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Mann v. County of San Diego

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 17, 2016

MARK MANN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF COURT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFFS' MONELL CLAIM REGARDING PARENTAL EXCLUSION FROM POLINSKY EXAMINATIONS [ECF NOS. 226, 227, 247]

          HON. GONZALO P. CURIEL United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' March 18, 2016 motion for clarification, or, in the alternative, trial brief regarding Plaintiffs' Monell claim arising out of the Polinsky Children's Center Examinations. ECF No. 227. On March 28, 2016, following the pretrial conference, the Court invited additional briefing in response to Plaintiffs' motion, specifically on the issues of (1) whether Defendants are judicially estopped from claiming that County of San Diego ("County") did not have a policy of excluding parents from Polinsky Children's Center ("Polinsky") examinations; and (2) whether Plaintiffs must prove deliberate indifference. Jury Trial Preparation and Scheduling Order ("Trial Preparation Order") 1-2, ECF No. 235. Having reviewed the additional briefing, see Pl. Brief, ECF No. 239; Def. Opp., ECF No. 240; Pl. Reply, ECF No. 241; Def. Request for Judicial Notice, ECF No. 242; Pl. Objection to Def. Request for Judicial Notice, ECF No. 243, and the applicable law, the Court now finds that (1) Defendants are judicially estopped from claiming that the County did not have a policy of excluding parents from Polinsky Children's Center examinations; and (2) Plaintiffs are not required to prove deliberate indifference. Accordingly, the Court now finds that Plaintiffs have satisfied all required steps of the Monell analysis, and therefore that, as a matter of law, the County violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights through its policy of excluding parents from Polinsky examinations.

         BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts in this case having been described in the Court's previous orders, the Court will not reiterate them in depth here. See 1st Summ. J. Order 2-12, ECF No. 102. In short, this is an action brought by Plaintiffs Mark and Melissa Mann and their four minor children N.E.H.M., M.C.G.M., N.G.P.M., and M.N.A.M ("Plaintiffs") challenging actions taken by the County, the County's Health and Human Services Agency ("HHSA"), and the County's Polinsky Children's Center, a temporary emergency shelter for children who are separated from their families (collectively "Defendants"), during the course of a child abuse investigation that led to the removal of the minor children from the family's home. Id.

         Plaintiffs initially filed a complaint against the County, HHSA, Andrea E. Hernandez (née Cisneros), Lisa J. Quadros, Gilbert Fierro, Kelly Monge, Susan Solis, and six other now dismissed defendants. Compl.; see also Orders Dismissing Defs., ECF Nos. 93, 142. Plaintiffs asserted eight causes of action for: (1) assault; (2) battery; (3) false imprisonment; (4) violation of federal civil rights guaranteed by the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (5) Monell claims related to the County's policies; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"); (7) violation of state civil rights under Cal. Civ. Code § 43; and (8) violation of state civil rights under Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1. Compl. 30-33. Every cause of action was pled against all the Defendants, with the exceptions of the fourth cause of action for the § 1983 claims, which was pled solely against the individual defendants, and the fifth cause of action for the Monell claims, which was pled solely against the County, HHSA, and Polinsky. Id.

         Following parties' initial cross-motionsfor partial summary judgment, the Court found that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity with respect to Plaintiffs' fourth cause of action for the § 1983 claims to the extent that such claims were based on Defendants': (1) interview with N.G.P.M. at school; (2) examination of the children at Polinsky; and (3) listing of Mr. Mann on California's Child Abuse Central Index ("CACI"), but not with respect to their actions in obtaining and executing the protective custody warrant. 1st Summ. J. Order 16-29. Defendants were granted summary judgment on Plaintiffs' Monell cause of action with regards to the charge of inadequate training. Id. at 30-31; Scheduling Order 8, ECF No. 190.

         Subsequently, the Court found good cause to direct additional briefing in order to determine whether the following issues can be decided on summary judgment: (1) Plaintiffs' Monell cause of action based on the Polinsky exams; (2) Defendants' qualified immunity defense to Plaintiffs' § 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim; (3) all claims against Defendants Fierro, Monge, and Solis; and (4) Plaintiffs' state law causes of action of assault, battery, false imprisonment, IIED, and violations of Cal. Civ. Code § 43 and § 52.1. Scheduling Order 9-10.

         On November 23, 2015, the Court issued a second summary judgment order. See 2nd Summ. J. Order, ECF No. 211. Therein, the Court found that for Plaintiffs' Monell claims based on the County's alleged policies of (1) allowing medical examinations to be performed at Polinsky in the absence of exigency, valid parental consent, or court order specific to the child being examined; and (2) preventing parents or guardians from being present during medical procedures, including examinations performed at Polinsky, only the latter policy constituted a deprivation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Id. at 11. The Court then found that Plaintiffs had also established that the latter policy was the moving force behind the violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights, but had not conclusively established that the County in fact had such a policy, nor that the policy amounted to a deliberate indifference to a constitutional right. Id. at 22-24.

         In the second summary judgment order, the Court also granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment: (1) based on qualified immunity with respect to Plaintiffs' § 1983 First Amendment retaliation claim; (2) on all claims against Defendants Fierro, Monge and Solis; and (3) on Plaintiffs' state law tort claims against Defendants Hernandez and Quadros to the extent that they relied on the Polinsky medical examinations, and dismissed Defendants Fierro, Monge, and Solis. Id. at 36. Finally, the Court denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' § 52.1 claims as to Defendants Hernandez and Quadros. Id.

         On March 18, 2016, Plaintiffs moved to clarify the Court's summary judgment ruling on the Monell issue, arguing that at the hearing on the motion for summary judgment held on October 16, 2015, County Counsel openly acknowledged that it was the County's policy to exclude parents from examinations conducted at Polinsky, and that deliberate indifference was not a required prong of the Monell inquiry in the instant case. ECF No. 227 at 3-4. On March 25, 2016, the Court conducted a pretrial conference. ECF No. 234. Following the pretrial conference, the Court directed the parties to provide additional briefing on the Monell issues of (1) whether Defendants are judicially estopped from claiming that County did not have a policy of excluding parents from Polinsky examinations; and (2) whether Plaintiffs must prove deliberate indifference. Trial Preparation Order 1-2.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 empowers the Court to enter summary judgment on factually unsupported claims or defenses, and thereby "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 327 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A fact is material when it affects the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party can satisfy this burden by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element of his or her claim on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322-23. If the moving party fails to bear the initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

         Once the moving party has satisfied this burden, the nonmoving party cannot rest on the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but must "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. If the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing of an element of its case, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 325. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In making this determination, the court must "view[ ] the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Fontana v. Haskin, 262 F.3d 871, 876 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court does not engage in credibility determinations, weighing of evidence, or drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts; these functions are for the trier of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         II. Reconsideration

         District courts retain inherent authority to revise interim or interlocutory orders any time before entry of judgment. Abada v. Charles Schwab & Co., 127 F.Supp.2d 1101, 1102 (S.D. Cal. 2000) (citing Amarel v. Connell, 102 F.3d 1494, 1515 (9th Cir. 1996) ("[T]he interlocutory orders and rulings made pre-trial by a district judge are subject to modification by the district judge at any time prior to final judgment."); Balla v. Idaho State Bd. of Corrections, 869 F.2d 461, 465 (9th Cir. 1989); Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) (noting that unless final judgment has been entered, "any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities")). A district court may reconsider and reverse a previous interlocutory decision for any reason it deems sufficient, even in the absence of new evidence or an intervening change in or clarification of controlling law. Id. (citing Sport Squeeze, Inc. v. Pro-Innovative Concepts, Inc., 51 U.S.P.Q.2d 1764, 1771, 1999 WL 696009 (S.D. Cal. 1999); Wa ...


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