Federal Claims Dismissed in Arizona EMS Assault Case

A lawsuit filed in 2015 against the City of Glendale and two Glendale firefighters over an altercation with a patient has been partially resolved by a US District Court judge. Last Friday, Chief District Court Judge G. Murray Snow dismissed all federal claims brought by the family of James Murillo, and remanded the case to state court to address the remaining state law claims.

Murillo, 30, who is schizophrenic and bipolar, punched one of the firefighters in the face as they were treating him on October 24, 2014. Murillo’s family contended that the punch was “accidental” and the firefighters’ response excessive, while the firefighters contended they were merely defending themselves. The Murillos sued the city, Captain Sean Alford and Acting Captain Daniel Padilla in Maricopa County Superior Court alleging a variety of civil rights and state law tort claims. The city had the case removed to US District Court due to the civil rights claims.

The incident was captured on video:

As explained in the decision:

  • On October 24, 2014, Margarita [Murillo] called 911 because James was having a seizure.
  • Glendale City emergency responders, including Defendants Sean Alford and Daniel Padilla, responded to the call.
  • When the emergency personnel arrived at the residence, Margarita explained to them that James suffers from multiple mental and emotional disorders.
  • On the recommendation of the emergency responders, Margarita and Raul agreed that James should be taken to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.
  • James was placed on a gurney and the emergency responders began to wheel the gurney to the ambulance.
  • As James was being wheeled from the house, he suddenly began flailing his arms and struck his father Raul in the face.
  • Alford warned James to not hit anyone and asked him to be cooperative, explaining that they were taking him to the hospital.
  • As the gurney was being wheeled down the driveway by Padilla, Alford, and others, James again began flailing his arms, this time striking Alford in the face.
  • Alford and Padilla both responded by striking James as he lay on the gurney while two other firefighters held down James’s arms.
  • During the struggle, Padilla was also struck.
  • As a result of the struggle between James and the emergency responders, the gurney tipped over.
  • Two firefighters attempted to subdue the still-combative James, which they were eventually able to do by administering a chemical restraining drug.
  • A shouting match then ensued between the responders and the family, during which Alford yelled at James, “You’re (expletive) dead meat, (expletive). I’m going to have you for everything you have.”
  • One firefighter (Plaintiffs do not identify who) also told Margarita and Raul that he was “going to come back and kill you and all your family.”
  • Police eventually arrived, handcuffed James, and he was taken to the hospital.
  • The City Attorney’s Office for the City of Glendale investigated the incident.
  • It issued a report finding that Padilla and Alford had violated Human Resources Department and Fire Department policies and procedures that prohibit the use of profane language toward the public.
  • The Report also concluded that there was no video or eyewitness evidence that Padilla, specifically, had intended to intimidate or threaten anyone.
  • Following the issuance of the Report, Alford was given a sixteen hour suspension without pay, and Padilla was given an eight hour suspension without pay.
  • Plaintiffs make a number of claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in their Amended Complaint. “To make out a cause of action under section 1983, plaintiffs must plead that (1) the defendants acting under color of state law (2) deprived plaintiffs of rights secured by the Constitution or federal statutes.”
  • They also allege that the City of Glendale violated its “constitutional duty to ensure that all of its firefighters, . . . act in a manner so as to preserve the constitutional rights and citizens of the City . . . ” and its “constitutional duty to properly train, supervise, and discipline members of the Fire Department, to ensure that the activities of its firefighters are lawful, and to preserve the rights and privileges guaranteed to the citizens of the City of Glendale  . . .”
  • However, in response to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, Margarita and Raul have failed to cite to materials in the record that establish a genuine dispute of a material fact as to any issue involving such claims.
  • Margarita and Raul claim that Alford and Padilla violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights by subjecting them to “arbitrary governmental activity which shocks the conscience of a civilized society.”
  • Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a genuine dispute of a material fact regarding their Fourteenth Amendment claim, [therefore] summary judgment in favor of Defendants is appropriate.
  • Defendants move for summary judgment on Margarita and Raul’s state law claims as well. But the original basis for federal court jurisdiction over these state law claims no longer exists since the Court has entered summary judgment on each of Margarita and Raul’s federal claims.

With that the federal case was dismissed and the state claims were remanded back to state court.

Here is a copy of the decision: Murillo v. City of Glendale_ 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1757

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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