), Pls.' Ex 2 at ¶ ¶ 4-5.

According to Saini, he and another manager, Marcus Lacy, escorted Martinez from the store to the parking lot alongside security personnel. Saini Depo. at 9-10. Martinez claims he was escorted by security personnel only to the front of the store, and that he bumped into another customer accidentally on his way out. Martinez Decl. at ¶ 3.

According to Defendants' version of events, once Martinez reached the parking lot, he began screaming profanities and racial slurs at Wal-Mart employees, including Saini and Lacy. Saini Depo. at 11-14. Then, Martinez threatened Saini and Lacy and indicated that he had a knife. Id. at 11. Martinez denies threatening the employees, but admits using a racial slur toward them after one of the employees called him a " dirty white boy." Deposition of Jose Martinez (hereinafter " Martinez Depo." ), Defs.' Ex. C at 24-25; Martinez Decl. at ¶ 4.

The Parties agree that a Wal-Mart employee asked Martinez to leave the premise and notified Martinez that Wal-Mart would be calling the police. DSUF # 3, 6. The Parties also agree that CPD Officer Jason Coley was dispatched to the scene where he interviewed Martinez and Wal-Mart employees. DSUF #7.

Martinez admits that while Coley was interviewing the Wal-Mart employees, he interrupted " to correct" their accounts. Martinez Decl. at ¶ 11. Martinez alleges that Coley then told Martinez, " Shut the fuck up, you already had your turn," and then continued his interviews. Id. Martinez acknowledges interrupting the interview again when one of the employees told Coley that Martinez had started the fight with the customer. Id. at ¶ 12. (" I then exclaimed to the Wal-Mart Security persons, " Fuck you." ).

At this point, Martinez claims that Coley first " unreasonably and unlawfully" ordered him to lie face down on hot asphalt, but then changed his instruction to ask that he sit on the curb. Id. at ¶ 12. Martinez states that he complied with the latter instruction. Id. Coley placed Martinez into custody in his patrol vehicle without physical struggle and partially lowered the window nearest him. Martinez Depo. at 34; Martinez Decl. at ¶ ¶ 12, 14. Martinez maintains that the other windows were fully rolled up and that it became excessively hot in the car. Martinez Decl. at ¶ 14. Martinez states that because of the heat " his fingers were going numb, tears where [ sic.] streaming from my bottom eyelids, and I was having difficulty breathing." Id. at ¶ 15.

At Martinez's request, one of the officers called for an ambulance. Martinez Depo. at 36. According to Coley's police

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report, the ambulance crew examined Martinez, concluded " he was okay" and that Martinez himself expressed that he " felt fine." Ex. H at 3. Martinez claims that the ambulance crew diagnosed him as suffering from an anxiety attack and heat stress, and that they advised him that his handcuffs were too tight. Martinez Decl. at ¶ 20. According to Martinez, the ambulance crew advised Coley to roll more windows down, so that Martinez would be " more comfortable," but Coley refused. Id. Approximately 14 minutes elapsed between when Martinez was first placed in the patrol car and when he was examined by paramedics. Id. at ¶ ¶ 13, 20.

Coley transported Martinez to jail. Martinez claims that while in transit to the jail Coley, " took a route opposite the most direct route to jail," " drove fast and applied his brakes several times and repeatedly accelerated several times causing me to be forced into the wire mesh screen between the rear seats." Id. at ¶ 21. He claims that he was not seat-belted. Id. at ¶ 12. Martinez explains that this " caused the handcuffs to tighten progressively tighter during the ride." Id. at ¶ 21. Defendants do not contradict Martinez' allegations describing how he was transported. Defs.' Mem. at 10. Martinez claims that the Stanislaus County district attorney's office informed him that no charges would be filed against him in connection with these events. Martinez Decl. at ¶ 24.

B. Events Surrounding Arias's Arrest

At some point, Plaintiff Arias exited the store and approached Wal-Mart personnel and CPD officers standing next to Arias's vehicle. DSUF #17. The police inquired as to her relationship with Martinez and asked for her identification. DSUF #19. One of the officers informed her that Martinez was under arrest. Deposition of Elida Arias (hereinafter " Arias Depo." ), Defs.' Ex. B at 122. Defendants claim that CPD Officers Julio Amador and Pat Dayton ordered Arias " at least five times" to refrain from approaching the police vehicle where Martinez was being held. Deposition of Wal-Mart employee Marcus Lacey (hereinafter " Lacey Depo." ), Defs.' Ex. D at 15, 36. Arias claims that no warning was issued until after she approached the vehicle. Arias Depo. at 24, 27. At that point, she claims that Amador shouted at her to " stay away from the car." Id. at 24. According to Arias, she was so startled by the order that she jumped back and exclaimed, " What bitch?" Id. at 24-25. Arias testified that this all occurred very quickly, during which time she was listening to Martinez yell for an ambulance and scream obscenities. Arias Decl. at ¶ 9. According to Arias, she was not given time to comply with Arias's orders to move before one of the officers grabbed her left arm and threw her against the car. Arias Depo. at 28. The officers ordered her to drop her cellular phone, but she initially refused, asking them to take it from her. Id. at 29. Arias claims that at that point they began kicking her and were " throwing [her] back and forth." Id. at 29-30. The security camera video evidence shows that these events took place between 2:54:07 and 2:56:00; a period of less than two minutes. Pls.' Ex. 1 at 2:54:07.

Officer Dayton placed Arias in the back of a police vehicle, which she claimed was hot. Arias Depo. at 60; Arias Decl. at ¶ 20. She claims that Dayton sat in the front seat, and that she told him " You suck as an officer." Arias Depo. at 61; Arias Decl. at ¶ 20. At this point, Arias claims Dayton came around to the back of the patrol car and whispered a vulgar statement to her. Arias Depo. at 61; Arias Decl. at ¶ 20. Officer Debra Borges then removed Arias from the vehicle and searched her. Arias Decl. at ¶ 21. Arias claims that she asked Borges to call an

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ambulance. Id. Borges did not respond, but placed Arias back in the patrol vehicle. Id. Arias also asked Borges to roll the windows down in the patrol vehicle, and used her foot to prevent the patrol car door from shutting. Id. Borges informed her that she would not roll the windows down because she was afraid that Arias would start screaming. Id.; Arias Depo. at 64. Arias then asked to speak with a second officer, and Perez came over. Arias Depo. at 97. She restated her request for the windows to be rolled down; and Borges complied by rolling down the window, " two, three inches." Id.

Officer Amador drove Arias to jail. Arias Decl. at 71. En route to the jail, Arias asked Officer Amador to loosen her handcuffs, but he refused. Arias Depo. at ¶ 23; Arias Decl. at 65. Once they arrived at the jail, she asked Amador to remove her handcuffs because her wrists were swollen. Arias Decl. at ¶ 24. After about " four or five minutes," they were removed as part of the booking process. Arias Depo. at 77-78. Upon her release from jail, Arias visited the emergency room. Arias Decl. at ¶ 27. As evidence of the extent of her injuries, Arias submitted a radiologist's note that she had a " very slight left convex scoliosis of the lumbar spine which may be due to muscle spasm." Pls.' Ex. 7. A few weeks after the incident, Arias visited a neuropsychologist to help her deal with the stress related to the arrest. Arias Decl. at ¶ 29.

IV. STANDARD OF DECISION

Summary judgment is proper if the movant shows " 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). The moving party bears the initial burden of " informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law; " irrelevant" or " unnecessary" factual disputes will not be counted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

If the moving party would bear the burden of proof on an issue at trial, that party must " affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party." Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). In contrast, if the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on an issue, the moving party can prevail by " merely pointing out that there is an absence of evidence" to support the non-moving party's case. Id. When the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party must demonstrate that there are genuine disputes as to material facts by either:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court does not make credibility

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determinations or weigh evidence. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Rather, " [t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. Only admissible evidence may be considered in deciding a motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). " Conclusory, speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers is insufficient to raise ...


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