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Sampaga v. Snohomish County

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

December 19, 2017

JASON SAMPAGA, Plaintiff,
v.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. # 25. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Dkt. # 29. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court discussed the facts of this case in its previous order. See Dkt. # 23. The Court need not reiterate those facts here. For the purpose of this Order, the Court need only layout the procedural history of this matter.

         On May 3, 2013, Plaintiff was notified of his termination from the police department. Dkt. # 28 at 7. That same day, Plaintiff filed a formal grievance regarding his termination. Dkt. # 28-1 at 77. On May 10, 2013, Plaintiff's grievance was denied. Id. at 79. As a result, on May 16, 2013, the Everett Police Officers Association (EPOA) submitted the grievance to the Mayor. Id. at 81. On May 24, 2013, the City denied the grievance. Id. at 83. On May 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in state court. Dkt. # 1-2 (Complaint).

         Defendants are now before this Court on their motion for summary judgment. They argue, in part, that Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is untimely because he filed his claim outside the three-year statute of limitation period.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely by pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets the initial burden, the opposing party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial in order to defeat the motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000).

         In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court may only consider admissible evidence. Orr v. Bank of America, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002). At the summary judgment stage, a court focuses on the admissibility of the evidence's content, not on the admissibility of the evidence's form. Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 2003).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Statute of Limitation

         Plaintiff received his notice of termination on May 3, 2013 and filed this lawsuit on May 4, 2016. Dkt. ## 1-2 (Complaint), 1-3 (Amended Complaint) at ¶ 3.36. The parties do not dispute that Plaintiff filed his § 1983 claim after the three-year statute of limitations had run. Dkt. ## 25 at 5-6, 29 at 10. However, Plaintiff denies that his claim is untimely because he argues that the statute of limitation was tolled during the pendency of his grievance procedure. Dkt. # 29 at 10. Plaintiff explains that he filed a formal grievance, which was denied on May 24, 2013, and because the statute of limitation was tolled during this period, he had until May 24, 2016 to file his § 1983 claim. Id. at 10-11.

         Plaintiff relies on Galindo v. Stoody Co. and Maurer v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local 569, AFL-CIO for the purpose of his equitable tolling argument. Id. at 10-11. Both cases are based on the National Labor Relation Act's six-month statute of limitation period. See Galindo v. Stoody Co., 793 F.2d 1502, 1508 (9th Cir. 1986); Maurer v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local 569, AFL-CIO, 200 F.Supp.3d 1052, 1059 (S.D. Cal. 2016). Moreover, both Galindo and Maurer involved claims against the plaintiffs' respective unions. See Galindo, 793 F.2d at 1507 (stating that the complaint alleged that the union breached its duty of fair representation); Maurer, 200 F.Supp.3d at 1060-61 (stating that the complaint alleged breach of contract claims against the union). The facts of those cases are therefore readily distinguishable from the instant matter.

         Equitable tolling is appropriate in labor disputes like that of Galindo because there is a “national policy favoring nonjudicial resolution of labor disputes.” Galindo, 793 F.2d at 1510. This is especially poignant when the period to file suit is limited to six months such that waiting for a nonjudicial procedure to end prior to filing suit in district court is impractical. The crux of this policy-favoring nonjudicial resolution-is not ...


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