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Vanorden v. Bannock County

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 24, 2016

JASON VANORDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
BANNOCK COUNTY, SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, CITY OF POCATELLO, SHERIFF LOREN NIELSEN, CAPTAIN KEVIN FONNESBECK, CAPTAIN ELLE PETERSON, DEPUTY SHANNON BLOXHAM, DEPUTY IFEREIMI TABAKECE, DEPUTY SHELTON, DEPUTY JARROD PHILLIPS, DEPUTY HOFF, DETECTIVE ALEX HAMILTON, DEPUTY KATHLEEN BALLARD, SCOTT MARCHAND, SERGEANT ERICK ANDERSON, OFFICER MATT SHUTES, SERGEANT BILL COLLINS, OFFICER TRAVIS EVANS, OFFICER DARREN DANIELS, AND JOHN DOES 1-20, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 52)

          Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Now pending before the Court is Defendants'[1] Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 52). Having carefully considered the record, participated in oral argument, and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case follows an August 15, 2013 stand-off between Jason Van Orden and officers from the City of Pocatello Police Department, followed by his arrest and transport to Portneuf Medical Center before being booked in the Bannock County Jail. Two weeks later, on August 29, 2013, deputies at the Bannock County Jail found Mr. Van Orden dead in his cell - he had apparently taken his own life by hanging himself with bed linens. At the time of his death, Mr. Van Orden was not on suicide watch.

         Plaintiff's Amended Civil Rights Complaint raises claims against two different sets of defendants, identified and grouped according to their otherwise separate interaction with Mr. Van Orden at two different points in time. The first group - the City of Pocatello Defendants - was sued in relation to Mr. Van Orden's August 15, 2013 arrest (Plaintiff's Section 1983 excessive force claim). The second group - the Bannock County Defendants - was sued in relation to Mr. Van Orden's August 29, 2013 death in the Bannock County Jail (Plaintiff's Section 1983 failure to protect claim).[2] This Court has already dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the City of Pocatello Defendants. See 3/27/16 MDO (Docket No. 67).

         As to the remaining Bannock County Defendants, Plaintiff generally alleges:

Because Defendants knew or should have known that Plaintiff was emotionally and mentally unstable and suicidal, Defendants owed a duty to Plaintiff to provide appropriate care to prevent Plaintiff from harming himself. Indeed, Defendants claim they had taken precaution; however, despite these claims, Plaintiff accomplished his suicide unchecked and without detection by Defendants.
Because Defendants' actions at the time of the arrest and incarceration or lack of action pursuant to the clear warnings of Plaintiff's instability, Plaintiff was denied his constitutional right to life without due process of law, a protection afforded him by the Constitution of the United States.

Am. Compl., ¶¶ 13-14 (Docket No. 4).

         The Bannock County Defendants now move for summary judgment, arguing (1) that Plaintiff (whether considered to be the decedent or his parents) does not have standing to pursue any claims against the Bannock County Defendants;[3] (2) that there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial on the failure to protect claim against the Bannock County Defendants; and (3) that the Bannock County Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. See generally Mem. in Supp. of MSJ (Docket No. 52, Att. 1).[4]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standards

         1. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, “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). One of the principal purposes of summary judgment “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-34 (1986). It is “not a disfavored procedural shortcut, ” but is instead the “principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources.” Id. at 327. “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact “that may affect the outcome of the case.” Id. at 248.

         The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. See McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact. See Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. See Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9thCir. 2000).

         This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in his favor. See Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show “by her [ ] affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file” that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

         2. Section 1983, Failure to Protect, and Deliberate Indifference

         “Section 1983 does not create any substantive rights, but is instead a vehicle by which plaintiffs can bring federal constitutional and statutory challenges to actions by state and local officials.” Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 978 (9th Cir. 2004)). “The purpose of [Section] 1983 is to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights.” Id. (citation omitted). To state a valid claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute proximately caused by the conduct of a person acting under color of state law. See Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991).

         Plaintiff alleges an Eighth Amendment violation based on a failure to prevent harm. “A prison official's deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1970) (internal quotation marks omitted). To prevail on such an Eighth Amendment claim, the plaintiff must satisfy three requirements which include both objective and subjective components. First, the plaintiff must show that he is incarcerated under conditions where the prison official could infer a substantial risk of harm - this is the “objective” element of the test. See id. at 834-37. Second, the plaintiff must show that the prison official actually made that inference - this is the “subjective” element of the test. See id. at 837; see also Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1188 (9thCir. 2002) (“If a [prison official] should have been aware of the risk, but was not, then the [prison official] has not violated the Eighth Amendment, no matter how severe the risk.”). Third, the plaintiff must show that the prison official was ...


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