Kamal v. Cnty. of L. A.

Decision Date06 September 2018
Docket NumberNo. CV 17-01986-RGK (DFM),CV 17-01986-RGK (DFM)
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of California
PartiesKARIM CHRISTIAN KAMAL, Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, et al., Defendants.
Final Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge

This Final Report and Recommendation is submitted to the Honorable R. Gary Klausner, United States District Judge, under 28 U.S.C. § 636 and General Order 05-07 of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.1

I.INTRODUCTION

Karim Christian Kamal ("Plaintiff") filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Joseph Farrow, Dustin Sherman, Lisa Fossi, I.J. Tillman, Jose Haro, Gurwinder Rakkar, County of Los Angeles ("County"), Craig Cline, Arnel Dulay, Gail Farber, Rosemarie Brazal, Hurrell Cantrall LLP, Warren Williams, Thomas Hurrell, and Melinda Cantrall (together, "Defendants"). Plaintiff also claims that Defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Defendants filed six motions to dismiss and a special motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP statute. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the motions to dismiss (Dkts. 49, 50, 54, 61, 70, 84) be granted, in part with prejudice and in part without prejudice, and the special motion to strike (Dkt. 52) be denied without prejudice.

II.BACKGROUND
A. Factual Allegations
1. Underlying Motor Vehicle Accident and Road Conditions

On April 17, 2011, Plaintiff was involved in a motorcycle collision with another vehicle on Big Tujunga Canyon Road in the Angeles National Forest. See Dkt. 43 ("FAC") ¶ 30. The road is allegedly owned by the United States and managed by the County of Los Angeles ("County") and is located in the California Highway Patrol ("CHP") jurisdiction. See id. The collision occurred when the other vehicle made a "sharp, unmarked blind turn," veered into Plaintiff's lane, and collided with him. See id. Plaintiff alleges that although the road has a speed limit of 55 MPH, the turn cannot be safely driven at a speed greater than 30 MPH. See id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff also alleges that the turnslopes at an angle "well over 8%, in excess" of the road plan provisions. Id.

Both Plaintiff and the other victim suffered severe injuries. See id. ¶ 30. About an hour after the collision, U.S. Forest Service rangers discovered Plaintiff and the other victim and phoned the County to have them airlifted to the nearest hospital. See id. ¶ 33. While waiting for evacuation, Plaintiff alleges that the paramedics "were all busy with [the other victim]," largely ignored Plaintiff's injuries, and repeatedly told him to "keep quiet." Id. ¶¶ 35-36. Plaintiff estimates he and the other victim were on the ground for over 1.5 hours before being transferred to the hospital. See id. ¶ 34. Once there, Plaintiff lost consciousness. See id. ¶ 36.

Plaintiff alleges that the delay in medical attention was caused by the County being "overwhelmed" by the other collisions in the area that day and the dearth of County resources. Id. ¶¶ 35, 38.

2. Investigation into Cause of Accident

Plaintiff contends that the CHP and its employees, Farrow, Sherman, Fossi, Tillman, Haro, and Rakkar, joined the County, Farber, Dulay, and Cline in scheming to obstruct the investigation of the accident and "cover up their criminal negligence" in failing to maintain or repair the road. See id. ¶¶ 77, 133. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Sherman and Commissioner Farrow worked to "pi[n] the blame on [the other victim]" and "erase any evidence that would indicate that other factors may have caused or contributed to the collision." Id. Sherman did this by relying on the testimony of Luis Osorio, who was not at the scene of the collision but nonetheless testified that the other victim was driving at a speed of 65-70 MPH. See id. Plaintiff disputes this finding, citing to a "United States reconstruction expert" who found that the other victim was driving at a much lower speed of around 45 MPH. See id. ¶ 47.

Plaintiff further alleges that Sherman lied about when he met andinterviewed Plaintiff and "harassed and attempted to pressure" Plaintiff to make statements pinning the blame on the other victim. See id. ¶¶ 78-81. Having failed to obtain a statement from Plaintiff, Sherman, along with Farrow, Farber, Cline, and Dulay, wrote out a false and deliberately incomplete collision report. See id. ¶¶ 81, 132.

Plaintiff also alleges that the investigation itself was tainted. "Crucial evidence" was not properly marked, and the CHP allegedly deprived Plaintiff of any information so he could not contradict the traffic collision report. Id. ¶ 83; see also id. ¶ 131.

3. Lawsuits Arising from Accident
a. State Court Lawsuit

In May 2012, Plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the other victim, the County, and Farber, who directed the County's Department of Public Works at the time of the accident. See id. ¶ 45. The other victim filed a separate lawsuit against the County, and the two actions were consolidated in September 2012. See id. Both lawsuits alleged that "the dangerous condition of the road caused the injuries." Id. The County was represented by Williams, a lawyer at the law firm Hurrell Cantrall LLP. See id. ¶ 49.

Farber successfully demurred to Plaintiff's state-court action, and the County successfully disposed of the case at summary judgment by "claim[ing] design immunity" and "argu[ing] that no sign warning of the blind turn and recommending a lower speed was required ahead of the subject turn." Id. ¶ 46. In reaching this ruling, the state court allegedly relied on photographs of the road that the County introduced through Williams's declaration—photos that Plaintiff alleges were "instrumental in the Court's ruling." Id. ¶ 48. These photos show road signage a few miles from the location of the accident as part of an explanation for why no additional signs were needed. See id. ¶ 50.Plaintiff appealed the trial court's findings, but the higher courts upheld the ruling. See id. ¶ 46.

Plaintiff alleges several instances of misconduct during the course of this state court lawsuit:

• Williams acted dishonestly in introducing the photographs of the road by "purporting to merely authenticate the photographs" but actually "appear[ing] to be a witness." Id. ¶¶ 50-51, 112-18.
• The County tampered with and destroyed signage along the road that violated the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Seeid. ¶¶ 52-54, 108-10.
• The County failed to produce certain requested documents, including its fire and sheriff departments' reports and records/transcripts of communications between Plaintiff and first responders. Seeid. ¶¶ 55-56, 119-21.
• The County failed to produce financial records regarding maintenance of the road. Seeid. ¶ 57.
• The County spread "unfounded rumors" in influential circles that Plaintiff was "mentally ill." Id. ¶ 61.
• The County improperly claimed that the road design was lawfully designed and approved in 1943. Seeid. ¶¶ 49, 105.
• When deposed, County witnesses, Dulay and Cline did not reveal that the road was not properly constructed as designed. Seeid. ¶¶ 49, 133. Instead, they and Farber remained "silent." Id.
b. Pending Federal Lawsuit

During the pendency of the state-court lawsuit, Plaintiff filed a separate lawsuit in the Central District of California alleging that the United States wasliable for his injuries.2 See id. ¶¶ 61-62. Plaintiff contends that information obtained during discovery in the federal case shows that the County, Farber, Dulay, and Cline, and their attorneys, Hurrell Cantrall LLP and Williams, defrauded Plaintiff in the state court proceedings. See id. ¶ 63.

Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the County Defendants and their attorneys defrauded Plaintiff in the following ways:

• The County and its attorneys deliberately failed to produce a 1930 special use permit to mislead Plaintiff into believing that the road only needed to conform to the design specification of the 1943 permit. Seeid. ¶¶ 40, 103.
• The County and its attorneys intentionally withheld the County's application for the 1943 special use permit, in which it admitted to not having yet finished the plans for the whole road. Seeid. ¶¶ 66, 106. Plaintiff adds that the United States nevertheless granted the County's permit application. Seeid. ¶ 66.
• The County's withholding of the 1943 permit application deprived him of arguments in the state-court lawsuit that the road was improperly constructed with an 8% grade, while the permit only approved a 7% grade at any given point. Seeid. ¶¶ 67-68.
• Williams and Hurrell Cantrall LLP intentionally misled Plaintiff into believing that the County, not Williams, originated the photos of the road signage on which the state court purportedly relied to grant the County's motion for summary judgment. Seeid. ¶¶ 69-70, 112-18.
• The County withheld records of communications between Plaintiff and first responders. Seeid. ¶ 73.
• The County withheld certain financial documents regarding road funding and the County's failure to spend any federally-obtained dollars to remedy the road condition where the accident occurred. Seeid. ¶ 74-75.

Having reviewed the collision statistics/reports ("SWITRS") produced in the federal lawsuit, Plaintiff also alleges that the statistics produced by the County and by the CHP in the state-court lawsuit were "doctored" to defraud him and others and to prevent him from "presenting his claims and defenses that the dangerous condition of the road caused the collision." Id. ¶¶ 84-91, 93, 122-30.

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed his complaint on March 13, 2017, and filed the FAC on July 19, 2017. In the FAC, Plaintiff names as defendants: (1) Farrow; (2) Sherman; (3) Fossi; (4) Tillman; (5) Haro; (6) Rakkar; (7) the County; (8) Cline; (9) Dulay; (10) Farber; (11) Brazal; (12)...

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