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Mendoza v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 31, 2017

ALI ALEJANDRO MENDOZA, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; CITY OF NATIONAL CITY; THOMAS MALANDRIS; BENJAMIN PECK; and MICHAEL NUTTALL, Defendant.

          ORDER (1) GRANTING DEFENDANT USA'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. NOS. 43, 62]; AND (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT NATIONAL CITY'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. NOS. 48, 65]

          John A. Houston United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the Court are four motions for summary adjudication filed by the Defendants. See Doc. Nos. 43, 48, 62, 65. Upon review of each motion, the Court notes that arguments made in Defendant USA's (“USA”) and Defendant City of National City's (“National City”) earlier filed motions, [doc. nos. 43, 48], are both responsive to Plaintiff Ali Alejandro Mendoza's (“Plaintiff” or “Mendoza”) First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), are duplicated and made part of their, respective, later filed motions, responsive to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). See Doc. Nos. 43, 48; cf Doc. Nos. 62, 65. Accordingly, this order consolidates duplicative arguments and notes where the Court's findings apply to more than one motion. The record indicates that Plaintiff, USA, and National City, fully briefed the later filed motions, [doc. nos. 62, 65]. See Doc. Nos. 74, 76, 78, 79. After careful consideration of the record, including the pleadings and exhibits submitted by the parties, after entertaining oral argument from counsel, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendant USA's motions, [doc. nos. 43, 62], are GRANTED in their entirety; and Defendant National City's motions, [doc. nos. 48, 65], are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, as set forth herein.

         BACKGROUND

         1. Factual Background

         On July 12, 2014, Officer Thomas Malandris (“Malandris”) was traveling on a residential street, driving approximately 20-25 miles per hour. Malandris Depo., at 93:7-14. At about 9:00 p.m., Plaintiff Ali Alejandro Mendoza (“Plaintiff” or “Mendoza”), a 19-year-old male, and his friend Alberto Morales attempted to cross the two lane intersection within a marked crosswalk. Plaintiff saw Malandris' car approaching from about a block away, but believed they would be able to cross the intersection before the car reached them. Mendoza Depo., at 83:9-19, 88:13-23. As they crossed the street, Plaintiff looked over and saw that the vehicle was going to collide with them. Id.at 90:11-22. Plaintiff pushed his friend out of the way, was struck by the vehicle, and rolled into the windshield. Id. Plaintiff testified that he began to get up after the collision, raising himself up to his hands and knees. Mendoza Depo. at 111:21-25; 112:8-10 (“After I landed . . . I try to maneuver my hands to try to lift myself up from how I was laying. And I pretty much lift myself just pretty much to where I'm on my hands and knees . . . I tried to - I attempted to get up, but I can't. My body was incredibly weak, so I just stay on my hands and knees”); see also Morales Depo. at 54:14-23 (testifying that Plaintiff was “trying to find a way to get up.”).

         Malandris moved Plaintiff to a safe position on the curb and then Malandris moved his vehicle out of the middle of the street. Malandris Depo. at 168:3-169:4.

         Shortly thereafter, Sergeant Leach with the National City Police arrived at the scene, called for an ambulance and initiated a traffic collision investigation. Id. at 181:4-12. National City Police Officer Michael Nuttall was placed in charge of the collision investigation and he completed a traffic collision report. Nuttall Decl., at ¶ 4. National City Police Officer Benjamin Peck completed the portion of the traffic collision report relating to Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 6.

         Officer Peck went to the hospital after the collision to interview Plaintiff. Hospital staff alerted Peck to a marijuana pipe that was found in Plaintiff's possession. In responding to a question from Peck, Plaintiff admitted to smoking marijuana earlier that day. Peck Depo., at 63:4-14; 66:16-19.) Peck claims that he obtained knowing and voluntary consent from Plaintiff for a blood draw, but the blood was never tested for marijuana. Id. at 12:11-18; 13:3-7; 13:20-14:12; 48:9-15; 52:2-3. However, a separate urine test performed by the hospital returned a positive result for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Ex. G, USA 408; USA 503.) Plaintiff also admitted during his deposition to inhaling five puffs from a water pipe (bong) earlier that day. Mendoza Depo., at 50:19-51:20.

         Plaintiff suffered a single fracture of his right tibia. He underwent surgery to place a rod (nail) and screws in his leg. He later underwent a second surgery to remove the screws. Plaintiff reported relatively low pain throughout his treatment and was released from care approximately one year after the collision, on July 17, 2015, with no restrictions on his activities.

         2.Procedural History

         Plaintiff's complaint was originally filed in state court. On June 5, 2015, the case was removed to this Court. See Case No. 15cv1260-JAH (BGS). On July 7, 2015, the parties jointly moved to dismiss the entire action without prejudice. The motion was granted on July 9, 2015.

         On July 10, 2015, Plaintiff filed a new suit for damages, [1] asserting a claim for Negligence against Defendants USA and National City only. See Doc. No. 1. Proof of service as to both Defendants was filed on July 23, 2015. See Doc. Nos. 3, 4. Defendant National City answered the Complaint on July 31, 2015, and Defendant USA answered on September 8, 2015. See Doc. Nos. 7, 11.

         On February 24, 2016, Plaintiff moved this Court for leave to file a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). See Doc. No. 22. The motion was granted on April 19, 2016, and Plaintiff timely filed his FAC on April 29, 2016. See Doc. Nos. 37, 38. The FAC joined Defendants Malandris, Peck, and Nuttal, and asserted seven causes of action: (1) Negligence; (2) violations of Cal. Civ. Code §§ 51, 52, 52.1, the Bane Act; (3) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(2)-(3); (5) violations of § 42 U.S.C. § 1986; (6) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED); and (7) violations of federal civil rights, under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). See Doc. No. 38.

         On May 9, 2016, the USA filed a notice, substituting the USA in place of Malandris, with respect to common law tort claims alleged against Malandris, arising from Malandris' acts or omissions occurring on or after July 12, 2014. See Doc. No. 41 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), 2671-2680, the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), as amended by the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988 § 5, Pub. L. No. 100-694. 102 Stat. 4563 (1988)). On the same day, May 9, 2016, the USA also filed a motion for partial summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings, as to the FAC. See Doc. Nos. 43. Similarly, on May 13, 2016, Defendant National City filed its motion for summary judgment and partial summary judgment, as to the FAC. See Doc. Nos. 48. Neither motion was fully briefed.

         On May 31, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), asserting seven causes of action against Defendants USA, National City, Malandris, Peck, and Nuttal, for (1) Negligence; (2) violations of Cal. Civ. Code §§ 51, 52, 52.1, the Bane Act; (3) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(2)-(3); (5) violations of § 42 U.S.C. § 1986; (6) IIED; and (7) violations of federal civil rights, under Bivens. See Doc. No. 53.

         On June 13, 2016, the USA filed a motion for partial summary judgment, judgment on the pleadings, or, in the alternative, for summary adjudication. See Doc. No. 62. On June 13, 2016, Defendants National City, Peck, and Nuttall (the “National City Defendants”) joined in the motion. See Doc. No. 64. On December 15, 2016, Malandris also joined. See Doc. No. 110. Thus, all Defendants seek a partial summary judgment or summary judgment order, contending that (1) there was no joint agency or dual employment of Malandris; (2) National City cannot be liable through respondeat superior for Malandris' actions; and (3) Mendoza cannot show outrageous conduct or causation, requisite elements for his IIED claim. See Doc. No. 62 at 2. On July 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. See Doc. No. 76. The USA replied on July 22, 2016. See Doc. No. 78.

         Also on June 13, 2016 the National City Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment or partial summary judgment, as to the SAC. See Doc. No. 65. On December 15, 2016, USA and Malandris joined in the motion. See Doc. Nos. 108, 111. Thus, all Defendants seek a summary judgment or partial summary judgment order, contending that (1) there was no joint agency or dual employment of Malandris; (2) Nuttall and Peck cannot be liable for negligently and recklessly failing to properly investigate and document the subject collision; (3) there were no constitutional violations to support Mendoza's third, fourth, or fifth causes of action; (4) there is no constitutional right to a correct traffic collision report; (5) Peck did not violate any of Mendoza's constitutional rights when he interviewed Mendoza in the hospital, photographed his clothing and marijuana pipe, or obtained consent for a blood draw; and (6) no force or coercion was used against Mendoza during Peck's hospital interview. See Doc. No. 65-16. On July 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. See Doc. No. 74. The National City Defendants replied on July 25, 2016. See Doc. No. 79.

         On December 20, 2016, the Court entertained oral argument from counsel. See Doc. No. 113. The motions were taken under submission at the hearing. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure where the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). 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.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         A party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party may satisfy this burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 322-23. Where the party moving for summary judgment does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it may show that no genuine issue of material fact exists by demonstrating that “there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Id. at 325. The moving party is not required to produce evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, nor is it required to offer evidence negating the moving party's claim. Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 885 (1990); United Steelworkers v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 865 F.2d 1539, 1542 (9th Cir. 1989). “Rather, the motion may, and should, be granted so long as whatever is before the District Court demonstrates that the standard for the entry of judgment, as set forth in Rule 56(c), is satisfied.” Lujan, 497 U.S. at 885 (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). “Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         “The district court may limit its review to the documents submitted for purpose of summary judgment and those parts of the record specifically referenced therein.” Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2001). Therefore, the court is not obligated “to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact.” Keenan v. Allen, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Richards v. Combined Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1995)). If the moving party fails to discharge this initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

         If the moving party meets the initial burden, the nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment merely by demonstrating “that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252 (“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position is not sufficient.”). Rather, the nonmoving party 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 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (internal quotations omitted).

         When making this determination, the court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. “Credibility determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge, [when] he [or she] is ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         The Ninth Circuit has previously acknowledged that declarations are often self-serving, and this is properly so because the party submitting it would use the declaration to support his or her position. S.E.C. v. Phan, 500 F.3d 895, 909 (9th Cir. 2007) (holding that the district court erred in disregarding declarations as “uncorroborated and self-serving”). Although the source of the evidence may have some bearing on its credibility and on the weight it may be given by a trier of fact, the district court may not disregard a piece of evidence at the summary judgment stage solely based on its self-serving nature. See id. However, a self-serving declaration that states only conclusions and uncorroborated facts would not generally be admissible evidence. See id.; see also Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1059 n. 5, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (holding that the district court properly disregarded the declaration that included facts beyond the declarant's personal knowledge and did not indicate how she knew the facts to be true); F.T.C. v. Publ'g Clearing House, Inc., 104 F.3d 1168, 1171 (9th Cir. 1997) (“A conclusory, self-serving affidavit, lacking detailed facts and any supporting evidence, is insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact.”).

         2. Judgment on the Pleadings

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the pleadings “[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial.” Judgment on the pleadings is proper when there is no unresolved issue of fact and no question remains that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Honey v. Distlrath, 195 F.3d 531, 532-33 (9th Cir. 1999).

         ANALYSIS

         1. Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Judgment on the Pleadings, or, in theAlternative, Summary Adjudication by Defendants USA, ...


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