Flores v. City of Bakersfield

Decision Date20 December 2019
Docket NumberCase No.: 1:17-cv-1393 - JLT
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
PartiesJESUS FLORES, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF BAKERSFIELD, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Jesus Flores asserts that his constitutional rights were violated by the City of Bakersfield and Officer Joseph Galland through Plaintiff's arrest, incarceration, and prosecution for child abuse crimes. In addition, Plaintiff asserts the defendants are liable for interference with his familial relationship with his son, and violations of California tort law for false arrest/imprisonment, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 17)

Defendants contend Plaintiff is unable to succeed on his claims and seek summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 32) Plaintiff filed his opposition to the motion on November 11, 2019 (Doc. 38), and a corrected memorandum on November 21, 2019. (Doc. 43) Defendants filed their brief in reply on November 27, 2019. (Doc. 44) For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

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I. Background and Undisputed Material Facts1

On May 21, 2015, at approximately 4:14 p.m., Bakersfield Police Officer Helmuth Achtmann was dispatched to 8709 Domingo Street, to assist with medical aid for a two-month-old boy, "M.F." (UMF 1) hen Achtmann arrived at the residence, "M.F. was en route to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital via Hall Ambulance." (UMF 2)

A. Investigation and Police Report by Galland

Detective Joseph Galland was advised of a possible child abuse incident and informed the baby was at Memorial Hospital approximately an hour after the initial dispatch. (UMF 3) Galland investigated the incident and "prepared a report detailing his investigation." (UMF 4) In the report, Galland indicated that upon arrival at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, he learned M.F. had been placed on a ventilator and was "in a medically induced coma to stabilize him." (DSF 1) Galland reported he spoke first with Dr. Burny, a pediatric specialist, and then Dr. Wade Naven, an emergency room physician who was also the attending physician at the time. (DSF 2) Dr. Naven was a mandatory reporter, and indicated that when he "first saw the patient," there was "enough worry to call CPS to call the officers." (Doc. 43-4 at 27, Depo. 67:18-23) He was unable to recall whether he called CPS himself or whether he instructed someone to do so. (Id. at 28, Depo. 86:2-7)

Dr. Naven informed Galland that "he did not believe the bruising on M.F.'s cheeks was caused by CPR." (UMF 5) Galland noted in the report that Dr. Naven advised him "M.F. had injuries to his brain," and "Dr. Naven was very worried that M.F. was the victim of child abuse." (DSF 3) Galland also indicated in his report that he "asked Dr. Naven how recent the acute brain injuries had been caused and Dr. Naven stated he believed the injuries were no more than two hours old." (DSF 7) The same day, Galland placed an investigative hold on M.F. "and placed him into protective custody" atMemorial Hospital. (Doc. 38-5 at 74-75, Galland Depo. 142:8-143:10) This hold prevented Flores from having contact with the child. (See Doc. 38-5 at 75, Galland Depo. 143:7-16)

Galland took photographs of M.F.'s face that "depict[ed] bruising on M.F.'s left and right cheeks." (DSF 10) After taking these photographs, Galland interviewed Sara Guzman, M.F.'s mother, at the hospital. (UMF 6; see also Doc. 36-2 at 2, Galland Decl. ¶ 6) Ms. Guzman informed Galland that "M.F. had no medical problems or allergies that she was aware of and had been seen about a month earlier for a checkup." (DSF 11) Galland inquired about M.F.'s schedule, and Ms. Guzman reported that "she and her mother, aunt, and cousins had left the house around 2 p.m. to get a haircut and look at a gym memberships, leaving M.F. alone with Plaintiff." (Id.) She reported they returned around 3:00 or 3:15 p.m., but "left to go to the Farmer's Market ..., again leaving M.F. alone with Plaintiff Jesus Flores." (Id.) Ms. Guzman stated Flores "called her while she was at the Farmer's Market and said 'the baby's not breathing," and "[s]he directed him to call 911." (UMF 11) Galland "obtained a medical release for M.F.'s medical records from Bakersfield Memorial Hospital from Ms. Guzman." (UMF 7)

Galland re-contacted Dr. Naven, who stated M.F. would be transferred to Valley Children's Hospital. (DSF 12; Doc. 32-6 at 2, Galland Decl. ¶ 6) Dr. Naven gave Galland the radiology report and showed him the CT scan, which depicted "multiple hematomas." DSF 4; see also Doc. 32-6 at 2, ¶6) Dr. Naven felt even a 'non-medical person could see' that it was not normal." (Id.) Dr. Naven diagnosed M.F. with: "(1) Subdural hematoma; (2) Evaluate non-accidental trauma; and (3) Respiratory alkalosis with metabolic acidosis." (DSF 6; see also Doc. 32-13 at 31) In addition, Dr. Naven noted there were "multiple subdural hematomas, the majority of which contain acute hemorrhage mixed with additional hemorrhage of varying ages." (Id.; see also Doc. 32-13 at 30-31) In his report, Galland noted that Dr. Naven opined "M.F. had a reasonable chance of survival but indicated he thought there was a high probability the child would suffer significant permanent brain damage as a result of the injuries." (DSF 12) Galland also reported: "I asked Dr. Naven how recent the acute brain injuries had been caused and he stated he believed the injuries were no more than 2 hours old." (Doc. 32-12 at 14)Flores contends there is a dispute about whether Dr. Naven identified this two-hour time frame.2 (See Doc. 43-2 at 4-5)

Following the second conversation with Dr. Naven, Galland "reached out to Detective McAfee, who was at the subject residence and who was going to return to the Police Department to author a search warrant." (DSF 13; see also Doc. 32-6 at 3, Galland Decl. ¶ 8) Flores was transported to the Bakersfield Police Department, and Ms. Guzman agreed to meet at the department. (Doc. 32-6 at 3, ¶¶ 7-8; see also DSF 13)

Detectives Galland and Davenport "proceeded to interview the family/witnesses including: (1) Mariana Ramirez, the aunt of Sara Guzman; (2) Araceli Reyes, the daughter of Mariana Ramirez; (3) Jose Mendez, M.F.'s grandfather; (4) Christopher Guzman, Sara Guzman's brother; (5) Geneveva Ramirez, Sara Guzman's mother; (6) Sara Guzman; and (7) Jesus Flores." (DSF 14) Prior to the interviews of Ms. Guzman and Flores, "Miranda rights were explained and waived." (DSF 14)

Galland inquired about the bruises on M.F.'s face and noted some of the relatives reported observing bruises on both of M.F.'s cheeks "before they left the residence." (DSF 19) "Ms. Guzman indicated she recalled seeing them on Monday morning but had no explanation as to what caused them." (Id.) Plaintiff told the detectives he saw the bruises "on Sunday night and had also seen red marks in the white portions of M.F.'s eyes." (Id.) "To Detective Galland, this meant the bruises pre-existed the CPR that was performed earlier in the day." (Id.)

During the interviews, "Galland learned that Jesus Flores was alone with M.F. from approximately 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. or 3:15 p.m., and again from approximately 3:40 p.m. or 3:45 p.m. until the time that the Fire Department arrived around 4:20 p.m." (DSF 17) Jose Mendez stated during his interview that "Jesus Flores did not take very good care of the baby because he was always busy playing video games and that he had observed Jesus Flores lose his temper when M.F. was fussy and that Jesus Flores and yelled at M.F. so loudly that the child became startled." (DSF 18)

The interview of Plaintiff began at approximately 11:00 p.m. on May 21, 2015. (Doc. 32-6 at 1,Galland Decl. ¶10(g)) Prior to the interview, "Miranda rights were explained and waived." (DSF 14) Flores reported M.F. had been "really fussy" that day, and "admitted that on the day of the incident he got frustrated because he could not seem to make the baby stop crying." (DSF 23; see also Doc. 32-22 at 95, Transcr. 93:8-10) Flores said this was frustrating "because he was supposed to be playing a live stream video game at 1 p.m. but the baby was still fussy." (DSF 23)

Flores recounted that at approximately 1 p.m., he "took M.F. outside to rock him." (DSF 11; see also Doc. 32-22 at 95, Transcr. 93:8-10) Flores said he gave M.F. a shower, changed him, and made a bottle; and M.F. then took a nap. (DSF 11) He reported that after all the relatives returned and left again, M.F. was in his bassinet sleeping when he started coughing and began choking. (Id.) Flores noticed M.F. stopped breathing, and said he picked up M.F., who started to breathe again and then stopped. (Id.) Flores said he went to the shower and splashed some water on M.F.'s face, at which point M.F. seemed to wake up but lost consciousness. (Id.) Flores stated he called 911, and began performing CPR. (Id.) He stated he took medication for anxiety and his heart was "still racing" at the time of the interview. (Doc. 32-22 at 105, Transcr. 103:3-8)

Flores contends the officers used "sophisticated techniques of psychological manipulation," and engaged in a "psychologically coercive interrogation" that cause him "to become confused, come to doubt himself, and speculate that he might have shaken the baby too hard." (Doc. 43-1 at 12, 14) Flores asserts that "the officers implied [he] would receive 'forgiveness,' and thus more lenient treatment, if he stopped denying," stating:

For example, the officers told Mr. Flores, "What people don't understand is when somebody doesn't...stand up for and say what they did was wrong when they mess up, okay. People are very forgiving when people tell the truth and admit they made a mistake, okay" (Interrogation Transcr., 89:18-25, emphasis added). And again: "We understand accidents happen, okay. But if you don't own up to it, there is no—there is no getting past it. There is no forgiveness" (Interrogation Transcr.,
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