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Mendez v. City of Scottsdale

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 9, 2014

Jorge Rolando Mendez, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Scottsdale, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

STEPHEN M. McNAMEE, Senior District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Scottsdale Police Officer Aaron Bolin's ("Defendant") motion for summary judgment and accompanying statement of facts, which is fully briefed. (Docs. 60, 61.) After considering the parties' extensive briefing, the Court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

The undisputed material facts of this case are as follows: on January 16, 2011, Defendant was on duty at the P.F. Chang's Marathon in Scottsdale. (Doc. 61-1 at 12.) Defendant was working to keep non-runners and non-race participants off the closed roadway during the race. Id . Defendant noticed Jorge Rolando Mendez ("Plaintiff") riding his bicycle on the left side of the closed road.[1] Id . In Defendant's police report he stated that he rode up to Plaintiff and informed him that the road was closed to all vehicle traffic for the race and that he needs to get off the road and ride on the sidewalk. Id . At first Plaintiff complied with Defendant's instructions and got off the road, but shortly after, Plaintiff left the sidewalk and entered the closed roadway in the bicycle lane. Id . Seeing Plaintiff on the road again, Defendant instructed Plaintiff to stop and pull over onto the sidewalk. Id . Once both Defendant and Plaintiff were off the road, Defendant asked Plaintiff to provide his driver's license or evidence of identification. Id . However, Plaintiff refused. (Doc. 61-2 at 28-29.) Defendant warned Plaintiff that if he refused to produce evidence of identification, Defendant would have to arrest him. (Docs. 61-3 at 49, 61-2 at 29.) Plaintiff began to move away from Defendant (Doc. 61-2 at 34), at which time Defendant took hold of Plaintiff's arm to handcuff him (Doc. 61-1 at 12). Plaintiff admits that he stiffened his arm as a reaction to the arrest. (Doc. 61-2 at 35.) Consequently, Defendant delivered a knee strike[2] to Plaintiff's right leg. (Doc. 61-1 at 13.) The knee strike landed on Plaintiff's leg and he immediately began to yell and howl in pain. Id.

Plaintiff initially did not request medical assistance, but later when he was being transported to jail, he requested medical attention. (Doc. 61-2 at 20.) When paramedics arrived on the scene, Plaintiff's running pants were rolled up revealing a large vertical scar on his knee. (Doc. 61-1 at 13.) Plaintiff, formerly a professional and amateur soccer player, had two knee surgeries to his right knee and one prior surgery to his left knee. (Docs. 61-2 at 12-14, 61-12 at 4.) Plaintiff testified that he has no recollection of any aspect of the surgery on his left knee, or where it was performed. (Doc. 61-2 at 14.) The pre-existing surgical scar on Plaintiff's knee had been hidden from Defendant's view until after the paramedics arrived. Id . Upon examination of Plaintiff's right knee, the paramedic found absolutely no sign of recent injury-no cut, scrape, bruising, swelling or other trauma. (Docs. 61-9 at 8, 61-10 at 3.) Plaintiff complained of pain and decreased range of motion, but the paramedic noted that this was a subjective finding which is patient dependent. (Docs. 61-9 at 8-9, 61-10 at 3.) No objective signs of injury were found by the paramedic. Id . Later, an MRI of Plaintiff's right knee was taken which showed multiple degenerative changes including advanced tricompartmental osteoarthritis, but no definitive injury from the knee strike or subsequent fall to the ground. (Doc. 61-12 at 2.)

Plaintiff was arrested and charged with (1) failure to obey a police officer (A.R.S. § 28-622(A)), (2) failure to provide driver's license or evidence of identity (A.R.S. § 28-1595(B)), (3) failure to ride on the right side of the road (A.R.S. § 28-815(A)), and (4) riding/driving on a closed road (Scottsdale Revised Code ("S.R.C.") § 17-4). (Doc. 61-1 at 3.) Following a trial, Plaintiff was convicted of violating A.R.S. § 28-622(A), failure to comply with a police officer and held responsible for the civil traffic violation of riding/driving on a closed road, pursuant to S.R.C. § 17-4. (Doc. 61-8.) However, Plaintiff was not found guilty under A.R.S. § 28-1595(B), failure to provide driver's license or evidence of identity and A.R.S. § 28-815(A), failure to ride on the right side of the road. Id.

Plaintiff filed his original complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court and Defendant removed the case to this Court on October 2, 2012. (Doc. 1 and Doc. 1 at 2.) Subsequently, Defendant moved for summary judgment along with his supporting statement of facts. (Docs. 60, 61.) Plaintiff responded together with a statement of controverting facts and Defendant replied. (Docs. 66, 65, 69.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. Summary Judgment

In a summary judgment motion, the court construes all disputed facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Ellison v. Robertson , 357 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 2004). A court must grant summary judgment if the pleadings and supporting documents, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Jesinger v. Nevada Fed. Credit Union , 24 F.3d 1127, 1130 (9th Cir. 1994). A dispute about a fact is "genuine" if the evidence is "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see Jesinger , 24 F.3d at 1130. "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 , 477 U.S. at 248.

The principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 323-24. Summary judgment is appropriate against a party who "fails to make a 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." Id. at 322; see also Citadel Holding Corp. v. Roven , 26 F.3d 960, 964 (9th Cir. 1994). The moving party need not disprove matters on which the opponent has the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex , 477 U.S. at 323-24. The party opposing summary judgment need not produce evidence "in a form that would be admissible at trial in order to avoid summary judgment." Id. at 324. However, the non-movant may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the party's pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 585-88 (1986); Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture , 53 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 1995).

II. Qualified Immunity

"The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Pearson v. Callahan , 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). When a defendant asserts qualified immunity, a court must make two distinct inquires, the "constitutional inquiry" and the "qualified immunity inquiry." See Estate of Ford v. Ramirez-Palmer , 301 F.3d 1043, 1049 (9th Cir. 2002). The "constitutional inquiry" asks whether, when taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the facts alleged show that the official's conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz , 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). If so, a court then turns to the "qualified immunity inquiry" and asks if the constitutional right was clearly established at the relevant time. Id. at 201-02. This second inquiry "must be undertaken in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition." Id. at 201.

Subsequently, in Pearson, the Supreme Court altered this rigid framework and held that Saucier's procedure should not be regarded as an inflexible requirement. 555 U.S. at 227. Judges "should be permitted to exercise their sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at ...


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