An interesting civil lawsuit that has lingered in federal court since last January and had lingered in Santa Cruz County Superior Court for two months before that, was refiled Monday in the Federal Northern District of California in San Jose.
A South Lake Tahoe, Nevada paramedic named Kristopher Klay is suing the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, the Watsonville Police Department, the City of South Lake Tahoe and a “gang investigator” named Stefan Fish for the damage done to Klay’s life after he was stopped by members of the Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force for belonging to an Emergency Medical Technician’s club called the Guerillas Motorcycle Club.
The lawsuit: “seeks to remedy the harm suffered by (Klay) when he was called, inter alia, (inter alia is lawyer’s Latin for ‘among other things’) a ‘Gang Member Firefighter,’ accused of gang activities and subsequently fired from his position as a firefighter at the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department. (“SLTFD”) The allegations arise as a result of Plaintiff’s unlawful stop and detention by law enforcement officers while he was riding motorcycles with a friend and fellow emergency medical technician colleague in Watsonville. Plaintiff was never charged with nor convicted of any crime but nevertheless Defendants took it upon themselves to reach out to Plaintiff’s employer, the SLTFD, and alerted them to the detention of Plaintiff and communicated defamatory statements claiming that Plaintiff participated in and was a member of a criminal street gang. Plaintiff’s employer then sought out, received and used the Watsonville Police Report detailing Plaintiff’s stop and detention to terminate Plaintiff from his position as a firefighter.”
“The allegations arose as a result of an unlawful stop and detention by Watsonville and Santa Cruz law enforcement officers of Plaintiff, on or about May 3, 2013…. He was traveling via motorcycle in Watsonville, Santa Cruz County with a fellow worker and friend. Plaintiff and his colleague were wearing vests with patches. Law enforcement officers pulled behind them and activated their emergency lights and sirens causing Plaintiff and his colleague to pull over. Law enforcement officers stated that the purpose of the stop was related to the registration of the colleague’s motorcycle. The motorcycle was properly registered. Plaintiff was thereafter detained, questioned about his employment and was required to submit to being photographed. Plaintiff was not arrested or charged with any crime. Despite this, Defendants reported the detention to Plaintiff’s employer referring to him as a member of a criminal street gang. Subsequently, Plaintiff was terminated from his position as a firefighter.”
In a response filed last January to Klay’s original complaint, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and gang investigator Fish list 18 separate defense including:
“Defendants did not act with malicious intent and did not deprive plaintiff of any right, privilege, or immunity guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”
“Defendant Fish is entitled to qualified immunity, as he acted at all times herein relevant in good faith, with due care, within the scope of discretion, and pursuant to laws, regulations, rules, and practices reasonably believed to be in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the United States. There is no liability pursuant to the Federal Civil Rights Act where one acts in good faith and entertains an honest, reasonable belief that one’s actions are in accord with the clearly-established law.”
“The allegedly defamatory statements alleged in the complaint were made, if at all, in the proper discharge of an official duty in a judicial or other official proceeding authorized by law or in the initiation or in the course of a proceeding authorized by law and/or they are immunized under Civil Code section 47(c).”
And, “The statements alleged in the complaint were not false. To the contrary, they were substantially truthful, if made at all, and any statements which were not substantially truthful were made by others.”
Watsonville’s song and dance is:
“That at all times mentioned in the complaint, the Plaintiff (Klay) so carelessly, recklessly, and negligently conducted and maintained himself so as to cause and contribute in some degree to the alleged incident and to the damages and injuries, if any, alleged to have been sustained by said Plaintiffs and therefore said negligence completely bars any recovery or, in the alternative, it reduces the right of recovery by the amount of said negligence contributed to this incident as set forth under the doctrine of comparative negligence”
“If it should be found that the City is in any manner legally responsible for damages, if any, sustained by Plaintiffs, which the City specifically denies, then such damages were legally caused or contributed to by Plaintiffs or unnamed persons and parties; therefore, it is necessary that the proportionate and comparative degree of fault of each and every said person or entity be determined and prorated and that any judgment rendered against this defendant be reduced not only by that degree of fault found to exist as to other parties, but by the total of that degree of fault found to exist as to other persons or entities, including non-parties.
And finally, “The City is not liable for any act or omission resulting from the use of due care in the execution or enforcement of the law.”
The City of South Lake Tahoe has not yet responded to complaint filed Monday. All the defendants have until September to respond to the amended complaint and Klay will have a week to reply to those responses.