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Jack v. Pearson

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 13, 2020

JAMES JACK, JR., Plaintiff


         This case stems from a violent confrontation between Plaintiff James Jack, Jr. (“Jack”) and a fellow detainee at the Stanislaus County Jail. Jack is pursuing claims against Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Pearson (“Pearson”) for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law negligence.[1] Currently before the Court is Pearson's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted as to Jack's § 1983 claims, and the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.

         RULE 56(a) FRAMEWORK

         Summary judgment is proper when it is demonstrated that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Fortyune v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc., 364 F.3d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 2004). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying the portions of the declarations (if any), pleadings, and discovery that demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); United States v. Kapp, 564 F.3d 1103, 1114 (9th Cir. 2009). A dispute is “genuine” as to a material fact if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Freecycle Sunnyvale v. Freecycle Network, 626 F.3d 509, 514 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the movant. Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. Where the non-moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant may prevail by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party's claim or by merely pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. See James River Ins. Co. v. Herbert Schenk, P.C., 523 F.3d 915, 923 (9th Cir. 2008); Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. If a moving party fails to carry its burden of production, then “the non-moving party has no obligation to produce anything, even if the non-moving party would have the ultimate burden of persuasion.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1105-06 (9th Cir. 2000). If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103. The opposing party cannot “‘rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading' but must instead produce evidence that ‘sets forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Estate of Tucker v. Interscope Records, 515 F.3d 1019, 1030 (9th Cir. 2008).

         The opposing party's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Narayan v. EGL, Inc., 616 F.3d 895, 899 (9th Cir. 2010). While a “justifiable inference” need not be the most likely or the most persuasive inference, a “justifiable inference” must still be rational or reasonable. See Narayan, 616 F.3d at 899. Summary judgment may not be granted “where divergent ultimate inferences may reasonably be drawn from the undisputed facts.” Fresno Motors, LLC v. Mercedes Benz USA, LLC, 771 F.3d 1119, 1125 (9th Cir. 2015); see also Holly D. v. Cal. Inst. of Tech., 339 F.3d 1158, 1175 (9th Cir. 2003). 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. See Fitzgerald v. El Dorado Cnty., 94 F.Supp.3d 1155, 1163 (E.D. Cal. 2015); Sanders v. City of Fresno, 551 F.Supp.2d 1149, 1163 (E.D. Cal. 2008). “A genuine issue of material fact does not spring into being simply because a litigant claims that one exists or promises to produce admissible evidence at trial.” Del Carmen Guadalupe v. Agosto, 299 F.3d 15, 23 (1st Cir. 2002); see Bryant v. Adventist Health System/West, 289 F.3d 1162, 1167 (9th Cir. 2002). The parties have the obligation to particularly identify material facts, and the court is not required to scour the record in search of a genuine disputed material fact. Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., 609 F.3d 1011, 1017 (9th Cir. 2010). Further, a “motion for summary judgment may not be defeated . . . by evidence that is ‘merely colorable' or ‘is not significantly probative.'” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Hardage v. CBS Broad. Inc., 427 F.3d 1177, 1183 (9th Cir. 2006). If the nonmoving party fails to produce evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103.


         On March 7, 2016, Ceres Police Officers Gallegos and Vera were dispatched to Jack's home on a call for a family disturbance. See PUMF's 1, 2, 3. Officer Vera arrested Jack based on an outstanding warrant. See JUMF 1; PUMF's 1, 2. As Jack was escorted to the patrol car, he was being “mouthy, ” yelling and cursing. See PUMF 3. Vera transported Jack to the Stanislaus County Downtown Men's Jail (“Jail”). See JUMF 1; PUMF 4. During transport, Jack was “very argumentative” and “really aggressive” to the point where Vera felt that Jack was probably under the influence of a some type of controlled substance. PUMF 5.

         Jack and Vera arrived at the jail at 1:14 a.m. See JUMF 1. Vera escorted Jack through booking at the jail. See PUMF 6. During his time with Vera, Jack was cursing and so argumentative that Vera expected Jack to become physically uncooperative. See id. Vera testified that, due to Jack's argumentativeness, Jack “was somebody that I would have expected to be under the influence or physically confrontational.” Id.; see also PUMF 7.

         At 1:30 a.m., Deputy Delgadillo conducted an intake screening interview with Jack for medical and classification purposes. See JUMF 3. Jack's screening interview was routine, and Jack was cooperative and answered all questions. See id. During the screening interview, Jack denied gang affiliations, having enemies, taking drugs (except for Xanax), and feeling like hurting himself. See JUMF 4. Deputy Delgadillo determined that Jack did not need medical attention. See id. After the screening interview, Classification Deputy Mauldin determined that Jack was new to jail custody, had no specific problems, and was fine with general population housing. JUMF 5. The intake screening and classification information provided no indication that Jack would be inappropriate for housing with other inmates. See JUMF 6. Therefore, Deputy Mauldin assigned Jack to the Inmate Worker Quarters (the “IWQ”), bunk No. 45. JUMF 5.

         The IWQ was a two-level dormitory type housing unit with 62 inmate bunks and was an area where general population inmates could move freely around the unit. JUMF 8. The IWQ had bunks on both levels. JUMF 9. An office for the IWQ housing deputy was located on the upper level within the IWQ. Id. The housing deputy assigned to the IWQ was responsible for counts and hourly security checks of both levels. Id. The Jail was an indirect supervision facility, meaning that jail staff would observe each housing area within the allotted times for inmate count and hourly security rounds, but otherwise guards may not be present in inmate housing areas at all times. See JUMF 7. As of March 2016, the IWQ had video surveillance on the lower level but no cameras on the upper level of the IWQ. Id. These lower level cameras were monitored inside the control room on the first floor of the jail. See id.

         Deputy Pearson was assigned to work as the IWQ housing deputy from 6:00 p.m. on March 6, 2016 to 6:00 a.m. on March 7, 2016. See JUMF 15. Pearson had been a Stanislaus County corrections deputy since August 2013 and had worked as the IWQ housing deputy approximately 25 times before. See JUMF 13; see also PUMF's 8, 9, 10. Consistent with his prior experience, Pearson was the only staff assigned to supervise the IWQ during his shift. See JUMF 17. At the beginning of his shift, there was 51 inmates housed in the IWQ, but at the end of the shift, there were 54 inmates. See id. As the deputy covering IWQ, Pearson was responsible for picking up from temporary holding cells the newly booked prisoners who were assigned to the IWQ by the classification officer.[3] See PUMF 11. This happened once per shift, and the IWQ housing deputy was not called each time a prisoner was assigned to the IWQ. See id.

         Around 3:00 a.m. on March 7, 2016, Pearson escorted Jack and eight other newly booked inmates into the IWQ. See DUMF 18; PUMF 11. During his initial interactions with Jack, Pearson noticed that Jack had “kind of a bad attitude” and rolled his eyes at Pearson when Pearson told Jack to do something. See DUMF 19; Pearson Depo. 35:11-21. Pearson's observations of Jack's body language led Pearson to believe that Jack was kind of arrogant and an “a-hole.” See PUMF 12; Pearson Depo. 66:18-67:5. However, Jack did not disobey any order by Pearson. See DUMF 19. Pearson declares that Jack did not appear to be combative in any way and conveyed no signs of aggressiveness or assaultive behavior towards Pearson or other inmates. See Pearson Dec. ¶ 11; DUMF 19. Upon arrival at the IWQ, Pearson informed the new inmates of their assigned bunks and location; Jack was assigned bunk No. 45 on the upper level. See DUMF 22. Pearson then conducted an hourly security round and then went into the IWQ office to log in the new arrivals and verify the IWQ inmate count. See id. It appears Jack's bunk was missing a mattress. See Frederick Depo. 16:24-17:5. Jack did not notify Pearson that he did not have a mattress, and Pearson was not otherwise notified that Jack did not have a mattress. See PUMF 22.

         Fellow IWQ prisoner Stephen Frederick testified that Jack arrived in the IWQ with a “really bad attitude” and was “talking a lot of shit.” See PUMF 13; Frederick Depo. 10:2-6. Jack was “talking shit” in general to everybody in part because he did not have a mattress on his bunk and the other inmates appeared to be forcing Jack to get in to the shower. See Frederick Depo. 10:7-14. Jack was “making a fuss” about not having a mattress. See id. at 16:24-17:5; PUMF 13.

         Shortly after Pearson went into the IWQ office and began writing down the new receives, he heard raised voices that sounded like a verbal argument outside his office door. See DUMF 23; PUMF 16. Pearson did not know if the voices were yelling, see PUMF 16; Pearson Dep. 41:13-19, but he heard nothing that sounded like a physical altercation. See DUMF 23. Pearson heard the raised voices through the closed office door. See PUMF 16. The office door was solid and had no glass or mesh windows and was located approximately 20 feet away from bunk No. 45. See PUMF 17; Pearson Dec. ¶ 12. Pearson immediately exited the IWQ office and saw Jack and another inmate (later identified as inmate Jordan Davis) standing no more than 20 feet away from the IWQ office. See DUMF 24. Pearson could not remember inmate Davis's name, he just recalled that Davis was “bigger” than Pearson and estimated that Davis outweighed Jack by 100 lbs.[4] See PUMF 18. When Pearson exited the IWQ office, Jack was already walking back toward his assigned bunk. See DUMF 24. However, Jack and Davis quieted down when they saw Pearson coming. See PUMF 19. Pearson spoke with inmate Davis, Jack, and other inmates standing in the area. See DUMF 24. The argument appeared to have been about a mattress on the wrong bunk. See id.; see also PUMF 22. Pearson asked inmate Davis if the issue was squashed, and Davis indicated that it was. See DUMF 24. Pearson asked the same of Jack, and Jack confirmed that the issue was done. See id. Pearson also asked several other inmates who were standing in the area if everything was good, if the issue was over, if everything was ok, and the other inmates confirmed that it was. See id. However, inmate Frederick indicated that prisoners will always tell officers that their dispute is resolved, even if it is not, because the prisoners want the officers to leave. See PUMF 23. Pearson did not obtain details about the argument between Jack and Davis. See PUMF 22. Neither Davis nor Jack looked angry and they did not exhibit any body language that would suggest that they would engage in a physical fight, such as balled fists or bladed stances. See DUMF 24. Pearson observed that there were mattresses on both Jack's and Davis's respective bunks. See id. Pearson had no information that Davis had ever acted aggressive or assaultive. See DUMF 28. The inmates dispersed, see id., but instead of going back to the IWQ office, Pearson left the area/the IWQ.[5] See PUMF 25; Frederick Depo. 25: 9-19. Pearson left the IWQ and went to the control room area of the jail to help the control deputy, as a matter of “past practice, ” but he could not recall anything specific that he did for the 30 to 40 minutes that he spent there.[6] See PUMF 27; see also DUMF 26. This left the second level of the IWQ unaccompanied and unmonitored. See PUMF 28.

         After Pearson left the IWQ, Jack and Davis instantly started fighting. See PUMF 25. Jack started the fight by swinging first at Davis. See JUMF 41. Davis then picked up Jack, slammed him to the ground/on the floor, and punched him in the head. See id.; PUMF 33. The whole argument and fight between Jack and Davis lasted a couple of minutes. PUMF 26. Jack remained on the floor “asleep” for about five minutes. See PUMF 34. Other inmates then took care of Jack and put him in his bunk after the physical altercation. JUMF 42. Jack laid on a mattress after the physical altercation. JUMF 43.

         Several hours after Pearson's shift ended, it was discovered that Jack needed medical assistance. See DUMF's 46 to 51.[7] After being transported to the hospital, it was discovered that Jack's skull was broken in several places and Jack's brain had been lacerated. See DUMF 52; PUMF 35. Physicians successfully performed surgery on Jack, including implanting a titanium plate. See PUMF 35. Jack's treatment at the hospital would not have been any different if he had arrived up to eight hours earlier. See DUMF 55. Jack has no memory of his arrest or the events of March 7, 2016 at the Jail, he only remembers waking up in a hospital with head pain. JUMF 2.


         I. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Fourteenth Amendment -- Failure To Protect

         Defendant's ...

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