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Baldwin v. Colley

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 11, 2017

MALAD BALDWIN, et al., Plaintiffs,
JAMES COLLEY, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs Malad Baldwin and Kathryn Wade brought the instant lawsuit against Defendants James Colley and Casey Brogdon, alleging: (1) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim based on "violation of constitutional rights under color of state law, "[1] (2) assault, (3) battery, and (4) negligent infliction of emotional distress ("NIED") as to Plaintiff Wade. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Defendants now move for summary judgment on Plaintiff Wade's NIED claim. (Defs.' Mot., Dkt. No. 47.) Upon consideration of the parties' filings, as well as the arguments presented at the April 6, 2017 motion hearing, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the NIED claim against Defendant Colley is DENIED. The Court will issue a separate order as to the NIED claim against Defendant Brogdon.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On April 28, 2014, Plaintiff Baldwin was allegedly asleep in the passenger seat of a car when he was awakened by Defendants Colley and Brogdon. (See Compl. ¶¶ 11, 13.)[2] Plaintiff Baldwin alleges that he was slammed against the vehicle, handcuffed, and then slammed onto the pavement by Defendant Colley. (Compl. ¶ 14.)

         During this time, Plaintiff Wade -- Plaintiff Baldwin's mother -- was inside the house. She heard a "boom" and went outside to find Defendants on top of Plaintiff Baldwin, who was unconscious. (Blechman Decl., Exh. B, "Wade Dep., " at 97:3-9, 15-16.) One Defendant[3] was on Plaintiff Baldwin's neck, bending his hands back, while the other Defendant was on Plaintiff Baldwin's legs, leaning his legs up on his back. (Wade Dep. at 97:16-20.) Plaintiff Wade did not see Defendants handcuff Plaintiff Baldwin, or the events that resulted in Plaintiff Baldwin being on the ground. (Wade Dep. at 98:24-99:13.) Plaintiff Wade saw blood coming from Plaintiff Baldwin's nose and mouth, and he appeared to be knocked out. (Wade Dep. at 101:1-7.) Plaintiff Wade and her son Lawrence called for Plaintiff Baldwin to wake up; Plaintiff Baldwin then started moving and saying, "My hands. My hands hurt." (Wade Dep. at 101:11-20.) When Plaintiff Baldwin started moving his hand, Defendant Colley got off of Plaintiff Baldwin, flung Plaintiff Baldwin's legs open, and pulled out his flashlight. (Wade Dep. at 103:16-20.) Defendant Colley then began beating Plaintiff Baldwin between his buttocks with the flashlight, striking him five times. (Wade Dep. at 103:20-23, 104:24-25.) Defendant Brogdon did not strike Plaintiff Baldwin; instead, Defendant Brogdon remained on Plaintiff Baldwin's neck, pulling his hands back. (Wade Dep. at 108:9-13.) Plaintiff Wade saw Plaintiff Baldwin scream and choke, and blood flew from his face before he went unconscious again. (Wade Dep. at 103:24-104:1, 106:8-9, 106:22-107:8.) Plaintiff Wade feared Plaintiff Baldwin was dead. (Wade Dep. at 107:9-12.) When Plaintiff Wade asked Defendants why they were doing that to her son, and asked them to call an ambulance, she was repeatedly told to "Shut the fuck up." (Wade Dep. at 107:24-108:4.)

         Upon seeing Plaintiff Baldwin gag and go down, Plaintiff Wade fell to the ground and "lost it." (Wade Dep. at 117:20-24.) Plaintiff Wade believes she fainted, and states that she "just felt lifeless." (Wade Dep. at 118:2-5.) Plaintiff Wade also felt "dizzy, " "had a nauseated, nasty taste in [her] mouth, thinking that [she] was going to have to bury [her] child." (Wade Dep. at 182:1-2.) Plaintiff asserts that she was most affected when she saw the blood and when Defendant Colley "got off of [Plaintiff Baldwin] and just beat him between his butt." (Wade Dep. at 199:14-18.) Following the incident, Plaintiff Wade states that she had nightmares that have "impacted [her] way of thinking, [her] sleep, because it's like [she is] living it again . . . ." (Wade Dep. at 182:7-12.) Plaintiff further states that she was told she has post-traumatic stress and anxiety, and that she has mood swings and does not like to be around people as a result of what happened to Plaintiff Baldwin. (Wade Dep. at 190:15-22.)

         Plaintiff Baldwin's medical records from his hospital visit that same day do not indicate any trauma to his buttocks or genital area. (Blechman Decl., Exh. F at 165.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On June 19, 2015, Plaintiffs brought the instant suit against the Antioch Police Department and the City of Antioch, [4] as well as Defendants Colley and Brogdon. Defendants then brought a motion to dismiss, including dismissal of the NIED claim. (Mot. to Dismiss Ord. at 3, Dkt. No. 24.) The Court denied the motion to dismiss the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, finding that California Government Code § 821.6 did not insulate the individual officers from liability. (Id. at 8.) Further, the Court found that to the extent Defendants challenged Plaintiff Wade's allegation of severe emotional distress, there were sufficient allegations in the complaint to "at least support an inference that the helplessness she felt as she watched her son being beaten by officers and the resulting shock she suffered from witnessing that event was sufficiently serious to support a claim for NIED." (Id. at 10.)

         Defendants now move for summary judgment on Plaintiff Wade's NIED claim. On February 28, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Plfs.' Opp'n, Dkt. No. 49.) On March 7, 2017, Defendants filed their reply. (Defs.' Reply, Dkt. No. 50.) The Court held a hearing on April 6, 2017; at the hearing, Plaintiff's counsel failed to appear, requiring the Clerk of the Court to contact counsel. Counsel then explained that he had wrongly believed the hearing was at a later time.[5] Plaintiff's counsel was required to participate in the hearing by court speaker phone -- not CourtCall, which is the proper method for appearing by phone.


         "A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is appropriate when, after adequate discovery, there is no genuine issue as to material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.; see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Material facts are those that might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings and discovery responses that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Where the moving party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find ...

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