Recent Wins: Lillie Hsu
In yet another United States Supreme Court victory for GMSR—the sixth victory in seven cases— the Court shields police officers from personal liability for obtaining a search warrant they could reasonably have believed valid
February 22, 2012
Messerschmidt v. Millender (2012) 565 U.S. ____; 132 S.Ct. 1235 (United States Supreme Court). Tim Coates and Lillie Hsu obtained a 6-3 decision from the United States Supreme Court for two Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies in Messerschmidt v. Millender (2012) 565 U.S. ____; 132 S.Ct. 1235. After a gang member fired a sawed-off shotgun at his ex-girlfriend, the officers obtained a warrant to search for all firearms and gang-related items at a residence where they believed the gang member was staying. The residents sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging the search violated the Fourth Amendment.
In a critical decision for law enforcement, the Supreme Court held that the deputies were entitled to qualified immunity and thus could not be held personally liable for civil damages. The Court reasoned that given the circumstances of the crime, the officers could reasonably have concluded that there was a fair probability the suspect owned other illegal firearms besides the one used in the crime and that seizing them was necessary to prevent further assaults on the victim. The Court also reasoned that the officers could reasonably believe gang-related materials would be relevant to prosecuting the suspect. The Court clarified that review of the warrant by the officers’ superior, an attorney, and a magistrate was relevant to analyzing qualified immunity.
This was the firm’s fifth win on behalf of public entities or officials in the U.S. Supreme Court, and the fifth victory in the high court in five years. Tim previously prevailed in Los Angeles County v. Humphries (2010) 562 U.S. ____; 131 S.Ct. 447, Van de Kamp v. Goldstein (2009) 556 U.S. 335, 129 S.Ct. 855, and City of Riverside v. McLaughlin (1991) 500 U.S. 44, and GMSR partner Kent Richland successfully represented Anna Nicole Smith in Marshall v. Marshall (2006) 547 U.S. 293, and the City of Ontario in City of Ontario v. Quon (2010) 560 U.S. ___; 130 S.Ct. 2619.
More about the case here.
Messerschmidt v. Millender (2012) 565 U.S. ____; 132 S.Ct. 1235
Court of Appeal affirms summary judgment for County of Los Angeles based on plaintiff's failure to comply with government claim requirements
December 6, 2011
Flores v. County of Los Angeles (2011) 2011 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 9332 (California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Two) [unpublished]. Plaintiff sued the GMSR’s client, the County of Los Angeles, for wrongful death after her daughter died in the emergency room at Martin Luther King, Jr./Drew Medical Center from a streptococcus pneumoniae infection. Plaintiff’s original complaint alleged that the emergency room physicians and staff were negligent in treating the decedent. Plaintiff later amended her complaint to add a theory that other County physicians failed to give the decedent a vaccination that would have prevented the infection that ultimately caused her death. In an unpublished decision, the Court of Appeal held that plaintiff’s new failure-to-vaccinate theory was barred because she failed to include it in her government claim filed with the County.
Flores v. County of Los Angeles (2011) 2011 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 9332
Ninth Circuit affirms summary judgment in medical malpractice case
February 25, 2011
Moore v. USC University Hospital, Inc. (9th Cir. 2011) 416 Fed.Appx. 640, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 3860 (United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) [unpublished]. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of GMSR's client, USC University Hospital, Inc., in plaintiff's medical malpractice lawsuit. The court held that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding causation because the expert testimony she presented established, at best, a mere possibility rather than a probability that the hospital's actions caused her injury. The Ninth Circuit also affirmed the district court's refusal to continue the summary judgment motion, its denial of plaintiff's successive motions for reconsideration, and its denial of plaintiff's motion for Rule 11 sanctions.
Moore v. USC University Hospital, Inc. (9th Cir. 2011) 416 Fed.Appx. 640, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 3860
In another United States Supreme Court victory for GMSR, the Court pronounces important limitations on Section 1983 claims against municipalities
December 3, 2010
Los Angeles County v. Humphries (2010) 562 U.S. ____; 131 S.Ct. 447 (United States Supreme Court). Tim Coates, Alison Turner and Lillie Hsu obtained a unanimous decision from the United States Supreme Court for the County of Los Angeles in Los Angeles County v. Humphries (2010) 562 U.S. ____; 131 S.Ct. 447. In a critical decision for cities and counties, the Supreme Court agreed with Los Angeles County that a municipality cannot not be subjected to declaratory or injunctive relief in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 unless the plaintiff establishes that an injury was inflicted as a result of a policy, custom or practice fairly attributable to the local public entity – the same causation standard that the Supreme Court applies to claims for damages. Mere involvement of a municipal employee is not enough: Relief is not appropriate unless the plaintiff points to some local statute, regulation or widespread practice that local policy makers should know will result in a constitutional violation.
This was Tim’s third case in the U.S. Supreme Court, and GMSR’s fourth victory in the high court in four years, with Tim having prevailed in Van de Kamp v. Goldstein (2009) 556 U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 855 and GMSR partner Kent Richland successfully representing Anna Nicole Smith in Marshall v. Marshall (2006) 547 U.S. 293 and the City of Ontario in City of Ontario v. Quon (2010) 560 U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 2619.
More about the case here.
Los Angeles County v. Humphries (2010) 562 U.S. ____; 131 S.Ct. 447
Court of Appeal affirms demurrer for County of Los Angeles in detainee's suit for denial of medication
July 27, 2010
Arellano v. County of Los Angeles (2010) 2010 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 5903 (California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Two) [unpublished]. Plaintiff sued GMSR's client, the County of Los Angeles, alleging that County employees violated the Ralph Civil Rights Act of 1976, the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, and various government tort liability statutes by failing to provide medication for panic attacks during plaintiff's less-than-daylong detention in jail. The trial court sustained the County's demurrer to plaintiff's complaint. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the complaint failed to state a cause of action and the County was immune from liability.
Arellano v. County of Los Angeles (2010) 2010 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 5903
Court of Appeal holds that fraudulent concealment exception to workers' compensation exclusivity is inapplicable where employer lacks knowledge that employee's symptoms may lead to cancer
January 21, 2010
Bazzini v. Technicolor, Inc. (2010) 2010 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 390 (California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Three) [unpublished]. Plaintiffs, a husband and wife, sued the husband's former employer, GMSR's client, for injuries allegedly resulting from the husband's exposure to chemicals in his job. Plaintiffs asserted they were not limited to workers' compensation remedies because GMSR's client fraudulently concealed that the husband's exposure to chemicals could eventually lead to cancer and that the wife's secondhand exposure could harm her. The Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment for GMSR's client. The court held that the husband failed to present evidence that his employer knew his apparent skin conditions were precursors to his later-developed cancer; thus, the employer could not have concealed such knowledge. The court also held that the wife's claim was dependent on her husband's, so that her claim failed along with his.
Bazzini v. Technicolor, Inc. (2010) 2010 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 390
Court of Appeal holds that motorist stopped next to freeway owes no duty to avoid being struck by out-of-control driver
November 10, 2009
Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery Company (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 1 (California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two). Plaintiff's decedent lost control of his pickup truck on the freeway and ran into GMSR's client's big rig, which was stopped off the road just past the shoulder. Plaintiff sued for wrongful death, contending that the big rig driver's was negligent in stopping in an "Emergency Parking Only" area for a nonemergency. The jury returned a verdict for plaintiff. The Court of Appeal reversed and directed the trial court to enter judgment for GMSR's client. It held that the big rig driver owed no duty to the decedent because the accident was not reasonably foreseeable; the mere fact that it was "possible" for a motorist to leave the freeway and strike something situated off the shoulder did not create a duty on the defendant's part to ensure a "safe landing." The court also held that the big rig driver's alleged negligence did not proximately cause the collision. Finally, the court held that the trial court erred in admitting opinion testimony of plaintiff's expert, which was based on facts never established at trial.
Ninth Circuit affirms summary judgment for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca in section 1983 "deliberate indifference" case
April 3, 2009
McCullock v. Los Angeles County Sheriff, Sheriff Baca (9th Cir. 2009) 320 Fed.Appx. 814 (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) [unpublished]. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on plaintiff's section 1983 claim, which alleged that plaintiff was denied constitutionally adequate medical treatment while jailed. Specifically, he claimed that Baca failed to treat him with insulin for his diabetes (although he was a Type II, non-insulin-dependent diabetic). The Ninth Circuit held that there was no triable issue of material fact as to whether plaintiff suffered any harm, or whether Sheriff Baca personally participated in any constitutional violation.
McCullock v. Los Angeles County Sheriff, Sheriff L. Baca (9th Cir. 2009) 320 Fed.Appx. 814
Court of Appeal affirms judgment where appellant fails to provide sufficient record for review
January 24, 2008
Moore v. County of Los Angeles (2008) 2008 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 581 (California Second District Court of Appeal, Division Three) [unpublished]. Plaintiff, an employee of the County, sued the County and several other employees on work-related claims. A jury found one of the individual defendants liable, but found he was not working within the scope of his employment, and rendered a verdict in favor of the County and other employees. Plaintiff appealed. Although the trial was 21 days long, she designated a reporter’s transcript that included only 4 days of trial testimony and the partial testimony of only six out of 22 witnesses, and failed to include opening statements or closing arguments or any evidence offered by the defendants. District Two, Division Three, found that this was an insufficient record to review most of plaintiff’s contentions, and found no error on the record provided. The judgment was affirmed.
Moore v. County of Los Angeles (2008) 2008 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 581
Ninth Circuit affirms summary judgment in civil rights case
November 13, 2006
Williams v. County of Los Angeles, (2006) U.S.App.LEXIS 28085 (United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) [unpublished]. Lillie Hsu, Carolyn Oill and Marty Stein combined for this victory. A prisoner filed a section 1983 action, pro se, against the County of Los Angeles, alleging he was denied a lower bunk even though he had medical authorization for one. The memorandum opinion holds that the district court: (1) properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's claim under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), because plaintiff provided no evidence that the County had a pattern or practice of denying bottom bunks to inmates with medical authorization for such bunks; (2) properly dismissed plaintiff's claims against Sheriff Baca because plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of material fact regarding Baca's involvement in the alleged constitutional violations; and (3) properly denied plaintiff's request for a sixth extension of time to file objections to the Magistrate's report, which recommended that summary judgment be granted.
Dismissal of medical malpractice action affirmed
August 16, 2006
Burrus v. City of Los Angeles, (2006) U.S.App. LEXIS 21076 (United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) [unpublished]. Lillie Hsu, Carolyn Oill and Marty Stein combined for this recent victory. In a memorandum decision, the Court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's pro se complaint against the County of Los Angeles and one of its jail physicians for negligence and medical malpractice. Resting on an argument made in GMSR's appellees' brief, the opinion holds that the district court properly dismissed the plaintiff's claims based on the statute of limitations set forth in California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.5, which requires a plaintiff to file his complaint both within three years of injury and within one year after he discovered, or should have discovered, the injury. The Court reasoned that the one-year limitation period began to run when the plaintiff filed his administrative claims; thus, the complaint, filed over a year later, was untimely.