Pacific Marine Ctr., Inc. v. Silva

Decision Date22 August 2011
Docket NumberCase No. CV F 09–1409 LJO JLT.
Citation809 F.Supp.2d 1266
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
PartiesPACIFIC MARINE CENTER, INC. et al., Plaintiffs, v. Scott SILVA, Tom Wilson, E. Essegian, Defendants.


Richard Hamlish, Law Offices of Richard Hamlish, Westlake Village, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Oliver Robert Lewis, Office of the Attorney General, Sacramento, CA, Erica Mercado Camarena, City Attorney's Office, James Darvin Weakley, Weakley & Arendt, LLP, Michelle Earline Sassano, Valerie Joanne Velasco, Weakley & Arendt, LLP, Fresno, CA, for Defendants.


LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge.

Three motions for summary judgment, or in the alternative, partial summary judgment against Plaintiffs Pacific Marine Center and Sona Vartanian pursuant to Rule 56 are pending before this Court: (1) Motion by Defendant George Imirian, (2) Motion by Defendants Scott Silva, Tom Wilson, Dan Ayala, Dan Horsford, Kevin Buchanan, Gideon Coyle, and Chris Wagner, and (3) Motion by Defendant Edward Essegian. Plaintiffs Pacific Marine Center, Inc. (Pacific Marine) and Sona Vartanian (“Sona”) filed an opposition to each motion on July 25, 2011. (Doc. 145–166.) Each defendant filed a reply on August 1, 2011. Pursuant to Local Rule 230(g), this matter was submitted on the pleadings without oral argument, and the hearing set was VACATED. Having considered the moving, opposition, and reply papers, as well as the Court's file, the Court issues the following order.1


Plaintiffs Pacific Marine Center and Sona Vartanian (collectively plaintiffs) bring this action based upon a search warrant that was executed at the business premises of Pacific Marine on August 10, 2009. Plaintiffs allege claims against the investigators and officers who conducted the search. Defendant Scott Silva is an investigator for the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) and was responsible for obtaining the warrant. Defendant Tom Wilson is the supervisor for the investigative Department of DMV and Silva's supervisor. Other DMV employees are named as defendants: Dan Ayala, Kevin Buchanan, Dan Horsford, Gideon Coyle, Christopher Wagner. (Doc. 94 Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) ¶¶ 8–12.) Defendant Edward Essegian is a deputy sheriff for the County of Fresno. Defendant George Imirian is a sworn police officer for the City of Fresno Police Department. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 14; Doc. 142–1, Motion p. 1.) Each of these defendants, including supervisor Tom Wilson, participated in the execution of the search warrant at Pacific Marine.

Plaintiffs claim one cause of action for Violation of Fourth Amendment for unreasonable search and seizure and use of excessive force.

A. The Warrant

The search was incident to a criminal investigation by the DMV. The DMV suspected Pacific Marine and Sona of extended warranty fraud which involved selling extended boat warranties to its customers and failing to purchase the warranty policies. On or about August 5, 2009, Defendant Silva sought and obtained a warrant to search the premises located at “10452 Highway 41 in Madera.” (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 16.) The warrant was signed by a Superior Court Judge, based upon a Statement of Probable Cause submitted by Silva. The Statement of Probable Cause was based upon statements by two ex-employees (Martinez and Abrahamian) who were involved in warranty repairs or related work. (Doc. 143–2, Statement of Probable Cause p. 14 of 83.) The Statement of Probable Cause was also based upon information from two customers of Pacific Marine who stated that they had purchased warranties but were not provided with the warranties.

The search warrant identified five categories of documents to be seized. Generally, the documents to be seized included, “any and all Dealer Jackets ... and any other documents which may show criminal activity pertaining to the purchase and/or sales of vehicles.” The warrant required the seizure of [a]ll completed warranty contracts for, but no[t] limited to Passport warrant company.” Other documents, such as “books, records, receipts, bank statement ...,” “answering machines,” and “identity documents for indicia of residency” were also covered by the search warrant. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 19–21.) The warrant also authorized the investigating officers, at their discretion, to seize all “computer systems,” “computer programs or software,” and “supporting documentation.” (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 20.) The search warrant permitted the search of any and all yards, garages, carports, outbuildings, storage areas, trash containers, sheds, and mailboxes assigned to 10452 Highway 41 in Madera. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 27.)

Plaintiffs allege that the warrant was based upon false information given by Defendant Silva, and approved by defendant Wagner. Plaintiffs further allege that the false information was that stolen or embezzled property was located at Pacific Marine's business, that property at Pacific Marine was used to commit felonies.

B. The Search

On or about August 10, 2009, Silva, Wilson, Essegian, Imirian, Wagner, Horsford, Ayala, Buchanan, and Coyle entered the premises at 10452 Highway 41, County of Madera, State of California which housed the offices of Pacific Marine Center, Inc. (Doc. 94, SAC¶ 33.) Plaintiffs allege that the defendants began “ransacking the entire business office and throwing files and records in disarray.” (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 36.) Plaintiffs allege that Essegian brandished his unholstered weapon at Sona and would not permit her to open the cash register. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 35.) Plaintiffs allege that defendants took the personal records of Sona Vartanian and her personal computer and did not record the property on the property receipt. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ .) Plaintiffs allege that Sona Vartanian's property was not within the scope of the warrant. Plaintiffs allege that defendants took other records not related to Pacific Marine and did not record that property on the property receipt. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶¶ 36–38.) Plaintiffs allege that these other records were not within the scope of the warrant. Plaintiffs allege that Essegian and Wilson searched the personal vehicle of Jack Vartanian, Sona's brother. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 39.) Plaintiffs also allege that Silva, Wilson, Imirian and Essegian destroyed the business' security monitoring system. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 40.) Plaintiffs allege that Essegian, Silva, Wilson and Imirian disconnected computer system, seized the hard drive of that computer system and then viciously destroyed the remaining portion of computer making it inoperative. (Doc. 94, SAC ¶ 41.)

A. Summary Judgment/Partial Summary Judgment Standards

F.R.Civ.P. 56(b) permits a party against whom relief is sought” to seek “summary judgment on all or part of the claim.” Summary judgment/adjudication is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment/adjudication as a matter of law. F.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Matsushita Elec. Indus. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Assn., 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.1987). The purpose of summary judgment/adjudication is to “pierce the pleadings and assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Elec., 475 U.S. at 586, n. 11, 106 S.Ct. 1348; International Union of Bricklayers v. Martin Jaska, Inc., 752 F.2d 1401, 1405 (9th Cir.1985). On summary judgment/adjudication, a court must decide whether there is a “genuine issue as to any material fact,” not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of contested matters. F.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Covey v. Hollydale Mobilehome Estates, 116 F.3d 830, 834 (9th Cir.1997); see Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970).

To carry its burden of production on summary judgment/adjudication, a moving party “must either produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir.2000). [T]o carry its ultimate burden of persuasion on the motion, the moving party must persuade the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact.” Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1102. “As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

“If a moving party fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmoving party has no obligation to produce anything, even if the nonmoving party would have the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial.” Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1102–1103; see Adickes, 398 U.S. at 160, 90 S.Ct. 1598. “If, however, a moving party carries its burden of production, the nonmoving party must produce evidence to support its claim or defense.” Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103. “If the nonmoving party fails to produce enough evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact, the moving party wins the motion for summary judgment.” Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103; see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make the 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.”)

B. Administrative Authority of DMV to Conduct Searches

Plaintiffs argue that DMV did not need to have a search warrant to enter and inspect the books at...

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