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Dillman v. Vasquez

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 2, 2015

MICHAEL DILLMAN, an individual, and, STEPHEN DILLMAN, an individual, Plaintiffs,
DEPUTY DAVID VASQUEZ, an individual, et al., Defendants.


LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge.


Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseloads in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters. Given the shortage of district judges and staff, this Court addresses only the arguments, evidence, and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact the offices of United States Senators Feinstein and Boxer to address this Court's inability to accommodate the parties and this action. The parties are required to reconsider consent to conduct all further proceedings before a Magistrate Judge, whose schedules are more accommodating to parties than that of U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill, who must prioritize criminal and older civil cases.

Civil trials set before Judge O'Neill trail until he becomes available and are subject to suspension mid-trial to accommodate criminal matters. Civil trials are no longer reset to a later date if Judge O'Neill is unavailable on the original date set for trial. Moreover, this Court's Fresno Division randomly and without advance notice reassigns civil actions to U.S. District Judges throughout the nation to serve as visiting judges. In the absence of Magistrate Judge consent, this action is subject to reassignment to a U.S. District Judge from outside the Eastern District of California.


This case concerns the September 18, 2011 arrest of Plaintiffs Michael Dillman ("Michael") and Stephen Dillman ("Stephen") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") for alleged "joyriding" and related offenses in connection with their use of a thirteen-foot aluminum fishing boat on Donnell Lake, in Tuolumne County. The Complaint was originally filed in the Superior Court for the County of Tuolumne on February 13, 2013, but was removed by Defendants on March 18, 2013 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a) and 1446(a). Doc. 1. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on March 24, 2013 (Doc. 45), a third amended complaint on January 23, 2014 (Doc. 47), and a fourth amended complaint ("the FAC")- currently the operative complaint-on May 14, 2014. Doc. 70. The FAC names as defendants Tuolumne County (the "County"[1]) and Tuolumne County Sheriff's Deputy David Vasquez ("Vasquez"), Marcus Green ("Green"), Paul Harrison ("Harrison"), Kim Quincy ("Quincy"), Eric Roberts ("Roberts"), Amanda Roos ("Roos"), and Troy Silva ("Silva") (collectively, "Defendants"[2]).

The FAC's first cause of action, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"), alleges that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' federal constitutional rights. The FAC also contains the following related state law claims:

• Violation of California's Bane Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1, against Green, Harrison, Roberts, and Silva (Second Cause of Action);
• Battery, against Vasquez (Third Cause of Action);
• Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, against all Defendants (Fourth Cause of Action); and
• Negligence, against all Defendants (Fifth Cause of Action). FAC at 1, 8-17.

Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Doc. 86. 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 IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 86).


A. Vasquez Arrests Plaintiffs.

On September 18, 2011, Brian Whitmer ("Whitmer") of Tri-Dam operations observed via video surveillance two people using a Tri-Dam maintenance boat without permission at Donnell Lake, a Tri-Dam reservoir in Tuolumne County, California. Doc. 96-1, Defendants' Reply in Response to Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Separate Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Adjudication ("UMF"), 1-2. Whitmer contacted the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department to report a trespass, vandalism, and theft, based on Plaintiffs' apparent theft of the Tri-Dam maintenance boat. UMF 1; Doc. 86-6, Declaration of David Vasquez ("Vasquez Decl."), at ¶ 4.

Vasquez responded to Whitmer's report. Vasquez Decl. at ¶ 4. When Vasquez arrived at the Tri-Dam Operations Center, he observed Plaintiffs using the Tri-Dam boat on Tri-Dam's surveillance cameras. UMF 2-3. Vasquez perceived Plaintiffs to be trespassing. Vasquez Decl. at ¶ 5.

Vasquez "proceeded to the Donnell Lakes Reservoir area to investigate further." Id. at ¶ 6. As Plaintiffs approached the shore, Vasquez "noticed that Michael... who was driving the boat, appeared to be heading back onto the lake to avoid contact with" Vasquez. Id. at ¶ 7. Plaintiffs eventually returned to the shoreline, and Vasquez informed them "that they were not yet under arrest; rather they were being detained" while Vasquez "was investigating a trespass, vandalism, and the taking of a vessel without permission." Id. at ¶ 12; UMF 5, 7. Vasquez placed Plaintiffs "in double-locking handcuffs for safety purposes." Vasquez Decl. at ¶ 12; UMF 6. Vasquez "called Dispatch to confirm that Tri Dam wishes to press charges, " and Dispatch confirmed. Vasquez Decl. at ¶ 18.

Vasquez took Plaintiffs "into custody pursuant to the citizen's arrest by Mr. Whitmer." Id. at ¶ 19. After informing them of their arrest, Vasquez handcuffed Plaintiffs and placed them into his patrol car. Id. at 21.[4] Michael informed Vasquez that he was a Vietnam War veteran and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"). UMF 15. Michael head-butted the window and kicked at it two or three times. UMF 13. Plaintiffs asked Vasquez to remove or loosen their handcuffs because they were causing Plaintiffs pain and discomfort. UMF 16.[5] Michael told Vasquez that "he was having shoulder pain and was having trouble breathing." Vasquez Decl. at ¶ 28.

Vasquez drove Plaintiffs to their campsite so they could collect some of their belongings, which took approximately five minutes. See Deposition of Stephen Dillman[6] ("Stephen Depo.") at 83. Vasquez then proceeded to transport Plaintiffs to the Tuolumne County Jail ("the jail") for booking. UMF 24. Along the way, Vasquez stopped at the Tri Dam Office to have Whitmer execute the citizen's arrest forms. UMF 23. Plaintiffs remained handcuffed in the backseat of the patrol car. UMF 24. After Whitmer executed those forms, Vasquez transported Plaintiffs to the jail. UMF 24.

About halfway through their transportation to the jail, Vasquez "double cuffed"[7] Michael to loosen the handcuffs. UMF 19. Stephen also claims that he made multiple requests for Vasquez to loosen the handcuffs or to be cuffed in the front, which Vasquez initially denied. UMF 20. However, Vasquez eventually double-cuffed Stephen around the same time he double-cuffed Michael. UMF 21. After being double cuffed, Plaintiffs did not complain about the handcuffs again. UMF 22.[8]

B. Plaintiffs' Detention at the Jail.

Stephen and Michael arrived at the jail at approximately 9:00 P.M. Doc. 86-3, Declaration of Bill Pooley ("Pooley Decl."), Ex. 4 at 1. Stephen's booking took approximately five to ten minutes. UMF 26. He was then escorted to a cell. UMF 26.

During Michael's booking, Silva asked him if he was suicidal and he answered that he was suicidal. Pooley Decl., Ex. 4 at 1. Silva "told him it was a serious question and asked again if [Michael] wanted to hurt himself, " and he said "Yes, I want to hurt myself." Id. Michael stated "if I could kill myself I would." Pooley Decl., Ex. 5 at 1.[9] Michael explained that he had not been suicidal prior to his arrest. Pooley Decl., Ex. 4 at 1 "While waiting for the on duty nurse to evaluate him [Michael] began banging his head very hard against the wall behind him." Id. Silva instructed him to stop, and he did. Id. Michael refused to talk to the nurse, and was placed into the safety cell for his own safety. Id.

Tuolumne County Sheriff's Procedures require that when an inmate is placed on suicide watch, his or her clothing is removed and he or she is provided a "safety gown" to wear. UMF 33. When placed in the safety cell, Michael was provided a safety gown to change into, and was told to remove his clothes and change into the safety gown. UMF 34-36. Michael removed his clothes, but did not understand how to put the gown on, so he wrapped it around his body like a towel. Pooley Decl., Ex. 7.[10]

The nurse contacted Behavioral Health. Pooley Decl., Ex. 4 at 1. Approximately an hour later, Michael agreed to come out of the safety cell. Id. When walking to go to booking, Michael dropped his safety gown in front of only Silva and Quincy. UMF 42-44. Silva asked Michael to pick up his gown and Quincy asked him to "cover up." UMF 44. Plaintiffs allege that Quincy also made comments to the effect of "I don't want to look at that" and "I didn't sign up for this." Deposition of Michael Dillman[11] ("Michael Depo."), at 46:16-47:5.

Michael finished the booking process and made phone calls around 10:12 P.M. Id. At approximately 10:19 P.M., Michael was again removed from the safety cell for a second time to talk to a Behavioral Health representative, Barbara O'Neil, to determine whether he was suicidal. UMF 50; Pooley Decl., Ex. 6 at 1. Following O'Neil's evaluation, Michael was cleared for release from the safety cell at approximately 10:27 P.M., his clothes were returned, and he was placed into a holding cell until he was released at approximately 11:08 P.M. Pooley Decl., Ex. 6 at 1; UMF 51.

C. The Jail Defendants' Interactions With Plaintiffs at the Jail.

Defendants had varying degrees of involvement with Michael and Stephen during their detention at the jail. Roberts "was not involved in the intake or the booking of either [Michael or Stephen]." UMF 61. "Roberts was present when [Michael] was placed in the safety cell. However, he did not give any commands or speak to [Michael] when he was placed in the safety cell." UMF 39. "Roberts was not involved in asking Michael... to change into a safety gown." UMF 40. Roberts did not speak with Stephen, UMF 63, and his "only conversation with [Michael] was to explain to him Jail policies and procedures." UMF 62. Harrison provided Michael the safety gown. See UMF 38; Pooley Decl., Ex. 7.[12] He had no other involvement with Michael.

Green periodically checked on Michael while he was in the safety cell to ensure his "well-being, i.e., to see if he had water and other necessities." UMF 41. Green escorted Michael from booking back to the safety cell. UMF 48. "The only conversations [Green] had with [Michael] during this time period was related to his return to the safety cell." UMF 48. Green informed Michael "of his upcoming court dates and showed him how to exit.... He had no further conversations with [Michael] during the release process." UMF 59. Michael "did not complaint about his treatment by [Green] or any other deputy during the release process." UMF 60.

Green released Stephen from custody at approximately 10:33 P.M. UMF 55. Green informed Stephen "of his upcoming court dates and showed him how to exit.... He did not have any further conversations with [Stephen] during the release process." UMF 56. Stephen "did not complain about how [Green] or any other [jail defendant] treated him during the release process." UMF 57.

Roos spoke with Stephen at booking. UMF 53. Roos asked Stephen for his contact information. UMF 53. He did not "find anything... Roos said to him offensive, inappropriate, or unnecessary." UMF 54. Likewise, "Roos acted professionally towards Michael, " UMF 46, and "did not say anything to [him] that [he] thought was inappropriate for the circumstances." UMF 47.

Quincy "did not have any direct interaction with [Michael]." UMF 65. Quincy allegedly "made a derogatory statement about [Michael's] naked body." UMF 65.

Harrison "performed the initial intake interview of [Stephen]." UMF 66. Stephen "acknowledged that [Harrison] did nothing improper during the interview." UMF 66.

Harrison's only involvement with Michael pertained to instructions concerning the safety gown. See UMF 35-36. Defendants claim that Harrison explained to Michael that the jail's standard policy required him to put on the safety gown; Plaintiffs claim that Harrison "told [Michael] that if he didn't take his clothes off they would take them off for him." UMF 35.

D. Summary of Plaintiffs' Claims.

Plaintiffs bring five causes of action against Defendants. All of Plaintiffs' claims against Vasquez are premised on his conduct during Plaintiffs' arrest and transportation to the jail, whereas all of Plaintiffs' claims against the jail Defendants are premised on their conduct during Plaintiffs' detention at the jail.

Plaintiffs' first cause of action for violation of their constitutional rights is against all Defendants and is brought under § 1983. FAC at 8-11. Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim has four primary components. First, Plaintiffs assert Vasquez unlawfully arrested them in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. at ¶¶ 16, 32. Second, Plaintiffs assert that in detaining them and transporting them to the jail, Vasquez used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. at ¶ 28. Third, Michael asserts that Vasquez acted with deliberate indifference by refusing to accommodate Michael's medical needs in violation of the Fourteen Amendment. Id. at ¶ 29. Fourth, Michael asserts that the jail Defendants' conduct at the jail, particularly their strip search of him, violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. at ¶ 31.

Plaintiffs' second cause of action, brought under California Civil Code § 52.1 and against Marcus, Harrison, Roberts, and Silva only, alleges those Defendants violated Plaintiffs' rights under federal and California law. Id. at 11. Plaintiffs' third cause of action for battery is alleged against Vasquez only. Id. at 12. Plaintiffs' fourth cause of action for IIED is alleged against all Defendants, id. at 13, whereas ...

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