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Montez v. City of Stockton

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 16, 2017

ISABEL BEL MONTEZ, individually and as guardian ad litem for I.G. and J.G., minors, individually and as successors in interest to Decedent JOSEPH GARCIA, JR.; and JOSEPH GARCIA, SR., Plaintiffs,
CITY OF STOCKTON; BLAIR ULRING in his official capacity as CHIEF OF POLICE FOR THE CITY OF STOCKTON; MARK MARQUEZ, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer for the CITY OF STOCKTON; TIMOTHY MCDERMOTT, individually and in his official capacity as a police officer for the CITY OF STOCKTON, DOES 3-100, inclusive, Defendants.



         In this case, Plaintiffs allege that Stockton police officers used excessive force when detaining Joseph Garcia, Jr., in an encounter that ultimately led to Garcia's death. Defendants now move for summary judgment, contending that the undisputed evidence shows that the force the officers used was reasonable. ECF No. 67. Because Plaintiffs fail to show a genuine issue of material fact that would challenge Defendants' version of events, that motion is GRANTED.[1]


         On the evening of October 3, 2009, Garcia was high on PCP and arrested for public intoxication in front of the homeless shelter where he resided. Stmt. of Undisputed Facts (“SUF”), ECF No. 67-2, ¶ 9. Defendant police officers Mark Marquez and Timothy McDermott arrested Garcia in response to a call from the shelter. Id. ¶ 3. They placed Garcia in a police car and drove him to the San Joaquin County Jail. Id. ¶ 10. While in the car, Garcia became agitated, kicking the front seat, yelling and screaming. Id. ¶¶ 10-13, 16. At one point, he lunged at the side of the car and struck his head on the metal bars installed to prevent the side windows from being broken. Id. ¶ 17. This caused a contusion on his forehead. Id. ¶ 18. At the jail booking lobby, the jail nurse directed the officers to take Garcia to the hospital for a pre-booking medical clearance. Id. ¶ 23.

         The officers, however, struggled to get Garcia back into the police car because Garcia actively resisted and tried to escape the officers' grasp. Id. ¶¶ 24, 26, 31. The officers attempted to place Garcia against the car, but Garcia tensed his body so that he would not bend at the waist. Id. ¶ 29. McDermott radioed for someone to bring a “Safe WRAP” device to subdue Garcia. Id. ¶ 33. While waiting for the restraint device, Garcia pushed against the officers, edging them away from the car. Id. ¶ 34. The officers determined that it was necessary to bring Garcia down to the ground to prevent his escape attempts, which they did “in a slow and controlled manner.” Id. ¶¶ 37, 39. They rolled Garcia onto his stomach, but he continued to struggle. Id. ¶¶ 41, 46. /// McDermott placed his right knee on Garcia's right shoulder blade and put Garcia in a rear wrist lock control hold. Id. ¶¶ 44-45. Garcia was kicking his legs, hitting both the concrete and the undercarriage of the police car. Id. ¶¶ 46-47. Marquez pulled Garcia's legs out from under the car, bending Garcia's feet toward his buttocks, but Garcia knocked Marquez to the ground. Id. ¶¶ 47-48. Marquez then kneeled next to Garcia and obtained control of his legs by holding them to his chest. Id. ¶ 49.

         Less than two minutes after the struggle began, Garcia suddenly stopped screaming and struggling, and his body went limp. Id. ¶ 51, 54. In response, the officers rolled Garcia onto his back. Id. ¶¶ 55-56. Garcia was not breathing so the officers performed CPR until they were relieved by emergency medical personnel. Id. ¶¶ 57, 61. Garcia was then taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Id. ¶¶ 61-62.


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.

         Rule 56 also allows a court to grant summary judgment on part of a claim or defense, known as partial summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (“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.”); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. Madan, 889 F.Supp. 374, 378-79 (C.D. Cal. 1995). The standard that applies to a motion for partial summary judgment is the same as that which applies to a motion for summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); State of Cal. ex rel. Cal. Dep't of Toxic Substances Control v. Campbell, 138 F.3d 772, 780 (9th Cir. 1998) (applying the summary judgment standard to motion for summary adjudication).

         In a summary judgment motion, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying the portions in the record “which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “However, if the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the moving party need not produce affirmative evidence of an absence of fact to satisfy its burden.” In re Brazier Forest Prods. Inc., 921 F.2d 221, 223 (9th Cir. 1990). If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968).

         In attempting to establish the existence or non-existence of a genuine factual dispute, the party must support its assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits[, ] or declarations . . . or other materials; or showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 251-52 (1986); Owens v. Local No. 169, Ass'n of W. Pulp & Paper Workers, 971 F.2d 347, 355 (9th Cir. 1987). The opposing party must also demonstrate that the dispute about a material fact “is ‘genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In other words, the judge needs to answer the preliminary question before the evidence is left to the jury of “not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251 (quoting Improvement Co. v. Munson, 81 U.S. 442, 448 (1871)). As the Supreme Court explained, “[w]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule [56(a)], its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Therefore, “[w]here 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.'” Id. at 587.

         In resolving a summary judgment motion, the evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898 (9th Cir. 1987).


         A. Fourth ...

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