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Nguyen v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

United States District Court, District of Nevada

March 31, 2015

DR. TAM NGUYEN, Plaintiff,
LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, a Political Subdivision of the STATE OF NEVADA; Police Officer NAKAGAWA LVMPD #5476 individually and as a Police Officer; employed by the LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT; POLICE OFFICER JOHN DOES I-XX; and JOHN DOES I-XX, inclusive, Defendants.



Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 51) filed by Defendant Nakagawa (“Officer Nakagawa”) and a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 52) filed by Defendant Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (“LVMPD”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff Dr. Tam Nguyen (“Plaintiff”) filed a Response (ECF No. 55) to both motions and Defendants filed a Joint Reply (ECF No. 56). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS both motions.


This case arises out of Officer Nakagawa’s arrest of Plaintiff after he was seen driving “in an unsafe and erratic manner.” (LVMPD MSJ 2:16–17, ECF No. 52). The day before his arrest, on December 28, 2010, Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital and kept overnight. (Compl. ¶ 8). Plaintiff was diagnosed with Transient Ischemic attack and/or Transient Global Amnesia. (LVMPD MSJ 5:1–2, ECF No. 52; Medical Report, ECF No. 52-6). While he was at the hospital, Plaintiff was administered several doses of Percocet, with the last one being administered on December 29, 2010, the day he was released from the hospital and returned to his home. (LVMPD MSJ 5:3–4; Medical Report, ECF No. 52-6; Compl. ¶¶ 8–9, ECF No. 1-2). After being released, Plaintiff was driven home by his wife and rested for a few hours while his wife left to pick up his blood pressure medication at the pharmacy. (LVMPD MSJ 5:9–11, ECF No. 52; Pl. Depo. 35:16–18, ECF No. 52-1; Compl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 1-2).

Plaintiff awoke from his nap and decided to drive to the pharmacy to fill his prescriptions. (Pl. Depo. 35:1–36:13, ECF No. 52-1). While driving, a third party called 9-1-1 to report that Plaintiff was “driving erratically, ” nearly hitting the caller and several parked cars. (LVMPD MSJ 6:4–14, ECF No. 52; Culotta Depo. 16:9–13, 19:20–21, 20:8–10, ECF No. 52-9; Incident Recall, ECF No. 52-10). Plaintiff was also reported to be moving back and forth in lanes and not maintaining a travel lane. (Id.). The LVMPD Air Unit was dispatched to locate Plaintiff and also observed his erratic driving. (LVMPD MSJ 6:4–14, ECF No. 52; Incident Recall, ECF No. 52-10). Plaintiff was initially pulled over by Officer Dentler of LVMPD after he went up over a curb. (LVMPD MSJ 6:13-15, ECF No. 52). Plaintiff then put his vehicle in reverse and nearly collided with her patrol vehicle. (Id. 6:16–17). After Plaintiff was pulled over, the Clark County Fire Department responded to the scene to perform a medical evaluation of Plaintiff. (Id. 7:4–5). The paramedics determined that there was no indication of any heart or stroke issues, and that Plaintiff was not having an acute medical episode. (Id. 7:20–21).

Subsequently, Officer Nakagawa responded to the dispatch and, upon arrival, began administering the Standardized Field Sobriety Test on Plaintiff. (Id. 7:1–2, 8:19–9:1). Prior to the test, Plaintiff attempted to inform Officer Nakagawa “of his condition, ” in that he had “recently been discharged from the hospital having suffered a stroke as indicated by the hospital identification bracelet still worn on his wrist.” (Compl. ¶ 12, ECF No. 1-2). After failing the sobriety test, Plaintiff was arrested for driving under the influence. (LVMPD MSJ 9:4–12, ECF No. 52). Plaintiff was then taken into custody and held at the Clark County Detention Center for twelve hours. (Compl. ¶¶ 13–14, ECF No. 1-2). Upon release, the District Attorney did not immediately charge Plaintiff for the arrest but sent Plaintiff a letter advising that they retained the right to charge him at a later time if facts and circumstances warrant it. (LVMPD MSJ 11:12–13, ECF No. 52; DA’s Letter, ECF No. 55- 5).

Plaintiff filed his Complaint against Defendants on August 27, 2012, alleging four causes of action: (1) violation of constitutional rights; (2) violation of constitutional rights based on a Monell claim; (3) false arrest/false imprisonment; and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Compl. ¶¶ 19–51, ECF No. 1-2). Officer Nakagawa filed his Motion for Summary Judgment stating that “Officer Nakagawa is entitled to qualified immunity” and Officer “Nakagawa was performing a discretionary function and is immune from suit under Nevada law.” (Nakagawa MSJ 3:7–11, ECF No. 51). Additionally, LVMPD filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on June 6, 2014, alleging that “there was no constitutional violation and without a constitutional violation, there can be no Monell claim against LVMPD” and that “LVMPD is [i]mmune from Plaintiff’s [s]tate [l]aw [c]laims.” (LVMPD MSJ 17:3–5, 23:1, ECF No. 52). Plaintiff filed a Response arguing that “[t]his case exists because Defendant Nakagawa cannot think like a Sergeant, ” (Resp. 2:14, ECF No. 55) and Defendants filed a Reply retorting “[t]his case is not about how Officer Nakagawa thinks. It is about what he knew.” (Reply 2:15, ECF No. 56).


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Id. “Summary judgment is inappropriate if reasonable jurors, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, could return a verdict in the nonmoving party’s favor.” Diaz v. Eagle Produce Ltd. P’ship, 521 F.3d 1201, 1207 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v. Shumway, 199 F.3d 1093, 1103–04 (9th Cir. 1999)). A principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323–24 (1986).

In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. “When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party’s case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323– 24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party’s evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159–60 (1970).

If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties’ differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass’n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

At summary judgment, a court’s function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The evidence of the nonmovant is “to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See Id. at 249–50.


Plaintiff’s Complaint enumerates four claims for relief alleging: (1) violation of constitutional rights; (2) violation of constitutional rights based on a Monell claim; (3) false arrest/false imprisonment; and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Compl. ¶¶ 19– 51, ECF No. 1-2). Defendants seek summary judgment on each of Plaintiff’s claims. (Nakagawa MSJ, ECF No. 51; LVMPD MSJ, ECF No. 52). Officer Nakagawa asserts that qualified immunity applies to the § 1983 claims and discretionary immunity applies to the state law claims. (Nakagawa MSJ 3:7–9, ECF No. 51). LVMPD alleges that Plaintiff’s constitutional ...

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