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Turner v. The County of Los Angeles

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 16, 2014

NANCY TURNER
v.
THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, ET AL

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER.

'O' JS-6

Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS): DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Dkt. No. 56, filed October 9, 2014)

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Nancy Turner filed this action on June 17, 2013, against the County of Los Angeles (" the County"), Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy David Baca, Robert Keffer, Timothy Crise, Shaun Kennedy, Kelly Marchello, Jason Bates, Sergio Mancilla, Matt Dendo, Richard Conley, and Mario Jimenez.[1] The operative Second Amended Complaint (" SAC") was filed on December 27, 2013. Dkt. No. 40. The SAC raises several common law tort claims as well as civil rights claims under federal law.[2]

On October 9, 2014, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment or, in the alternative, partial summary judgment. Dkt. No. 56. Plaintiff filed an opposition on November 17, 2014, Dkt. No. 61, and defendants filed a reply on November 24, 2014, Dkt. No. 62. The Court held a hearing on December 8, 2014. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. The Altercation in Plaintiff's Apartment

In April of 2012, plaintiff and her partner, Frank Edmonds, lived in an apartment on Chadron Avenue in Lawndale near the City of Los Angeles, California. Def.'s Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts (" DMF") ¶ 2; Pl.'s Statement of Genuine Issues (" PGI") ¶ 2. On April 22, 2012, the LASD received a 911 call in which the caller reported hearing a female screaming, and stated that the couple living at the apartment from which the scream originated had a history of violence. DMF ¶ 3; PGI ¶ 3. Defendants Keffer and Crise (male LASD deputies) were dispatched to respond to this call. DMF ¶ ¶ 4, 5; PGI ¶ ¶ 4, 5. Defendants Marchello and Kennedy, also LASD deputies, assigned themselves to assist. DMF ¶ 4; PGI ¶ 4. Marchello is female, and Kennedy is male. DMF ¶ 11; PGI ¶ 11.

Deputies Keffer and Crise arrived first at plaintiff's second floor apartment. DMF ¶ 5; PGI ¶ 5. They knocked, announced themselves as law enforcement officers, and requested to enter the apartment. DMF ¶ 6; PGI ¶ 6. Plaintiff answered the door wearing a towel. DMF ¶ 7; PGI ¶ 7. She allowed the deputies to enter but denied that any domestic violence was occurring. DMF ¶ 9; PGI ¶ 9. At the time, Edmonds was partially dressed and seated on a couch in the living room. DMF ¶ 8; PGI ¶ 8. Deputy Keffer expressed his desire to speak with plaintiff and Edmonds separately. DMF ¶ 10; Crise Decl. ¶ 12. At this point, Deputies Marchello and Kennedy arrived at the scene. DMF ¶ 11; PGI ¶ 11.

A physical altercation ensued between Edmonds and Keffer. DMF ¶ 12; PGI ¶ 12. Crise, Marchello, and Kennedy immediately came to Keffer's assistance. DMF ¶ 13; PGI ¶ 13. During the altercation, Kennedy made a radio distress call requesting assistance and stating that the deputies were involved in a fight. DMF ¶ 14; PGI ¶ 14. Sergeants Conley and Bates responded to this call DMF ¶ 15; PGI ¶ 15. The deputies eventually subdued Edmonds, but only after using pepper spray and multiple physical restraints. DMF ¶ 18; PGI ¶ 18. During the altercation, several neighbors crowded into the apartment's doorway. DMF ¶ 16; PGI ¶ 16. One of these neighbors, Clarence Davis, filmed part of the incident on his cellular telephone. Id. Plaintiff cannot be seen on this video, although she can be heard speaking. DMF ¶ 17; PGI ¶ 17.

B. Plaintiff's Interactions with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department

The SAC alleges that during the altercation, Marchello seized plaintiff, twisted her wrist, placed her in handcuffs, and put her in the back of a patrol car, and that plaintiff's towel fell off as she was walking downstairs so that onlookers saw her naked. DMF ¶ 19; PGI ¶ 19; SAC ¶ ¶ 38, 40, 41. In her deposition, however, plaintiff admitted she does not know who handcuffed her, describing the person as a " [w]oman or women" and " [p]robably Hispanic, " but testifying that she never saw the woman who grabbed and handcuffed her, and did not know her name or race. Turner Depo. (Apr. 25, 2014) at 14:14-15:5, 86:8-20. Plaintiff elaborated that she believes a second unidentified female officer touched her, id. at 15:25-17:24, but that she never saw this officer either, id. at 73:15-20, and that she only " presumes" there were two people because it " seemed like I felt someone else trying to hold the towel, " id. at 88:11-15. Plaintiff also testified that an unidentified male officer said, " Get her out of here, " referring to removing plaintiff from her apartment, and that multiple unidentified people then grabbed her from behind and removed her from the apartment. Id. at 82:8-21, 85:3-7; see also id. at 126:12-17 (plaintiff's testimony that unidentified officers " man-handl[ed] her out of the apartment).

Plaintiff testified that her towel fell off when she was grabbed from behind and handcuffed, and that someone picked the towel up and wrapped it around her again within " seconds." Turner Depo. at 86:18-87:20. According to plaintiff, she was then shoved down a walkway and stairs, and put in the back of the patrol car naked, her towel having fallen off again. Id. at 87:23-88:5. Plaintiff stated that she was naked in the back seat of the patrol car. Turner Depo. at 87:23-24. She averred that she was in handcuffs for " at least an hour." Id. at 19:6-12. Plaintiff testified that at some point, an unidentified police officer brought plaintiff some clothes and removed the handcuffs. Id. at 93:11-21. Plaintiff testified that she was humiliated and still suffers mentally as a result of people seeing her shoved down the stairs naked, and has nightmares about the incident. Turner Depo. at 110:19-111:3. 112:13-17, 113:12-18.

In his deposition, plaintiff's neighbor Clarence Davis testified that during the altercation he saw a Hispanic male deputy tell plaintiff to " get out . . . pushing her out and telling her to get out of the way." Davis Depo. (Aug. 1, 2012) at 70:6-18. Davis also testified that the same Hispanic male officer tried to push plaintiff into Davis' apartment using both hands. Id. at 71:18-23, 74:15-23. Davis also testified that he saw plaintiff being escorted downstairs by a single male officer, whom he could not identify. Id. at 78:11-79:11. Davis later indicated that this officer was not one of the original officers to respond to the scene. Id. at 90:21-25. According to Davis, plaintiff was wearing a towel while being pushed by the male officer, and was wearing the towel when she was placed in the patrol car. Id. at 72:10-14, 80:6-10. Another neighbor, in an interview with police officers shortly after the altercation, stated that plaintiff was in the police car in a towel. See Def. Ex. F.

Defendants offer evidence that Marchello, Kennedy, Crise, and Keffer never left the apartment until after Edmonds was removed from the apartment, which occurred after plaintiff had been escorted away. DMF ¶ 23. Defendants also offer testimony that Marchello, Kennedy, Crise, and Kennedy never touched or threatened to touch plaintiff, never escorted her from the apartment, never handcuffed her, never detained her in a patrol car, and never saw her naked. DMF ¶ ¶ 24, 25, 32; see, e.g., Marchello Decl. ¶ 21 (" At no time on April 22, 2012, did I ever touch Nancy Turner or threaten to touch her. I did not escort her downstairs from the apartment, I did not handcuff her, and I did not place her in the backseat of a patrol car.").[3] Bates has declared that he spoke with plaintiff briefly while she was still inside the patrol car, and that plaintiff denied being subjected to any force, did not complain about being detained, and never stated that she had been handcuffed.[4] DMF ¶ 31; Bates Decl. ¶ 21.

C. The Incident's Aftermath

Bates and Conley first interacted with plaintiff when they found her in the back seat of a patrol car. DMF ¶ ¶ 30, 32; PGI ¶ 30, 32. Defendants offer testimony that plaintiff was not naked when Bates and Conley saw her in the patrol car, DMF ¶ 32, but plaintiff attests that she was placed in the car naked, Turner Depo. at 87:23-24. Conley, in the presence of Bates, then conducted an eight-minute videotaped interview of plaintiff. DMF ¶ 33; PGI ¶ 33. During this interview, plaintiff indicated that police pushed her out of the apartment and down the stairs naked, and twisted her arms, hurting her wrists.[5] See Def. Ex. G. at 00:05:55-00:06:03.

Plaintiff avers that these comments during the taped interview constituted a complaint of excessive use of force that Bates and Conley failed to investigate. DMF ¶ 36; PGI ¶ 36. In April 2012, LASD had a written policy regarding use of force reporting procedures, which required the reporting of any use of force " greater than that required for unresisted . . . searching or handcuffing" and " any use of force which results in an injury or a complaint of pain." DMF ¶ 37; PGI ¶ 37. Pursuant to the policy, any LASD personnel who use or witness reportable force are required to verbally notify their immediate supervisor with a minimum rank of sergeant. DMF ¶ 38; PGI ¶ 38. No deputy ever reported using force against plaintiff to either Bates or Conley. DMF ¶ 39; PGI ¶ 39.

Defendants offer testimony that Bates and Conley did consider plaintiff's complaint in the videotaped interview, but found that it did not warrant further investigation because (1) plaintiff had made inconsistent statements in her interview and previous conversation with Bates; (2) the sergeants had not observed plaintiff to be handcuffed or naked, and had seen her wearing the same garments after exiting the patrol car that she had been wearing during the altercation; (3) no deputy reported a use of force against plaintiff; (4) witnesses interviewed at the scene did not indicate that plaintiff was naked or subjected to force; (5) LASD personnel did not observe any injuries on plaintiff's wrists; and (6) the four originally involved deputies denied using force on anyone other than Edmonds. DMF ¶ 41; PGI ¶ 41. Defendants proffer evidence that Bates made an oral report regarding plaintiff's complaint to his supervisor, Lieutenant Mancilla, who concurred that no further investigation or written report was necessary. DMF ¶ 42; PGI ¶ 42. Bates summarized plaintiff's interview and listed her as a witness in his use of force report on Edmonds, which Mancilla and Captain Dendo signed. DMF ¶ ¶ 43, 44; PGI ¶ 43, 44.

Keffer, Crise, Marchello, and Kennedy have testified that they never conspired to violate plaintiff's rights. DMF ¶ 26. Neither Baca, Dendo, nor Mancilla were personally involved in the April 22, 2012 incident, nor did any of them directly train or supervise Keffer, Crise, Kennedy, or Marchello. DMF ¶ ¶ 45, 46, 47; PGI ¶ ¶ 45, 46, 47. Dendo declares that he watched a video of the incident taken by Bates inside the apartment, but was never made aware of any use of force as to plaintiff or any personnel complaint filed by plaintiff. Dendo Decl. ¶ ¶ 6, 10, 13. Mancilla declares that he read the use of force report authored by Bates as well as the incident report prepared by Keffer, and watched all videotapes submitted with the reports--including the tape of plaintiff's interview in which she asserts that she was taken from the apartment while naked and her arm twisted--but that he never reviewed any report indicating that plaintiff was naked at the scene. Mancilla Decl. ¶ ¶ 6, 10, 11, 15. Mancilla testifies that he concluded that plaintiff's allegations in the videotaped interview did not warrant any further investigation based on the " totality of the circumstances." Id. ¶ 16.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where " 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 identifying relevant portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a fact or facts necessary for one or more essential elements of each claim upon which the moving party ...


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