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Notter v. City of Pleasant Hill

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 23, 2017

LISA NOTTER, Plaintiff,
CITY OF PLEASANT HILL, et al., Defendants.


          JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Lisa Notter brings this civil action alleging violation of her civil rights in connection with her arrest at her home following a noise complaint regarding the music at her daughter's wedding reception. The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment are now pending before the Court. (Dkt. Nos. 56 and 60.) Having considered the parties' briefs and having had the benefit of oral argument on June 22, 2017, the Court DENIES the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. Given the multiple factual disputes with respect to each of Plaintiff's claims, summary judgment is inappropriate.


         Plaintiff Lisa Notter planned to host her daughter's wedding reception at her home in Pleasant Hill, California on August 8, 2015. (Dkt. No. 65-2, Notter Decl. ¶ 2.) In advance of the reception, she contacted the Pleasant Hill Police Department to inquire whether there were any noise restrictions in place and whether there was anything she should do in advance. (Id.) The officer she spoke with advised her that there “there were none per se, but that the music should be turned down by midnight.” (Id. (emphasis in original).) The officer recommend that she distribute a flyer to her neighbors advising them of the wedding reception and that music would be played until 12 a.m. (Id.) Plaintiff was also advised to send a copy of the flyer to the Pleasant Hill Police Department. (Id.) Plaintiff created such a flyer and distributed it to her neighbors and provided a copy to the Pleasant Hill Police Department. (Id.; Dkt. No. 65-2 at 9.[1])

         On the night of the wedding, Pleasant Hill Police Department Watch Commander Sergeant Ronald Priebe made note of the flyer regarding the wedding reception at the start of shift briefing. (Dkt. No. 61-1 at 6 (Police Report); Dkt. No. 61-2, Wright Depo. at 59:15-23; Dkt. No. 65-1 at 44, Priebe Depo. at 69:22-70:20.) At 10:18 p.m. that night, the Pleasant Hill Police Department received a noise complaint regarding 503 Masefield Dr. (Dkt. No. 61-1 at 3 (Police Report).) Sergeant Priebe thereafter matched the noise complaint to the flyer from the briefing earlier that evening and although there was no phone number on the flyer, he looked up the phone number associated with the address and receiving no answer left a voicemail advising the home owners of the noise complaint. (Dkt. No. 61-4, Priebe Depo. at 88:15-89:19.)

         Officers Chelsea Wright and Sean Bias, who worked as beat partners, were thereafter dispatched to 503 Masefield Drive-Plaintiff's residence-at 11:15 p.m.[2] (Dkt. No. 61-1 (Police Report); Dkt. No. 61-2, Wright Depo. at 72:12-17; Dkt. No. 61-3, Bias Depo. at 100:13-19.) They arrived separately. (Dkt. No. 61-3, Bias Depo. at 99:19-100:12.) Officer Wright arrived first at 11:18 p.m. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 74:17-19.) Upon her arrival, she encountered three to five young adults standing outside the house who were acting as valets for the party. (Id. at 75:12-24; 77:22-24.) She asked if any of them were the homeowner and they all denied being the homeowner. (Id. at 76:3-16.) According to Officer Wright the music was so loud she felt like she was screaming or raising her voice very high just to hear herself talk.” (Id. at 78:14-20.) The front door was open. (Dkt. No. 65-2, Notter Decl. at ¶ 4; Dkt. No. 65-1 at 12, Wright Depo. at 126:9-11.) Officer Wright testified that she did not ask any of the valets whether she could enter the house, but one of the valets offered to help her find the homeowners and he escorted Officer Wright into the house. (Id. at 125:1-7; 132:6-16.)

         Several individuals, including one of the valets, Dante Deluca, dispute Officer Wright's version of events. Dante Deluca testified that the exchange with Officer Wright went as follows: “She was like, where's the owner of the house. And I was like, I think they're in the back. I'll go get them. And then I went into the backyard, and before I could even find her, I look on the dance floor and the cop's talking to Lisa Notter.” (Dkt. No. 65-1, Deluca Depo. at 8:17-23; Dkt. No. 65-1 at 64 (Dante Deluca Decl.).) Likewise, Lynn Deluca testified that when Officer Wright approached and asked where the homeowners were, Dante said “I can go get them for you” and started walking towards the front door. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 55, Lynne Deluca Depo. at 11:28-24.) Ed Deluca testified to the same effect: Dante “said, hold on, I'll go get them.” (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 61, Ed Deluca Depo. at 9:12.)

         The parties agree that when Officer Wright arrived in the backyard she approached Plaintiff who confirmed that she was the homeowner. Officer Wright then advised Plaintiff that there had been a noise complaint regarding the music and she needed to turn the music off. (Dkt. No. 61-2, Wright Depo. at 84:19-24.) The parties also agree that Plaintiff advised Officer Wright that she had contacted the police department in advance and they told her that she was allowed to have the music on until midnight. (Id. at 85:1-10.) Thereafter, however, the parties' version of events again diverges.

         1) Plaintiff's Version of Events Regarding the Arrest

         Officer Wright approached Plaintiff in the backyard with her hand on her gun and told Plaintiff in a loud and aggressive manner: “I'm shutting you down” and made a cut-off sign with her hand. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 109, Notter Depo. 114:7-116:11; Dkt. No. 65-2, Notter Decl. at ¶ 5.) Plaintiff responded that she had permission to have the music on from the police department, Officer Wright stated “no, you didn't, ” “you don't know shit about the rules”, and repeated that she was shutting the party down. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 109, Notter Depo. at 117:4-14; Dkt. No. 65-2, Notter Decl. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff's husband attempted to come over to talk to Officer Wright and she told him to “get back sir, I will speak to your wife.” (Dkt. No. 65-2, Notter Decl. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff was concerned because Officer Wright “was standing excessively close” to her. (Id.) Plaintiff is a petite, 63 year-old woman. (Id.) Plaintiff then turned away from Officer Wright to tell the DJ to turn the music off. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 109, Notter Depo. at 117:22-23.) There was a small plastic cup in Plaintiff's right hand which was half full of water and as she was turning she threw her hands in the air to say “whatever” and the contents of the cup of water flew into the air. (Id. at 119:6-13; Dkt. No. 65-2, Notter Decl. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff took one or two steps and the next thing she knew she had an officer on either side of her “pushing” her towards the side of the house. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 110, Notter Depo. at 120:15-24.) Once in the side yard, Officer Wright spoke to someone on the radio, and immediately thereafter, the officers ordered Plaintiff to put her arms behind her back. (Id. at 130:11-19.) Plaintiff called Officer Wright a “bitch” and as the officers handcuffed her she cried out “you are hurting me” to which Officer Wright responded “Oh, does this hurt?” and tightened the handcuffs over Plaintiffs' bracelets. (Id. at 130:22-131: 24.) Plaintiff cried out multiple times that the officers were hurting her, but the officers ignored her. (Id. at 133:18-22.) During this time, Plaintiff directed derogatory remarks such as “bitch, ” “jackass, ” and “cunt” at the officers. (Dkt. No. 65-2 at ¶ 10.)

         Plaintiff was then pushed out the gate of the side yard into the front yard with the officers lifting her along; during this process one of the officers hit her back left heel at which point Plaintiff said “you're hurting me” and her knees buckled. (Id. at 133:24-135:21.) Plaintiff was then taken over to the police vehicle and “pushed over the trunk of the car with [her] hands behind her back.” (Id. at 137:0-14.) Officer Wright then forcefully put Plaintiff in the police vehicle. (Id. at 139:9-10.) While being driven to the station, Plaintiff continued to call Officer Wright a bitch and told her that she single handedly ruined her daughter's wedding. (Id. at 142:19-143:12.) On a turn, Plaintiff fell over on her side and asked Officer Wright to help, but she did not respond. (Id. at 143:18-144:14.)

         Several other witnesses confirm Plaintiff's version of events. Plaintiff's husband testified that his wife and Officer Wright were arguing and when Plaintiff turned around to tell the DJ to turn off the music, some water flew out of a cup that she was holding. (Dkt. No. 65-1, Craig Notter Depo. at 42:15-24.) Although he did not see the water land on Officer Wright, she immediately began yelling that she had been assaulted. (Id. at 43:20-21.) Officer Wright then got on her radio and was saying “this is assault, right?” (Id. at 45:22-24.) Both Officer Wright and Officer Bias then escorted Plaintiff off the dance floor and into the side yard; in doing so, “they roughly grabbed her arms and lifted her, and she tip toed where they wanted her to go.” (Id. at 46:17-23.) He later heard Plaintiff say “you're hurting me.” (Id. at 51:4.) He then saw Plaintiff taken from the side yard over to the police vehicle where she was pushed onto the trunk of the vehicle and he could hear the pain in her voice. (Id. at 52:6-24.) The officers then put her in the back seat and drove off. (Id. at 54:2.)

         Wedding guest Nancy Hill attests that both Officer Bias and Officer Wright were present from the beginning of the altercation, and Officer Wright got in Plaintiff's face while scolding her about the noise. (Dkt. No. 65-3, Hill Decl. at ¶ 2.) According to Ms. Hill, Plaintiff turned around, said “[b]ut this is my house!” and walked away from the officer while tossing cup of water in the air. (Id.) At the same time, Officer Wright stepped forward and the water landed on her. (Id.) The “lady officer then looked at the other officer and said ‘that's assault' and they quickly proceeded and went after Mrs. Notter as she was walking around the house.” (Id.) Ms. Hill could not see the officers or Plaintiff, but heard Plaintiff say “[s]top! You're hurting me!! I didn't do anything wrong! This is my daughter's wedding reception! Leave me alone!” (Id.)

         Another guest, Jonathan Antes, submitted a declaration attesting that Plaintiff “thr[e]w up her hands in disgust, and tossing her small cup of water with it.” (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 86 (Antes Decl.).) He further attests that the officers chased after Plaintiff and a few minutes later he walked over saw Plaintiff handcuffed and she kept repeating “you're hurting me, you're hurting me.” (Id.) Likewise, Dante Deluca, the valet, testified that Plaintiff was screaming as the officers tightened her cuffs and after Plaintiff asked if the officers could move the handcuffs off her bracelets, but they instead tightened them more. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 50, Dante Deluca Depo. at 9:16-25.)

         2) Defendant's Version of Facts Regarding the Arrest

         For her part, Officer Wright insists that Plaintiff was belligerent, argumentative, and appeared intoxicated from the beginning of the encounter. (Dkt. No. 61-2, Wright Depo. at 85:11- 19.) Officer Wright testified that Plaintiff uttered several profanities, called Officer Wright a “bitch” and stated that she was ruining her daughter's wedding. (Id. at 86:7-14.) Shortly after Officer Wright's arrival, the DJ turned the music down and Plaintiff asked if it was good enough to which Officer Wright responded, “no, it has to be all the way off.” (Id. at 86:15-18.) Plaintiff then turned away from Officer Wright and “with the cup that she had in her hand, threw it over her shoulder in my direction, which caused the contents of that cup to land on my shoulder.” (Id. at 87:22-88:2.) Officer Wright turned to look for backup because she was concerned the situation was escalating and saw Officer Bias walking towards her on the dance floor. (Id. at 88:8-11.) Officer Wright told Officer Bias that Plaintiff had just thrown water at her and the officers escorted Plaintiff to the side yard. (Id. at 88:12-89:3.) While this was happening, Plaintiff was yelling at the officers calling Officer Wright a “bitch” and Officer Bias a “jackass, ” and stating that both were ruining her daughter's wedding. (Id. at 89:5-9.) Officer Wright called Sergeant Priebe, the watch commander, over her radio to inform him what happened and he confirmed that she should make an arrest. (Id. at 90:2-8.) Officer Wright then attempted to handcuff Plaintiff, but she was pulling away and screaming “I'm the mother of the bride you bitch.” (Id. at 90:18-24.) Officer Wright received an abrasion on her hand trying to handcuff Plaintiff, but eventually she got the handcuffs on. (Id. at 90:25-91:4.) Officer Wright recalls Plaintiff saying something about her bracelets as she did so, so she adjusted the handcuffs. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 21, Wright Depo. at 205:16-19.) However, Officer Wright does not recall Plaintiff complaining that the handcuffs were hurting her. (Id. at 207:15-208:15.) As the officers moved Plaintiff from the side yard into the front yard, she dropped her weight on the officers and dug her nails into Officer Wright's hands. (Dkt. No 61-2, Wright Depo. at 91:16-22.) Plaintiff was then placed in the police vehicle. (Id. at 92:2-3.) Officer Wright drove Plaintiff to the Pleasant Hill Police Station.

         Officer Bias generally corroborates Officer Wright's version of events. According to the logs, he arrived at Plaintiff's home a minute after Officer Wright. (Dkt. No. 61-3, Bias Depo. at 105:23.) He testified that within ten seconds of his arrival in the backyard Officer Wright had advised him of the assault and the officers laid hands on Plaintiff to move her off the dance floor. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 36, Bias Depo at 21:25.) Plaintiff was cursing as she was being escorted to the side yard. (Id. at 125:4-6.) Officer Wright then informed Officer Bias that Plaintiff was being arrested for violation of Penal Code 243(B). (Id. at 158:16-18.) Each officer then grabbed one of Plaintiff's wrists, pulled her hands behind her back and handcuffed her. (Id. at 159:2-5.) Officer Bias does not recall Plaintiff complaining that the handcuffs were hurting her. (Id. at 160:5-21.) The officers then escorted Plaintiff into the front yard and as they did so Plaintiff dropped her weight so that the officers had to carry her to the vehicle. (Dkt. No. 61-3, Bias Depo. at 129:2-7.)

         Sergeant Priebe arrived at Plaintiff's residence after she had been loaded into the squad car. (Dkt. No. 61-4, Priebe Depo. 95:3-9.) Sergeant Priebe spoke briefly to Plaintiff's husband and son-in-law, but they said they had not seen what happened prior to the arrest. (Id. at 98:22-25.)

         3) Facts Following the Arrest

         Both parties' versions of what transpired at the Pleasant Hill Police Station are largely the same and are supported by the transcription of audio from the station. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 90-106.) At the police station, Plaintiff was led to a bench and immediately asked to use the restroom. (Dkt. No. 61-2, Wright Depo. at 221:3-6; Dkt. No. 65-1 at 91 (audio transcription.) The officer did not respond to her request to use the restroom and instead took down some information and searched Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 65-1 at 92.) Sergeant Priebe then arrived and spoke with Plaintiff. He explained about the noise complaint and Plaintiff said “you've managed to ruin my daughter's wedding” to which Sergeant Priebe stated “Okay, I see it a different way.” (Id. at 94.) Plaintiff went on to describe Officer Wright as a “belligerent human” and stated “I tossed water over my shoulder, princess got in the way. Her left shoulder got a little water on it.” (Id.) Sergeant Priebe responded that it was an assault and Plaintiff said “I was not aiming at her.” (Id.) Officer Wright then read Plaintiff her rights and Plaintiff asked to speak to an attorney. (Id. at 96.) Sergeant Priebe then began processing Plaintiff and said “now the point from now forward was whether you're going to be cooperative, which you have been so far, okay, and reasonable. Okay [So you] get to decide whether you go to county jail or go home.” (Id. at 98 (additional text in original).) Plaintiff responded that she would like to go home. (Id.) Sergeant Priebe stated “I bet you would. But I'm not going to have you stare her down and talk a bunch of crap, okay? You can have your opinion, you're totally entitled to that, okay? But we're not going to be petty and we're not going to continue to act like we're intoxicated and can't care for ourselves. Because if that is the case, then I have to send you to jail until you're sober. Do you understand that?” (Id.) Plaintiff responded “absolutely” and asked to go to the bathroom again. (Id.) She was told “in just a little bit.” (I ...

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