Singing Mom Can Sue San Diego

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – A 51-year-old mother who sang songs about social issues with her group the Occupellas, and claims she was falsely arrested during “Occupy San Diego” can file an amended civil rights complaint, though a federal judge dismissed many of her claims.
     Stephanie Jennings sued the City and County of San Diego, claiming that they violated her civil rights “by attacking and falsely arresting her with the intention of chilling her constitutional rights.”
     “Jennings is a 51-year-old mother and community volunteer,” U.S. District Judge James Lorenz wrote in his order. “She alleges that on the evening of January 7, 2012, she and a group of other middle-aged women (the ‘Occupellas’) congregated outside the San Diego Civic Center to ‘sing some songs about social issues to the tune of familiar songs.’ A group of Occupy San Diego protestors marched from the Children’s Park into the plaza in front of the center. At this point, plaintiff left the singing group and encountered defendant Sergeant James Milano, who allegedly pushed her to the ground and directed two or three Doe defendant police officers to
     arrest her. She alleges that the Doe defendant officers arrested her using excessive
     and unnecessary force.”
     Police locked her in a holding cell at Las Colinas Detention Facility with eight to 10 other women. While in the cell, Jennings says, she told officers and a nurse that she had recently undergone a kidney transplant and had atrial fibrillation, and needed to take her anti-rejection medication, which was in her purse.
     She claims the officers did not give her the medicine though they had her purse.
     She developed an intense migraine and threw up inside the cell, to which officers responded by yelling at her. Her husband bailed her out at around 2 a.m.
     Jennings sued on 11 causes of action.
     Judge Lorenz granted the city’s motion to dismiss a negligence claim, finding that Jennings failed to identify a statute that would provide for municipal liability under her respondeat superior theory. For the same reason, Lorenz dismissed Jennings’ claims against the County for intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with federal and state constitutional rights, and unlawful seizure, arrest and detention.
     Jennings failed to show that the county has a policy of violating people’s civil rights, so her claims alleging unlawful polices and practices were dismissed.
     “Though plaintiff alleges a pattern of harassment and the use of force against those perceived as being part of the Occupy movement, she fails to allege even one incident of such behavior toward anyone besides herself. Likewise, she alleges a pattern of denying medical care in the jail without pointing to more than one such event – her own,” the judge wrote.
     The remaining claims against the county also were dismissed.
     Lorenz granted Jennings leave to amend her complaint to properly plead her theories of liability, with the provision that she make no reference to respondeat superior or vicarious liability theories.
     The City of San Diego still faces nine claims against it, including false arrest, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other civil rights violations.
     Also named as defendants are San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne, Assistant Chief Boyd Long and Sgt. James Milano.

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