Rodriguez v. Cnty. of L.A., Case No. 10–6342–CBM AJWx.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
Citation96 F.Supp.3d 990
Decision Date29 May 2014
Docket NumberCase No. 10–6342–CBM AJWx.
PartiesHeriberto RODRIGUEZ, Carolos Flores, Erick Nunez, Juan Carlos Sanchez and Juan Trinidad, Plaintiffs, v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, et al., Defendants.

Caitlin S. Weisberg, David S. McLane, Kevin J. Lahue, Ronald O. Kaye, Kaye McLane Bednarski and Litt LLP, Pasadena, CA, James S. Muller, Law Offices of James S. Muller, Glendale, CA, for Plaintiffs.

David D. Lawrence, Daniel S. Cha, Dennis Michael Gonzales, George E. Morris, Jr., Jin S. Choi, Paul B. Beach, Lawrence Beach Allen and Choi P.C., Glendale, CA, for Defendant.



Before the Court are four post-trial motions filed by Defendants:

1. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) ( “JMOL”). (Docket No. 637.)
2. Motion to Vacate Judgment and for New Trial (Motion to Vacate). (Docket No. 638.)
3. Motion to Vacate Punitive Damages or Remittitur or New Trial on Punitive Damages (“Punitive Damages Motion”). (Docket No. 640.)
4. Motion for New Trial Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a) (“59(a) Motion”). (Docket No. 639.)

On April 1, 2014, the Court held oral arguments on these motions and orally denied Defendants' Motion to Vacate, 59(a) Motion, and Punitive Damages Motion from the bench with written orders to follow. (Docket No. 672.) Upon consideration of the papers and arguments submitted, the Court also denies Defendants' JMOL. The below order addresses each of Defendants' post-trial motions in turn.


This Court has jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(3), and 1367.


Plaintiffs Heriberto Rodriguez, Carlos Flores, Erick Nunez, Juan Carlos Sanchez, and Juan Trinidad (collectively Plaintiffs) are former or current inmates of the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail (“MCJ”). Plaintiffs filed this suit against numerous Defendants including the County of Los Angeles (the County), Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (“LASD”), and LASD supervisors and deputies on August 25, 2010 (collectively, Defendants). (Docket No. 1.) In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the deputies of LASD physically beat them with the purpose to harm, thereby violating their right to be free from excessive force under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) at 1–2.) (Docket No. 76.)

A month-long jury trial commenced on October 1, 2013. (Docket No. 487.) The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs against twenty of the individual defendants on November 7, 2013. (Docket No. 569.) The Court entered judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs on February 6, 2014. (Docket No. 626.)


Prior to trial, the Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting qualified immunity on behalf of all individual defendants. (Docket No. 214.) The Court denied the motion, finding genuine issues of material fact. (Docket No. 261.) On July 23, 2013, moving Defendants Daniel Cruz, Christopher Blasnek, Matthew Onhemus, Michel McGrattan, and Kelley Washington (for purposes of this Order, the Appellant Defendants) filed a Notice of Interlocutory Appeal of Denial of Qualified Immunity. (Docket No. 290.) The Ninth Circuit ordered the Defendants either to dismiss their interlocutory appeal or to show cause as to why the interlocutory appeal should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Id. at 2. (“A review of the record suggests that this court may lack jurisdiction over this appeal because an order denying qualified immunity on the ground that a genuine issue of material fact exists is not a final, immediately appealable order ... Within 21 days after the date of this order, appellants shall move for voluntary dismissal of this appeal or show cause why it should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.”) (Rodriguez v. County of Los Angeles, Ninth Circuit Case No. 13–56292, Docket No. 3). On the same day, Plaintiffs filed a motion and asked this Court to certify Appellant Defendants' appeal as frivolous under Chuman v. Wright. (Docket No. 293.) The Court denied Plaintiffs' Chuman motion. (Docket No. 356.)

Defendants then filed an emergency motion under Circuit Rule 27–3 for an immediate stay of proceedings, including a stay of the trial. (Rodriguez , Ninth Circuit Case No. 13–56292, Docket No. 7.)

This motion was denied by the Circuit. (See Rodriguez, Ninth Circuit Case No. 13–56292, Docket No. 8.) Less than a month later, with the Appellant Defendants' appeal pending, this Court proceeded to trial for all Defendants on Plaintiffs' state and federal claims.1 (Docket No. 487) At the conclusion of trial, the Court submitted the case to the jury pending the Ninth Circuit's resolution of the appeal. (Docket No. 566.) On November 7, 2013, the jury reached a verdict. (Docket No. 569.)

A few weeks later, on December 5, 2013, the Ninth Circuit discharged its order to show cause of the Appellant Defendants' appeal of summary judgment and issued an order advising the parties that the jurisdictional issue did “not appear suitable for summary disposition” and providing a briefing schedule set for January and February 2014. (Rodriguez , Ninth Circuit Case No. 13–56292, Docket No. 9.)

On February 6, 2014, this Court entered Judgment based on the jury's verdict. Defendants filed the current four post-trial motions on March 17, 2014. (Docket Nos. 637–630.), and the Circuit vacated the earlier scheduling order for the Appellant Defendants' appeal pending the resolution of these motions. (Rodriguez , Ninth Circuit Case No. 13–56292, Docket No. 14.) Defendants' post-trial motions are addressed in turn below.


When a motion for judgment as a matter of law is made after a verdict was returned, “the [C]ourt may ... (A) allow the judgment to stand; (B) order a new trial, or (C) direct entry of judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b)(1). “Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate when the evidence presented at trial permits only one reasonable conclusion.” Mangum v. Action Collection Serv., Inc., 575 F.3d 935, 938 (9th Cir.2009) (quoting Torres v. City of Los Angeles, 548 F.3d 1197, 1205 (9th Cir.2008) ). Thus, [a] motion for judgment as a matter of law is properly granted only if no reasonable juror could find in the non-moving party's favor.”Torres, 548 F.3d at 1205 (quoting El–Hakem v. BJY Inc., 415 F.3d 1068, 1072 (9th Cir.2005) ). The jury's verdict, however, must be upheld if it is supported by substantial evidence, which “is evidence adequate to support the jury's conclusion, even if it is also possible to draw a contrary conclusion from the same evidence.” Johnson v. Paradise Valley Unified School Dist., 251 F.3d 1222, 1227 (9th Cir.2001). A court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of, the nonmoving party. Torres, 548 F.3d at 1205–06. A court may not separately make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2110, 147 L.Ed.2d 105, 121 (2000).

The law of the case doctrine generally precludes a court from “reconsidering an issue that already has been decided by the same court, or a higher court in the identical case.” United States v. Alexander, 106 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir.1997). Courts, exercising their discretion, may depart from the law of the case where: “1) the first decision was clearly erroneous; 2) an intervening change in the law has occurred; 3) the evidence on remand is substantially different; 4) other changed circumstances exist; or 5) a manifest injustice would otherwise result.” Id.


Defendants raise six arguments for judgment as a matter of law:

1. Plaintiffs failed to prove California Civil Code § 52.1 claims because Plaintiffs did not prove that they were subject to “threats, intimidation, and coercion” separate from their Eighth Amendment Claims.
2. Supervisory Defendants cannot be liable for their subordinates' alleged use of excessive force under § 52.1 pursuant to Gov.Code § 820.8
3. Supervisory Defendants are immune for discretionary acts under § 820.8
4. Defendants who only used directed force cannot be held liable under § 1983 or § 52.1
5. Individual Defendants who did not prevail at trial are entitled to qualified immunity.
6. The evidence did not establish that the excessive force was caused by any policy or custom to establish Monell liability against Defendant County of Los Angeles.

Most of Defendant's arguments were argued and decided by this Court earlier in this litigation. The Court finds none of Defendants' arguments sufficient to warrant judgment as a matter of law.

1. Plaintiffs did not fail to prove their § 52.1 claims.

Section 52.1 provides a right to relief when someone “interferes by threats, intimidation, or coercion ... with the exercise or enjoyment by any individual or individuals of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or of the rights secured by the Constitution or laws of [California].” Cal. Gov't Code § 52.1. To prevail on a § 52.1 claim, a plaintiff must therefore prove (1) a violation of a constitutional or statutory right (2) by intimidation, threats or coercion. Venegas v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 153 Cal.App.4th 1230, 1242, 63 Cal.Rptr.3d 741, 750 (2007).

Defendants take the position that a California Civil Code § 52.1 claim can only survive if the plaintiff proves “threats, intimidation, or coercion” separate and apart from whatever constitutional violation is at issue in the case. See Rodriguez v. City of Fresno, 819 F.Supp.2d 937, 953 (E.D.Cal.2011) (holding that...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 cases
  • Joshua David Mellberg LLC v. Will, CV–14–02025–TUC–CKJ.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
    • March 27, 2015
    ...and unjust enrichment. Further, JDM's AUTSA claim and claims of civil conspiracy and aiding and abetting against Defendants Godinez, 96 F.Supp.3d 990Uretz and Impact Partnership should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Moreover, JDM's claim of breach of contract against Defendant G......
  • Reese v. Cnty. of Sacramento, 16-16195
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 23, 2018
    ...intimidation and coercion" separate from an underlying constitutional violation. See, e.g. , Rodriguez v. County of Los Angeles , 96 F.Supp.3d 990, 999 (C.D. Cal. 2014) (distinguishing Shoyoye by interpreting it to apply only when the constitutional violation is unintentional); Boarman v. C......
  • Koistra v. Cnty. of San Diego, CASE NO. 16cv2539-GPC(AGS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • October 19, 2017
    ...of "threats, intimidation, or coercion" separate and distinct from a constitutional violation. Rodriguez v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 96 F. Supp. 3d 990, 998 (C.D. Cal. 2014); Garlick v. Cnty. of Kern, 167 F. Supp. 3d 1117 (E.D. Cal. 2016) ("Contrary to Defendants' assertion, this Court has fou......
  • Phelps v. Perez, 1:21-cv-01108 BAM (PC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • November 5, 2021
    ...where excessive force was encouraged, and promoted the practice of force and deputy misconduct. Rodriguez v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 96 F.Supp.3d 990, 1004 (C.D. Cal. 2014), aff'd, 891 F.3d 776 (9th Cir. 2018). Here, the first amended complaint contains allegations that Plaintiff was injured a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT