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Valley Surgical Center LLC v. County of Los Angeles

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 29, 2019

VALLEY SURGICAL CENTER LLC., a California Limited Liability Company, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, a government entity, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKTS 483, 492]

          DEAN D. PREGERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently before the court are two motions for summary judgment, one filed by Defendant Selma Calmes and the other filed by Defendants Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, Adrian Marinovich, Raffi Djabourian, Denis C. Astarita, John Kades, and Ed Winter. Having considered the submissions of the parties and heard oral argument, the court grants the motions and adopts the following Order.

         I. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show “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). 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. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). All reasonable inferences from the evidence must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 242 (1986). If the moving party does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it is entitled to summary judgment if it can demonstrate that “there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party opposing the motion, who must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Summary judgment is warranted if a party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. A genuine issue exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, ” and material facts are those “that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. There is no genuine issue of fact “[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         It is not the court's task “to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact.” Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1278 (9th Cir. 1996). Counsel have an obligation to lay out their support clearly. Carmen v. San Francisco Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1031 (9th Cir. 2001). The court “need not examine the entire file for evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact, where the evidence is not set forth in the opposition papers with adequate references so that it could conveniently be found.” Id.

         II. Discussion

         A. Background

         This matter has been litigated extensively, and the parties are familiar with the factual background. As explained in detail in this Court's prior Orders, this case arises out of an investigation conducted by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office (the “Coroner's Office”) into the death of Paula Rojeski (“Rojeski”). Although many of the facts are in dispute, the parties agree that on September 8, 2011, Rojeski died after undergoing laparoscopic Lap-Band surgery at Plaintiff Valley Surgical Center LLC (“Valley”)'s facility. The Coroner's Office performed an autopsy on September 12, 2011, which revealed a perforation of Rojeski's aorta. Valley alleges that although Defendants had no reason to suspect homicide as the cause of Rojeski's death, Defendants nevertheless “created a false homicide investigation and leaked information regarding [the Coroner's Office's] false homicide investigation to the media . . ., ” thus violating Valley's constitutional rights. (Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”) ¶ 32.) Defendants now move for summary judgment.

         B. Factual Basis of Plaintiff's Constitutional Claims

         Defendants challenge the legal basis of Plaintiff's various constitutional claims, and also argue that summary judgment is warranted because Plaintiff has not put forth any facts to support its theories of constitutional harm. Before this Court can address the question whether Defendants' conduct violated a constitutional right, the court must first determine whether there is a triable issue of fact as to what that underlying conduct was. See, e.g., United States v. Sandoval-Lopez, 122 F.3d 797, 802 n.9 (9th Cir. 1997) (“We avoid constitutional questions when an alternative basis for disposing of the case presents itself.”).

         Plaintiff's arguments are predicated on the assertion, largely unsupported by citation to the record, that Defendants “created a false Autopsy Report claiming an extreme departure from the standard of care, which is the medico-legal term for homicide, and a false homicide investigation which was designed to and did ‘shut [Valley] down.'” (Opp. to Calmes MSJ at 4:26-28; Opp. to County MSJ at 4:21-23.) Plaintiff also makes frequent references to a “false homicide determination” throughout its oppositions to Defendants' motions.

         The evidentiary support for Plaintiff's assertions is unclear to the court. The court notes that neither of Plaintiff's memoranda in opposition to the instant motions includes a statement or recitation of the relevant facts. Instead, in an apparent attempt to circumvent the local rules of this district, Plaintiff refers to the “Declaration of the Statement of the Facts by Declarant Brian Oxman.” The Oxman declaration, prepared by a non-attorney “litigation coordinator, ” in turn recounts 23 pages of “facts” that, although purportedly within Oxman's personal knowledge, are, in many cases, characterizations of what “the record shows.” ...


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