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Alvarez v. Buchan

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 9, 2017

MOISES E PONCE ALVAREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ADAM R. BUCHAN, JONATHAN HENNESSY and JAMES PRICE, in their individual capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

          THE HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) for judgment as a matter of law, filed at the close of Plaintiff's case-in-chief. Dkt. # 72. Plaintiff has filed a Response. Dkt. # 73. Having considered the briefs submitted by the parties, relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law, the Court DENIES Defendants' motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On July 31, 2017, the Court began a five-day trial on Plaintiff Moises Ponce-Alvarez's Section 1983 claims against Defendants Adam Buchan, Jonathan Hennessy, and James Price. Plaintiff alleges the Defendants used excessive force while arresting him in the early morning hours of May 21, 2014. Dkt. # 1 at ¶¶ 5.1-5.6; 6.1-6.6. On the fourth day of trial, August 3, 2017, Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). Defendants argue:

[N]o reasonable jury would have a legally sufficient basis to find for the Plaintiff on the issues of: (1) whether Defendants Jonathan Hennessy or James Price caused any actionable injury to the Plaintiff, and (2) whether the Plaintiff may recover any damages for the alleged application of the double restraint or ‘hobble' during his arrest, or Defendant Adam Buchan's alleged pointing of his firearm at the Plaintiff prior to his arrest.

Id. at 1-2.

         III. LEGAL AUTHORITY

         Once a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial, the court may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the nonmoving party only if “there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a); Ritchie v. United States, 451 F.3d 1019, 1022-23 (9th Cir. 2006). A court reviewing a motion for a judgment as a matter of law must construe all evidence in favor of the nonmoving party, in this case the Plaintiff. Ostad v. Oregon Health Scis. Univ., 327 F.3d 876, 881 (9th Cir. 2003).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Section 1983 Claims Against Defendants Hennessy and Price

         Defendants Price and Hennessy move for a directed verdict, arguing that there is no evidence they personally “hit, kicked, struck, [or] kneed” Plaintiff during his arrest, and thus they cannot be individually liable for any harm Plaintiff suffered. Dkt. # 72 at 3.

         While “[l]iability under section 1983 arises only upon a showing of personal participation by the defendant, ” the Ninth Circuit's “integral participation theory does not require that each officer's individual action amount to a constitutional violation.” Hoskin v. Larsen, C06-5559 RBL, 2007 WL 3228408, at *6 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 31, 2007) (citing Boyd v. Benton County, 374 F.3d 773, 780 (9th Cir. 2004)). An officer can be liable for excessive force when he is an integral part of another officer's use of excessive force. Id. This includes holding the plaintiff down or handcuffing the plaintiff. Id. (the officer who assisted in the handcuffing of the plaintiff was found to be an integral participant and thus liable under § 1983); Martinez v. Bryant, CV06-5344-GW (AGR), 2009 WL 1456399, at *2 (C.D. Cal. May 19, 2009) (defendant became an integral participant by directing another officer to “handle that man for me” and holding down the plaintiff's legs during the alleged attack).

         In this case, Defendants Hennessy and Price both testified that they took part in restraining Plaintiff during the incident where Plaintiff was allegedly beaten by Deputies Buchan and Bertaina. Under the integral participation theory, the Defendants have provided sufficient evidence for a rational jury to find that Plaintiff's constitutional rights ...


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