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Cotta v. County of Kings

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 9, 2015

YVONNE COTTA, individually and as a representative of the ESTATE OF JOHN COTTA, and MADISON COTTA, a minor represented by guardian ad litem YVONNE COTTA, FOR RECONSIDERATION Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF KINGS and SGT. SHARI HENDERSON, Does 1 through 30, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION (Doc. 76) OF MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 71)

LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Currently pending before the Court is Defendants County of Kings ("the County") and Sgt. Sheri Henderson's ("Henderson") (collectively, "Defendants") motion for reconsideration (Doc. 76) of this Court's order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Doc. 71, Cotta v. Cnty. of Kings, ___ F.Supp. 3d ___, 2015 WL 106362 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 7, 2015) ("the MSJ Order"). Specifically, Defendants request that the Court reconsider its decision concerning Plaintiffs'[1] second cause of action against the County for Monell [2] liability and Plaintiffs' fourth cause of action for violation of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Id. at 1.

The Court did not set a hearing for the motion and the parties did not request one. The Court finds it appropriate to rule on the motion without oral argument. See Local Rule 230(g). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for reconsideration.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A full recitation of the facts and procedural history of the case is contained in the MSJ Order. See Cotta, 2015 WL 106362, at *2-5. Only a brief recitation of the pertinent facts and procedural history necessary to resolve Defendants' motion for reconsideration follows.

Plaintiffs are relatives of Decedent, who was killed by his cellmate, Heath Parnell ("Parnell"), while incarcerated at the Kings County Jail ("the jail"). Id. at 5. Decedent and Parnell were co-defendants and were convicted by a jury for the crimes with which they were charged. Id. at 4. Parnell killed Decedent the night before he and Decedent were to be sentenced. The alleged reason Parnell killed Decedent was because Decedent's defense at trial was adverse to Parnell. Id. at 5.

During the trial, Decedent's attorney, Christopher Caine ("Caine"), spoke with County bailiffs at the County court cell where Decedent and Parnell were housed during their trial. Id. at 26-27. As explained in the MSJ Order,

Caine expressed his concern about Decedent's being housed with Parnell to the court bailiffs at the County court cell. He "expressed the belief that [Decedent and Parnell shouldn't" be housed together because Parnell posed a threat to Decedent's safety due to "what happened in the vehicle involved in the commission of [Parnell's and Decedent's] crimes." According to Caine, he talked with the bailiffs that "there was something missing, something loose with [Parnell], " and "[i]t's for that reason that the bailiffs wouldn't have them in the same cell." Caine discussed with court bailiffs his belief that Parnell posed a danger to Decedent's safety "on a few occasions." Caine does not recall expressing his concern about Decedent and Parnell being housed together to any other County staff.

Id. (citations omitted).

Plaintiffs filed this case on March 12, 2013. Doc. 1. Plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint on August 4, 2013 (Doc. 26) and a second amended complaint ("the SAC")-currently the operative complaint-on May 28, 2014. Doc. 47. In the SAC, Plaintiffs alleged claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983") for violation of their civil rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, among other claims. See SAC at 1. Plaintiffs' second cause of action is a Monell claim against the County and their fourth cause of action is for violation of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Id. at 9, 11.

As noted in the MSJ Order, "neither the SAC nor Plaintiffs' opposition with regard to [their Monell claim] is a model of clarity, " but the claim "appears to contain two theories of County liability." Cotta, 2015 WL 106362, at *20. At issue here is one of those apparent theories of County liability under Monell. Based on the SAC, Plaintiffs' pleadings, and Plaintiffs' discussion of the evidence, it appeared that Plaintiffs' Monell claim was premised on a theory that "the jail exhibited deliberate indifference by failing to implement a policy to ensure that information relevant to the decision to house co-defendants together is communicated to the appropriate housing authorities at the jail." Id. at 31.[3]

The Court found that a genuine issue of material fact remained as to whether the County is liable under that theory of Monell liability. Id. Specifically, the Court found that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the County is liable under Monell because the County bailiffs did not relay Caine's concern about Decedent's being housed with Parnell to appropriate housing authorities at the jail or any other appropriate County authorities. See id. Accordingly, the Court denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the claim. Based on that finding, the Court likewise denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claim against the County as the Court found it to be contingent on Plaintiffs' Monell claim. See id. at 28.

Defendants move for reconsideration of the Court's denial of Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' Monell and Fourteenth Amendment due process claims on the ground the Court mischaracterized Plaintiffs' theory of the County's liability for Plaintiffs' Monell claim.[4] See Doc. 76-1 at 4-5. Defendants claim that "the theory of [ Monell ] liability addressed by the Court was never alleged in Plaintiffs' SAC or discovery responses." Id. Defendants assert that "[n]owhere [in the SAC]... do Plaintiffs mention inadequate jail policies requiring County staff to relay information that may affect inmate safety to the jail's housing authorities, " and "nowhere in Plaintiffs' discovery responses do they allege any issue with respect to a lack of any policy requiring County personnel to alert jail staff of a perceived risk to inmate safety that is explicitly brought to their attention." Id. at 4. Defendants argue that "[t]he portions of Defendants' motion that were denied were based on allegations that had never been raised in either the Plaintiffs' SAC or discovery responses" and, therefore, "they were not addressed in Defendants' motion for summary judgment." Id. In support, Defendants ...


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