United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. CAMPBELL SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case arises out of the death of Francisco Valdez. His mother,
Plaintiff Lorenza Valdez, asserts state law wrongful death
and § 1983 claims against Defendants City of Phoenix and
Officers Christian Perez, Shawn Magness, and Austin
Stephenson. Doc. 1. Defendants move for summary judgment
(Doc. 32) and Plaintiff has not responded. Based on the
reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the
Summary Judgment Standard.
seeking summary judgment “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Summary judgment is
appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, shows “that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). Rule 56 further provides:
If a party fails to . . . properly address another
party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the
court may . . . consider the fact undisputed for purposes of
the motion [or] grant summary judgment if the motion and
supporting materials - including the facts considered
undisputed - show that the movant is entitled to it[.]
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(3). Thus, the party opposing summary
judgment “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.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 n.11 (1986)
(emphasis added); see LRCiv 56.1(b) (requiring the
party opposing summary judgment to present evidence that
establishes a genuine issue of material fact). Even without
Plaintiff having made such a showing, the Court will consider
the merits of Defendants' motion.
moved for summary judgment on March 8, 2019. Doc. 32.
Plaintiff has not responded to the motion despite being
warned that the failure to demonstrate a genuine issue of
material fact may entitle Defendants to judgment as a matter
of law under Rule 56. Doc. 34. Based on Defendants'
statement of facts and supporting evidence (Doc. 33), the
following facts are undisputed for purposes of summary
judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(3).
March 23, 2017 Officers Perez, Magness, and Stephenson
responded to a domestic violence disturbance at
Plaintiff's trailer. Doc. 33 ¶ 19. Plaintiff had
called 911 when her son, Francisco Valdez, appeared to be
under the influence of drugs and became aggressive.
Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff did not inform the 911
operator or the Officers that Francisco had a mental illness
nor that he had not been taking his prescribed medication.
Id. ¶¶ 18, 21.
Perez, Magness, and Stephenson confronted Francisco as he was
lying on the couch wearing only boxer shorts (id.
¶¶ 23-28), and they allowed him to go into the
bedroom to get dressed (id. ¶ 28). As the
Officers were following Francisco into the bedroom, Plaintiff
informed them that Francisco had a warrant out for his
arrest. Id. ¶ 30. Officer Perez went outside
with Plaintiff to verify whether Francisco in fact had a
warrant, while Officers Magness and Stephenson remained
inside with Francisco. Id. ¶ 32.
dressed, Officer Magness asked Francisco to return to the
couch. Id. ¶¶ 33-34. As Francisco walked
toward the couch, he abruptly entered the kitchen and
retrieved a knife from a drawer. Id. ¶¶
35-36. He lifted his hand holding the knife and charged
toward Officer Magness, who fell back into a glass table that
shattered underneath him. Id. ¶¶ 37-38.
Francisco then turned toward Officer Stephenson and charged
at him with the knife, causing Officer Stephenson to back
away and trip over a couch behind him. Id.
¶¶ 40-41. After recovering from his fall through
the glass table, Officer Magness saw Francisco attacking
Officer Stephenson with stabbing motions that made it appear
as if Francisco had stabbed Officer Stephenson. Id.
¶¶ 41-42. Officer Magness then fired several shots
that hit and killed Francisco. Id. ¶ 43. A
knife was found near Francisco's body and was covered in
blood stains, later matched to Francisco's DNA.
Id. ¶¶ 47, 48.
Plaintiff's Wrongful Death Claim.
asserts a state law wrongful death claim in count one of her
complaint. Doc. 1 ¶¶ 48-51. An action for wrongful
death is a statutory negligence action requiring a showing
that the alleged tortfeasor breached a reasonable standard of
care. See A.R.S. § 12-612. The Defendant
officers correctly contend that they are entitled to ...