R.H. v. L. Gatos Union Sch. Dist., Case No.: 11–CV–03729–LHK

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Writing for the CourtLUCY H. KOH, United States District Judge
Citation33 F.Supp.3d 1138
PartiesR.H., a minor, Richard H., Guardian Ad Litem for R.H., a minor, and Richard H., Plaintiffs, v. Los Gatos Union School District, Los Gatos–Saratoga Recreation, Lisa Fraser, Lisa Nanez, Curtis Summers and Dan Racimo, and Does 1 through 50, Inclusive, Defendants.
Decision Date02 April 2014
Docket NumberCase No.: 11–CV–03729–LHK

33 F.Supp.3d 1138

R.H., a minor, Richard H., Guardian Ad Litem for R.H., a minor, and Richard H., Plaintiffs
v.
Los Gatos Union School District, Los Gatos–Saratoga Recreation, Lisa Fraser, Lisa Nanez, Curtis Summers and Dan Racimo, and Does 1 through 50, Inclusive, Defendants.

Case No.: 11–CV–03729–LHK

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division.

Signed April 2, 2014


33 F.Supp.3d 1144

Adam Cabral Bonner, Charles A. Bonner, Law Offices of Bonner and Bonner, Sausalito, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Mark E. Davis, Davis & Young, APLC, San Jose, CA, for Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LUCY H. KOH, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs R.H. and his father and guardian, Richard H. (collectively “Plaintiffs”), filed this action against the Los Gatos Union School District, Los Gatos–Saratoga Community Education and Recreation,1 Lisa Fraser, Lisa Nanez, Curtis Summers, and Dan Racimo (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging violations of R.H.'s Fourteenth Amendment liberty interests, as well as various state law torts. See Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), ECF No. 41 ¶ 2. Plaintiffs' claims arise out of an incident which occurred during a school-sponsored wrestling match and which resulted in injuries to Plaintiff R.H. Id. ¶ 23–28. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Mot.”). See ECF No. 61. Plaintiffs have filed an Opposition (“Opp'n”), ECF No. 71, and Defendants have filed a reply (“Reply”), ECF No. 75. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7–1(b), the Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument and hereby VACATES the hearing on this Motion and the Case Management Conference set for April 3, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. Having considered the record in this case, applicable law, and the parties' briefs, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs R.H. and Richard H. bring this action against Defendants, alleging that Defendants' negligence led to R.H.'s injury during a middle school wrestling match, and that Defendants' conduct violated R.H. and Richard H.'s constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. SAC ¶¶ 2, 16–43; Declaration of Richard H. (“Richard H. Decl.”), ECF No. 70 ¶ 21. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants' negligence and misconduct led to R.H.'s wrestling against a larger, more experienced opponent, which resulted in R.H.'s injury. Richard H. Decl. ¶¶ 4, 6, 21.

A. The Parties

Plaintiff R.H. started at Fisher Middle School as an 8th grade student in the fall of 2010. Deposition of R.H. (“R.H.Depo”), ECF No. 65, Ex. A at 9. In October, shortly after the semester began, R.H. joined the school's wrestling team. Id. at 32. R.H. was thirteen years old at the time. Declaration of R.H. (“R.H.Decl.”), ECF No. 69 ¶ 3. Although he had no prior wrestling experience, R.H. had for several years participated in various martial arts and had achieved an “advanced brown belt” in taekwondo. R.H. Depo at 38–44, 48.

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Plaintiffs bring this action against the Los Gatos Union School District, Los Gatos–Saratoga Community Education and Recreation, Lisa Fraser, Lisa Nanez, Curtis Summers, and Dan Racimo. SAC ¶ 2. Fisher Middle School is in the Los Gatos Union School District, and R.H. was a student in the district at the time of his injury. SAC ¶ 10. Defendant Lisa Fraser is the principal of Fisher Middle School. Declaration of Lisa Fraser, ECF No. 66 ¶ 1. Student athletics in the district are run by Los Gatos–Saratoga Community Education and Recreation. Deposition of Lisa Fraser, ECF No. 68, Ex. 8 at 32–33.

Defendant Lisa Nanez is employed by the Los Gatos Union School District, and is the athletic director at Fisher Middle School, where she also works as a physical education teacher. Declaration of Lisa Nanez, ECF No. 62 ¶ 1. As athletic director, she finds coaches for the various Fisher Middle School athletic teams and recommends them to Los Gatos–Saratoga Community Education and Recreation. Id. ¶ 2. Defendants Lisa Nanez and Lisa Fraser recommended Defendants Curtis Summers and Dan Racimo as potential wrestling coaches to Los Gatos–Saratoga Community Education and Recreation. Id. ¶ 3

Defendants Curtis Summers and Dan Racimo are Fisher Middle School's wrestling coaches and are employed by Los Gatos–Saratoga Community Education and Recreation. SAC ¶ 15. Defendant Summers, a former middle and high school wrestler, obtained his “copper ” USA wrestling coach certification in 2000, which qualifies him as a wrestling coach up to the high school level. Declaration of Curtis Summers (“Summers Decl.”), ECF No. 64 ¶ 3. Defendant Racimo also wrestled in high school, and likewise received his “copper ” certification in 2008. Declaration of Dan Racimo (“Racimo Decl.”), ECF No. 63 ¶ 3. Although employed by Los Gatos–Saratoga Community Education and Recreation, both Summers and Racimo declined the stipend offered to athletics coaches, preferring instead to volunteer their services as coaches. Summers Decl. ¶ 4; Racimo Decl. ¶ 4.

B. The Release

Upon joining the team, Richard H. filled out and signed the required “After School Sports Emergency/Health Insurance form” and release, which stated in pertinent part that Richard H.:

agrees to indemnify and hold the Los Gatos Union School District and Community Education and Recreation Department harmless and release the district and Department from any and all liability for any injury which may be suffered by [R.H.], arising out of or in any way connected with participation in [the wrestling team].

ECF No. 64, Ex. A.

The release further stated that:

I HAVE READ THE AFTER SCHOOL SPORTS INFORMATION AND SCHOOL PARTICIPATION CONTRACT AND WILL ABIDE BY ALL RULES AND POLICIES AND FULLY UNDERSTAND THAT I ASSUME ALL RISKS FOR ANY INJURIES RECEIVED AND AGREE TO ACCEPT FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Id. The release language appears to be in 10 point font, the same font size as the rest of the emergency contact and health insurance form that Richard H. completed and signed, and is situated just above the signature and date line. See id. R.H. testified that he signed a waiver as well,2 but

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that he “didn't really read through either of them.” R.H. Depo at 50. Nevertheless, R.H.'s general understanding was that the release form “releas[ed] the school district and the coaches from any and all injuries that [he] might sustain while participating on the Fisher wrestling team.” Id. at 50–51.

C. The Fisher Wrestling Team

R.H. joined the Fisher wrestling team in October of 2010. After the first practice of the season, Fisher's wrestling coaches, Defendants Curtis Summers and Dan Racimo, selected R.H. to join the varisity team. R.H. Depo at 66, 68; ECF No. 64 (“Summers Decl.”) ¶ 6; ECF No. 63 (“Racimo Decl.”) ¶ 6. Varsity athletes wrestle in different weight classifications according to their body weight. The team's “Wrestling Rules” state that the weight classifications include 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, 125, 135, 145, 155, 165, 175, and 205 pounds, and a further heavyweight for wrestlers beyond 205 pounds. See ECF No. 72, Ex. 6 (“2010 Fisher Wrestling Rules”).3 R.H.'s first weigh-in took place during the first varsity practice, sometime in October of 2010. R.H. Depo at 73–74; see also ECF No. 73, Ex. 35 (list of Fisher wrestlers and corresponding weights). According to R.H., he weighed 155.3 pounds at this initial weigh-in, wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and possibly wrestling shoes. R.H. Depo at 73–74.4

Under the league wrestling rules, a wrestler may “wrestle up” and compete in the next weight class above his or her lowest weight classification. See 2010 Fisher Wrestling Rules; Racimo Decl. ¶ 7; Summers Decl. ¶ 9. The rules also provide for a two pound allowance, so a 157 pound wrestler may still wrestle in the 155 pound class, which would otherwise include only 145–155 pound wrestlers. See 2010 Fisher Wrestling Rules; ECF No. 74, Ex. 6 (“Summers Depo”), at 64; Racimo Depo at 43–44. At 155.3 pounds, R.H. was initially eligible to compete in: (1) the 155–165 pound weight class; (2) the 145–155 class on account of the 2–pound allowance rule; and (3) he could even have wrestled up to the 165–175 class.

From early October until the league championships on December 3, 2010, the team held wrestling practice every weekday, and wrestled in tournaments on Saturdays. R.H. Depo at 60. Over the course of the season, R.H. competed in both the 155 and 165 pound classes. Id. at 113. During the weekday practice sessions, R.H. would often practice and spar with two wrestlers, C.H. and M.M. Id. at 77–78, 87. Both were more skilled, both were in better shape, and at around 186 pounds, C.H. was significantly larger and heavier than R.H. Id. at 77–78, 82, 87. Defendant coaches Summers and Racimo also coached R.H. at each practice, helping him improve his wrestling and his physical conditioning. Id. at 84–85. R.H. lost all but one match during the season, which apparently is common for new wrestlers

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