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Ramirez-Lluveras v. Rivera-Merced

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 14, 2014

EVELYN RAMÍREZ-LLUVERAS; JENITZA Cáceres, represented by Evelyn Ramírez-Lluveras; M.C., represented by Evelyn Ramírez-Lluveras; M.A.C., represented by Evelyn Ramírez-Lluveras, Plaintiffs, Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
v.
EDWIN RIVERA-MERCED; PEDRO TOLEDO-Dávila; LIEUTENANT VÍCTOR CRUZ-Sánchez; SERGEANT RAFAEL FIGUEROA-SOLÍS; SERGEANT JUAN COLÓN-Báez, Defendants, Appellants/Cross-Appellees, JAVIER Pagán-CRUZ; CARLOS SUSTACHE-SUSTACHE; ZULMA DÍAZ; MIGUEL VÁZQUEZ-SAN ANTONIO; JOHN DOES A-Z, Rep. Employees, Contractors, or Agents of the P.R. Police Department, Defendants

As Amended August 4, 2014.

APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge.

Susana I. Peñagarí cano-Brown, Assistant Solicitor General, with whom Margarita L. Mercado-Echegaray, Solicitor General, was on brief, for appellants/cross-appellees.

Judith Berkan, with whom Mary Jo Méndez and Berkan/Méndez were on brief, for appellees/cross-appellants.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Torruella and Kayatta, Circuit Judges. TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge, concurring in part, dissenting in part.

OPINION

Page 11

LYNCH, Chief Judge.

This tragic case arises out of the unwarranted shooting death of a civilian, Miguel A. Cáceres-Cruz, in Puerto Rico by an on-duty police officer, Javier Pagán-Cruz. Plaintiffs, the victim's surviving wife and children, sued Pagán, his two fellow officers on the scene, and five supervisors under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating the decedent's Fourth Amendment rights by causing his wrongful death.

Page 12

The supervisors initially moved to dismiss the claims against them under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c); that motion was granted in part and denied in part. See Ramirez-Lluveras v. Pagan-Cruz, 833 F.Supp.2d 151, 165 (D.P.R. 2011). Later, after discovery, the five supervisors successfully moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims against them. See Ramirez-Lluveras v. Pagan-Cruz, 833 F.Supp.2d 165, 182 (D.P.R. 2011). Afterward, the plaintiffs prevailed at trial against the defendants Pagán and the two other on-scene officers, Carlos Sustache-Sustache and Zulma Díaz. The jury awarded the plaintiffs approximately $11.5 million.

The case now reaches us on two appeals: the plaintiffs' appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the supervisory defendants (No. 13-1169) and the supervisory defendants' appeal from the district court's earlier denial of their Rule 12(c) motion (No. 11-2339). We affirm the grant of summary judgment against plaintiffs' supervisory liability claims against each of the supervisors. We dismiss the Commonwealth's appeal from the earlier partial denial of the Rule 12(c) motion as to these same defendants.

I.

We briefly describe the procedural history before turning to the facts of the case. On April 28, 2008, the plaintiffs filed suit under § 1983 against Pagán and his two on-scene colleagues, Officers Carlos Sustache-Sustache and Zulma Díaz (collectively, the line officers), and against Col. Edwin Rivera-Merced, the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) Area Commander for Humacao, as their supervisor. On March 30, 2009, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to add the four other supervisory officers as defendants. However, none of the claims against any of the supervisory defendants arose from any direct supervision of Pagán on the night of the shooting or from any personal involvement of the supervisors with the shooting. The supervisory defendants answered the amended complaint and set forth a list of forty-one affirmative defenses, including qualified immunity.

On April 20, 2010, the supervisory defendants filed a " Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint and/or for Judgment on the Pleadings" under Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1]

The district court granted the motion in part and denied it in part on September 30, 2011. Specifically, the court dismissed all of the plaintiffs' § 1983 claims, including the Fourth Amendment claims, against the supervisory defendants brought in the plaintiffs' own individual capacities, as opposed to their capacities as representatives of the victim. It did so based on its finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert individual claims because there was no allegation that the supervisors' conduct was aimed at the family relationship. The court dismissed all claims under the Fourteenth Amendment. It also granted the motion as to other claims against the supervisory defendants in the plaintiffs' representative capacities. It allowed the § 1983 Fourth Amendment claims against the supervisory defendants to proceed, declining to resolve their qualified immunity defense on the pleadings.[2] The plaintiffs

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did not appeal the dismissal of these claims in the plaintiffs' individual capacities against the supervisors. The supervisory defendants appealed from the denial of their motion to dismiss as to the Fourth Amendment § 1983 claims against them.[3]

On December 22, 2011, the district court granted the supervisory defendants' motion for summary judgment. This left the claims against the line officers, Pagán, Sustache, and Díaz.

The claims against the line officers went to trial before a jury in late October 2012. On November 9, 2012, the jury reached a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs against all three line officers. After entry of final judgment, the plaintiffs appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the supervisory defendants.[4] The two appeals were consolidated.

II.

The following facts are undisputed, except where noted. To the extent the facts are disputed, we take them in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs for purposes of the supervisory defendants' motion for summary ...


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